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National Hockey League Previews from The Sports Network
Sunday, April 6th (All times Eastern)
ST. LOUIS BLUES (52-18-7) AT CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS (44-19-15), 12:30 P.M.
(SportsNetwork.com) - The St. Louis Blues hope to rebound from a lopsided loss when they visit the rival Chicago Blackhawks for Sunday's battle at United Center.
The Blues lead the Central Division with 111 points, but were handed a 4-0 home setback by second-place Colorado on Saturday. The win pulled the Avalanche within five points of St. Louis for the Central lead with five games remaining for both clubs. Colorado is in action Sunday against the visiting Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Blackhawks, meanwhile, are third in the division and eight points behind St. Louis with four games remaining on their regular-season schedule. All three teams in the Central title race have already clinched playoff berths.
St. Louis has won three of four meetings against the Blackhawks this season, but Chicago did notch a 4-0 win when the clubs met at the United Center on March 19. The victory halted Chicago's four-game slide against the Blues and improved the Blackhawks' record in the season series to 1-1-2.
The Blues have lost nine of their last 11 games in Chicago.
St. Louis allowed all four goals to Colorado on Saturday in the second period and Semyon Varlamov made 31 saves to help the Avalanche cruise to their 50th win of the season.
Ryan Miller allowed four goals on 29 shots for St. Louis, which had outscored the Avalanche 13-5 in winning the season's first three meetings.
The Central Division-leading Blues fell two points back of Boston in the race for the Presidents' Trophy. The Bruins topped Philadelphia earlier Saturday. The Blues are three points ahead of Anaheim for the Western Conference lead.
"I think the first period we may feel pretty good about our game. The second period they stepped it up a notch and we didn't have a very good response," Blues captain David Backes said.
The Blackhawks are coming off consecutive victories and will try for their first three-game winning streak in nearly four months when they take the ice today in the Windy City. The defending Stanley Cup champions haven't record three straight wins since Dec. 8-11.
After posting a 3-2 shootout win against visiting Minnesota on Thursday, Chicago pulled out a 4-3 regulation victory the following night in Columbus. The score was tied 3-3 after 40 minutes and the game appeared to be headed to overtime until Ben Smith scored with 3.9 seconds remaining in the third period to deliver the win for the Blackhawks.
A point shot by Duncan Keith went off Columbus goalie Sergei Bobrovsky's glove and triggered a goal-mouth scramble, with Smith pushing the rebound into the open net.
"Somehow that puck found its way in," Smith said.
Keith had three assists and Antti Raanta made 24 saves for the Blackhawks.
Corey Crawford expects to get the start in net on Saturday. He is 10-2-3 with a 2.28 goals against average and .915 save percentage in 15 career games against the Blues. Brian Elliott will get the call for St. Louis and is 4-4-1 with a 2.21 GAA in 10 career games against Chicago.
Chicago is opening a two-game homestand on Sunday and is 25-7-7 as the host this season. After welcoming Montreal on Wednesday, the Blackhawks will end the regular season with road games at Washington and Nashville.
The Blues are 24-11-3 away from home and have won their last two road games.
DALLAS STARS (38-28-11) AT FLORIDA PANTHERS (27-43-8), 5 P.M.
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Dallas Stars will try to extend their lead for the last playoff spot in the Western Conference when they visit the Florida Panthers on Sunday.
Dallas recorded a 5-2 win Saturday at Tampa Bay and the win allowed the Stars to leapfrog idle Phoenix for the final wild card spot in the West. Dallas has 87 points and five games to play, while Phoenix has 86 points and four games left. The Coyotes are idle again on Sunday.
Jamie Benn had two goals and an assist to help the Stars down the Lightning on Saturday. Vernon Fiddler and Tyler Seguin each posted a goal and an assist for Dallas, which has won six of their past eight games.
Antoine Roussel scored the other goal while Kari Lehtonen stopped 27 shots.
It's unclear if Lehtonen will start on consecutive days or if backup Tim Thomas will get the call. Thomas began this season with Florida and posted a 16-20-3 record and a 2.87 goals against average in 40 games with the Panthers before getting dealt to Dallas. The two-time Vezina Trophy winner is just 2-2-1 with a 3.37 GAA in six games with Stars following the trade.
The Stars are completing a three-game road trip on Sunday before playing three straight on home ice. Dallas will then return to the road to complete its regular season on April 13 in Phoenix.
