Ducks’ injury problems could derail hot streak

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The Anaheim Ducks have really been heating up lately, grabbing six wins in their last seven games. A painfully familiar problem could derail all of that promise, however, as injuries are once again mounting.

The Ducks provided two unfortunate updates on Tuesday:

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Ryan Miller: The superb backup suffered an MCL sprain during Sunday’s wild 6-5 shootout win against the Devils. His recovery window is estimated at six weeks, while they’ll evaluate the veteran goalie once more in two weeks.

As you can note from this breakdown from Anaheim’s five-game winning streak, much of the Ducks’ success came from an impeccable goalie duo of Miller and John Gibson. Gibson is the Vezina-level workhorse, but don’t count out Miller’s contributions. He’s continued a so-far-phenomenal run with the Ducks, managing a .922 save percentage in 10 games this season (with four goals allowed against New Jersey hurting his numbers more than a bit).

Anaheim did get at least one bit of good luck here, relatively speaking. The Ducks were able to pluck an experienced goalie in Chad Johnson off of waivers, as they took him off of the St. Louis Blues’ hands. His former Bengals WR namesake celebrated the occasion:

Johnson’s off to a lousy start in 2018-19 (.884 save percentage in 10 games), and really struggled with the Calgary Flames last season. Even so, his .909 career save percentage is still pretty good for a journeyman backup, especially since the Ducks didn’t need to cough up any assets to give him a try.

None of this makes Miller’s loss good news, yet there’s at least a chance that Johnson could hold down the fort whenever Gibson needs a breather.

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Rickard Rakell: the Ducks didn’t provide a timetable for the winger’s return, labeling his injury as a sprained ankle.

The Athletic’s Eric Stephens reports that Rakell was wearing a protective boot this weekend:

Despite being out since Dec. 5, Rakell stands as the Ducks’ second-highest scorer (20 points in 30 games), trailing only Ryan Getzlaf.

While that 6-5 shootout win against the Devils shows that Anaheim can fill the net from time to time (pauses for own-goal jokes), they’ve generally been scoring just enough to win lately. With that in mind, Rakell’s injury really stings, especially if Nick Ritchie and Pontus Aberg start to cool off.

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To review, Miller and Rakell join a growing list of injured Ducks. Corey Perry and Cam Fowler are recovering from significant issues that required surgeries. Patrick Eaves is also dealing with injury/health issues, and it’s fair to wonder how often Ryan Kesler is truly at full-strength.

At the moment, the Ducks are ranked third in the Pacific Division with 37 points in 32 games, as the Sharks have the same 16-11-5 record but own an edge in ROW (16 to 13). They’ll close their current homestand out on Wednesday, then head out on the road for six straight away games, mostly against Eastern Conference teams:

Wed, Dec. 12: vs. Dallas
Sat, Dec. 15: @ Columbus
Mon, Dec. 17: @ Pittsburgh
Tue, Dec. 18: @ Rangers
Thu, Dec. 20: @ Boston
Sat, Dec. 22: @ Buffalo
Thu, Dec. 27: @ San Jose

It hasn’t always been pretty for the Ducks, but credit them for fighting through injuries. Unfortunately, it looks like they’ll need to keep doing so.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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.

WATCH LIVE: Red Wings host Blues on Wednesday Night Hockey

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NBC’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Wednesday night’s matchup between the St. Louis Blues at the Detroit Red Wings at 7 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports App by clicking here.

Here’s something that is delightful about the NHL in 2018: even struggling teams tend to bring real talent to the table.

The St. Louis Blues and Detroit Red Wings fall under that category. That much was expected (if not always embraced) in Detroit, while the ups and downs prove to be a sobering reality for St. Louis.

[WATCH LIVE – 7 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

It must be frustrating for Ryan O'Reilly to watch the Sabres flourish with a 10-game winning streak during their first season without him, but you can’t blame ROR for Mike Yeo getting canned in favor of Craig Berube. O’Reilly has been more than just a great two-way forward; he’s been a star so far for the Blues. His 26 points lead all Blues, and by quite a bit, as also-great winger Vladimir Tarasenko has generated a mildly disappointing 18 points in 22 games.

With Alexander Steen back, the Blues are closer to 100 percent, even though Jaden Schwartz‘s frustrating health luck keeps him sidelined. If a Rob line (Robert Thomas and Robby Fabbri with honorary Rob Brayden Schenn) can provide St. Louis with some extra oomph, the Blues might just be onto something.

The Red Wings may be in a rebuild mode, but they’re not the usual layup you’d expect from a team facing such an outlook.

Their top line is a big reason why. Anthony Mantha‘s been on fire lately, while Dylan Larkin continues to prove that he’s a viable first-line center in the NHL.

