Alex Pietrangelo

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Wednesday Night Hockey: Blues finding ways to overcome key injuries

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with the Wednesday Night Hockey matchup between the St. Louis Blues and Pittsburgh Penguins. 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 Stanley Cup hangover can be a real thing. It’s come back to bite several defending champions over the years. The St. Louis Blues had every reason to fall apart early on this season for a number of reasons, but to their credit they’ve been able to stand at the top of the Central Division.

Before we jump into the Blues, we have to point out that their opponent tonight, the Pittsburgh Penguins, have also been decimated by injuries lately. They’re currently without Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist, Bryan Rust, Brian Dumoulin, Justin Schultz and Nick Bjugstad.

But St. Louis is missing some firepower of their own, too.

Sniper Vladimir Tarasenko has been out of the lineup since Oct. 26. He underwent shoulder surgery and he’ll be re-evaluated sometime in March. The 27-year-old had 10 points in 10 games when he came out of the lineup.

“History has shown to me, losing Vladi, it’s a big loss to a team, but you can overcome these ones — you hope to be able to overcome it,” general manager Doug Armstrong said. “(But) it’s the next one and the one after that is where everything starts to get really tested.”

In their first game without Tarasenko, they dropped a 3-0 decision to the Boston Bruins in a Stanley Cup rematch. Since then, they’ve found a way to go 13-2-3, which is very impressive.

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

Like Armstrong mentioned, good teams can absorb one big loss, but it’s the other injuries that really test your squads depth. The Blues have also been without Alexander Steen (12 games), Sammy Blais (nine games), Robert Thomas (five games) and Oskar Sundqvist (three games). How they continue to get the job done is pretty amazing.

“Our organization (has) done a great job of finding players that can come up and do the job up here,” head coach Craig Berube explained. “We’ve got a deep farm team, and whether it’s from drafting and free-agent signings, like (Nathan) Walker and (Derrick) Pouliot, they came up and filled in real nice.”

Having depth in the minors is nice, but there’s no way they’d be able to overcome these injuries without added contributions from their top players. The defending champs have received some solid production from David Perron, who leads them in scoring with 28 points in 29 games. Ryan O'Reilly has just one goal in his last 11 games, but he’s found a way to chip in with 26 points in 29 outings. And Brayden Schenn (team-high 14 goals), Jaden Schwartz (22 points) and Alex Pietrangelo (20 points) have all done their part. Even a depth player like Ivan Barbashev has done his part by picking up six points in his last four games.

The other big reason they’ve been able to fight through all this adversity is because of the solid goaltending their receiving, and it’s not just Jordan Binnington. Yes, Binnington has been terrific this year, as he’s posted a 13-4-4 record with a 2.26 goals-against-average and a .926 save percentage. He’s showing that last year’s run was no fluke.

Backup netminder Jake Allen has also done his part. Allen and Binnington have split starts with an even rotation over the last few weeks. The veteran owns a 5-1-2 record with a 2.35 goals-against-average and a .926 save percentage this season. That only regulation loss came at home against the Montreal Canadiens on Oct. 19. He allowed a horrendous goal to Habs forward Brendan Gallagher in that one, but he’s found a way to bounce back since then.

The Blues will hit a rough patch at some point, but there’s no reason to believe they’ll fall apart completely because they’re showing they have the talent and mental ability to face adversity head on.

They’ll probably be really sad to see the 2019 calendar year end in a few weeks though. It’s been a really good year for them.

Liam McHugh will host Wednesday’s coverage on NHL Live alongside analysts Mike Milbury and Keith Jones and NHL insider Bob McKenzie. Mike Emrick, Eddie Olczyk and Brian Boucher will call Blues-Penguins from PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, Pa.

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.

The Buzzer: Pietrangelo helps Blues extend winning streak; Rangers rebound

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Three Stars:

1. Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues: The steady defenseman helped the Blues earn a 5-2 win against the Edmonton Oilers and extend their winning streak to six games Wednesday. Pietrangelo recorded a goal and two assists as St. Louis completed the second game of a three-game swing through western Canada. Last week on NBCSN, NHL insider Bob McKenzie said that Pietrangelo’s contract situation was a bit tricky as he remains the only major pending UFA the Blues need to deal with this upcoming summer.

2. Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers: The 37-year-old goaltender picked up his 452nd NHL victory and is two behind Curtis Joseph for fifth on the NHL all-time wins list. With Alexandar Georgiev pushing for more playing time, Lundqvist could not afford a subpar performance after sitting the previous three games. The Swedish netminder stopped 35 shots in the Rangers’ 5-1 win against the Detroit Red Wings.

3. Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers: On any given night, McDavid is worthy of this honor based on his sheer talent. The Oilers’ captain netted a power-play goal and picked up his 17th assist as Edmonton dropped its second straight game.

Highlight of the night

Oilers forward Zack Kassian wired a wrist shot into the top corner after receiving a cross-ice pass from Leon Draisaitl.

Blooper of the night

Rangers forward Greg McKegg collected his own rebound after the puck took a funky bounce off the glass behind the net as he scored his first goal of the season.

Factoids

  • According to NHL Stats and Information, since the NHL began to track ice time in 1997-98, tonight was the first game in which the Rangers did not have at least one skater who logged at least 20:00 of ice time (Adam Fox led the team with 19:56).
  • Artemi Panarin is one of five Rangers players in the last decade to average at least a point-per-game through their first 13 games with the franchise. [NHLPR]
  • Tony DeAngelo is the first Rangers defenseman to score five goals through his first 13 games since Brian Leetch (5-10—15 in 1988-89). [NHLPR]
  • The St. Louis Blues established a franchise record for the fastest two shorthanded goals (0:26). [NHLPR]

Scores
Rangers 5, Red Wings 1
Blues 5, Oilers 2

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.

The Buzzer: Draisaitl takes over league lead in goals, points

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Three Stars

1. Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers. He is doing his best to show that his 50-goal, 100-point season from a year ago was no fluke. With two goals and an assist in the Oilers’ 4-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday night Draisaitl is now tied for the league lead in goals (12, along with Boston’s David Pastrnak) and is in sole possession of the top spot in points with 25. If you like to have fun with early season “on pace for” numbers those put him on track for 70 goals and 145 points over 82 games. Obviously he will slow down at some point, but what a start for the Oilers and their top forwards.

2. Brock Boeser, Vancouver Canucks. An absolutely massive game for the Canucks’ top young players as they crushed the Los Angeles Kings — again — this season. Boeser was the big star on the night with three goals and an assist in the win. He is now up to seven goals and 14 total points this season. Boeser, Elias Pettersson, and Quinn Hughes give the Canucks quite a trio of young stars to build around, and they all shined on Wednesday.

3. Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida Panthers. With eight minutes to play in regulation the Panthers found themselves trailing by two goals in Colorado. It was at that point that their stars took over. Aleksander Barkov scored his first goal of the season to bring the Panthers to within one, and then Huberdeau tied it with 1:30 to play and the goalie pulled for an extra attacker. As if that was not enough, Huberdeau won it just 29 seconds into overtime to give the Panthers a huge two points. The Panthers have earned at least a point in nine of their past 10 games.

Other notable performances from Wednesday

Highlights of the Night

This shot from Elias Pettersson is a thing of beauty. You can not place the puck in a better spot. A totally unstoppable shot.

Here is Huberdeau’s game-winner for the Panthers.

At least the Devils had this going for them on Wednesday. Kyle Palmieri scored three goals in the loss, with the third goal coming in the final 10 seconds to tie the game and send it to overtime.

Blooper of the Night

It was a tough night for Arizona Coyotes goalie Antti Raanta, and nothing illustrated that more than him losing a skate blade and allowing Montreal Canadiens defenseman Shea Weber to score an easy goal from the blue line.

Factoids

  • Boeser is the fifth player in Canucks history to record at least three hat tricks before their 23rd birthday. [NHL PR]
  • Anze Kopitar became the fifth player in Kings history to record 900 career regular season points. [NHL PR]
  • Nathan MacKinnon extended his season opening point streak to 12 consecutive games, the fifth player in the past 20 years to accomplish that feat. [NHL PR]
  • Tampa Bay’s come-from-behind win on Wednesday was the 12th multi-goal third period come-from-behind win of the season, the most in NHL history through the first 193 games of the season. [NHL PR]
  • James Neal scored his 11th goal of the season for the Oilers, meaning he and Draisaitl are just the fourth set of teammates in NHL history to each score at least 11 goals in the month of October. They are the first to do it since Mario Lemieux and Kevin Stevens for the 1991-92 Pittsburgh Penguins. [NHL PR]

Scores

Tampa Bay Lightning 7, New Jersey Devils 6 (OT)
Edmonton Oilers 4, Columbus Blue Jackets 1
St. Louis Blues 2, Minnesota Wild 1
Montreal Canadiens 4, Arizona Coyotes 1
Florida Panthers 4, Colorado Avalanche 3 (OT)
Vancouver Canucks 5, Los Angeles Kings 3

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.

