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WATCH LIVE: Penguins host Bruins on NBC

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NBC’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Sunday’s matchup between the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins. Coverage begins at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Two of the NHL’s top teams meet for the second time in four days as the Bruins head to Pittsburgh to take on the Penguins. Sunday’s matchup will be the third and final game between these two this season. Boston won the first two meetings

After losing in Boston Thursday, the Penguins had a chance to get right back to it with a game against the Red Wings Friday night. Pittsburgh started slow, trailing 1-0 to the league’s worst team through two periods. But early in the third Bryan Rust scored his 20th of the season on the power play to even the score. And in overtime it was the captain Sidney Crosby who netted the game-winner on the power play to help Pittsburgh escape with a win.

Since returning from his 28-game absence, Crosby has 6 points (3G-3A) and has scored a goal in each of his three games.

With All-Star goalie Tuukka Rask (concussion) on injured reserve, the Bruins are now relying on Jaroslav Halak as their primary goalie. After starting the season on a tear, Halak has not been as sharp over the past six weeks.Halak has started (and won) both games against the Penguins this season. Over his career, he is 11-8-2 in 21 starts against Pittsburgh, with a 2.53 GAA and .921 SV%.

[COVERAGE BEGINS AT 12:30 P.M. ET ON NBC]

WHAT: Boston Bruins at Pittsburgh Penguins
WHERE: PPG Paints Arena
WHEN: Sunday, Jan. 19, 12:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBC
LIVE STREAM: You can watch the Bruins-Penguins stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

BRUINS
Brad MarchandPatrice BergeronDavid Pastrnak
Jake DeBruskCharlie CoyleAnders Bjork
Danton HeinenPar LindholmKarson Kuhlman
Joakim NordstromSean KuralyChris Wagner

Zdeno CharaCharlie McAvoy
Torey KrugBrandon Carlo
John MooreMatt Grzelcyk

Starting goalie: Jaroslav Halak

PENGUINS
Jared McCann – Sidney Crosby – Dominik Simon
Dominik KahunEvgeni Malkin – Bryan Rust
Alex GalchenyukAndrew AgozzinoPatric Hornqvist
Zach Aston-ReeseTeddy BluegerBrandon Tanev

Jack JohnsonKris Letang
Marcus PetterssonJohn Marino
Jusso Riikola – Chad Ruhwedel

Starting goalie: Matt Murray

Mike Emrick, Eddie Olczyk and Brian Boucher will have the call of the Bruins-Penguins matchup on NBC from PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, Pa.

NHL on NBC: Bruins want to be more than ‘teddy bears’ vs. Penguins

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NBC’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Sunday’s matchup between the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins. Coverage begins at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Considering the Bruins’ comfortable lead atop the Atlantic Division, most teams would gladly take on Boston’s “problems.”

Still, for the Bruins — and few other teams, but yes, also the Penguins, their opponents on Sunday afternoon — it’s about more than division titles. After falling a Game 7 shy of winning the 2019 Stanley Cup Final, this group boasts lofty aspirations.

The Bruins aim to fine-tune during this stretch of the 2019-20 season, and to some, that means reestablishing their identity.

Bruins try to shed ‘Teddy Bears’ criticism

The B’s didn’t just lose Tuukka Rask to an injury on Tuesday when Emil Bemstrom delivered an errant elbow during Columbus’ 3-0 win. Their perceived lack of a response meant that some lost respect for this group.

NBC Sports Boston’s Joe Haggerty went as far as to call the Bruins “teddy bears.”

The Athletic’s Fluto Shinzawa also opined (sub required) that “The Big, Bad Bruins are dead.”

Bruins players seemed to get the memo in beating the Penguins 4-1 on Thursday. Haggerty and others praised the team’s physical response, including a rare Torey Krug fight against Patric Hornqvist.

“It’s not about going out there and trying to run them out of the rink. Looking at our roster, we don’t have that kind of group anymore,” Krug said after that win, via Haggerty. “But we talked about sticking together and competing harder and sacrificing a little more. That doesn’t mean putting a guy through the glass, but it means going into the corner and having the willingness to get hit, or to hit somebody else, in order to come out of there with the puck. I think that desperation was lost there for a few games, so hopefully this is a step in the right direction and we can kind of grasp that concept again. It’s been part of our DNA for years, so as long as we can get back to that [we’ll be good].”