Dallas has lost two straight and four of its last five meetings with the Panthers, but the Stars have picked up 4-1 wins in each of their last two trips to Sunrise, Fla.
The Panthers will miss the playoffs for the 12th time in 13 seasons this spring and the club is not relishing in their spoiler role at the moment. Florida has lost five straight in regulation and going 1-8-0 over its last nine outings.
Florida is closing its season on a five-game homestand, but dropped the opener of that residency against Calgary on Friday. Mike Cammalleri netted the winner early in the second period to help the Flames record a 2-1 win at BB&T Center.
Vincent Trocheck provided the lone score and Roberto Luongo made 15 saves for the Panthers, who have lost three straight on home ice to fall to 14-18-5 as the host this season.
"A win would have been nice, but the effort was there," Luongo said. "We just couldn't get the equalizer."
NEW YORK ISLANDERS (31-35-11) AT COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS (39-31-7), 6 P.M.
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Columbus Blue Jackets will continue their quest for the second postseason berth in franchise history when they host the New York Islanders in Sunday's clash at Nationwide Arena.
Columbus made its only trip to the postseason in the spring of 2009 when it was promptly swept out of the first round by Detroit. The Blue Jackets are one point ahead of both New Jersey and Toronto Maple for the last wild card spot in the East. With five games left, the Blue Jackets hold a game in hand over the Devils and two against the Maple Leafs. Both New Jersey and Toronto are idle on Sunday.
The Blue Jackets also have a chance to qualify for the postseason by claiming one of the Metropolitan Division's three automatic bids to the playoffs. Columbus is only two points behind third-place Philadelphia in the Metro with five games left for both teams. The Flyers, who dropped a 2-0 home decision against the Blue Jackets on Thursday, host the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday.
Columbus did miss an golden opportunity to strengthen its playoff case on Friday, when it lost a 4-3 home decision against the Chicago Blackhawks. The score was tied 3-3 after 40 minutes and the game appeared to be headed to overtime until Ben Smith scored with 3.9 seconds remaining in the third period to deliver the win for the Blackhawks and deny Columbus a valuable point.
The winning score came after a point shot by Duncan Keith went off Columbus goalie Sergei Bobrovsky's glove and triggered a goal-mouth scramble, with Smith pushing the rebound into the open net.
"It doesn't matter it was a Western Conference team. I don't look at it that way. I just look at it as a chance to get points and we weren't able to do that," said Blue Jackets head coach Todd Richards.
Bobrovsky had 34 saves for Columbus, while Artem Anisimov, Ryan Johansen and Derek MacKenzie each scored a goal in the setback.
Columbus forward Nathan Horton and defenseman Nikita Nikitin missed Friday's game and both players are questionable for Sunday with lower-body injuries.
The Blue Jackets expect to go with Bobrovsky in net again on Sunday. He is 9-2-0 with a 2.00 goals against average and .937 save percentage in 12 career games against the Islanders.
Columbus is playing the second part of a three-game homestand that will complete the club's regular-season home schedule. The Blue Jackets, who are 20-15-4 as the host this season, will cap the regular season on a two-game tour of Florida after welcoming Phoenix on Tuesday.
The Islanders, who have been eliminated from playoff contention, had a three- game winning streak halted in Saturday's 4-3 home loss to Washington. Evgeny Kuznetsov scored the lone goal of the shootout as Washington captured the victory at Nassau Coliseum.
Cal Clutterbuck, John Persson and Frans Nielsen picked up a goal each for the Islanders. Evgeni Nabokov made 26 stops in defeat.
The Isles are playing four of their last five games on the road, where the club is 18-17-2 this season.
Columbus won the first two meetings against the Isles in 2013-14 to extend its series' winning streak to four games, but New York ended the run with a 2-0 home win over the Blue Jackets on March 23. Evgeni Nabokov frustrated Columbus in that game, stopping all 41 shots for the Islanders in the impressive shutout victory.
However, the Blue Jackets have dominated the Isles in Columbus over the years, posting a 7-0-1 record with a tie in the nine all-time meetings at Nationwide Arena.
BUFFALO SABRES (21-47-9) AT PHILADELPHIA FLYERS (39-29-9), 7:30 P.M.
(SportsNetwork.com) - With a spot in the playoffs still hanging in the balance, the Philadelphia Flyers will try to avoid their longest losing streak of the season when they host the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday.
