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NHL On Tap: Panthers, Penguins competing for playoff spots

Ovechkin game-time decision for Capitals at Avalanche; Tocchet debuts as Canucks coach against Blackhawks @NHLdotcom

Welcome to the NHL On Tap. Three writers will share what they are most looking forward to on the schedule each day. Today, their choices from the 11 games Tuesday.


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Panthers, Penguins looking to gain ground

For the Florida Panthers and Pittsburgh Penguins, there's no time like the present to try and stay the race for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The pressure's starting to turn up entering their game at PPG Paints Arena (7 p.m. ET; SN, TVAS, ATTSN-PT, BSFL, ESPN+, SN NOW). If the playoffs began today (yes, I know, they don't, just work with me here) the Penguins would have the second wild card from the Eastern Conference, three points ahead of the Panthers. Of the two, the Panthers (23-21-5) have been on more of a roll, going 6-3-1 in their past 10 games. The Penguins (23-15-8) are 4-4-2 in their past 10. Kris Letang was activated off long-term injured reserve after the defenseman missed 11 games with a lower-body injury. Defenseman Jan Rutta (upper body) and forward Kasperi Kapanen (lower body) were placed on LTIR, Rutta retroactive to Jan. 14 and Kapanen to Jan. 18. -- Tracey Myers, staff writer


Ovechkin game-time decision for Capitals at Avalanche

Alex Ovechkin will be a game-time decision for Washington Capitals at the Colorado Avalanche (9 p.m. ET; ALT, NBCSWA, SN1, ESPN+, SN NOW). The forward practiced in Denver on Monday after missing a 6-2 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights on Saturday with a lower-body injury, skating in his regular spot on the top line and first power-play unit. The 37-year-old has missed 48 games in his 18-season NHL career. The Capitals (25-18-6) will be without forward T.J. Oshie, who returned home for the birth of his fourth child. Defenseman Cale Makar will miss his fourth consecutive game for the Avalanche (25-17-3) with an undisclosed injury. -- Mike Zeisberger, staff writer


Tocchet debuts as Canucks coach

The Rick Tocchet era begins when the Vancouver Canucks host the Chicago Blackhawks (10 p.m.; TVAS, SNP, NBCSCH, ESPN+, SN NOW). Vancouver hired Tocchet, a former NHL forward who was a television analyst for TNT the past two years after going 125-131-34 as coach of the Arizona Coyotes from 2017-21, after firing Bruce Boudreau on Sunday. The Canucks (18-25-3), who have lost 10 of their past 12 (2-10-0), are sixth in the Pacific Division and 14 points behind the Avalanche for the second wild card from the West. A three-game winning streak for the Blackhawks (14-27-4) ended Sunday with a 2-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings. Chicago defenseman Seth Jones has eight points (two goals, six assists) in his past five games. -- William Douglas, staff writer


Tuesday games

Boston Bruins at Montreal Canadiens (7 p.m. ET; TSN2, RDS, NESN, ESPN+, SN NOW)

The good times continue for the Bruins (37-5-4), who have won five in a row while outscoring opponents 21-5 and shutting out the Philadelphia Flyers (6-0) and San Jose Sharks (4-0). They start a five-game road trip 15-4-1 away from TD Garden. The Canadiens (20-24-3) have won three of four. Center Nick Suzuki leads them with 38 points (16 goals, 22 assists) in 47 games.

Florida Panthers at Pittsburgh Penguins (7 p.m. ET; SN, TVAS, ATTSN-PT, BSFL, ESPN+)

The Panthers will be without Sam Bennett after the forward sustained a lower-body injury in a 6-2 loss to the New York Rangers on Monday. Penguins defenseman Kris Letang will be a game-time decision. He's missed 11 games with a lower-body injury sustained Dec. 28. Pittsburgh center Sidney Crosby is on a four-game point streak (one goal, five assists). 

Los Angeles Kings at Philadelphia Flyers (7 p.m. ET; NBCSP, BSW, ESPN+, SN NOW)

Forward Gabriel Vilardi (upper body) returned to Los Angeles and is not expected to rejoin the Kings (26-17-6) during their six-game road trip. The Flyers (20-21-7) have gone 9-for-10 on the penalty kill over their past four games, including 5-for-5 in a 5-3 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday. 

