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Penguins’ Hornqvist developing scary history of concussions

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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

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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

Sundqvist scores winner, Wilson fights Bortuzzo as Blues top Capitals

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When the St. Louis Blues and Washington Capitals last met each other Oskar Sundqvist was on the wrong end of a Tom Wilson hit that left him injured and Wilson suspended for 20 games, his fourth suspension in a calendar year (and his third against the Blues).

Sundqvist had a much more enjoyable night on Thursday when he scored the game-winning goal in the Blues’ 5-2 win.

The night also featured Wilson dropping the gloves with Blues defender Robert Bortuzzo in a rather spirited bout that was clearly intended as a means of attempting to settle the score.

Have a look.

This is the second time over the past month that Wilson has dropped the gloves in response to a hit that resulted in a suspension. Earlier this month he fought Pittsburgh’s Jamie Oleksiak in a one-sided bout that did not go well for Oleksiak. That fight was an answer to Wilson’s postseason hit on Zach Aston-Reese that resulted in a three-game ban for Wilson and ended Aston-Reese’s postseason.

Robert Thomas, Colton Parayko, Alex Pietrangelo, and Tyler Bozak also scored for the Blues in the win.

Thomas, oddly enough, was one of the other players on the receiving end of a hit that earned Wilson a suspension over the past year.

The other big story out of this game is that Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin snapped his six-game goal-less drought by scoring his 30th goal of the season. It is the 14th consecutive season that Ovechkin has scored at least 30 goals in a season, making him one of just two players in league history to ever start their career with 14 consecutive 30 goal seasons. Former Capitals forward Mike Gartner is the other.

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.

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.

Penguins’ Oleksiak injured in fight with Capitals’ Wilson

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It took less than a minute for Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson to drop the gloves with Pittsburgh Penguins defender Jamie Oleksiak on Wednesday night.

It did not go well for Oleksiak, who was clearly shaken up in the one-sided fight and missed the remainder of the first period.

It was not a totally random encounter, either.

This was all likely a carryover from the 2018 second-round playoff matchup between the two teams when Wilson was suspended three games for a hit to the head of Penguins forward Zach Aston-Reese. In the aftermath Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford was highly critical of Wilson for not fighting Oleksiak on the ice the night of the hit.

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette back in May…

“When Jamie challenged Wilson, he couldn’t run quick enough to get away from him,” Rutherford told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette during an interview on a variety of topics Monday morning, adding that having Reaves would’ve “offset” Wilson’s physical play.

“Until, of course, the referees get in close, then [Wilson] comes back and says something to him.”

Wednesday’s game was the first time the two teams have played with Wilson back in the lineup after missed the remainder of the playoff series and was suspended for the first two regular season meetings this season. He not only dropped the gloves with Oleksiak, he went right after him.

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.