Some lingering questions for Bruins

Again, you could argue there’s some mild soul-searching going on for Boston.

Blame it on a drop in physicality, or perhaps some other factors, but I’d personally be a little more concerned about dipping underlying numbers.

[COVERAGE BEGINS AT 12:30 P.M. ET ON NBC]

Looking at sites like Natural Stat Trick and Hockey Reference, there’s been a dip in key categories. They’ve hogged the puck less often, and have been on the wrong end of high-danger chances (owning just 45.6 percent of that category, via Hockey Reference).

These numbers shouldn’t make anyone pull a fire alarm. It’s not that the Bruins have been terrible. Instead, there are some red flags that the Bruins should improve their play. Sean Tierney (Charting Hockey)’s expected goals share chart captures the sometimes middle-of-the-pack feel to the Bruins’ stats:

Bruins xg

Would the Bruins dominate the puck if they add more edge? Maybe, but either way, there are signs that the B’s have room to improve.

Mike Emrick, Eddie Olczyk and Brian Boucher will have the call of the Bruins-Penguins matchup on NBC from PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, Pa.

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: Bruins vs. Rangers in NHL Thanksgiving Showdown

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NBC’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with the Friday NHL Thanksgiving Showdown between the New York Rangers and Boston Bruins. Coverage begins at 1 p.m. ET on NBC. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

New York comes in having won three straight games for the first time this season after a 3-2 win over Carolina on Wednesday night. Boston closed out its two-game Canadian road trip on Wednesday with a 2-1 win at Ottawa for its fifth consecutive victory as the Bruins enter Thanksgiving the top team in the NHL.

The Bruins are tied with the Capitals for the most points in the NHL with 39 (Washington has played one more game). Barring a second-half of the season collapse, the Stanley Cup runner-up from a year ago looks headed towards its fourth straight playoff appearance. The Rangers, meanwhile, are on the outside looking in as the perennial contenders for much of the 21st century have missed the postseason the last two years and are currently five points back of Carolina and Philadelphia for the Wild Card spots.

Typically, the Thanksgiving Day benchmark is a good indication of which teams will be in the postseason. Here are how things have shaped up since the NHL adopted their current playoff format:

Since 2001-02, at least three teams each season have reached the Stanley Cup Playoffs after being outside the postseason picture at Thanksgiving.

[COVERAGE OF RANGERS-BRUINS BEGINS AT 1 P.M. ET – NBC]

WHAT: New York Rangers at Boston Bruins
WHERE: TD Garden
WHEN: Friday, Nov. 29, 1 p.m. ET
TV: NBC
LIVE STREAM: You can watch the Rangers-Bruins stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

RANGERS
Chris KreiderMika ZibanejadPavel Buchnevich
Artemi PanarinFilip ChytilRyan Strome
Brendan LemieuxBrett HowdenKaapo Kakko
Jesper Fast – Boo Nieves – Brendan Smith

Brady SkjeiJacob Trouba
Ryan LindgrenAdam Fox
Libor HajekTony DeAngelo

Starting goalie: Henrik Lundqvist

BRUINS
Brad MarchandDavid KrejciDavid Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk – Jack Studnicka – Charlie Coyle
Anders BjorkSean KuralyDanton Heinen
Joakim NordstromPar LindholmChris Wagner

Zdeno CharaCharlie McAvoy
Torey KrugBrandon Carlo
Matt GrzelcykConnor Clifton

Starting goalie: Jaroslav Halak

NBC Sports brings NHL Live on the road for Friday’s Thanksgiving Showdown on NBC, with Kathryn Tappen hosting studio coverage on-site from TD Garden alongside analysts Keith Jones and Mike Milbury. Mike Emrick, Eddie Olczyk and Brian Boucher will call the 2019 NHL Thanksgiving Showdown.

