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WATCH LIVE: Red Wings host Blackhawks on Wednesday Night Hockey

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with the Wednesday Night Hockey matchup between the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Blackhawks have won nine of their last 11 games (9-2-0), including seven straight wins from Jan. 20 – Feb. 10, to climb right back into the playoff race. On the morning of January 20, exactly one month ago, the Blackhawks had 41 points and were dead last in the NHL. Now, as of Tuesday morning, they have 59 points, and are just one point behind the Minnesota Wild, who currently owns the second wild card in the Western Conference.

Patrick Kane is having arguably the best year of his career, and should the Blackhawks rally to make the playoffs, he could perhaps win his second career Hart Trophy. He’s currently on a season-best 18-game point streak (40 points: 14 goals, 26 assists), and is averaging 1.53 points/game, which would be the best of his 12-year career. He has an assist in 17 straight games… only two players in NHL history have posted a longer assist streak than Kane – Wayne Gretzky (23 games – 1990-91) & Adam Oates (18 games – 1992-93).

The NHL Trade Deadline is less than a week away and Detroit has a few key players that are set to become unrestricted free agents at the end of the season: Gustav Nyquist, Thomas Vanek, Niklas Kronwall, Nick Jensen, Luke Witkowski and Jimmy Howard.

Red Wings GM Ken Holland has been weighing whether he should try to sign some of the pending free agents or trade them – with a focus on Howard, Nyquist and Jensen specifically. Holland said he’d like to sign all three to extensions – and all three players have expressed a desire to stay – but a deal must work for both sides.

“I need to weigh which of them we consider re-signing because they can help us in ’19-20 and then we maybe need to do something to add to that in the summer of ’19 because if you just trade all those players away your team is worse,” he said. “So now you got to make moves to get back to where you’re at and even beyond and that’s hard to do in the summer.”

[WATCH LIVE – COVERAGE BEGINS AT 6:30 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

What: Chicago Blackhawks at Detroit Red Wings
Where: Little Caesars Arena
When: Wednesday, Feb. 20, 6:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
Live stream: You can watch the Blackhawks-Red Wings stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

BLACKHAWKS
Drake CaggiulaJonathan Toews – Patrick Kane
Alex DeBrincatDylan StromeDominik Kahun
Brandon SaadArtem AnisimovDylan Sikura
Chris KunitzMarcus KrugerJohn Hayden

Duncan KeithErik Gustafsson
Carl DahlstromConnor Murphy
Slater KoekkoekGustav Forsling

Starting goalie: Cam Ward

RED WINGS
Tyler BertuzziDylan LarkinAnthony Mantha
Thomas Vanek – Frans Nielsen – Gustav Nyquist
Andreas AthanasiouLuke GlendeningChristoffer Ehn
Darren HelmJacob De La RoseJustin Abdelkader

Niklas Kronwall – Mike Green
Danny DeKeyser – Nick Jensen
Trevor DaleyFilip Hronek

Starting goalie: Jimmy Howard

MORE: Jonathan Toews is back

For the first time in his career, Mike Tirico will call play-by-play for an NHL game on Wednesday when the Red Wings host the Blackhawks. He’ll be joined in the booth by Eddie Olczyk and ‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst Brian Boucher. Pre-game coverage starts at 6:30 p.m. ET with NHL Live, hosted by Kathryn Tappen alongside Mike Milbury, Keith Jones and Bob McKenzie.

Can Hurricanes count on Mrazek, McElhinney?

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Goaltending remains the question – the eternal one, really – for the Carolina Hurricanes, even as Petr Mrazek and Curtis McElhinney have provided some satisfying short-term answers.

As great an addition as Nino Niederreiter has been, the combined play of Mrazek and McElhinney has been instrumental in the Hurricanes’ success, even if those “jerks” and their celebrations have taken most of the attention.

There’s something remarkable and unlikely about each situation.

In the case of Mrazek, his numbers transform to become more impressive than when they first meet the eye. Just consider his erratic split stats.

October: .887 save percentage in seven games
November: .840 in one game
December: .917 save percentage in eight games
January: .880 in seven GP
February: .935 in five GP

While Mrazek’s overall save percentage is mediocre at .902, his even-strength mark is at .922 this season. If he can get things together on the penalty kill, his numbers could climb quite nicely.

Mrazek, 27, might be getting his career back on track – maybe – but the even more intriguing story is that of McElhinney. With a .946 save percentage in February, Mac is even hotter than Mrazek, yet the 35-year-old has sustained that over a longer haul in 2018-19, as his save percentage is a very nice .920 in 22 games.

Not bad for a player who was claimed off of waivers, and considering his recent run, other teams who passed should be kicking themselves.

Among goalies who’ve played at least 30 games since 2016-17, McElhinney’s .923 save percentage (in 61 games) trails only that of Antti Raanta, who managed .924 in 89.

That’s impressive stuff, but it’s also a) a small sample size and b) generated by a goalie who’s, again, 35.

