NHL on NBCSN: Caps aim for season series sweep vs. Pens

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NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign as Washington Capitals host the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Verizon Center at 8:00 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game and pre-show online.

As far as the Penguins – Capitals rivalry goes, it seemed like Pittsburgh had the upper hand for a significant stretch of time, but now Washington is in charge.

If the Capitals win in regulation on “Rivalry Night” tonight, they’ll take all eight possible standings points from this season series, while Pittsburgh would end up with nothing.

Here’s a quick look at the previous three games in this season series:

Feb. 17: Washington 3, Pittsburgh 1
Jan. 28: Washington 4, Pittsburgh 0
Dec. 27: Washington 3, Pittsburgh 0

Yikes, that’s a 10-1 total score, too.

As much as these games are about Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin vs. Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, Braden Holtby’s been the clear story in 2014-15, as Pittsburgh’s only managed to score once against him in three games.

This game means more than a series sweep, though.

If Washington manages to win in regulation, they’d push Pittsburgh into the wild card and take the third spot in the Metropolitan Division.

Seeding is very much up for grabs at this point in the season, really.

As an added bonus, both teams seem to come into this game with solid momentum. The Penguins have won two games in a row by a combined score of 9-3 while Washington just saw a four-game winning streak end on Sunday.

This rivalry will probably be worth watching until its biggest stars fade, but even with that in mind, the significant playoff implications should make Wednesday’s game that much more entertaining.

Trotz says Ovechkin was given ‘some bad advice…in how they wanted him to play’

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Just reading between the lines, it sure doesn’t sound like Barry Trotz thinks too highly of what previous coaching staffs have done for the Washington Capitals.

In particular, Trotz — a guest today on Sportsnet’s Hockey Central — doesn’t believe Alex Ovechkin has received the best guidance over the years.

“There was some bad advice given to Ovi at times, in how they wanted him to play,” he said. “Ovi is a guy that will do what you ask.”

But Trotz also insinuated the Caps, as a team, were crying out for better coaching.

“They wanted structure,” he said. “They wanted accountability. They wanted a lot of different things.”

Translation: before Trotz came aboard, they weren’t getting those things.

Of course, the Caps still haven’t really proven anything under Trotz. It’s the playoffs that will matter.

Something tells us Adam Oates won’t be cheering too hard for them come April.

Related:

What does ‘good defense’ mean to Barry Trotz?

Trotz wants ‘less glide’ in Ovechkin’s game

Caps GM praises Ovechkin for ‘playing a better two-way game’

Get your game notes: Flyers at ‘Canes

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Tonight on NBCSN, it’s the Carolina Hurricanes hosting the Philadelphia Flyers at 7 p.m. ET. Following are some game notes, as compiled by the NHL on NBC research team:

MATCHUP/STOYRLINES

• Philly gathering points, making a playoff push: The Flyers have won 2 straight games, with those wins coming against teams currently in the playoff picture (3-2 SO win vs. NSH on Saturday and a 3-2 win vs. WSH on Sunday).

• While not known for having a successful penalty kill this season (76.5% – 28th in NHL), the Flyers PK was 5-for-5 vs. WSH. PHI has not allowed a PP goal in the last 3 games (10-for-10 on PK). On the flip side, PHI went 2-for-4 on the PP vs. WSH. The Flyers are 3rd in the NHL on the PP (23.6%).

• After PHI’s loss to NYI on Jan. 19, the Flyers were 11 points behind the 2nd Wild Card spot with 35 games remaining. Now, having gone 8-1-4 since, the Flyers have trimmed that deficit to 4 points.

• The Hurricanes are last in the Metro, second to last in the East, and look to be sellers as the March 2 trade deadline looms. It has long been rumored that 28-year-old defenseman Andrej Sekera (45 hits, 98 blocked shots) is on the trading block, and center Jordan Staal’s (3G-11A in 22 GP) name has recently been brought up in trade rumors with PIT. However on Monday, Chip Alexander of the News & Observer tweeted that CAR GM Ron Francis said: “We are not moving Jordan Staal.”

• Staal has a full no-trade clause in his contract, which is in the 2nd year of a 10-year/$60M deal.

• With 2 assists vs. WSH on Sunday, Jakub Voracek set a new career high in points with 63 (19G-44A in 60 GP). His previous career high was 62 points (23G-39A in 82 GP), which he set last season. It was his first multi-point game since Jan. 19 @ NYI (also 2 assists). He now has 3 points (1G-2A) in his last 3 games.

