Mats Zuccarello

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WATCH LIVE: Wild visit Penguins on NBCSN

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Tuesday’s matchup between the Minnesota Wild and Pittsburgh Penguins. 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 Penguins come into this game on a three-game win streak after sweeping a trio of games against three teams currently in playoff position in the Western Conference. Pittsburgh won by a 4-3 scoreline at Vegas, at Colorado (OT) and at Arizona (SO) during their road trip.

The Penguins have now won 14 of their last 18 games (14-3-1), all without Sidney Crosby. Despite their rash of injuries, Pittsburgh became the 4th team in the NHL to reach the 60-point plateau on Sunday (WSH, BOS, STL).

On the other end of the spectrum, the Wild come into this week on a three-game losing streak (0-2-1). Minnesota lost 4-1 vs Vancouver on Sunday after dropping both ends of a home- and-home series with the Flames earlier last week.

Minnesota has now lost five of their last six games (1-4-1). They haven’t dropped four straight since starting this season 0-4-0.

After games last Sunday (Jan. 5), before taking on the Flames at home, the Wild sat three points behind the Jets for the second Wild Card spot in the Western Conference. Now, after losing three straight over the past week-plus, Minnesota is seven points off the playoff pace with a brutal schedule ahead.

[COVERAGE BEGINS AT 6 P.M. ET ON NBCSN]

WHAT: Minnesota Wild at Pittsburgh Penguins
WHERE: PPG Paints Arena
WHEN: Tuesday, Jan. 14, 6 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
LIVE STREAM: You can watch the Wild-Penguins stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

WILD
Jason ZuckerEric StaalMats Zuccarello
Zach PariseMikko KoivuKevin Fiala
Marcus FolignoJoel Eriksson EkLuke Kunin
Jordan GreenwayRyan DonatoRyan Hartman

Ryan SuterJared Spurgeon
Jonas BrodinMatt Dumba
Carson SoucyGreg Pateryn

Starting goalie: Devan Dubnyk

PENGUINS
Jared McCann – Sidney Crosby – Domink Simon
Dominik KahunEvgeni MalkinBryan Rust
Alex Galchenyuk – Andrew Agozzino – Patric Hornqvist
Zach Aston-ReeseTeddy BluegerBrandon Tanev

Jack JohnsonKris Letang
Marcus Pettersson  – John Marino
Juuso RiikolaChad Ruhwedel

Starting goalie: Tristan Jarry

Tuesday night’s studio coverage will be hosted by Kathryn Tappen alongside Keith Jones and Anson Carter. John Forslund and AJ Mleczko will call the action from Pittsburgh.

Wild stay hot with back-and-forth win over Avalanche: 3 takeaways

Just about two months ago it seemed like the season was already slipping away from the Minnesota Wild.

They had won just four of their first 14 games, had one of the worst records in the league, and were set to begin a four-game road trip. It was a potential a turning point in their season as it could have easily gotten away from them.

It did not.

Thanks to their 6-4 win in Colorado on Friday, the Wild remain one of the NHL’s hottest teams since the first week of November and have played their way back into playoff contention.

You can see all of the highlights in the video above.

Let’s dig into three quick takeaways on Friday’s game and the Wild’s current strong play.

1. No lead seemed safe in this game

And that is because almost no lead was safe.

After the Wild jumped out to an early 2-0 lead and carried the play for most of the first period, Colorado responded with two goals in less than two minutes to tie the game. After Brad Hunt regained the lead for the Wild, Colorado came back with two more quick goals (one in the final minute of the second period; another in the opening minute of the third period) to take a 4-3 lead early in the third period. The Wild then responded with three goals in the game’s final 10 minutes to pick up the win.

It was a complete team effort, too.

Not only did they get goals from top-line players like Eric Staal, Mats Zuccarello, and Ryan Suter, but depth players like Hunt and Viktor Rask also contributed. Carson Soucy also continued his strong rookie season with another goal, while Kevin Fiala chipped in two assists.

2. The Wild have been one of the the NHL’s hottest teams for two months

With Friday’s win the Wild are now 15-6-5 in their past 26 games dating back to Nov. 1.

That is the fifth-best points percentage in the NHL during that stretch and has taken them from the bottom of the NHL standings to serious playoff contention in the Western Conference.

What should give Wild fans a lot of optimism isn’t just the fact they have started to dig themselves out of that early hole. It is also the fact they have a chance to keep stacking up points because of this…

3. They play 16 of their next 19 games on home ice

After spending most of the first half of the season on the road, the Wild now get to make up for that by spending almost the entire third quarter of the season in Minnesota.

