Connor Murphy

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Wednesday Night hockey: Blackhawks look to keep slim playoff hopes alive

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with the Wednesday Night Hockey matchup between the San Jose Sharks and Chicago Blackhawks. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Blackhawks’ playoff chances are hanging by a thread.

As of right now, the ‘Hawks are eight points behind Vancouver for the final Wild Card spot in the Western Conference. The other problem is that they have to leap over four teams to get there.

So, the odds aren’t exactly in their favor right now.

But they’ll have an opportunity to get themselves back in the race on home ice (mostly). Eight of their next 11 contests will be played at the United Center. The bad news is that just three of those games will be played against teams that they’re trying to catch

Chicago has dropped back-to-back games to the Detroit Red Wings and St. Louis Blues.

“It sucks,” defenseman Connor Murphy said. “Losing sucks, especially having a couple in a row. When they seem to get more heated and obviously the games matter more, it’s frustrating for sure.”

One of the interesting storylines to follow for Chicago will be the future of their goaltending position. One of the reasons they still have a tiny shot of making the postseason is because of the play of Corey Crawford, who is scheduled to become a free agent at the end of the season.

Since Feb. 21, Crawford is tied for first in game’s started (9), he’s tied for fourth in wins (5), and he’s 4th in save-percentage (minimum six starts) at .928.

The 35-year-old has had a long history with vertigo and concussions, so general manager Stan Bowman might want to look elsewhere for a starting goalie. But what if he continues performing at a high level down the stretch? Do they keep him as the undisputed starter? Do they bring in another 1-B goalie to split starts with him? It’s an interesting dilemma.

Before they have to make a decision on that, they can continue to evaluate his play in games that are still technically meaningful for them.

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: Blackhawks host Blues on NBCSN

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Sunday’s matchup between the St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The defending Stanley Cup champion Blues saw their eight-game win streak snap in Friday’s 4-2 loss at New Jersey, meanwhile, the Blackhawks also saw their four-game win streak come to an end in a 2-1 loss at Detroit on the same night.

Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko is back on the ice and has skated in separate sessions with assistant coaches and scratched players but hasn’t been cleared to practice at full speed. The 28-year-old underwent shoulder surgery in late October and has been sidelined for the last 58 games.

After losing to the Blues on Feb. 25, the Hawks went on to win four straight games and remained in the Wild Card mix. But a 2-1 loss Friday night to the worst team in the NHL, Detroit, halted the Hawks’ momentum in the crowded West wild card race.

Patrick Kane scored Chicago’s lone goal in the loss at Detroit on Friday, tallying his 31st goal of the season. It was the third consecutive game in which the American-born forward has scored. Kane has also recorded points in nine of his last 11 contests, giving him 13 pts (6G-7A) in that span.

Chicago netminder Corey Crawford started his 8th consecutive game on Friday night, a streak that began on Feb. 21 vs. Nashville. The two-time Cup champ stopped 23 of the 25 shots he faced against the Red Wings, but fell to 15-19-3 this season.

[COVERAGE BEGINS AT 7 P.M. ET ON NBCSN]

WHAT: St. Louis Blues at Chicago Blackhawks
WHERE: United Center
WHEN: Sunday, March 8, 7 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 – Brayden Schenn
Zach SanfordRobert ThomasDavid Perron
Alex SteenTyler BozakJordan Kyrou
Ivan BarbashevOskar SundqvistSammy Blais

Justin FaulkAlex Pietrangelo
Marco ScandellaColton Parayko
Vince DunnRobert Bortuzzo

Starting goalie: Jake Allen

BLACKHAWKS
Domnik Kubalik – Jonathan ToewsBrandon Saad
Alex NylanderDylan Strome – Patrick Kane
Alex DeBrincatKirby DachDrake Caggiula
Matthew HighmoreDavid KampfRyan Carpenter

Duncan KeithAdam Boqvist
Nick SeelerConnor Murphy
Olli MaattaSlater Koekkoek

Starting goalie: Corey Crawford

Kate Scott will call the action alongside U.S. Olympic gold medalists Kendall Coyne-Schofield and AJ Mleczko from United Center in Chicago, Ill. Game production will be led by producer Rene Hatlelid and director Lisa Seltzer.