• Voracek ranks 3rd in the NHL, 1 point behind Nicklas Backstrom (WSH) and Patrick Kane (CHI).

• PHI has never had a player lead the NHL in scoring by himself in the 46+ seasons of the franchise (in lockout-shortened 1994-95 season, Eric Lindros shared for the NHL lead in pts w/ Jaromir Jagr, but he did not share the Art Ross Trophy title, as Lindros lost the goals scored tiebreaker to Jagr).

• Claude Giroux snapped an 11-game goal drought and 4-game point drought with 2 pts (1G-1A) vs. WSH.

• Since the start of the 2011-12 season, Giroux has the most points in the NHL (284 in 266 GP)

• He has 21 points (6G-15A) in 21 career games vs. CAR.

• Wayne Simmonds is catching fire after a 14-game stretch in which he had just 1 goal and 3 assists from late December leading into the All-Star Break.

• Since the All-Star Break ended, Simmonds has 14 points (8G-6A) in 12 games including an active 8-game point streak (6G-4A), the longest of his career.

• Leads PHI with 24 goals (13 on PP; 3rd in NHL); 3rd time he’s reached 20+ goals in 7 NHL seasons.

GOALIE MATCHUP

• Steve Mason hurt his knee on Feb. 8 vs. WSH, and had arthroscopic surgery on Feb. 10

• Ray Emery started the next 5 games going 1-1-3 with a 2.53 GAA. On Monday, PHI announced that he suffered an undisclosed lower-body injury in practice, and is listed as day-to-day. He did not make the trip to Raleigh with the team.

• With the injury to Emery, PHI recalled goalie Anthony Stolarz from the Lehigh Valley Phantoms (AHL).

• This season he is 7-11-3 in 25 games played with a 3.17 GAA and .908 SV%.

• Robb Zepp has started the last 2 games for PHI, posting a 1.92 GAA and a .911 SV%.

• This season he is 5-1-0, with a 2.63 GAA and a .894 SV%.

• With his next start, Cam Ward will become the fifth active NHL goalie to play 500 games.

• This season he is 15-19-4 with a 2.39 GAA (career best), and a .913 SV%.

• Anton Khudobin has lost his last 3 starts (all in regulation) and is winless in his last 5 starts overall (0-3-1 record, 4.55 GAA, .829 SV%).

• This season he is 6-11-3 with a 2.73 GAA, and a .901 SV%.

Two players suspended for AHL line brawl

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The AHL announced two suspensions in the wake of Saturday’s line brawl between the Hershey Bears and Bridgeport Sound Tigers.

Bridgeport defenseman Scott Mayfield has been suspended for six games and Hershey winger Liam O’Brien will sit for three.

As you can see in the video below, Mayfield left the penalty box to fight, and that was after he resisted being put in there in the first place.

O’Brien apparently left the bench during the brawl, but did not engage in a fight.

With Byron and Stajan out, Flames recall ’13 first-rounder Poirier

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The Calgary Flames could get a look at one of their brightest prospects on Tuesday when they take on the Rangers at MSG.

Today, the Flames called up Emile Poirier — the 22nd overall pick at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft — from AHL Adirondack, to fill one of the roster voids with Paul Byron going on IR and Matt Stajan leaving the team for the birth of his son.

The Flames also called up Michael Ferland, who appeared in 10 NHL games last season.

Most eyes, though, will be on the 20-year-old Poirier, the former QMJHL Gatineau standout that made the AHL All-Star Game this year as a rookie (Poirier leads Adirondack with 14 goals and 30 points this season.)

Taken one spot ahead of Washington rookie Andre Burakovsky in ’13 — with the pick Calgary acquired from St. Louis in the Jay Bouwmeester trade — Poirier is regarded for his strong shot and skating ability, both of which have served him well at the American League level.

“He’s one of those guys that tends to find the areas where the pucks are going to be, and he puts himself in a good position to shoot. He’s got a great shot when he does let it go,” Adirondack head coach Ryan Huska said, per NHL.com. “He’s a deceiving skater.

“I would bet most defensemen in our conference know who he is and when he’s on the ice because they have to be on their toes when he’s out there because he skates very, very well.”