Getty

Penguins’ Hornqvist developing scary history of concussions

4 Comments

When it comes to head injuries, there’s a point where you stop worrying about when a player might return, and instead become concerned about their long-term health beyond hockey.

It’s unclear if Patric Hornqvist has reached that point, but it’s especially disturbing to learn that the Pittsburgh Penguins winger has suffered another concussion.

Hornqvist has had a tough run when it comes to getting hit by errant pucks. His latest concussion happened when he was hit by a puck during the Penguins’ 5-1 win against the Panthers on Tuesday. His first concussion of 2018-19 came in November when he was struck by a puck and bloodied during warm-ups, which somehow isn’t the first time he got hit in the head with a puck warming up.

This marks multiple concussions over the last few year for the 32-year-old, and the troubling thought is that it’s difficult to imagine Hornqvist avoiding much danger in the future. After all, the “Mr. Irrelevant” of the 2005 NHL Draft tends to go to the “dirty areas” to score goals, and scratching and clawing to carve out a place in this league likely inspires Hornqvist to play hurt.

Sounds like a formula for scary long-term consequences if things went in a negative direction.

For what it’s worth, Hornqvist didn’t seem phased about his history back in November, according to The Athletic’s Seth Rorabaugh.

“No. Not at all,” Hornqvist said. “It’s always the same way. I feel kind out of it for a few days then come right back at it. So I’m not worried about that.”

Might it sink to the point that the Penguins are the ones who would need to do the worrying?

In case you’re wondering, Hornqvist is under contract through 2022-23, with a cap hit of $5.3 million per year. That extension could end up backfiring for the Penguins, but here’s hoping the Penguins play it as safe as possible.

Also bad news: Zach Aston-Reese could be out “longer-term” with an upper-body injury likely suffered here:

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: Penguins host Blackhawks on NBCSN

Getty Images

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Sunday night’s matchup between the Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins with coverage beginning at 7 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Penguins are one of the hottest teams in the league, with wins in eight straight games. They defeated the Winnipeg Jets 4-0 on Friday night in a 33-save shutout by Matt Murray. After struggling to start the year and missing time with an injury, Murray has now won seven in a row, matching the best stretch of his career.

Sidney Crosby is riding a six-game point streak (3G, 10A) and has 51 points (19G-32A) in 38 games this season, a 1.34 points per game clip. He hasn’t had a scoring rate that high in a full season since 2009-10 (1.35 ppg). He’ll skate in his 903rd career regular-season game as he closes in on Mario Lemieux’s franchise record (915 GP).

Kris Letang has also tallied a point in six straight games (3G, 6A) and is leading the team in time on ice per game during the winning streak (26:16).

Erik Gustafsson leads all Blackhawks defensemen with 23 points and eight goals, both of which are already career highs for the 26-year-old, who is in his third NHL season. Jeremy Colliton scratched Gustafsson on December 2, and since being benched, Gustafsson has responded with 12 points (4G, 8A) in 13 games.

Gustafsson has been on the top pair with Duncan Keith while Henri Jokiharju is at World Juniors. He has also been the primary point man on the power play unit.

“He’s got the world at his feet if he wants…we push him because we know he can do it,” said Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton. “At times, he does do it, as far as his gap and being aggressive to get pucks back, and being physical at times, and even better around his own net. He can do it. It’s not a question of ability. It’s a question of committing to it. So it’s an easy decision to try to hold him accountable, because he can give us so much.”

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

What: Chicago Blackhawks at Pittsburgh Penguins
Where: PPG Paints Arena
When: Sunday, Jan. 6, 7 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
Live stream: You can watch the Blackhawks-Penguins stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

BLACKHAWKS
Brandon SaadJonathan ToewsDominik Kahun
Artem AnisimovDylan StromePatrick Kane
Alex DeBrincatDavid KampfBrendan Perlini
Chris KunitzMarcus KrugerDrake Caggiula

Duncan Keith – Erik Gustafsson
Gustav ForslingBrent Seabrook
Carl DahlstromConnor Murphy

