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Five things to watch in Rivalry Night doubleheader

Wednesday, 01.21.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

NHL.com

The team in each conference with the most postseason games played since 2008 and the two teams that played the most games against each other over the previous four seasons will be featured in a Wednesday Night Rivalry doubleheader.

Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins (26-12-7) welcome Patrick Kane and the Chicago Blackhawks (29-15-2) to Consol Energy Center in the early game (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN). Each team is within striking distance of first place in its division.

The Penguins and Blackhawks have combined to win the Stanley Cup three times in the past six seasons. The Penguins' 98 postseason games since the start of the 2007-08 season lead the NHL, and the Blackhawks' 94 are third (tops in the Western Conference).

The Los Angeles Kings (20-14-12) and San Jose Sharks (24-17-6) will play for the 44th time since the start of the 2010-11 season in the back half of the doubleheader (10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN). San Jose has won 22 of 43 games, but Los Angeles has won two of the three playoff series, each in the past two seasons and in seven games.

Here are five things to watch during the doubleheader:


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Sharks' Hertl more comfortable since move to center

Wednesday, 01.21.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Eric Gilmore - NHL.com Correspondent

SAN JOSE -- San Jose Sharks forward Tomas Hertl can't say he wasn't warned about the danger of a sophomore slump.

As a rookie last season, Hertl scored six goals in his first three games, including four against the New York Rangers. He had 15 goals and 25 points in his first 32 games before damaging two ligaments in his right knee on Dec. 19 during a collision with Los Angeles Kings forward Dustin Brown that kept him out until late in the season.

This season, Hertl has eight goals and 17 points through 47 games entering the Sharks' game Wednesday against the Kings at SAP Center (10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN).

"Everybody thought it would be a harder season for me," Hertl said. "For some guys it's hard. For some guys it's OK. For me I think it's hard. Maybe before the season, maybe it was in my head that this season I needed to play good because of last season. Maybe it was just in my head. Maybe I put a little bit of pressure on myself."

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Penguins' Perron, Crosby found quick chemistry

Wednesday, 01.21.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

Predicting chemistry on a forward line is as easy as predicting the lottery.

Three players who on paper should be able to jell fail to produce, while three players who might look like misshaped puzzle pieces fit together and make magic.

"The chemistry and synergy of linemates only happens when they're together," Pittsburgh Penguins assistant coach Gary Agnew said. "You can predict as much as you want."

But a prediction is what Agnew and the Penguins coaching staff had to make when right wing David Perron was acquired from the Edmonton Oilers on Jan. 2. Perron is a talented offensive player who scored at least 20 goals three times in his first seven NHL seasons with the St. Louis Blues and Oilers. But almost no one in the Penguins organization had any history with Perron.

"I knew [Kris Letang] a little bit," Perron said. "Knew [Marc-Andre Fleury] slightly, same with [Pascal Dupuis] because we have the same agent."

The only person who had any real relationship with Perron was Agnew, who was an assistant coach with the Blues in 2012-13, Perron's final season in St. Louis. Though it was 48 games in the lockout-shortened season, Agnew said it was more than enough time for him to get an understanding of the kind of player and person Perron is.

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Sharks' Burns acclimates quickly back to defense

Wednesday, 01.21.2015 / 3:00 AM / 2015 NHL All-Star Weekend

Eric Gilmore - NHL.com Correspondent

When the San Jose Sharks decided to move Brent Burns back to defenseman this season after he spent a season and a half as a productive and disruptive force at forward, some questioned the move.

Burns was coming off a career-high 48-point season with 22 goals and 26 assists. He thrived on the top line with center Joe Thornton, who loved playing with free-spirited Burns, a 6-foot-5, 230-pound wrecking ball with an explosive slap shot.

Then there was the issue of Burns having to adjust to another position switch. He was chosen in the 2003 NHL Draft by the Minnesota Wild as a forward, but they turned him into a defenseman, and he was selected for the NHL All-Star Game at that position in 2011, his final season with Minnesota before being traded to San Jose. Midway through his second season with the Sharks, he was on the move again, going back to forward, where he energized a slumbering offense. He had nine goals and 20 points in 23 games after the switch that season.

The transition back to defenseman this season has been challenging at times for Burns, but he has 11 goals and 35 points in 47 games and was selected as an All-Star for the second time.

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Blackhawks' Seabrook, the 'other guy,' now an All-Star

Wednesday, 01.21.2015 / 3:00 AM / 2015 NHL All-Star Weekend

Brian Hedger - NHL.com Correspondent

CHICAGO -- He's seen as the "other guy" in the top defense pairing for the Chicago Blackhawks, but Brent Seabrook means a lot more than that to his teammates.

If they need an emotional lift, he'll provide it. If they need a huge goal, his slap shot is often a reason they get it. If they need a big brother, on the ice or off, he's never too far away.

"He's been here through thick and thin," said center Andrew Shaw, 23, who's playing his fourth season with Seabrook. "He's seen a lot, he's done a lot, and he's just a great leader. He says what needs to be said and then he goes out there and does it."

Seabrook has a career full of accomplishments to back that up. The 29-year-old won a gold medal with Canada in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. He hoisted the Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks in 2010 and 2013, playing a big role in each championship. He's steadily climbing Chicago's all-time statistical categories in his 10th season for the team that selected him with the 14th pick in the 2003 NHL Draft.