Minnesota Wild at Tampa Bay Lightning (7 p.m. ET; BSSUN, BSN, BSWI, ESPN+, SN NOW)

Marcus Foligno is expected to return for the Wild (25-16-4) after the forward missed a 5-3 loss to the Panthers on Saturday with a non-COVID-related illness. The Lightning (29-15-1) are 17-4-1 at Amalie Arena. Tampa Bay forward Pat Maroon (upper body) and defenseman Nick Perbix are likely to play.

San Jose Sharks at Detroit Red Wings (7 p.m. ET; BSDET, NBCSCA, ESPN+, SN NOW)

The Sharks (14-25-9) are 1-4-1 in their past six games and 2-5-2 in their past nine. Erik Karlsson continues to lead NHL defensemen in goals (15), assists (47) and points (62). Forward Tyler Bertuzzi will miss his second consecutive game for the Red Wings (19-18-8) with a lower-body injury.

Vegas Golden Knights at New Jersey Devils (7:30 p.m. ET; ESPN+, HULU, SN NOW)

It's the second of a four-game road trip for the Golden Knights (29-17-2), who have lost four of five. Logan Thompson leads rookies with 19 wins in 33 games (32 starts) and can become the seventh first-year NHL goalie to win 20 in 34 or fewer games. Jack Hughes (30 goals, 28 assists in 46 games) is two points from reaching 60 in the fewest games in Devils/Colorado Rockies/Kansas City Scouts history (52 games shared by Taylor Hall, Zach Parise, John MacLean and Wilf Paiement). The center is on a four-game goal streak at Prudential Center for the Devils (30-12-4).

Buffalo Sabres at St. Louis Blues (8 p.m. ET; BSMW, MSG-B, ESPN+, SN NOW)

The Sabres (24-19-3) have won three in a row. Rasmus Dahlin had two assists for his 48th multipoint game in the NHL when Buffalo defeated the Anaheim Ducks 6-3 on Saturday. Only 11 defensemen in NHL history have had more before age 23. The Blues (23-21-3) activated defenseman Torey Krug and forward Vladimir Tarasenko from injured reserve. Krug (lower body) missed 13 games and Tarasekno 10 with a hand injury. Forward Pavel Buchnevich was placed on IR after having a minor surgical procedure on his ankle and will be reevaluated after the NHL All-Star break.

Winnipeg Jets at Nashville Predators (8 p.m. ET; BSSO, TSN3, ESPN+, SN NOW)

It's the end of a five-game road trip for the Jets (31-16-1). Forward Kyle Connor has four points (three goals, one assist) in his past four games. The Predators (22-18-6) have won three of their past four and became the 15th NHL team to score twice in the opening 39 seconds of a game en route to a 5-3 win against the Kings on Saturday. 

Anaheim Ducks at Arizona Coyotes (9 p.m. ET; BSAZX, BSSC, ESPN+, SN NOW)

Trevor Zegras has nine points (five goals, four assists) during a five-game point streak for the Ducks (13-29-5), who have lost six of seven (1-5-1). The Coyotes (15-27-5) won for the second time in 13 games (2-11-0) when they defeated the Golden Knights 4-1 on Sunday. Clayton Keller had a hat trick, the second of his NHL career. 

Washington Capitals at Colorado Avalanche (9 p.m. ET; SN1, ALT, NBCSWA, ESPN+, SN NOW)

Goalie Darcy Kuemper will start for the Capitals in his return to Ball Arena in Denver. Kuemper helped the Avalanche win the Stanley Cup last season before signing a five-year contract with Washington on July 13. Colorado has won five in a row while allowing six goals. 

Chicago Blackhawks at Vancouver Canucks (10 p.m. ET; TVAS, SNP, NBCSCH, ESPN+, SN NOW)

The Blackhawks begin a three-game western Canada road trip without forward Tyler Johnson, who was placed on injured reserve (left ankle) on Monday. Canucks forward Andrei Kuzmenko has five points (two goals, three assists) in a four-game point streak.

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