Starting goalie: Cam Ward

PENGUINS
Jake Guentzel – Sidney Crosby – Bryan Rust
Dominik SimonEvgeni MalkinPatric Hornqvist
Tanner PearsonDerick BrassardPhil Kessel
Riley SheahanMatt CullenZach Aston-Reese

Brian Dumoulin – Kris Letang
Marcus PetterssonJack Johnson
Olli MaattaJuuso Riikola

Starting goalie: Casey DeSmith

MORE: Kris Letang is playing the best hockey of his career

WATCH LIVE: Rangers host Penguins on Wednesday Night Hockey

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with the Wednesday Night Hockey matchup between the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers. Coverage begins at 6 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Both of these teams are headed in the right direction after rough stretches earlier this season. For Pittsburgh, a 1-7-2 mark from late October into November dropped its record to 7-8-4 and they sat last in the Metro. They’ve since turned things around and their current win streak has catapulted them into the top-3 in the division on the strength of both a strong offensive and defensive showing.

New York, meanwhile, and first-year head coach David Quinn, began the season 0-3-0 and lost 11 of 14 (3-6-5) since Thanksgiving before going on the road and winning its last two games at Nashville and St. Louis. The Rangers return home now, but only briefly as they are in the midst of a period that takes them on the road (see schedule below) after they ended 2018 with a majority of home games.

Pittsburgh’s “Big 3” is leading the way once again as Sidney Crosby, Phil Kessel and Evgeni Malkin are the top three on the team in points. Crosby has 48 points (18G-30A) in 36 games this season, a 1.33 points per game clip. He hasn’t had a scoring rate that high in a full season since 2009-10 (1.35 ppg).

Perhaps the best story on the Rangers this season has been the play of Chris Kreider, who leads the team with 20 goals (2nd-best is Mika Zibanejad w/ 11). You’ll remember he missed 24 games last season with a blood clot. Kreider has an active 5-game point streak (5G-3A)

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

What: Pittsburgh Penguins at New York Rangers
Where: Madison Square Garden
When: Wednesday, Jan. 2, 6 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
Live stream: You can watch the Penguins-Rangers stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

PENGUINS
Jake Guentzel – Sidney Crosby – Bryan Rust
Dominik Simon – Evgeni Malkin – Patric Hornqvist
Tanner PearsonDerick Brassard – Phil Kessel
Zach Aston-ReeseMatt CullenRiley Sheahan

Brian DumoulinKris Letang
Marcus PetterssonJack Johnson
Olli MaattaJuuso Riikola

Starting goalie: Matt Murray

RANGERS
Chris Kreider – Mika Zibanejad – Jesper Fast
Vladislav NamestnikovKevin HayesMats Zuccarello
Boo NievesBrett HowdenPavel Buchnevich
Cody McLeodRyan StromeFilip Chytil

Marc StaalNeal Pionk
Brady SkjeiAdam McQuaid
Fredrik ClaessonKevin Shattenkirk

Starting goalie: Henrik Lundqvist

Kenny Albert (play-by-play) and Brian Boucher (‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst) will call Penguins-Rangers from Madison Square Garden.

WATCH LIVE: Capitals, Penguins meet on Wednesday Night Hockey

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues as the Pittsburgh Penguins visit the Washington Capitals on Wednesday Night Hockey with coverage beginning at 7 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

This will mark the 48th regular-season matchup between Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, with Crosby (21G, 45A – 66 points) outscoring Ovechkin (30G, 20A – 50 points) to lead Pittsburgh to a 28-17-2 record in the previous 47 contests (WSH: 19-21-7). They also have met 25 times in the playoffs, with Crosby (13G, 17A – 30 pts) and Ovechkin (15G, 18A – 33 pts) each averaging more than a point per game and Pittsburgh holding an advantage in their head-to-head games (13-12) and series (3-1).

The Penguins fell 4-2 to the Anaheim Ducks on Monday for their fifth loss in their last 10 games. Head coach Mike Sullivan doesn’t have a lot of patience left for their lackluster play.

“There needs to be a level of accountability and ultimately that falls on me,” he said. “Sometimes the biggest hammer a coach has is ice time, and there have been situations over the last little while where the coaching staff has utilized that. That’s not something this coaching staff likes to do. We want our guys to take ownership for their own expected games, and we want them to take ownership for the way this team is going to play.”