Both the Blues and Red Wings have enjoyed prouder days, but it wouldn’t be a big upset if this ended up being a fun game nonetheless. For St. Louis, it might be something to build on for the nearer future, while the Red Wings aim to build a new foundation.

[Read more about this game in this extended preview]

What: St. Louis Blues at Detroit Red Wings
Where: Little Caesars Arena
When: Wednesday, November 28th, 7 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
Live stream: You can watch the Blues-Red Wings stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINES

BLUES

Alexander Steen — Ryan O’Reilly — Vladimir Tarasenko

Robby Fabbri — Brayden Schenn — Robert Thomas

David PerronTyler BozakPatrick Maroon

Zach SanfordIvan BarbashevOskar Sundqvist

Vince DunnAlex Pietrangelo

Joel EdmundsonColton Parayko

Jay BouwmeesterJordan Schmaltz

Starting goalie: Chad Johnson

RED WINGS

Anthony Mantha — Dylan Larkin — Justin Abdelkader

Gustav NyquistFrans NielsenAndreas Athanasiou

Tyler BertuzziLuke GlendeningMichael Rasmussen

Thomas VanekJacob De La RoseMartin Frk

Trevor DaleyMike Green

Danny DeKeyserNick Jensen

Niklas KronwallDennis Cholowski

Starting goalie: Jimmy Howard

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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.

Wednesday Night Hockey: Streaky Wings look to end losing skid vs. Blues

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Wednesday night’s matchup between the St. Louis Blues and Detroit Red Wings at 7:00 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Red Wings season has been a rollercoaster so far. They started the year with 0-5-2 and through 10 games, they were the worst team in the NHL (1-7-2). But they followed that up by winning nine of their next 11 contests. Now, they’ve lost three games in a row. Who are the real Red Wings?

With Henrik Zetterberg no longer in the picture, Dylan Larkin has been forced into a leadership role. The 22-year-old has put together a solid season, as he has nine goals and 21 points in 24 games this season. The speedster still has some work to do, but he’s looked good.

“He’s gotta be a great defensive player in order to allow that production to be enough to be a great player,” said head coach Jeff Blashill. “Very few guys can outproduce their poor defense, let’s say … and I think what he’s done is whenever he’s had to he’s reset himself, and make sure that he knows he’s gotta check for his chances. … It appears to me just a little more — I don’t know if confidence is the right word, swagger’s the right word, controlling the play is the right word — he seems to really, really be on top of it offensively.”

Andreas Athanasiou (10 goals, 15 points in 20 games) and Anthony Mantha (nine goals, five assists in 24 games) have helped carry the load offensively.

The Wings have also received some quality goaltending from veteran Jimmy Howard, who the Blues are reportedly interested in, per TSN hockey insider Darren Dreger. Howard owns a 7-6-3 record with a 2.68 goals-against-average and a .922 save percentage.

As for the Blues, you can understand why they’d be interested in acquiring a proven goaltender. Both Jake Allen and Chad Johnson haven’t been able to carry the load. Allen has been better over the last little while, but we’ve seen enough of him to know that darker times are ahead. Johnson, who has always been a backup goaltender, can’t be relied upon to win consistently.

St. Louis has already made a coaching change this season, as they let Mike Yeo walk. They replaced him with Craig Berube, but the results haven’t been there for Berube so far. They’re 1-2-0 since he took over, including an embarrassing 8-4 loss to Winnipeg over the weekend.

“There were missed coverages in a lot of areas,” Berube said. “We let that game slip away from us…I thought we lacked energy in that Winnipeg game, which I expected, but our brains kind of turned off too, which was not a good thing.”

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

WATCH LIVE: Blues visit Blackhawks on Wednesday Night Hockey

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Wednesday night’s matchup between the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues at 8 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Blackhawks and Blues find themselves at the bottom of the Central Division eneytering Wednesday’s meeting. Chicago took the first two meetings in overtime, but St. Louis got one back with a 7-3 victory on Oct. 27.

New Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton is still looking for his first win since replacing Joel Quenneville. Chicago is 0-2-1 under Colliton, which has extended their losing streak to eight games. That loss to the Blues was the game that started this current slide. They’ve not had a nine-game losing streak since the 2011-12 NHL season.

“I believe we’re on the right track. I believe we will turn this around. I think we’ve got really good players,” said Colliton. “When things are going against you over a long period of time, it’s not easy to get out of it. The circumstances are what they are. We’ve got to find a way to get it done. We can and we will.”