Really, each guy has some serious things working against him, along with some strong points. Mrazek’s shown significant athletic ability, enjoyed some high moments in Detroit, and is still in or around his prime at 27. That said, Mrazek’s also been digging out of a serious rut, which you can even see just in his total numbers being fairly pedestrian (and sometimes bad). McElhinney’s put up some nice numbers in recent years and has a strong-for-a-backup .910 save percentage during his overall career, yet he’s never carried much of a workload, and things could fall apart considering how cruel Father Time can be to older goalies.

Each goalie does have every incentive to keep this going, however, as they’re both on expiring contracts and would be UFAs. One or both of Mrazek and McElhinney could be out of the NHL in 2019-20, yet they’re both in a position to possibly earn more lucrative deals.

On Feb. 10, Hurricanes GM Don Waddell acknowledged that uncertainty to NHL.com’s Tom Gulitti.

“We’d look at maybe a goalie for down the road,” Waddell said. “I think this year both guys have done a good job for us to put us in our position, but they are both unrestricted at the end of the year. So you’ve got to be careful there. I don’t know what either one of their plans are, so we’ve just got to stay in tune with that …”

The longer-term questions are indeed there, but this specific playoff push should factor in, too. Can Carolina count on McElhinney and Mrazek to finally break their drought? If not, should the Hurricanes flip the script with the Flyers by trading for one of their glut of goalies as insurance? Would Waddell even go bolder if someone like Sergei Bobrovsky becomes an option?

The answers aren’t necessarily abundantly obvious, but at minimum, this sure beats the monotony of falling far short of playoff contention while squirming at the sight of a struggling Cam Ward.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Blackhawks, Senators combine for 15 goals in thriller

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Fifteen total goals.

Four goalies used.

Twenty-three skaters with at least a point.

No, this wasn’t the aftermath of a seven-game series in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Instead, it was a Monday night sizzler between the Chicago Blackhawks and visiting Ottawa Senators — a wild and wacky affair that, when the dust settled, saw the Blackhawks emerge with an 8-7 victory.

The game had five goals combined within the first 7:55 of the opening period. By the time the 17:46 mark came, there were nine goals scored, and there was 12 lamps lighted just after the halfway point of the game.

Here’s a quick summary:

1st period:

  • OTT – Ryan – 2:06
  • OTT – Balcers – 2:40
  • CHI – DeBrincat – 3:54
  • CHI – DeBrincat  – 5:07
  • OTT – White – 7:55
  • CHI – Kane – 12:36
  • CHI – Strome – 13:22
  • CHI – Saad – 14:53
  • OTT – Stone – 17:46

2nd period

  • OTT – White – 1:32
  • CHI – DeBrincat – 8:19
  • CHI – Forsling – 10:31

3rd period

  • CHI – Toews – 3:51
  • OTT – Chabot – 9:01
  • OTT – Chabot – 14:43

And here’s the full breakdown from the NHL game sheet.

Alex DeBrincat‘s night ended with a hat trick and five points while Dylan Strome and Patrick Kane each had three-point efforts for the Blackhawks.

Colin White had a three-point night for the Senators while Thomas Chabot scored twice as Ottawa nearly came back in the third.

Collin Delia lasted just 7:55 after allowing three goals on 10 shots. Cam Ward replaced him, allowing four on 28 for Chicago.

Anders Nilsson didn’t fare much better, lasting 13:22 after giving up four goals on 12 shots. Craig Anderson came off the bench and allowed four on 30 shots in relief.

Chicago shot at a 19 percent success rate, edging out Ottawa’s 18.4 shooting percentage in the game.

The puck dropped in the game at 7:38 CT and the final horn didn’t sound until 10:11.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Road ahead for Blackhawks’ playoff push

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Tuesday’s matchup between the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks. Coverage begins at 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Blackhawks are hoping to extend their impressive, surprising winning streak to eight games when they face the Bruins on Tuesday.

While a four-point lead in the standings is larger than it might seem thanks to teams being in Chicago’s way and how many games go to overtime, it’s also understandable that Blackhawks fans are dreaming bigger with each consecutive victory.

Of course, the last-place Ducks and Kings are the same four points behind the Blackhawks. That thought brings up a lot of observations (especially if you need to back up claims about the West’s lower ranks being putrid), but this post focuses on the road ahead for Chicago.

Some schedule notes

The Blackhawks play five of their next seven games at the United Center, and Tuesday’s upcoming game against the Bruins also comes with Chicago being lucky that David Pastrnak won’t be available for the Bruins.

[WATCH LIVE – COVERAGE BEGINS AT 6 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

Feb. 12: @ Boston
Feb. 14: vs. New Jersey
Feb. 16: vs. Columbus
Feb. 18: vs.Ottawa
Feb. 20: @ Detroit
Feb. 22: vs.Colorado
Feb. 24: vs.Dallas

So far, the Blackhawks have played 28 games apiece at home versus away, so they have 13 of each remaining this season. They’ll likely hope that the Avalanche don’t figure things out anytime soon, as they face Colorado three more times in 2018-19.