McKenzie on Pietrangelo, Krug contracts; surgery for Byfuglien

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With Roman Josi signing a new eight-year contract extension with the Nashville Predators this week that leaves St. Louis Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo and Boston Bruins defender Torey Krug as the top potential unrestricted blue-liners this summer.

During a Wednesday appearance on NBCSN, NHL insider Bob McKenzie offered some updates on where those situations could go over the next few month following Josi’s new contract.

When it comes to the Blues, McKenzie said general manager Doug Armstrong sat down with Pietrangelo’s representatives three-plus weeks ago but there have been no negotiations since then. McKenzie called it a “unique situation” because the Blues already went out and traded for defenseman Justin Faulk and signed him to a new contract extension, and then locked up forward Brayden Schenn to a long-term deal. With those contracts taken care of Pietrangelo will be the only major pending UFA the Blues have to deal with over the next couple of years and it could put them in a situation where they only have so much money to offer Pietrangelo if he wishes to remain with the only team he has ever played for.

He turns 30 this January and is currently playing on a contract that pays him $6.5 million per season.

Meanwhile, there is another interesting situation in Boston where the Bruins have to figure out a way to get Krug re-signed.

McKenzie pointed out the unique salary structure in Boston where the three best players (Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak) all make between $6 and $7 million per season and there could be pressure for players to not make more than them. Given Krug’s production, he could easily move past them on the salary scale.

Even though they were in a different situation this summer (RFA vs. UFA) the Bruins managed to get Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo signed for a combined salary cap hit of under $7 million over the next two years. Krug, 28, makes $5.25 million per year and is one of the league’s most productive defenders.

You can check out McKenzie’s segment in the video above.

Finally, McKenzie also offered an update on Winnipeg Jets defender Dustin Byfuglien who remains away from the team.

McKenzie reported that Byfuglien recently underwent ankle surgery to take care of some unresolved issues from the high-ankle sprain he dealt with last season. He added that it is believed the ankle issue is one of the factors that resulted in him stepping away from the team just before the start of the season.

No one knows what this means for Byfuglien’s future, but McKenzie noted there is a sense that if Byfuglien does feel healthy enough at some point he could (emphasis on could) be inclined to return to the team.

Byfuglien’s decision to take time away was one of the many decisions that helped break apart nearly the entire Jets defense from a year ago.

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.

PHT Morning Skate: Kings in trouble; Can Blues keep Pietrangelo?

Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• Jesse Puljujarvi isn’t opposed to spending the year over in Europe. (Sportsnet)

• Hall-of-fame executive Jim Devellano is going to undergo brain surgery on Monday to remove a non-cancerous brain tumour. (USA Today)

• Patrick Marleau’s agent admitted that his client only wanted to play for the San Jose Sharks. (NBC Sports Bay Area)

• It’s early in the season, but the Los Angeles Kings could be in some serious trouble already. (Yahoo)

• How quickly can a Stanley Cup window slam shut? (Gotham Sports Network)

• Will the St. Louis Blues be able to re-sign Alex Pietrangelo? (Featurd)

• Sabres head coach Ralph Krueger won’t rush Rasmus Dahlin‘s development. (Buffalo News)

• Losing defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson for an extended period of time would be bad for the Coyotes. (Five for Howling)

Anthony Cirelli isn’t the biggest name on the Lightning roster, but he’s an important part of the group. (The Score)

• Todd Bertuzzi should be in the Canucks’ Ring of Honor. (Daily Hive)

• Have the seats at TD Garden gotten smaller? (Boston Globe)

• The Red Wings’ fourth line is off to a great start this season. (Mlive.com)

• Andrew Raycroft loves the city of Boston. (Bruins Die Hards)

• The Senators have hired Canadian University Basketball coach Dave Smart as a consultant. (TSN)

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.