The Flyers have matched their worst skid of the season with losses in four straight games. The skid began with a pair of shootout setbacks, but the last two losses have come in regulation.
Philadelphia now finds itself just two points ahead of Columbus for the third of the Metropolitan Division's three automatic playoff bids. Both teams have five games remaining in the regular season and the Blue Jackets, who posted a 2-0 win in Philly on Thursday, are playing Sunday against the visiting New York Islanders.
If the Flyers lose out to Columbus for the division's third spot, the club could still land one of the Eastern Conference's two wild card spots. Philadelphia is currently three ahead of Toronto and New Jersey, who are both one point behind the Blue Jackets for the last playoff berth in the East.
After Columbus dealt the Flyers their second consecutive shutout defeat on Thursday, Philadelphia was at least able to find the net in Saturday's 5-2 loss at Boston.
Wayne Simmonds and Jay Rosehill lit the lamp for the Flyers, who were tied with the Bruins after 40 minutes before allowing Boston to score three unanswered goals in the third.
"I think we're a confident team still. I don't think we're playing the way we can," said Flyers head coach Craig Berube.
Ray Emery had a busy day in net, turning aside 37-of-41 shots in defeat. Steve Mason will get the start for the Flyers tonight and is 2-3-0 with a 2.65 goals against average and .895 save percentage in five career games against Buffalo.
The Flyers have won the first two of three meetings against Buffalo this season, posting a 4-1 home win on Nov. 21 before notching a 4-3 regulation win at First Niagara Center on Jan. 14.
Philadelphia has claimed seven of nine overall in the series with Buffalo and four straight on home ice.
With 51 points and five games left on their schedule, the Sabres are guaranteed to finish last in the NHL this season. The only time Buffalo finished at the bottom of the league standings was in 1986-87 when it was tied with New Jersey for the worst record with 64 points.
The rebuilding club has lost two straight, six of seven and 13 of its last 15 games, but did make a valiant comeback effort in Friday's 3-2 regulation loss in Detroit.
The Red Wings jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first period, but Buffalo crept back into the game thanks to a power-play goal from Jamie McBain in the second period and another tally from Nicolas Deslauriers with 13:20 left in the game.
Buffalo, which saw Matt Hackett give up all three goals on 31 shots, was never able to register the tying goal, but the struggling team was proud of the effort.
"We competed, we showed we can play with any team, first place or a great team like Detroit here," said Hackett. "We're going in the right direction, I think."
Friday's setback was Buffalo's fifth straight on the road. The club is just 8-27-3 as the visiting team this season and is completing a three-game road trip on Sunday.
PITTSBURGH PENGUINS (49-24-5) AT COLORADO AVALANCHE (50-21-6), 8 P.M.
(SportsNetwork.com) - Two of the top teams from opposing conference will meet Sunday in Denver, as the Colorado Avalanche host the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Pepsi Center.
With 103 points, the Penguins have clinched a playoff spot and the Metropolitan Division title. The club is locked into the East's second seed after Boston clinched the conference's top spot with a win on Saturday.
Colorado, meanwhile, has 106 points, leaving it five behind St. Louis for both the Central Division and Western Conference leads. The Avs also have clinched a postseason berth and are three points ahead of Chicago for second place in the division.
The Avalanche are coming off Saturday's impressive 4-0 victory in St. Louis, giving Colorado six straight wins for the third time this season.
A big second period and 31 saves from Semyon Varlamov helped Colorado blank the Blues for their 50th win of the season. Paul Stastny, Nathan MacKinnon and Nick Holden scored in a span of less than 10 minutes in the second period before the game turned chippy with a skirmish-filled third.
Varlamov earned his NHL-best 40th win to tie head coach Patrick Roy's single- season franchise record.
"I just felt that we dominated them," Roy said.
Stastny added two assists in Colorado's sixth straight win, a run that matches the club's season high. The Avs won six in a row twice earlier this season from Oct. 2-15 and again from Oct. 19-Nov. 2.
The Avalanche also reached 50 wins for the second time in club history. Only the Stanley Cup-winning 2000-01 squad registered more victories with 52.
Colorado boasts a 26-11-3 record at the Pepsi Center this season and is playing its final home test of the regular season on Sunday. The Avs will complete its schedule on a four-game road trip that begins Tuesday in Edmonton.
