NHL on NBC: Rangers try to gain on Penguins in Pittsburgh


NBC continues its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign when the Pittsburgh Penguins host the New York Rangers at the Wells Fargo Center at 12:30 pm ET today. In addition to NBC, you can also watch the game online.

There has already been some hockey on NBC this season, but the Sunday docket really begins in earnest today as the Pittsburgh Penguins host the New York Rangers.

It should be an intriguing one to kick things off, too.

The Penguins and Rangers are vying for the Metropolitan Division crown along with the New York Islanders (currently on top) and the Washington Capitals. While Pittsburgh currently holds a four-point edge on New York, the Rangers have a game in hand, so the gap could narrow or widen depending upon how Sunday afternoon’s contest shakes out.

The Rangers aren’t just the hotter of the two teams, they’re flat-out one of the hottest teams in the NHL.

They’ve won 14 of their last 17 games while being strong against the Penguins (2-0-1 this season) and really cleaning up against the division in general (12-3-1 vs. Metro teams).

After a tough first month, Henrik Lundqvist has been the clearest driving force of this turnaround, as he’s resumed his annual Vezina-caliber work. The Rangers boast a nice array of offensive pieces, with Rick Nash’s strong season and Martin St. Louis’ steady production standing out. (Though Derick Brassard and Derek Stepan are key contributors in their own right.)

The Penguins haven’t been so strong against the Metro, going 6-7-3 in the division so far this season. They’ll bring an interesting look into this game, as Sidney Crosby hopes to continue building chemistry with David Perron. It’s interesting to note that Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are currently tied for the team lead with 50 points.

It all shapes up to be a test for two teams who hope to be key figures in their division and in the Eastern Conference in general.

Report: Rangers closing in on six-year extension with Marc Staal


The New York Rangers have some key free agent decisions to make after this season, but the New York Post’s Larry Brooks reports that they’re already making progress toward signing Marc Staal to a contract extension.

To be more specific, Brooks passes along word that it would be a six-year deal worth somewhere between $5.6 million per season ($33.6 million overall) or as much as $5.9 million ($35.4 million).

A well-placed source said there had been “a productive meeting” here on Wednesday between assistant general manager Jeff Gorton and Staal’s representative, Paul Krepelka.

Such figures show a little bit of progress from what was reported in September, as it was believed the Rangers were offering Dan Girardi money ($33 million) while Staal, 28, was asking for a seven-year deal worth at least $42 million overall.

(ESPN’s Craig Custance backs up Brooks’ report that a six-year extension seems to be in the works.)

Girardi currently carries the Rangers’ highest cap hit among defensemen at $5.5 million, while rising star Ryan McDonagh’s mark is $4.7 million. Even in Staal’s low-end range according to that report, he’d be the third-highest paid Rangers player (cap hit-wise) in 2015-16 behind Henrik Lundqvist ($8.5 million) and Rick Nash ($7.8 million).

ESPN’s Katie Strang indicates that Staal would receive a full no-movement clause, while her colleague Pierre LeBrun gives a few more details:

Staal ranks third on the Rangers in ice time per game with 22:03 behind Girardi (23:26) and McDonagh (22:58). His possession numbers have sagged a bit since a strong turnaround in 2013-14, yet Brooks notes that the Rangers have been especially happy with Staal’s defensive work lately. He has seven points in 41 games this season.

Staal is far from the only relevant pending free agent on the team, as Martin St. Louis and Mats Zuccarello rank as the Rangers’ most prominent UFAs while Derek Stepan and Carl Hagelin are the leading RFAs on the squad.

Palat scores twice as the Lightning edge the Oilers


Ondrej Palat scored twice and Steven Stamkos had the other as the Tampa Bay Lightning edged the Edmonton Oilers 3-2 Thursday night.

Stamkos’ goal, his 26th of the season, moves him into a three-way tie with Tyler Seguin and Rick Nash for the league lead.

Benoit Pouliot scored short-handed and on a power play for the Oilers.

Edmonton has now lost 14 straight road games. The Oilers last win away from home came Nov. 9th against the New York Rangers.

With the win, Tampa avoided a third straight loss.

Ben Bishop made 30 saves to improve to 22-7-2 on the season. Ben Scrivens stopped 16 shots in the loss.

Foligno, Toews named All-Star Game captains


Blue Jackets forward Nick Foligno and Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews have been named the captains for the 2015 NHL All-Star Game, set to take place in Columbus on Jan. 25.

Foligno, who’s enjoying a career-year for the Blue Jackets this season (with a team-leading 18 goals and 40 points), recently re-upped with Columbus on a six-year deal worth $33 million. He promises to be a popular figure during the league’s annual All-Star gala, and will spearhead a leadership group that includes assistants Patrick Kane and Drew Doughty.

Toews, meanwhile, earned his “C” after finishing third in All-Star fan balloting with 1,217,210 votes.

The more intriguing storyline, though, will be who serves as Toews’ assistant — Rick Nash, the former Blue Jacket captain who was traded to the Rangers after spending the first nine seasons of his career in Columbus. With 41 points, Nash is the Rangers’ leading scorer this season and is tied for the League lead in goals, with 26.

Also serving as an assistant for Team Toews will be Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf, who’s making his third All-Star Game appearance.

Related: Sutter, Laviolette named All-Star Game coaches

So, who was the biggest All-Star snub?


The remainder of the 2015 NHL All-Star Game rosters were announced on Saturday.

While some “snubs” are probably quite happy about getting a break (especially Joe Thornton, who’s taking a nice trip to Cabo), you can bet plenty of fan bases will gripe about players who didn’t make it, even if they might not realize that all 30 NHL teams must be represented in some form.

Well, if you’re going to gripe about it, why not do it in the comfy confines of PHT? Before you vote for the biggest snub of them all, however, let’s take a look at who’s on the roster:

Fan voted: Zemgus Girgensons, Buffalo Sabres
Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Brent Seabrook, Duncan Keith, Corey Crawford, Chicago Blackhawks

Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks
Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins
Nick Foligno, Columbus Blue Jackets
Ryan Johansen, Columbus Blue Jackets
Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton Oilers
Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings
Patrik Elias, New Jersey Devils
John Tavares, New York Islanders
Rick Nash, New York Rangers
Bobby Ryan, Ottawa Senators
Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers
Jakub Voracek, Philadelphia Flyers
Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins
Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues
Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning
Tyler Johnson, Tampa Bay Lightning
Phil Kessel, Toronto Maple Leafs
Radim Vrbata, Vancouver Canucks
Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals

Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Arizona Coyotes
Mark Giordano, Calgary Flames
Justin Faulk, Carolina Hurricanes
Erik Johnson, Colorado Avalanche
Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings
Ryan Suter, Minnesota Wild
Shea Weber, Nashville Predators
Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks
Kevin Shattenkirk, St. Louis Blues
Dustin Byfuglien, Winnipeg Jets

Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets
Jimmy Howard, Detroit Red Wings
Roberto Luongo, Florida Panthers
Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens
Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators

Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames
Aaron Ekblad, Florida Panthers
Tanner Pearson, Los Angeles Kings
Filip Forsberg, Nashville Predators
Mike Hoffman, Ottawa Senators
Jonathan Drouin, Tampa Bay Lightning

OK, did you get a chance to scan the list? Good. Pick the biggest nub in the poll below. If your guy was double-snubbed (gasp), then write him in.