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Hockey Day

Hockey Day in America: 5 Storylines

Rangers visit Penguins, Wild host Blues, Flyers seek weekend sweep of Red Wings

by John Kreiser @jkreiser7713 / Managing Editor

Hockey Day in America will be celebrated Sunday when NBC Sports televises an NHL tripleheader from three of the biggest hockey towns in the United States.

In the opener, the New York Rangers visit the Pittsburgh Penguins at PPG Paints Arena (12:30 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, TVAS), a game matching coaches (New York's David Quinn, Pittsburgh's Mike Sullivan) who were college teammates at Boston University. Up next, the St. Louis Blues visit the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center (3 p.m. ET; NBC, SN). Coverage concludes when the Philadelphia Flyers visit the Detroit Red Wings at Little Caesars Arena (6 p.m. ET; NBCSN, NHL.TV).

Here are 5 storylines to keep an eye on:


U.S. presence continues to grow in NHL

A total of 1,241 United States-born players (1,130 skaters, 111 goalies) have played in at least one NHL game since 1917-18, the League's inaugural season, roughly 17 percent of the 7,281 players in NHL history. In 2018-19, there have been 263 U.S. nationals (259 players born in the United States plus four born in Canada), who've played in at least one game. That's 28 percent of the 930 players in the NHL. Only Canada (402) has had more representatives in the NHL this season. Thirty-one of 50 states have had at least one player in the League this season; Minnesota (43) has the most, followed by Michigan (36) and New York (27).

Video: Is Patrick Kane the top U.S.-born player?


Quinn-Sullivan: Rivals but friends

When Quinn was trying to figure out the next step in his coaching career after his fifth season at Boston University, he turned to Sullivan, his former BU teammate and longtime friend. Sullivan, who coached the Penguins to the Stanley Cup in 2016 and 2017, told Quinn that "It's really going to come down to your instinct." That instinct was to make the jump to the NHL as coach of the Rangers, who hired him last May, a month after firing Alain Vigneault. Their first game on opposite benches was a disaster for Quinn -- the Penguins filled the net in a 7-2 win at Madison Square Garden on Jan 2. But despite coming to a team that has acknowledged it's in a rebuilding process, Quinn has kept the Rangers competitive (25-24-8) while general manager Jeff Gorton works to upgrade the talent pool.


Penguins on outside looking in at playoffs

Pittsburgh's season has been a roller coaster, with good stretches (10-1-0 from Dec. 19-Jan. 11) and bad (1-7-2 from Oct. 30-Nov. 19). The Penguins (30-21-7) are in a dip right now; a 4-6-1 slump and a surge by the Carolina Hurricanes have dropped them out of a playoff berth. They begin Sunday one point behind Carolina for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference. The Penguins are coming off a 5-4 home loss to the Calgary Flames on Saturday in which goalie Matt Murray was pulled after allowing five goals in two periods. The Rangers, who are coming off a 6-2 road win against the Buffalo Sabres on Friday, can't match Pittsburgh's firepower, but Quinn has succeeded in getting his team to play hard almost every game. This should be no exception.

Video: CGY@PIT: Crosby roofs great PPG from along goal line


Blues go for 10th straight win

St. Louis hit bottom, literally, on Jan. 2 -- the Blues were last in the NHL standings at 15-18-4. But five days later, 25-year-old rookie goalie Jordan Binnington shut out the Flyers in his first NHL start, and they've been on a roll since. A 3-0 road victory against the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday was their ninth straight win, and a victory in the first of two straight Sunday visits to Xcel Energy Center would tie the Blues record for longest winning streak, set in January 2002. The Blues (30-22-5) would also become the second team in NHL history (along with the 2015-16 Anaheim Ducks) to win at least 10 consecutive games after being last in the League standings (minimum 10 games played). The Wild (27-25-6) have been going in the opposite direction; they are 1-4-3 this month and are coming off perhaps their most painful defeat of the season, 5-4 in overtime to the visiting New Jersey Devils on Friday when they led 4-1 in the second period -- and the first after coach Bruce Boudreau guaranteed they would make the playoffs. Minnesota enters Sunday holding the second wild card in the Western Conference, one point ahead of the Vancouver Canucks.

Video: STL@COL: Tarasenko extends point streak with goal


Flyers seeking home-and-home sweep

If not for the Blues, Philadelphia (27-24-7) would be the hottest team in the NHL. The Flyers are 11-1-1 in their past 13 games after Travis Konecny's goal at 1:27 of overtime gave them a 6-5 win against the Red Wings at Wells Fargo Center on Saturday. Detroit (23-28-8) forced OT after trailing 5-1 in the third period. Rookie goalie Carter Hart has fueled the surge by the Flyers; the 20-year-old is 12-6-1 since being recalled from Lehigh Valley of the American Hockey League on Dec. 17, and 9-1-0 during Philadelphia's surge. He could wind up playing both ends of the home-and-home against Detroit. Philadelphia traded goalies with the Edmonton Oilers on Friday, acquiring Cam Talbot for Anthony Stolarz. However, Talbot won't be with the Flyers in Detroit, meaning Hart might play on consecutive days for the first time in the NHL.

Video: DET@PHI: Konecny wraps home game-winning goal in OT

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