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I am a contributing editor/writer/troublemaker for NBC's Pro Hockey Talk blog.
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Clash of winning streaks between Wild, Blue Jackets is indeed historic

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Sometimes people get very specific in order to hype something as truly unique. The clash between the Columbus Blue Jackets’ 14-game winning streak and the Minnesota Wild’s 12-gamer really is special, though.

Consider this: Elias Sports Bureau reports that we’ve never seen a game between two teams on active winning streaks of 12+ games in NHL history … and that hasn’t happened in NFL, NBA or MLB history, either.

Actually, they cast the net wider to really drive home how unusual that New Year’s Eve game in Minnesota really is:

If the team’s two starting goalies end up playing as expected, it will be a pretty rare duel between red-hot netminders, as well. Sergei Bobrovsky is currently on a 12-game winning streak while Devan Dubnyk has won 10 in a row.

Rob Mixer’s preview adds a few other bits of history to the mix:

The Blue Jackets have won 14 straight games. That’s a franchise record. The Wild have won 12 straight games, also a franchise record. Columbus’ 14-game streak is tied for fourth-longest in the 99-year history of the NHL, and only four teams have boasted a longer streak than what the Blue Jackets are currently on. The last team to win 15 in a row was the 2012-13 Pittsburgh Penguins, and they also own the NHL’s record-long win streak of 17, which they accomplished during the 1992-93 season.

Special stuff.

NHL.com provided some great tidbits on the two teams’ streaks, including pointing out moments when each run could have ended. That article points out that the Blue Jackets outscored their opponents 55-24 (+31) during their 14-game winning streak while the Wild generated a 46-22 differential (+24).

All the linked bits are worth a gander, but if you’d rather just watch a video that captures some of the teams’ best moments from their streaks, you’ll enjoy this as well:

Long story short, if you’re a hockey fan and you’re not working this game into your plans tonight, then other fans might give you the same look John Tortorella shot toward someone recording with a cell phone:

You’ve been warned.

Aaron Dell might just earn himself more opportunities with Sharks

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There’s no discussion about it: Martin Jones is the unquestioned man in the San Jose Sharks’ net. After nights like Friday, it’s reasonable to wonder if Aaron Dell might be a diamond in the rough, though.

Much has been made of Dell cracking the NHL at the advanced age of 27, but he’s quietly been excelling when given opportunities … which are sometimes pretty rare.

Dell only needed to make 21 saves to grab his first career shutout in a 2-0 win against the Philadelphia Flyers last night, yet it’s interesting to note that he’s been putting up nice numbers in small sample sizes for a while now.

2013-14: 19-7-3, .920 save percentage in 29 ECHL games
12-0, .922 save percentage in six AHL games
2014-15: 8-1-2, .902 save percentage in 12 ECHL games
15-8-2, .927 save percentage in 26 AHL games
2015-16: 17-16-6, .922 save percentage in 40 AHL games
2016-17: 4-1-0, .936 save percentage, one shutout in six games with Sharks

If nothing else, Dell is accustomed to paying his dues. Jones has been pretty impressive in his own right (19-11-1 with a .920 save percentage over a much larger sample size of 31 games this season), yet Dell could provide valuable insurance if injuries strike or Jones experiences a slump.

With four straight wins and victories in eight of their last nine games, San Jose might just build up enough of a buffer in the Pacific to get an idea of what they have in Dell by giving him an extra look or two down the stretch.

Matt Puempel collected his first career hat trick on Thursday

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Maybe Matt Puempel really will flourish now that he’s with the New York Rangers after struggling to accomplish much of anything with the Ottawa Senators.

He indicated as much upon his departure from Ottawa, and Thursday served as his creative peak; the 23-year-old generated his first hat trick as the Rangers beat the Arizona Coyotes 6-3.

Remarkably, all three of Puempel’s goals came on the power play. Here’s video of the trio:

In 13 games with the Senators this season, he couldn’t generated a point. Last night represented his 12th game with the Rangers, where things are going much better, especially lately. He has four goals and one assist in his last four games despite limited ice time.

(Speaking of that, 4:05 of his 12:20 in ice time came on the man advantage. Perhaps Alain Vigneault sees Puempel as a Sam Gagner-type specialist?)

It’s still unclear if Puempel will be able to make good on his potential as the 24th pick of the 2011 NHL Draft, but the Rangers look pretty bright for giving him a chance.

Patrick Kane’s 700th point makes difference for Blackhawks vs. Predators

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Patrick Kane gave Nashville Predators fans a few more reasons to boo him on Thursday.

The slick Chicago Blackhawks winger scored the game-winning goal and also had an assist as the Blackhawks beat the Predators 3-2 in regulation.

That game-winner also happened to be the 700th point of his career, and he’s just a bit more than a month older than 28:

This continues a trend of milestone moments to close out 2016. Not long ago, Jaromir Jagr took sole possession of second place on the NHL’s all-time scoring list. Evgeni Malkin scored a power-play goal to hit the 800-point mark on Tuesday.

In case you’re wondering, Kane hit 700 points in the 696th regular season game of his outstanding NHL career. He also has 121 points in 123 career postseason games. Number 88 now has 37 points in 38 games this season.

New Year’s Eve showdown set: Blue Jackets win 14th in a row, Wild get 12th

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If you love sports, how could you root against this scenario?

It was slowly dawning on many in the hockey world that, with wins in their respective Thursday games, the Minnesota Wild could very well host the Columbus Blue Jackets in a game between teams on ridiculous winning streaks. Hockey fans will indeed enjoy that rare treat on New Year’s Eve.

The Blue Jackets draw the loudest headlines, and that seems fair since they’ve won more games (now 14 in a row) and they’ve often blown out their opponents to an almost shocking degree.

The Winnipeg Jets avoided getting blown out tonight, but with two different three-goal leads, Columbus clearly had the edge in an eventual 5-3 win.

With that, the Blue Jackets have won every game in December; their winning streak began on Nov. 29. You could say that Columbus is putting up some real eye-popping numbers.

Wild fans have been grumbling “What about us?” for a while, although they’re no longer under the radar by any stretch. They won their 12th game in a row by edging the New York Islanders in a pretty (cough) wild 6-4 win.

You usually need some bounces and plot twists to go your way to win 10+ wins; in today’s case, the Wild won in part thanks to scoring three goals in 80 seconds.

You don’t often see two teams this hot face off like this, and things fall into place nicely being that it’s happening on the weekend.

If you love the sport (or really even merely occasionally enjoy a little hockey, honestly), you’d be wise to work that game into your schedule on that holiday night. It could be a memorable evening, as two astounding, unexpected streaks will be on the line.