The first-of-its-kind broadcast will be in celebration of International Women’s Day on March 8, which dates back over 100 years. The broadcast will highlight women who have made their mark on hockey, and sports in general, with the hopes to inspire future generations of women to excel on the ice and behind the scenes.

Sunday night’s coverage will also be surrounded by On Her Turf, NBC Sports’ female empowerment brand. The broadcast will include a number of features highlighting women in hockey during pre-game and intermissions, with custom in-game graphic integration and social coverage.

Rangers vs. Blackhawks: How to watch Wednesday Night Hockey

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with the Wednesday Night Hockey matchup between the New York Rangers and Chicago Blackhawks. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

With just over six weeks to go in the regular season, the Rangers and Blackhawks find themselves on the wrong side of the playoff dividing line with several teams ahead of them in the Wild Card race. New York currently has three teams to jump ahead of to get into a playoff spot, while Chicago has four

New York’s season-high four-game win streak was snapped on Sunday at MSG against Boston, 3-1, as the Rangers now hit the road for away games in five of their next six contests. Overall, Chicago has lost six of its last seven games (1-4-2) with its sole win coming two games ago at Calgary, an 8-4 affair on Saturday – the Blackhawks most goals scored this season.

New York’s high-priced offseason acquisition, Artemi Panarin (7-year/$81.5M), leads the team in goals (29), assists (49), points (78 – fifth in NHL)– to name a few. The Russian playmaker, who set a career high in pts (87) last season with the Blue Jackets, is on pace to set new highs in goals, assists and points. The 28-year-old began his career with the Blackhawks (undrafted), winning the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year in 2015-16 before being traded to Columbus after two seasons

Chris Kreider has come on of late with 29 pts in the last 29 games after just 13 points in his first 28 games. Kreider, who is on pace for his first career 30-goal season, is set to become a free agent after this season. There were reports last week that Kreider’s agent and the Rangers have been discussing a possible contract extension, while he has also been linked with a possible trade to his hometown Bruins (from Boxford, Mass.). Kreider was drafted 19th overall by New York in 2009 and has spent his entire career with the Blueshirts.

[COVERAGE BEGINS AT 7 P.M. ET ON NBCSN]

WHAT: New York Rangers at Chicago Blackhawks
WHERE: United Center
WHEN: Wednesday, Feb. 19, 7 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
LIVE STREAM: You can watch the Rangers-Blackhawks stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

RANGERS
Chris Kreider – Mika ZibanejadPavel Buchnevich
Artemi Panarin – Ryan StromeJesper Fast
Phil Di GiuseppeFilip ChytilKaapo Kakko
Brendan LemieuxBrett Howden – Julien Gauthier

Brady SkjeiJacob Trouba
Tony DeAngeloMarc Staal
Ryan LindgrenAdam Fox

Starting goalie: Igor Shesterkin

BLACKHAWKS
Dominik KubalikJonathan ToewsDrake Caggiula
Brandon SaadRyan CarpenterPatrick Kane
Alex DeBrincatKirby DachDylan Strome
Matthew HighmoreDavid KampfAlex Nylander

Duncan KeithAdam Boqvist
Erik GustafssonConnor Murphy
Slater KoekkoekOlli Maatta

Starting goalie: Robin Lehner

Mike Emrick, Eddie Olczyk and Brian Boucher will call the action from United Center in Chicago, Ill. Ahmed Fareed will host Wednesday’s coverage on NHL Live alongside analysts Keith Jones and Mike Milbury and NHL insider Bob McKenzie.

The Miracle on Ice – 40th Anniversary, featuring Al Michaels, who called the momentous matchup in 1980, and Mike Tirico, will premiere on Wednesday night at 11:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. 40 years to the month, this 30-minute special will feature Tirico’s wide-ranging conversation with Michaels about the buildup to the game, his iconic call, as well as the legacy of the moment that became bigger than sports and still resonates today.

