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Prime Time Preview

NBCSN Wednesday Night Preview

by Michael Finewax
Updated On: February 24, 2021, 9:36 am ET

There are two games on the NBCSN schedule Wednesday as the New York Rangers are in Philadelphia to take on the Flyers and the St. Louis Blues visit the Los Angeles Kings in the late game.

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NEW YORK RANGERS AT PHILADELPHIA FLYERS

The big story in this game is still off the ice as Artemi Panarin has taken a leave of absence with the full support of the Rangers behind him after wild accusations appeared on the weekend stating that Panarin beat up an 18-year-old girl in Latvia in 2011. The problem is that Panarin has been a vocal supporter of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny and has come out against Russian leader Vladimir Putin and that never sits well with the Russian leader. Panarin is still afraid what may happen to the family he still has left in Russia and rightly so.

On the ice, the loss will be a big one for New York who will have to shuffle their lines. Alexis Lafreniere, the first overall pick in the 2020 Draft, is seeing first line time with Mika Zibanejad and Pavel Buchnevich, but has been stymied in the early going of his career with only two goals and a minus-seven rating in 16 games. Zibanejad has been slumping all season as well with only two goals and four points in 16 contests after being one of the NHL’s best last year with 41 goals and 75 points in 57 games.

Colin Blackwell jumps into Panarin’s spot on the second line and has been good offensively with three goals and five points in eight games. The bottom two lines look run-of-the-mill but that’s because players like Panarin, Filip Chytil and Kaapo Kakko are out of the lineup forcing others up the depth chart.

The Rangers are hurting on the blueline as well as Jacob Trouba is out for six-eight weeks with a broken thumb. The Rangers blueline is now being led by Adam Fox and the youngster is a joy to watch. Rookie K'Andre Miller is another blueliner to keep an eye on.

Igor Shesterkin got off to a rocky start, giving up 10 goals in his first three starts on only 80 shots but has turned things around as he has given up more than two goals only once in the seven starts since. He sits at 4-5-1 with a sparkling 2.23 goals-against-average and a .922 save percentage.

Editor’s Note: The Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers face off Wednesday on NBCSN starting at 6:00 pm ET. Livestream all the action here.

The Flyers have been hit hard by a COVID outbreak and are finally starting to get some players back. Claude Giroux was back at practice Tuesday and is hoping to be in the lineup. Travis Konecny, Scott Laughton, Jakub Voracek, Oskar Lindblom and Justin Braun are still on COVID protocol.

The Flyers have been led by their top line of James van Riemsdyk, Sean Couturier and Joel Farabee. Van Riemsdyk is off to the best start of his career with eight goals and 21 points in 15 games while Farabee has already equaled his eight-goal total set last season as a rookie and still has 41 games left in the season. Couturier is one of the best two-way centers in the NHL. Kevin Hayes leads the second line and has been strong all season with six goals and 15 points in 15 contests.

Ivan Provorov is the strength of their blueline and has a couple of goals and eight points. Erik Gustafsson has been seeing time on the first power play and has seven assists thus far.

Goaltending has been a problem when Carter Hart has the crease as he is 5-3-3 with a 3.68 GAA and a .891 save percentage. The Flyers are expected to start backup Brian Elliott who has been far sharper as he is 3-1-0 with a 2.25 goals-against -average and a .928 save percentage. Elliott has started four games but has been forced to relieve Hart twice, including Sunday’s Outdoor Game when Hart gave up six goals on just 23 shots in two periods of play.

Probable New York Rangers Lineup

Alexis Lafreniere-Chris Kreider-Mika Zibanejad-Pavel Buchnevich

Chris Kreider-Ryan Strome-Colin Blackwell

Brendan Lemieux-Brett Howden-Julien Gauthier

Phil Di Giuseppe-Kevin Rooney-Jonny Brodzinski

Ryan Lindgren-Adam Fox

K'Andre Miller-Brendan Smith

Libor Hajek-Anthony Bitetto

Igor Shesterkin

Alexandar Georgiev

Probable Philadelphia Lineup

James van Riemsdyk-Sean Couturier-Joel Farabee

Claude Giroux-Kevin Hayes-Nolan Patrick

Michael Raffl-Connor Bunnaman-Nicolas Aube-Kubel

Carsen Twarynski-Andy Andreoff-Maxim Sushko

Ivan Provorov-Shayne Gostisbehere

Travis Sanheim-Philippe Myers

Robert Hagg-Erik Gustafsson

Brian Elliott

Carter Hart

ST. LOUIS AT LOS ANGELES

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The St. Louis Blues are reeling as they have lost three of their last four games. They currently are in second place in the West but that is precarious as Colorado, Los Angeles and Arizona are all three points behind with games in hand while Minnesota is four points in arrears with four games to make up.