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Price's goaltending has Canadiens among best in East

Wednesday, 01.21.2015 / 1:43 AM / NHL Insider

Arpon Basu - Managing Editor LNH.com

MONTREAL -- As the race for the Vezina Trophy as the NHL's top goaltender became more and more of a two-man derby, the game Tuesday at Bell Centre between the Nashville Predators and the Montreal Canadiens was looking like it could be a showdown between those leading men.

An injury to Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne prevented that from happening. But someone forgot to tell Carey Price.

The Canadiens' goaltender returned from a one-game absence due to injury to make 36 saves in a 2-1 overtime win against the Predators. In the process, Price made a convincing case for why he might be the Vezina frontrunner instead of his injured rival.

When the Predators scored at 12:10 of the second period on a Mike Ribeiro deflection directly in front of Price, Nashville was outshooting Montreal 26-6 but led 1-0. At one point the Canadiens went 22:15 without forcing Predators goalie Carter Hutton to make a single save.

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Rangers, in tight playoff race, treasure extra point

Tuesday, 01.20.2015 / 11:59 PM / NHL Insider

Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers entered their game against the Ottawa Senators at Madison Square on Tuesday with 15 wins in 18 games. Considering such a run, one would think they would have created some separation in the Metropolitan Division.

Not a chance.

Not when their rival on the other side of the East River, the New York Islanders, has won seven of 10 and reeled off at least three wins in a row seven times this season. The Washington Capitals have earned at least one point in eight of their past 10. As long as Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are in the fold, the Rangers know it's difficult to envision the Pittsburgh Penguins going away anytime soon.

That's why it was crucial for the Rangers to overcome a sluggish start and earn a 3-2 overtime win against the Senators, capped by Carl Hagelin's goal at 2:55 of the extra period. It allowed the Rangers to move into a tie with the Penguins for second place in the Metropolitan, one point ahead of the Capitals.

The Rangers enter the All-Star break five points behind the Islanders, although they do have two games in hand. The bitter rivals will face each other at Nassau Coliseum when play resumes next Tuesday.

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2015 Honda NHL All-Star Skills Competition a showcase of talent and fun featuring six events

Saturday, Jan. 24, at 7 p.m. ET across the U.S. (NBCSN) and Canada (CBC, TVA Sports)

Tuesday, 01.20.2015 / 2:00 PM / 2015 NHL All-Star Weekend

NHL.com

NEW YORK – The 2015 Honda NHL All-Star Skills Competition™ will mark the first on-ice matchup between Team Foligno, under the helm of Columbus Blue Jackets forward Nick Foligno, and Team Toews, led by Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews. Each of the 48 All-Stars and Rookies will compete in at least one of the six rounds of skill-based contests. Fans can watch the 2015 Honda NHL All-Star Skills Competition™ live on Saturday, Jan. 24 at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN in the U.S. and on CBC and TVA Sports in Canada.

Each captain will lead the team selection process to determine which players will participate in the six Honda All-Star Skills Competition events:

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Fantasy top 100 forwards: Props to Caps' Backstrom

Tuesday, 01.20.2015 / 12:01 PM / Fantasy Hockey Draft Rankings, Advice and Analysis

Pete Jensen - NHL.com Fantasy Insider

Every Tuesday during the season, NHL.com fantasy hockey insider Pete Jensen will provide you with in-depth forward analysis. From updated weekly top 100 rankings to trending players and more, Jensen will be your go-to guy for fantasy forward advice all season long.

Washington Capitals forward Nicklas Backstrom has never been selected to an NHL All-Star Game, but his fantasy value should never be questioned.

Backstrom appears on 25.2 percent of this season’s top 500 Yahoo public-league teams, the fourth-highest frequency among forwards behind Filip Forsberg of the Nashville Predators, Nikita Kucherov of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Nick Foligno of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Which one is not like the others? Backstrom was drafted on average with the 68th pick in Yahoo drafts, while the other three were taken well outside the top 100.

So Backstrom, 27, has met expectations, yet is still fueling fantasy teams around the globe in a similar fashion as those who have caught everyone by surprise. Sounds like a pretty valuable guy.

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Kylington rated top international draft prospect

Tuesday, 01.20.2015 / 11:00 AM / 2015 NHL Draft

Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

The last time a European defenseman was selected before a forward in the first round of the NHL draft was three years ago, when the Anaheim Ducks selected defenseman Hampus Lindholm with the No. 6 pick of the 2012 NHL Draft.

Center Filip Forsberg was the next international skater selected that year, going No. 11 to the Washington Capitals.

Each player has paid off in a big way for their current teams. Lindholm has 47 points and a plus-41 rating in 121 games spanning two seasons with the Ducks. Forsberg, now starring for the Nashville Predators, is regarded by many as a top candidate for the Calder Trophy this season; he leads all NHL rookies in just about every offensive category.

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Quote of the Day

It's not always going to be pretty, especially against a great goalie [Lundqvist] like that. My goals are never how you draw them up. It's just a matter of grinding it out and trying to create havoc in front and good things happen.

— Capitals forward Jay Beagle on scoring in their Game 3 victory against the Rangers on Monday