NHL on NBCSN: Penguins, Red Wings kick off latest Rivalry Night

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NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign when the Pittsburgh Penguins host the Detroit Red Wings at the Consol Energy Center at 8:00 p.m. ET tonight as part of a back-to-back set of games on NBCSN on Wednesday. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game and pre-show online.

A lot has changed since the Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins faced off in the 2008 and 2009 Stanley Cup Final, but in some ways, plenty of key factors remain.

Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg are still the go-to guys for the Red Wings offense, even with the rise of younger players such as Gustav Nyquist. The Penguins still seemingly go as far as Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Marc-Andre Fleury and Kris Letang can take them, even if the supporting cast (and front office) has changed dramatically.

From a more recent perspective, Pittsburgh hasn’t played since the Vancouver Canucks crushed them 5-0 on Saturday.

That sour end to their Western Canada road trip should provide plenty of inspiration as they host the Red Wings. Getting plenty of rest – at least by season standards – might be the biggest thing, really.

(Then again, the Red Wings have been off since Saturday as well, so each team should be as fresh as possible on Feb. 11.)

While the Penguins have been stumbling a bit, the Red Wings have been hot more or less since 2015 rolled around, most obviously considering their three-game winning streak. They’ve also won nine of 10 games as Petr Mrazek has really softened the blow of losing Jimmy Howard (who’s expected to suit up as a backup tonight).

The Penguins may or may not get Blake Comeau back in the lineup on Wednesday. Whenever Comeau can play, he might feel a little dizzy trying to fit into a lineup that’s changed quite a bit since he last played six weeks ago.

Whatever each team is going through at the time, the Penguins and Red Wings shouldn’t struggle to drum up some interest for the first of Wednesday’s two Rivalry Night games on NBCSN.

PHT Morning Skate: ECHL club will wear 50 Shades of Grey jerseys

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

The ECHL Bakersfield Condors will wear 50 Shades of Grey jerseys on Feb. 15. (Bakersfieldcondors.com)

Editor’s Note: Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting an $20,000 Fantasy Hockey league for Friday night’s NHL games. It’s just $2 to join and first prize is $2,000. Starts Friday at 7:00 p.m. ET. Here’s the FanDuel link.

As Evander Kane’s time in Winnipeg potentially approaches a dramatic end, there’s plenty of blame to go around. (Winnipeg Free Press)

While we’re on the subject, Joe Haggerty doesn’t think Kane is worth the risk for the Boston Bruins. (CSN New England)

Highlights from Detroit’s 3-0 victory over Colorado:

The Royal Half took a bit of a shot at the Los Angeles Kings and the fans they’ve accumulated over their recent playoff runs:

Alex Ovechkin had a lighthearted response to a question about his minus-35 rating last season. (Ottawa Citizen)

Finally enjoying a relatively healthy season, Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang has forced himself into the conversation for the Norris Trophy. (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)

Video: Despres’ OT winner lifts the Pens over the Devils

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Simon Despres scored the overtime winner as the Pittsburgh Penguins edged the New Jersey Devils 2-1 Friday night.

Kris Letang, who had an assist on the goal, has assisted on the Penguins’ last seven goals.

Pittsburgh was 3:11 away from being shutout for a second straight game.

With Peter Harrold serving a high sticking penalty, Chris Kunitz beat Cory Schneider for his 15th of the season tying the game 1-1.

Steve Bernier had the lone goal for the Devils. It was his fourth goal in five games.

The win moves the Penguins to within one point of the Metropolitan Division-leading New York Islanders.

Schneider made a season-high 41 saves in the loss. It was his league-leading 43rd start of the season.

Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 13 shots to improve to 23-10-5 on the season.

Ehrhoff undergoes concussion testing after Ovechkin collision

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Pittsburgh will be without defenseman Christian Ehrhoff for tonight’s tilt in New Jersey — and possibly more games as well.

On Friday, the club announced that Ehrhoff had been returned to Pittsburgh for concussion testing, stemming from a collision with Washington’s Alex Ovechkin during the Penguins’ 4-0 loss at Verizon on Wednesday.

The incident in question:

Ovechkin was whistled for a holding penalty on the play. Ehrhoff left the game immediately and didn’t return.