So you’re saying there’s a chance …?

It’s interesting to see where the Blackhawks fall according to various models, but optimism is limited even where it’s most abundant.

Money Puck gives them a 15.65-percent chance of making the postseason. Dom Luszczyszyn’s model (sub required) might be the friendliest to Chicago, giving them a 21-percent shot.

Chicago has a shot, but would beat some odds. It’s also easy to forget that the Blackhawks lost seven of eight games before going on this seven-game winning streak.

Potential stumbling blocks

Even by the standards of a seven-game winning streak, Chicago’s on fire.

With 81 points in just 55 games, Patrick Kane already has more points than he had last season (76 in 82 games), and he’s undoubtedly boosted Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome along the way. Strome’s close to a point-per-game since joining Chicago, with 30 points in 32 games.

Kane’s tied for second in scoring with Connor McDavid, so it’s fair to bring up some Hart chatter, but what if he gets hurt or merely cools off? Chicago might not have the scoring support to keep this surge going.

There are pretty obvious scenarios where the Blackhawks’ brief goaltending surge topples over.

Extending Collin Delia was reasonable enough, but he still only has 14 games of NHL experience, so that streak could wear off. Cam Ward currently has a .939 save percentage in three February games after failing to reach .900 in any months this season, and often being a disaster over the last — decade? While Corey Crawford getting what seems to be a clean bill of health is fantastic news, there’s no timetable for his return, and no guarantee he’ll be sharp when he can come back.

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With a friendly upcoming schedule, the magic might last — at least for a while. There are pretty obvious signs that it may eventually wear off, but either way, Blackhawks fans should enjoy the ride.

MORE: Blackhawks’ Corey Crawford feeling ‘back to normal’

John Walton (play-by-play) and A.J. Mleczko (‘Inside-the-Glass’) will have the call from TD Garden in Boston, Mass. Pre-game coverage starts at 6 p.m. ET with NHL Live, hosted by Kathryn Tappen alongside Jeremy Roenick and Mike Johnson.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

NHL on NBCSN: Blackhawks’ Corey Crawford feeling ‘back to normal’

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Tuesday’s matchup between the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks. Coverage begins at 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

As the Blackhawks continue flirting with a Western Conference wild card spot, they received good news on Monday that goaltender Corey Crawford was feeling “back to normal” after being placed in concussion protocol for the second time in the last year.

During a Dec. 16 game against the San Jose Sharks, Crawford collided with Dylan Strome and hit his head on the goal post. He would leave the game and has not returned to the Blackhawks’ lineup since. Last season, the 34-year-old netminder suffered a concussion and missed 10 months, so obviously there was a lot of concern about his future.

“I had a few similar symptoms, but it was obviously a little bit quicker,” Crawford said on Monday after practicing with the full team for the first time since the injury. “It was nice to not wait that long. But I don’t know what to say, it’s just try to stay patient, try and be confident that it won’t last long. It’s nice that it’s back to normal.”

[WATCH LIVE – COVERAGE BEGINS AT 6 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

Since that night in December, the Blackhawks have compiled the seventh-most points in the NHL (29) in 22 games and can thank the duo of Cam Ward and Collin Delia for their parts in a run that sees them entering Tuesday’s game on a seven-game winning streak. The duo have been under siege since Crawford exited the lineup having faced a combined 817 shots, fourth-most in the NHL in that span as they’ve split the workd load. Delia, who inked a three-year extension on Monday, has posted a .924 even strength save percentage with Ward coming in at .919.

With only 51 appearance in the last two seasons, some were questioning whether Crawford would ever be back in net for the Blackhawks. But he said the thought of retirement never went through his mind.

“No, not at all,” he said. “I was gonna come back as soon as I felt 100 percent. I’m not worried about that. It is what it is. Some guys have to do deal with other injuries, it’s just what I had to deal with. I feel good, I feel ready, just going to work our way back into the lineup.”

It hasn’t been discussed yet when Crawford will start again, but with Delia and Ward playing as they are there’s no need to rush the franchise No. 1, especially given his recent injury history.

“I don’t know, it’s pretty tough to jump in right now,” said Crawford. “Deals and Wardo have been playing so well, we’re on a pretty good streak right now. Obviously I would jump in the net right away, but honestly we haven’t really discussed that at this point. We’re just trying to figure out days when I could practice with the team and kind of get timing back. That’ll come hopefully sooner than later.”

John Walton (play-by-play) and A.J. Mleczko (‘Inside-the-Glass’) will have the call from TD Garden in Boston, Mass. Pre-game coverage starts at 6 p.m. ET with NHL Live, hosted by Kathryn Tappen alongside Jeremy Roenick and Mike Johnson.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.