The dark clouds that were above the Blues earlier this season have brightened as they’ve won four of their last six. During that six-game stretch they’ve sliced their goals against per game from 4 to 2.5. Ryan O'Reilly is also excelling with eight goals and 17 points during a 10-game point streak.

Jake Allen‘s play was a factor in the Blues’ slow start, which opened the door for Chad Johnson, who’s played well in net for the last three games. He’s stopped 86 of the last 90 shots he’s faced and will get his chance to continue to shine during this current three-game road trip. Tonight, however, it’s Allen’s net versus the Blackhawks.

“He’s been our best player. You’ve seen countless times the big saves he’s making that are giving us a chance to win,” O’Reilly said about Johnson. “He’s stood on his head and it’s helped a lot. It’s helped us find our groove and do some good things. We have to be better in front of him, though.”

[WATCH LIVE – 8 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

What: St. Louis Blues at Chicago Blackhawks
Where: United Center
When: Wednesday, November 14th, 8 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
Live stream: You can watch the Blues-Blackhawks stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

BLUES
Jaden Schwartz – Ryan O’Reilly – Vladimir Tarasenko
Robby FabbriTyler BozakAlexander Steen
Zach SanfordRobert ThomasDavid Perron
Patrick MaroonIvan BarbashevOskar Sundqvist

Carl GunnarssonAlex Pietrangelo
Vince DunnJordan Schmaltz
Joel EdmundsonJay Bouwmeester

Starting goalie: Jake Allen

BLACKHAWKS
Nick SchmaltzJonathan ToewsPatrick Kane
Brandon SaadArtem AnisimovJohn Hayden
Alex DeBrincatDavid KampfDominik Kahun
Chris Kunitz – Luke Johnson – Andreas Martinsen

Duncan KeithBrent Seabrook
Erik GustafssonHenri Jokiharju
Brandon Manning – Gustav Forling

Starting goalie: Corey Crawford

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Wednesday Night Hockey: ‘Hawks look to end 8-game losing skid vs. Blues

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Wednesday night’s matchup between the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues at 7:00 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Blackhawks felt like they needed a coaching change, so they decided to let head coach Joel Quenneville go. They replaced him with 33-year-old Jeremy Colliton. A new, fresh face. Unfortunately for the ‘Hawks the results haven’t been new and fresh under their new coach.

Under Colliton, the team is 0-2-1, as they’ve lost games to Carolina (twice) and Philadelphia. That means that the Blackhawks have now dropped eight games in a row. They haven’t taken home two points since Oct. 25 when they beat the New York Rangers, 4-1. If they fail to win tonight, they’ll have gone more than three weeks without a victory.

“I believe we’re on the right track,” Colliton said after Monday’s loss to Carolina. “I believe we will turn this around. I think we’ve got really good players. When things are going against you over a long period of time, it’s not easy to get out of it. The circumstances are what they are. We’ve got to find a way to get it done. We can and we will.”

Chicago has a ton of issues to sort out, but lack of quality scoring options up front is definitely a pressing one. Of the 51 goals they’ve scored in 2018-19, 30 have been scored by either Patrick Kane (12), Jonathan Toews (9) and Alex DeBrincat (9). The only other player with more than two goals is Brandon Saad, and he only has four.

Things haven’t really gone much better for the Blues. At 6-6-3, they currently find themselves one point behind the Blackhawks in the Western Conference standings.

On a positive note, their big off-season acquisition, Ryan O'Reilly, has been rolling. He’s accumulated 17 points during a 10-game point streak that dates back to Oct. 17. In all, he has eight goals and 21 points in 15 contests with his new team.

The other intriguing storyline for the Blues in this game, is that they’ve been starting Chad Johnson over Jake Allen. Johnson has started three games in a row, and he’s given up just four goals during that stretch. He also won two of those three outings. Meanwhile, Allen has continued to struggle with consistency, as he has a 4-3-3 record to go along with a 3.99 goals-against-average and a .879 save percentage. Ugly.

“He’s been our best player,” O’Reilly said of Johnson. “You’ve seen countless times the big saves he’s making that are giving us a chance to win. He’s stood on his head and it’s helped a lot. It’s helped us find our groove and do some good things. We have to be better in front of him, though.”

If the Blues are going to prolong the Blackhawks’ misery, they’re going to have to do without Brayden Schenn, who will sit out fourth straight game because of an upper-body injury.

This will be the fourth matchup of the season between these two teams. Chicago won the first two in overtime, while the Blues managed to take home a decision the last time. The loser of this game will be in the basement of the Central Division.

Six-time Emmy Award-winner Mike ‘Doc’ Emrick, U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame member Eddie Olczyk, and ‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst Brian Boucher will have the call from United Center in Chicago.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.