It’ll be interesting to see how the Pens fare without the German rearguard in the lineup. Ehrhoff has been one of the team’s more durable blueliners this year, appearing in 43 of 48 games, and is second to Kris Letang in d-man scoring (with 13 points).

Get your game notes: Pens at Caps

Tonight on NBCSN, it’s the Washington Capitals hosting the Pittsburgh Penguins at 8 p.m. ET. Following are some game notes, as compiled by the NHL on NBC research team:

TOP STORYLINES

• Tuesday night – PIT def. WPG 5-3: This win snapped PIT’s 4-game losing streak (0-2-2 record).

• Neither Sidney Crosby (lower-body) nor Evgeni Malkin (lower-body) played yesterday.

• Crosby was forced to sit out yesterday because he skipped the All-Star Game, but he practiced in Tuesday’s morning skate and could return tonight.

• Malkin has been placed on IR, and he has not played since a 3-2 (OT) loss to PHI on Jan. 20.

• The Pens are now 9-0-1 in their last 10 games in which both Crosby and Malkin HAVE NOT played, dating back to 2011.

• Patric Hornqvist (lower-body – missed 11 games) and Kris Letang (head – missed 1 game) returned to the lineup last night and provided an instant boost for PIT.

• Hornqvist hadn’t played since Dec. 27, and scored his 14th goal (empty-net goal) this season.

• Letang missed last Wednesday’s game after taking a hard check from Zac Rinaldo the day before (Rinaldo was suspended 8 games for the hit). In his return last night, Letang assisted on all 5 Penguins goals – a career high for both assists and points in a game. He is the first defenseman with 5 assists in a game since Dion Phaneuf for CGY in Dec. 2007.

• Lapierre, 29, is in 10th NHL season (now 5th NHL team). Pens GM Jim Rutherford cited Lapierre’s grit, playoff history, and ability to replace Goc on the penalty kill as reasons for the deal (see pg.3 for quotes).

• Washington hitting a slide: The Caps have now lost 4 straight games (0-3-1 record) following their 4-3 loss in Columbus last night. This comes directly after a six-week stretch in which the Capitals earned points in 18 of 19 games (14-1-4 record from Dec. 4 to Jan. 14).

• Team defense has slipped for WSH – it has allowed 4+ goals in all 4 games during the losing streak.

CROSBY VS. OVECHKIN

• Ovechkin was held without a point yesterday vs. CBJ, but he has 11 goals in his last 12 games (11G-4A).

• Ovechkin is t-1st in the NHL in power play goals (12, w/ Joe Pavelski of SJ). Ovechkin has led the NHL in PPG each of the last 2 seasons.

• Crosby has gone 2 straight games without a point. His longest stretch without a point this season was a 3-game span from Nov. 29 to Dec. 4.

PITTSBURGH TEAM/PLAYER NOTES

• David Perron has been productive since he was acquired from EDM; after a goal and an assist last night, he now has 9 pts (6G-3A) in 9 gms with the Pens.

• He now has more goals with the Pens than he did the entire first half of the season with the Oilers.

• Thomas Greiss stopped 19 of 22 shots last night in the win.

• Marc-Andre Fleury last played a week ago in a 3-2 (SO) loss to CHI; he stopped 24 of 26 shots. Fleury is on a personal 3-game losing streak (0-2-1 record), and since Dec. 22, he has won just 3 of 12 starts.

WASHINGTON TEAM/PLAYER NOTES

• Nicklas Backstrom had an assist last night – the 400th of his career – to extent his point streak to 4 games (2G-4A).

• John Carlson had an assist last night to extend his point streak to 3 games (0G-4A). He ranks t-4th among NHL d-men in points (35), and t-2nd in assists (30).

• Through 47 GP, Carlson has already tied his career-high for assists w/ 30, and he is just 2 points away from his career-high of 37.

• Carlson also leads WSH in TOI/G at 23:21.

• Earlier in the month, Braden Holtby set a franchise record by appearing in 27 straight games from Nov. 18 to Jan. 16. This is also the longest consecutive games played streak by a goalie in the NHL this season.

• Holtby is 1 win away from tying his career-high of 23, done in each of the past two seasons.

• Holtby has allowed 4 goals in each of his last 3 starts (0-2-1 record), including his 4 GA on 30 shots last night in the loss to CBJ.

• Holtby had a 31-save shutout vs. PIT in the first meeting this season on Dec. 27.