Their only road games between now and Feb. 15 take them to Calgary on Jan. 9, Pittsburgh on Jan. 14, and Dallas on Feb. 7. After that, their next road game isn’t until Feb. 19 when they travel to Vancouver.

This is noteworthy because the Wild are one of the best teams in the league on home ice with a 10-2-3 record.

Even after Friday’s win in Colorado they are just 9-13-2 on the road 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.

WATCH LIVE: Avalanche host Wild on NBCSN

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Friday’s matchup between the Colorado Avalanche and Minnesota Wild. 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 League returns from the Christmas break with 11 games on the schedule, including this Central Division matchup – the third of five regular-season meetings between the Wild and Avalanche. Each team has won at home against the other with the Avs winning, 4-2, on Oct. 5 (second game of the season for both clubs) and the Wild pulling out a 3-2 victory on Nov. 21.

Colorado, looking to return to the postseason for the third straight year, sit second in the Central, while Minnesota is in the thick of the Wild Card hunt – two points back of Calgary for the second position – and certainly not out of the race for a division spot, just three points behind Winnipeg. The Wild missed the playoffs a season ago after making six consecutive appearances from 2012-13 to 2017-18.

Nathan MacKinnon was voted an All-Star captain for the second straight season. Having another MVP caliber season (was the Hart Trophy runner-up two seasons ago), the No. 1 pick in 2013 has played in all 37 games this season and leads the Avs in most major statistical categories – goals (21), assists (34), points (55), shots (168), power-play goals (7), power-play points (20).

Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk missed over a month with a family issue, playing on Nov. 16 and then coming back on Dec. 19. He’s played in three games since his return (two starts). He allowed five goals at Arizona in a win in his first game back and then had the shutout against Calgary on Monday.

The consistent line of Landeskog-MacKinnon-Rantanen is now fully healthy and the second line of Andre BurakovskyNazem KadriJoonas Donskoi, which is entirely new this season, has been just as productive a trio. After MacKinnon (21), it’s Burakovsky and Donskoi (13 each) and Kadri (12), who are tops on the team in goals this season.

[COVERAGE OF BEGINS AT 7 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

WHAT: Minnesota Wild at Colorado Avalanche
WHERE: Pepsi Center
WHEN: Friday, Dec. 27, 7 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
LIVE STREAM: You can watch the Wild-Avs stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

WILD
Zach PariseEric StaalMats Zuccarello
Ryan DonatoJoel Eriksson EkKevin Fiala
Jordan GreenwayNico SturmLuke Kunin
Marcus FolignoVictor RaskRyan Hartman

Ryan SuterJared Spurgeon
Jonas BrodinCarson Soucy
Brad HuntMathew Dumba

Starting goalie: Devan Dubnyk

AVALANCHE
Gabriel Landeskog – Nathan MacKinnon – Mikko Rantanen
Andre Burakovsky – Nazem Kadri – Joonas Donskoi
Matt NietoPierre-Edouard BellemareMatt Calvert
Tyson JostJ.T. CompherValeri Nichushkin

Cale MakarSam Girard
Nikita ZadorovRyan Graves
Ian ColeErik Johnson

Starting goalie: Pavel Francouz

Kathryn Tappen will host Friday’s coverage on NHL Live alongside analysts Mike Milbury and Keith Jones. Chris Cuthbert will handle play-by-play duties alongside Pierre McGuire at Pepsi Center in Denver, Colo.

Episode 2 of the three-part docuseries “Road To The NHL Winter Classic” will air on Friday, Dec. 27, at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. The season finale will be presented on Monday, Jan. 6, at 10:30 p.m. ET immediately following Oilers-Maple Leafs on NBCSN. 

The series will chronicle the Stars and Predators as they prepare to meet outdoors in the 2020 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on January 1 at Cotton Bowl Stadium at 1 p.m. ET on NBC.

NHL on NBCSN: Wild slowly turning around rough start to season

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Friday’s matchup between the Colorado Avalanche and Minnesota Wild. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

There’s still work to do for Bruce Boudreau and his staff, but after miserable start to the season the Wild has slowly been turning things around.

The Wild headed into the Christmas break winning two for their last three. Their overall picture since U.S. Thanksgiving has been much more promising since what happened in October and early November. As they head to Colorado to take on the Avalanche Friday night, Minnesota sits two points out of a wild card spot. The season began with four wins in their opening 13 games, but since late last month they’ve earned 32 points out of a possible 48, going 14-6-4 over that stretch.