One example of this accountability was playing Guentzel just 3:40 in the second period on Monday. Given 8:36 on ice in the third period, Guentzel responded with several strong shifts and three shots.

[WATCH LIVE – COVERAGE BEGINS 7 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

Washington enters tonight as one of the hottest teams in the league, winners of five straight games and 12 of their last 14. They’ve also been lighting the lamp at a furious pace, scoring three or more goals in every game during that 12-2-0 stretch (4.29 goals per game).

Alex Ovechkin is riding a career-best 14-game point streak (17G, 6A), the longest active streak in the league. Ovechkin is on pace to score a career-high 74 goals this season. His current career best was 65 goals in 2007-08. The last person to score 74+ goals was fellow Russian Alexander Mogilny, who tallied 76 goals in 1992-93.

While Ovechkin has deservedly dominated headlines, Evgeny Kuznetsov is currently on an eight-game point streak (1G, 9A) and has also tallied at least one assist in all eight of those games.

[Related: Alex Ovechkin’s stunning numbers]

What: Pittsburgh Penguins at Washington Capitals
Where: Capital One Arena
When: Wednesday, Dec. 19, 7 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
Live stream: You can watch the Penguins-Capitals stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

PENGUINS
Jake Guentzel – Sidney Crosby – Bryan Rust
Zach Aston-ReeseEvgeni MalkinPhil Kessel
Tanner PearsonDerick BrassardPatric Hornqvist
Riley SheahanMatt Cullen – Garrett Wilson

Olli MaattaJamie Oleksiak
Marcus PetterssonJack Johnson
Juuso RiikolaChad Ruhwedel

Starting goalie: Matt Murray

CAPITALS
Alex Ovechkin – Nicklas BackstromT.J. Oshie
Jakub Vrana – Evgeny Kuznetsov – Tom Wilson
Brett ConnollyLars EllerDevante Smith-Pelly
Dmitrij JaskinNic DowdTravis Boyd

Michal KempnyJohn Carlson
Dmitry OrlovMatt Niskanen
Jonas SiegenthalerMadison Bowey

Starting goalie: Braden Holtby

Six-time Emmy Award-winner Mike ‘Doc’ Emrick, U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame member Eddie Olczyk, and ‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst Pierre McGuire will have the call from Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C. Kathryn Tappen hosts NHL Live ahead of Penguins-Capitals on Wednesday, alongside analysts Mike Milbury, Keith Jones and insider Darren Dreger.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Wednesday Night Hockey: Alex Ovechkin’s stunning numbers

4 Comments

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues as the Pittsburgh Penguins visit the Washington Capitals on Wednesday Night Hockey with coverage beginning at 7 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Penguins are still trying to find some consistency this season and work their way back into a solid playoff position, while the Capitals are once again rolling toward the top spot in the Metropolitan Division. Also rolling is their captain, Alex Ovechkin, who is playing some of the best hockey of his career and going for yet another goal-scoring crown.

He enters Wednesday’s game with a league-best 29 goals in the Capitals’ first 32 games, good enough for a four-goal lead over Buffalo’s Jeff Skinner … who has played in three more games.

Since the start of the 1987-88 season only six players have scored more than 29 goals through their team’s first 32 games: Bernie Nicholls (34 in 1989), Mario Lemieux (who did it twice with 33 in 1993 and 31 in 1989), Brett Hull (32 in 1991), Steve Yzerman (31 in 1989), and Jaromir Jagr (30 in 1997).

On their own those numbers are incredible. They become even more stunning when you realize he is doing this in his age 33 season at a point when players are usually slowing down. Instead, he just keeps getting better.

With that in mind let’s take some time to look at some other stunning numbers from Ovechkin’s career to this point.

