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  1. If we look at the standings at the midway point of the season, we would have to scroll down to find the Chicago Blackhawks. This doesn’t make for good grades when it comes to midterms. I’m sure there have been “discussions” behind closed doors with the Chicago Blackhawks’ upper brass and some of the “students” as to where things differ. Whether those can be turned around in the second half of the season, we have to wait and see. For now, let’s take a look at how the 2017 18 school year has fared for some of these Blackhawks, shall we? Forwards B One of the things that Tanner Kero Jersey the Blackhawks used to pride themselves on was their puck control. That starts at winning faceoffs 48.8 percent, 23rd in the league D . They are 28th in the league in defensive zone faceoff win percentage as well, which warrants a big fat F. Jonathan Toews 58.1 percent has taken 33 percent of the team’s faceoffs this year. You take his faceoffs out of the equation, the Blackhawks have won just 44.2 percent of their draws. The powerplay 14.7 percent is 29th in the league F , but some of that blame can go to others defense, coaches . The penalty kill is in the middle of the pack 15th in the league, C , although struggling lately. Tha,t too , will have blame pushed to others. The Blackhawks are giving up 33 shots per game. That can’t all be blamed on the defense. It’s also a combination of bad backchecking leading to odd man breaks. There have also been times where pucks don’t get deep, or turnovers lead to those same odd man breaks. Let’s take a look at how the centers have done so far this year.
  2. Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins bounced back quickly from a disappointing defeat at home. Crosby had a goal and three assists, Tristan Jarry stopped 31 shots for his second shutout of the season and Pittsburgh beat the New York Islanders 4 0 Friday night. Daniel Sprong had two goals and an assist, Evgeni Malkin also scored and Dominik Simon added two assists for the Penguins, who had dropped four of six and were coming off a 4 0 loss to Carolina on Thursday night. Pittsburgh Penguins Sidney Crosby 87 reacts after scoring a goal during the second period of an NHL hockey game as New York Islanders goaltender Jaroslav Halak 41 watches Friday, Jan. 5, 2018, in New York. AP Photo/Frank Franklin II Photo Credit AP We had a quick turnaround and that was fresh in our minds. I thought we responded well, Crosby said. It felt like we were all more on the same page. ... We knew how important this game was and we came in here and had a strong game. The two time defending Stanley Cup champions pulled within one point of the Hurricanes for the second wild card in the Eastern Conference. As you get closer to the playoffs, the games get tighter and the stakes get higher, Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. We ve got to have a playoff mindset right now and I thought we had that tonight. With the Penguins ahead 3 0, Jarry stopped a slap shot by Ryan Pulock two minutes into the third period, and then another attempt by the forward from the inside edge of the right circle 90 seconds later. Jarry also denied a tip by Jordan Eberle a little more than 5 1/2 minutes in and a try in front by Brock Nelson 20 seconds later. Get the Newsday Now newsletter! The best of Newsday every day in your inbox. Pittsburgh Penguins Sidney Crosby 87 celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the New York Islanders, Friday Pittsburgh Penguins Blank Jersey, Jan. 5, 2018, in New York. AP Photo/Frank Franklin II Photo Credit AP Halak finished with 31 saves as the Islanders lost their season high fifth straight all in regulation. They ve been outscored 25 8 during the skid. I ve been concerned for a few weeks, New York coach Doug Weight said. It s a concerning time. We looked tired at times. Jarry played really well. We have to recharge and get revamped. The Islanders lost right wing Josh Bailey to a lower body injury early in the first period and he did not return. Bailey leads the team with 38 assists and is tied with captain John Tavares for tops with 50 points. After a scoreless first period, the Penguins scored three times in the second while outshooting the Islanders 18 8. Sprong got the Penguins on the scoreboard 41 seconds in as Crosby brought the puck up the left side and passed it through sliding Islanders defenseman Nick Leddy to Sprong, who tapped it past Halak for his first goal in his fourth game this season. I just saw him go 2 on 1 with me, Sprong said of Crosby. I just wanted to go hard to the net and keep my stick on the ice and he put it right on my tape. After Pulock was whistled for tripping Phil Kessel, Pittsburgh s top ranked power play took advantage. Malkin got a pass from Crosby at the right faceoff dot and fired a one timer past Halak to make it 2 0 with his 15th at 3 30. Crosby made it 3 0 with 4 10 left in the middle period as he got the puck on a rebound off the end boards and put it in off Halak s left hip from behind the goal line for his 15th. We played fast, we generated a lot of shots, a lot of opportunities, Crosby said. That s more of the way we need to play. New York had a two man advantage for 1 16 late in the second, but couldn t get anything past Jarry on a pair of scrambles in close. Pittsburgh outshot New York 13 8 in the first period. The Penguins were outshot 7 1 over the first 9 1/2 minutes before picking up the intensity. Jarry had a stellar sliding save on an attempt by Casey Cizikas on an Islanders 3 on 1 break with 1 1/2 minutes left in the opening period. NOTES Islanders assistant coach Luke Richardson and his wife, Stephanie, took part in a ceremonial puck drop on Mental Health Awareness Night. The Richardsons started a Do It For Daron initiative in memory of their daughter, Daron, who committed suicide in 2010. ... The Islanders are 1 for 18 on the power play over their last six games. ... Malkin has six goals and 11 points in his last 10 games. ... Crosby had his first four point game of the season. ... Jarry s other shutout was a 4 0 win at Buffalo on Dec. 1, when he made 34 saves.