While Colorado will try to record its first seven-game winning streak since taking eight in a row from Dec. 31-Jan. 17 during the 2005-06 campaign, the Penguins are hoping to avoid losing for the sixth time in nine outings on Sunday.
Pittsburgh was blanked Saturday in Minnesota, as Ilya Bryzgalov stopped all 20 shots in a 4-0 shutout victory for the Wild.
Jeff Zatkoff made 16 saves for the Penguins, who lost for the second time in three games.
"We have to play the right way," Pens captain Sidney Crosby said. "We know what that is. We've done a good job of it. It's just a matter of making sure we find that urgency for the last bit."
The Penguins did play without several regulars, including Evgeni Malkin, who is still sidelined with a foot issue. In addition, forward Jussi Jokinen (upper body) and defenseman Olli Maatta (lower body) were on the sidelines. The Pens expect to play with a short-handed roster again on Sunday.
Pittsburgh fell to 22-15-3 as the road team after Saturday's loss and the club is completing a three-game swing on Sunday. The Pens will then close their regular-season schedule on a three-game homestand.
The Avs and Penguins met on Oct. 21 in Pittsburgh and Colorado notched a 1-0 victory behind a 34-save shutout from Jean-Sebastien Giguere. That win halted a four-game slide in the series for Colorado, and the Avs will try to snap a two-game home losing streak against Pittsburgh on Sunday.
NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Sunday, April 6th (All times Eastern)
Anaheim Ducks (50-19-8) at Edmonton Oilers (27-42-9), 8 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Anaheim Ducks will try to extend their lead atop the Pacific Division when they visit the lowly Edmonton Oilers in Sunday's meeting at Rexall Place.
The Ducks are headed to the playoffs for the third time in four seasons, but the club obviously would prefer to enter the postseason as division champions. Anaheim is currently one point ahead of the San Jose Sharks, who are idle Sunday after dropping a home decision against Nashville on Saturday. The Ducks have five games left in the regular season compared to San Jose's three.
Anaheim had a three-game winning streak halted its last time out and also was dealt its first regulation loss in two weeks after Friday's 5-2 home setback to Nashville. The Ducks fell behind 3-0 in the opening period and were down 4-1 to the Predators by the end of 20 minutes.
Ducks goaltender Jonas Hiller started and was pulled late in the first period, but was back on the ice for the third and stopped 13-of-17 shots. Frederik Andersen relieved Hiller in the first, but wasn't on the ice for the third as he appeared to be shaken up after getting hit in the mask with a shot and stopped 6-of-7 shots.
"We can't let this happen. We have to find a way," said Anaheim head coach Bruce Boudreau. "Sometimes, for one reason or another, we're not getting the job done early. We're a really good team with the lead, but we just haven't had the lead lately."
Kyle Palmieri and Daniel Winnik scored for the Ducks, who were 5-0-1 in their previous six games. The regulation setback was the first for Anaheim since it dropped a 3-2 decision in San Jose on March 20.
Anaheim hopes to rebound Sunday in the opener of a two-game road trip. The Ducks, who will visit Vancouver on Monday, are 23-11-4 as the visiting team this season and have won four of their last six road games.
The Ducks have dominated the Oilers in recent seasons, winning seven of eight, 12 of 14 and 17 of the last 20 meetings between the clubs. Anaheim, which is 3-0-1 against the Oilers this season, also has taken 12 of the past 15 encounters in Edmonton.
The Oilers are in spoiler mode once again after recently being eliminated from playoff contention for an eighth straight season. Edmonton was able to halt a three-game slide in Friday's 3-2 shootout win over the Phoenix Coyotes, a team fighting for the last playoff spot in the West.
Sam Gagner fueled Friday's road victory, netting the tying goal late in regulation and adding the lone goal of the shootout.
Ben Scrivens was called to the bench for an extra skater with 1:29 left in the third period, and Gagner popped home a loose puck after Jordan Eberle stripped Thomas Greiss behind the net with 40.4 showing.
Greiss was again helpless on the final chance in the fourth round of the game's final segment, lured to the left post by Gagner's several quick stick fakes before watching the puck slide past him at the right post. "I thought we played well on this trip and it's nice to get rewarded there," said Gagner.
The win allowed Edmonton to finish a three-game road trip with a 1-2-0 record. The Oilers will begin a season-ending four-game homestand on Sunday.
Justin Schultz added an early score and Scrivens made 24 stops in regulation for the Oilers.
04/06 12:02:06 ET