A 74-goal pace. Entering play on Wednesday Ovechkin is on a 74-goal pace for the season. If he were to maintain that he would be just the 15th player in league history to top the 70-goal mark in a season. All but one came between the 1980 and 1993 seasons when goal-scoring in the NHL was at an all-time high (Phil Esposito’s 76 goal season in 1970-71 was the only one that did not happen during that stretch). No one has scored 70 goals in a season since the 1992-93 season when Alexander Mogilny and Teemu Selanne both hit 76 for the Buffalo Sabres and Winnipeg Jets, respectively. There have only been two 60-goal seasons over the past two-and-a-half decades — Steven Stamkos with 60 during the 2011-12 season and Ovechkin with 65 during the 2007-08 season.

[WATCH LIVE – COVERAGE BEGINS 7 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

• Chasing another 50-goal season and Richard Trophy. Barring an injury, this start to the season makes another 50-goal season seem inevitable. If he gets there it will be the eighth time in his career. Only Wayne Gretzky and Mike Bossy (both with nine) have more. He would also be just the fourth player in league history to have done it in his age 33 season or later, with Jaromir Jagr (54 in 2005-06) and Johnny Bucyk (51 in 1970-71), and Bobby Hull (50 in 1971-72) being the others.

If he ends up leading the league again it will be the ninth time he has done that.

Nobody else in league history has led the league in goal-scoring more than seven times.

No one close during his era. Since entering the NHL in 2005-06 Ovechkin’s 636 goals are 210 more than the second-leading goal scorer during that stretch. That player? Penguins captain Sidney Crosby with 426. The gap between Ovechkin and Crosby at No. 1 and 2 is the same as the gap between Crosby and the 69th ranked player on the list, Patric Hornqvist.

Not even Gretzky, the NHL’s all-time leading goal-scorer, had that big of a gap over the rest of his peers at the same point in his career.

When Gretzky was 14 seasons into his career he had a 183-goal lead over the second-leading goal-scorer during that stretch.

Power play dominance. Everyone in the league knows where Ovechkin is going to be on the power play, and everybody knows what is going to happen once he gets there and the Capitals get the puck to him. Ovechkin’s 237 career power play goals are 99 more than any other player in the league. Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin is second with 138. The gap between those two is the same as the gap between and the 172nd player on the list (Patrik Berglund).

• Nobody shoots the puck as often as Ovechkin. He has already topped the 5,000 shot mark for his career and enters play on Wednesday eighth on the all-time list. If he continues at his current four shots per game pace for the rest of the season he would finish the season in fifth place on the all-time list behind only Ray Bourque, Jaromir Jagr, Marcel Dionne, and Al MacInnis. Assuming he plays in all 50 games, he would be at 1,085 games played. The four players ahead of him all played in more than 1,340 games with three of them having played in more than 1,400.

By the end of next season he could be as high as third on the list.

[Related: Alex Ovechkin isn’t slowing down]

He’s currently in seventh place in shots on goal for the season, 32 off the league lead. He has led the league 11 times prior to this season. Bobby Hull is the only player in league history that has done it at least seven times since the league started tracking shots on goals.

A fifth of the franchise’s goals during his career. That is what Ovechkin has done for the Capitals since entering the league. He has scored just under 20 percent of the team’s goals since the start of the 2005-06 season. Let’s take a look at how that percentage stacks up to some of the more prominent goal-scorers since then that have played for one team.

Nobody is really even close.

Gretzky played the first nine years of his career with the Edmonton Oilers and “only” scored 16.76 percent of the team’s goals during that time.

As of Wednesday, he is 15th on the NHL’s all-time goals list and could potentially climb as high as the No. 12 spot before the end of this season. He is currently 258 behind Gretzky’s all-time record of 894. If he finished this season with exactly 50 goals he would be 237 behind. If he played until age 40 he would need to average 33 goals per season to match it. If he played until age 38 he would need to average around 37 goals per season.

That would be an almost unprecedented pace, but pretty much everything he has done in his career from a goal-scoring perspective is unprecedented in this (or any) era.

Six-time Emmy Award-winner Mike ‘Doc’ Emrick, U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame member Eddie Olczyk, and ‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst Pierre McGuire will have the call from Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C. Kathryn Tappen hosts NHL Live ahead of Penguins-Capitals on Wednesday, alongside analysts Mike Milbury, Keith Jones and insider Darren Dreger.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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.