NHL on NBC: Panarin living up to hype in New York

NBC’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with the Friday NHL Thanksgiving Showdown between the New York Rangers and Boston Bruins. Coverage begins at 1 p.m. ET on NBC. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Free agency can be hit-or-miss in any league, including the NHL, but it’s safe to say that the New York Rangers’ decision to pursue Artemi Panarin hasn’t been a flop.

In his first year with New York, Panarin has posted 12 goals and 32 points in only 23 games. Heading into this season, his career-high in points was 87 (he did that last year with Columbus). So far, he’s on pace to pick up 114 points. That may or may not happen, but there’s no denying that he’s off to a perfect start.

The 28-year-old has managed to pick up at least one point in 19 of the 23 contests he’s suited up in this season. Yeah, he’s been that good. It sure looks like the seven-year, $81.5 million contract they handed him will be money well spent.

“I thought he was going to be impactful, it’s been better than I envisioned,” head coach David Quinn told the New York Post this week. “Not just because of what we’ve seen on the ice but, I’ve talked about this before, what he brings away from the rink. His personality and how much he loves the game. He’s a great example for our young players.”

The 28-year-old’s outstanding play doesn’t have the Rangers in a playoff spot heading into today’s matinee against the Boston Bruins, but they are in the middle of a positive stretch right now. The Rangers have won three games in a row and four of their last five. They’re currently four points behind the Flyers, who own the final Wild Card spot in the East (New York has two games in hand).

If they find a way to get into the postseason, Panarin will have to be considered one of the front-runners for the Hart Trophy this year. There’s still a long way to go before that happens, but New York is within striking distance right now.

“He’s unreal,” defenseman Tony DeAngelo said. “I think everybody is impressed with him, his skill set, the plays he makes, he plays both sides of the puck, too. Sometimes you just think a guy is all offense. I don’t know if you guys saw, but [Monday] night he had a huge backcheck in the game, too. There was a two-on-one and he backchecked and took two guys out of the play. And then we went on the attack. He’s been really impressive and been great for us so far.”

The Rangers are about to embark on an important stretch of games. Starting today, they’ll play seven of their next nine away from Madison Square Garden. That includes a four-game road trip through Vegas, Los Angeles, San Jose and Anaheim next month.

If Panarin can help them survive this next stretch of games, they’ll be in decent shape heading into the new year.

NBC Sports brings NHL Live on the road for Friday’s Thanksgiving Showdown on NBC, with Kathryn Tappen hosting studio coverage on-site from TD Garden alongside analysts Keith Jones and Mike Milbury. Mike Emrick, Eddie Olczyk and Brian Boucher will call the 2019 NHL Thanksgiving Showdown.

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.

Ready for some hockey? Green Day song may be new NHL anthem

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The NHL could be on the way to its version of ”Are You Ready For Some Football?”

The league is announcing a two-year partnership with Green Day that includes an opening song for NBC Sports’ ”Wednesday Night Hockey.” The song, ”Ready, Fire, Aim” isn’t custom-made for the NHL and will be on Green Day’s next album, though it’s likely a matter of time until Green Day or another band follows what Hank Williams Jr. and later Carrie Underwood did for the NFL.

”That I think will probably be the evolution,” NHL chief content officer and executive Vice President Steve Mayer said. ”If you look at our season and how many times this thing is going to be on, it’ll become an anthem. The song, we’re using slap shots, it’s about scoring and speed – ”Fire, Ready, Aim” – I think people will start associating this.”

Green Day’s open will debut Oct. 9. The band will also perform at the All-Star Game in St. Louis in late January, and new singles from its album will be released on ”Wednesday Night Hockey.”

”We’re going to try some bold thing,” Mayer said. ”The performance that we’re talking about at All-Star will be epic.”

Green Day songs will be incorporated into arena mixes around the NHL and provide the soundtrack for much of the season on NBC Sports Network and NBC.

”We think it fits really well with hockey,” NBC Sports executive producer Sam Flood said. ”The song and the way it’s executed is really fun.”

Fourteen of the band’s upcoming tour stops will come in NHL markets, including Seattle, which will join the league in 2021.

”Green Day, just the energy, how they have this great history but they keep on sort of reinventing themselves, they just work for us,” Mayer said. ”Their music is going to be part of a lot of what we’re doing.”