The Blues blueline has been hurt of late as Carl Gunnarsson is out for the year with a knee injury and Colton Parayko is also missing in action with an undisclosed injury.

Up front the Blues are missing Vladimir Tarasenko, who has been out all season after off-season shoulder surgery, as well as Robert Thomas. Tyler Bozak, Jaden Schwartz and Ivan Barbashev. That is a lot to deal with and a good reason the Blues are in trouble.

St. Louis is led by David Perron who has 19 points in 19 games and the surprising Jordan Kyrou who has seven goals and 17 points and has taken advantage of all the injuries to the Blues to become a top-six forward. Ryan O'Reilly centers the line. Brayden Schenn centers the second unit but the Blues have had trouble scoring of late as they have been shut out twice in their last four contests.

Torey Krug has taken over as the top offensive defenseman from the departed Alex Pietrangelo as he was signed in the off-season as a UFA from Boston. He has a goal and 10 assists with a plus-11 rating while Justin Faulk has returned to being a scoring defenseman with five goals in 19 games. He has also been strong on the blueline with a plus-16 rating.

Jordan Binnington is expected to start and he has been solid with an 8-5-2 record to go with a 2.50 goals-against-average and a .914 save percentage.

Editor’s Note: The Los Angeles Kings host the St. Louis Blues Wednesday on NBCSN starting at 9:30 pm ET. Livestream all the action here.

The Kings on the other hand, are flying up the standings as they are 5-0-1 in their last six games giving up nine goals. Jonathan Quick has two shutouts in his last three games while he has combined with Cal Petersen for a .949 save percentage during the hot streak.

The Kings are led by their veterans as Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown and Drew Doughty have found the Fountain of Youth. The 33-year-old Kopitar leads the Kings with 21 points in just 17 games while Brown, who is 36, leads the Kings with 10 goals and is second in points with 16. Brown has scored 20 or more goals only twice in his last eight seasons so no one could really expect this outbreak.

Doughty had been one of the NHL’s top defensemen over the last decade but the 31-year-old had fallen upon hard times the last two seasons with a combined minus-50 in 149 games as the Kings were one of the bottom-dwellers in the NHL.

Jeff Carter is also having a good year as is Alex Iafallo and the future bodes well in Los Angeles as most pundits think the Kings have the best and deepest set of prospects in the NHL including Quinton Byfield picked second overall in 2020 as well as Alex Turcotte and Arthur Kaliyev, picked fifth and 33rd respectively in 2019. There are plenty more in the system.

Probable St. Louis Lineup

Jordan Kyrou-Ryan O'Reilly-David Perron

Sammy Blais-Brayden Schenn-Mike Hoffman

Zach Sanford-Oskar Sundqvist-Austin Poganski

Kyle Clifford-Jacob De La Rose-Mackenzie MacEachern

Torey Krug-Justin Faulk

Vince Dunn-Marco Scandella

Robert Bortuzzo-Niko Mikkola

Jordan Binnington

Ville Husso

Probable Los Angeles Lineup

Alex Iafallo-Anze Kopitar-Dustin Brown

Adrian Kempe-Gabriel Vilardi-Jeff Carter

Carl Grundstrom-Blake Lizotte-Trevor Moore

Andreas Athanasiou-Michael Amadio- Austin Wagner

Mikey Anderson-Drew Doughty

Tobias Bjornfot-Matt Roy

Olli-Maatta-Sean Walker

Jonathan Quick

Cal Petersen

Michael Finewax

Michael Finewax is entering his 16th season as the Senior Hockey Writer and Editor for NBC Sports Edge. You can follow him on Twitter @mfinewaxhockey.