The turnaround has taken place while Devan Dubnyk was away from team to be with his wife Jenn, who’s been dealing with a serious medical issue. Dubnyk missed 15 games and returned Dec. 19 for the wild 8-5 win over the Coyotes. He was back starting Monday night and stopped all 22 shots to shut out the Flames.

[COVERAGE OF AVS-WILD BEGINS AT 7 P.M. ET ON NBCSN]

“If somebody asked us at that point if we could be two points out of a playoff spot before Christmas, I don’t even know if everybody would have believed that,” Dubnyk said. “This is a lot more like it, and we know if we continue this pace and continue to play like this, we’re going to be where we want to be at the end of the season.”

Despite Dubnyk’s confidence, there are areas to clean up if the playoffs are to be a reality. Over the last month the penalty kill has struggled (66.6%), their possession numbers are near the bottom (47%) and the Wild owns the NHL’s best PDO (104.2), via Natural Stat Trick.

What’s been working has been the offense, which has averaged 3.64 goals per game with Eric Staal (7-7–14) and Mats Zuccarello (5-6–11) leading the way. Then you have Kevin Fiala, who has 13 points in his last 16 games and Ryan Donato with six points in nine games.

“I think we’re in a pretty good spot looking back at where we were,” said forward Luke Kunin. “Obviously, we let a few slip away that we wish would’ve won. Just get a good break and come back rejuvenated and ready to go.”

Kathryn Tappen will host Friday’s coverage on NHL Live alongside analysts Mike Milbury and Keith Jones. Chris Cuthbert will handle play-by-play duties alongside Pierre McGuire at Pepsi Center in Denver, Colo.

Episode 2 of the three-part docuseries “Road To The NHL Winter Classic” will air on Friday, Dec. 27, at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. The season finale will be presented on Monday, Jan. 6, at 10:30 p.m. ET immediately following Oilers-Maple Leafs on NBCSN. 

The series will chronicle the Stars and Predators as they prepare to meet outdoors in the 2020 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on January 1 at Cotton Bowl Stadium at 1 p.m. ET on NBC.

————

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.

The Buzzer: Flyers erupt; Kane has another big night

Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane (88) scores
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Three Stars

1) Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks

One of the most dynamic players in the NHL had another terrific night, recording four points in the Blackhawks’ 4-1 win against the Winnipeg Jets. His goal late in the third, which extended Chicago’s lead to three goals, was another example of how lethal his release has been since entering the NHL in 2007. Chicago is stuck at the bottom of the powerful Central Division but Kane is a thrill to watch night in and night out.

2) Max Domi, Montreal Canadiens

When a forward enters the offensive zone with control of the puck, it is a rare sighting when they just wind up and let one fly. Especially in three-on-three overtime when puck possession is of the utmost importance. But on Thursday night, Domi stepped into a slap shot and hammered the puck past David Rittich to lead Montreal to a 4-3 victory over the Calgary Flames

3) James van Riemsdyk, Philadelphia Flyers

The Flyers have been dealing with an emotional roller coaster this past week due to the horrible news about Oskar Lindblom. But, the team took advantage of the Jack Eichel-less Buffalo Sabres and earned a 6-1 feel-good win. The power forward muscled his way to the front of the net and tipped in a loose puck late in the first period to collect his first goal of the night. Then, van Riemsdyk was the beneficiary of a fortunate bounce when the puck trickled off a defender and in.

Highlights of the Night

Roman Josi should consider switching positions if he could dangle like this

Varlamov entered the save-of-the-year competition with this glove stop.

Other notable performances from Thursday

Elias Pettersson — The 21-year-old scored twice as the Canucks held off the Vegas Golden Knights and snapped a three-game losing streak. The Canucks improved to 9-2-1 when Pettersson has scored this season according to Sportsnet.

Tyler Seguin The Dallas Stars alternate captain was one of five players in the NHL to score an overtime-winning goal Thursday.

Mats Zuccarello The Norwegian winger had a goal and two assists in the Minnesota Wild 8-5 win over the Arizona Coyotes.

Stat of the night

Scores

New York Islanders 3, Boston Bruins 2 (SO)

Dallas Stars 4, Tampa Bay Lightning 3 (OT)

Philadelphia Flyers 6, Buffalo Sabres 1

Columbus Blue Jackets 3, Los Angeles Kings 2 (OT)

Ottawa Senators 5, Nashville Predators 4 (OT)

Chicago Blackhawks 4, Winnipeg Jets 1

Carolina Hurricanes 3, Colorado Avalanche 1

Montreal Canadiens 4, Calgary Flames 3(OT)

Minnesota Wild 8, Arizona Coyotes 5

Vancouver Canucks 5, Vegas Golden Knights 4 (OT)