Blackhawks’ Seabrook to return in 5-6 months after latest surgery

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The Chicago Blackhawks announced that veteran defenseman Brent Seabrook underwent successful hip surgery on Thursday and that he will be ready to return in five-to-six months. That would put him on a timeline to be ready for the start of training camp for the 2020-21 season.

His most recent surgery was his third — both hips, shoulder — over the past six weeks.

He has not played since Dec. 15, while the team announced a couple of weeks later that both he and Calvin de Haan (shoulder injury) would both be out for the season. He appeared in 32 games this season, scoring three goals with one assist.

Blackhawks’ long-term outlook on defense

What Seabrook’s role will look like next season remains to be seen. His play has not only rapidly declined the past few years, but he will be coming off of three major surgeries and be 35 years old when the season begins.

Seabrook still has four more years remaining on a contract that carries a salary cap hit of $6.875 million per season.

The Blackhawks have managed to hang around in the playoff race and play their way back into contention but still have some major flaws and question marks defensively and remain one of the league’s worst teams at preventing shots and scoring chances. The goaltending duo of Robin Lehner and Corey Crawford has helped mask that, but both are free agents after this season and remains to be seen if either one of them will be back next season.

The Blackhawks tried to revamp their defense this offseason with the additions of de Haan and Olli Maatta, but it has not really worked. Almost everyone currently on the defense is signed long-term.

Seabrook, Maatta, de Haan, Connor Murphy and Duncan Keith are all signed for at least the next two full seasons (Seabrook and Keith beyond), while rookie Adam Boqvist remains on his entry-level deal.

Erik Gustafsson, their most productive defenseman offensively over the past two seasons, is an unrestricted free agent after this season.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

The Buzzer: Kreider improves trade value; McAvoy pushes Bruins past Blackhawks in OT

Mika Zibanejad #93 and Chris Kreider #20 of the New York Rangers celebrate
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Three Stars

1) Chris Kreider, New York Rangers

The power forward tallied a goal and an assist in the Rangers’ 5-3 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs. He won a faceoff shortly before Mika Zibanejad wired a wrist shot past Michael Hutchinson late in the first period. Then, just six seconds later, Kreider held off Leafs defenseman Justin Holl and converted on a breakaway. The winger is one of the top players available at the NHL trade deadline and performances like this are only driving up the cost. For Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton, it was a sign of relief to see Kreider rebound in a strong way after missing the previous game with an upper-body injury.

2) Charlie McAvoy, Boston Bruins

It’s a little late to get your first goal of the season but McAvoy was rewarded Wednesday. The steady defenseman charged up ice and raced to the net during the overtime session before tapping in a perfectly-placed pass from Jake DeBrusk to propel the Bruins to a 2-1 overtime victory against the Chicago Blackhawks. The Long Island native beat Jonathan Toews in a foot race to the left of Jaroslav Halak, then skated the length of the ice to complete the play. Blackhawks defenseman Connor Murphy got caught in a traffic jam at the blueline and was unable to keep pace with McAvoy.

3) Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs

It is hard to imagine that David Pastrnak has fallen to third on the NHL goals list this season, but Matthews’ consistent play has helped him climb into second place, for the time being. Matthews scored twice in the Leafs’ loss but is one tally short of reaching the 40-goal mark for the second time in his NHL career. The alternate captain netted a neat backhand and hammered a one-timer when John Tavares delivered a precise cross-ice pass. Toronto has been better since Sheldon Keefe took over behind the bench, but the Eastern Conference playoff race is tightening up real quick and the Maple Leafs cannot afford to miss out on points against below average teams.

Highlights of the Night

Mika Zibanejad and Kreider scored within six seconds of each other to give the Rangers a two-goal advantage near the end of the first period.

David Krejci thought he had an easy goal until Robin Lehner made a ridiculous diving save.

Stat of the Night

Injury News

  • Adam Boqvist went to the locker room midway through the second period after Krejci delivered a nasty check from behind. Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton mentioned he doesn’t think the injury is “anything super serious.”

Scores

New York Rangers 5, Toronto Maple Leafs 3

Boston Bruins 2, Chicago Blackhawks 1 (OT)


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