  3. The Montreal Canadiens hope they can take the positives from their win over the Tampa Bay Lightning and use it on the Canucks ahead of the bye week. Thursday’s game was a hard fought match between two teams on opposite ends of the standings. The Montreal Canadiens had a good game, but Carey Price was forced to make some incredible saves to keep things going and win it in the shootout. Tonight’s matchup with the Vancouver Canucks may not be as challenging considering the difference in skill between them and the Lightning. Additionally, the Habs have the advantage of being more rested considering the Canucks played last night losing to the Toronto Maple Leafs in a shootout. The back to back factor may not matter though as the Canucks are 3 0 in the second half of them. Vancouver will be looking to have a strong start, and perfect road game whereas Montreal will hope to keep things in their control. It was a bit of a gong show the last time the two teams face off against each other. The final score was 7 5 for the Habs which included a pair of goals from Nicolas Deslauriers and a hat trick from Thomas Vanek. The Habs have made it their goal to try emphasis on try to play a more conservative style of hockey this season. However, that game had the team adopt more of a run and gun style which resulted in a lot of goals going in either net. It might’ve been fun for the fans to watch, but Claude Julien didn’t like what he was seeing and made adjustments accordingly. The lineup has looked a little more lethal with some of the changes made including Charles Hudon on the Max Pacioretty–Phillip Danault line. Unfortunately, Daniel Carr has been taken out for Jacob de La Rose and seeing as he had not too bad of a game, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Julien leave the lines and pairings as is. There’s a chance that Carey Price may miss this one as he was absent from practice on Saturday. The 30 year old is battling with the same flu bug that has been flying around the team this season, and although he was able to play through it against Tampa, the Habs may choose to have him sit out. If so, Antti Niemi will get his first start since his 34 save effort in Edmonton. As for the Canucks, they are having a bad season as well. The team sits a single spot above the Habs in the standings 25th overall and are 2 6 2 in their last ten games. They also have a lot of players missing with injury in Derek Dorsett Phillip Danault Jersey, Bo Horvat, Brandon Sutter, Sven Baertschi – who may return for tonight – and just recently Chris Tanev. The 28 year old took a puck to the face in their game last night and didn’t return to action. However, Tanev traveled with the team to Montreal so it’s still unclear whether he draws in. Despite all the negatives that have come the Canucks’ way this season, rookie Brock Boeser is making it all worth it. The 2015 1st overall pick is currently leading the team in points with 22 goals and 17 assists in 38 games. The Habs felt the sting of what Boeser can do with time and space already, so keeping tabs on him all night will be key.
  4. The Minnesota Wild sit in the middle of the Central Division standings at the midway point of the season, but it’s not a bad place to be for the squad. Minnesota has been dealing with injuries all season, but with Nino Niederreiter back after missing five games with a lower body injury the Wild are completely healthy. Niederreiter made a dramatic return, too, recording his second career hat trick in a 6 2 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night. With Zach Parise making his season debut on Tuesday, there is a glut of forwards for coach Bruce Boudreau to pick from, and Thursday Chris Stewart was the healthy scratch. That doesn’t mean that will be the way it is going forward. Stewart could be back in the lineup when Minnesota plays the Colorado Avalanche in Denver on Saturday night. It’s the second of four meetings between the division foes, with the Wild winning in a shootout on Nov. 24. Boudreau will most likely make a decision on who’s in and out after Saturday’s morning skate. “We know there are 13 good forwards in here, and that’s a good thing for us Daniel Winnik Jersey,” Tyler Ennis told The St. Paul Pioneer Press. “It’s fun to be a part of a team that has that many good players.” The Wild 22 16 3 are facing a Colorado team brimming with confidence despite some significant injuries. Top goaltender Semyon Varlamov will miss his second straight game with a lower body injury that forced him to leave Tuesday’s win over Winnipeg. Backup Jonathan Bernier has filled in well, including getting his 16th career shutout and second of the season in Thursday’s 2 0 win over Columbus. Center J.T. Compher upper body is day to day and won’t play, and defenseman Tyson Barrie is out a few more weeks with a broken bone in his right hand. Even with the injuries, the Avalanche are riding a season high four game winning streak. In fact, it’s the first time Colorado has won four in a row since Jan. 18 23, 2016. The Avalanche 21 16 3 are one win from matching last year’s total, and their 45 points are just three fewer than last season. “It’s a totally different situation now. The team is feeling good, I think every guy is feeling good about themselves,” Mikko Rantanen, who had a goal and an assist Thursday, said after the game. “Bernie played a great game so it’s looking good for us. There’s a lot of games left so we can’t get too comfortable right now.” A win over Minnesota — on the night the team is retiring Milan Hejduk’s No. 23 sweater — would give Colorado a 5 1 homestand and a good feeling heading into its bye week. But the Wild have dominated the matchup since rallying to beat Colorado in seven games in the first round of the 2014 playoffs. In the last three plus seasons, the Avalanche are 4 12 1 against the Wild. But with the recent revival, they might be ready to turn around their fortunes and make a run at the postseason. The Wild are in the second wild card in the Western Conference heading into Friday’s games, with the Avalanche two points behind. “It’s a big divisional game,” Colorado coach Jared Bednar told “We’re right there with them, so it’s a big two points and we want to keep this thing going. We want the passion and the emotion in the game for us. I think it’s a good thing. It’s one of those measuring stick games. They’re back to full strength and we’re a little beat up now, but it’s a game on home ice, we have a chance to keep this thing going and go into the break on a high note.”