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Learning the game: NHL on the tube this week

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There are three nationally televised NHL games to check out this week.

Chicago Blackhawks v Pittsburgh Penguins
Blackhawks vs Penguins tonight.

Nationally televised games are in short supply this week with the first of three airing tonight at 5:00. The final two won’t be showing until Sunday, but there will be three additional matchups offered for free on NHL.tv.

Wednesday, January 10th - 5:00 PM PST

It seems forever ago that the Chicago Blackhawks topped the Pittsburgh Penguins 10-1 in their season opener. It was a stomping that left the hockey world questioning whether the result was a fluke or they were simply that good. Although the last two seasons saw them exit the playoffs in the first round, the three prior consisted of two Stanley Cup wins and a loss in the conference finals.

Entering the league-mandated holiday break, the Blackhawks were looking up at every team in the Central Division. The group has lost some key components in goaltender Corey Crawford and center Artem Anisimov due to upper-body injuries but will need to sort it out if they are to make the playoffs and avoid a complete gutting of personnel. They have set off on the right foot winning four of their last six games and outscoring opponents 16-8 in their last three.

They will be facing off in a division matchup with the Minnesota Wild. Both teams are sitting at 48 points.

Sunday, January 14th - 9:30 AM PST

Chicago will play their second nationally televised game of the week against the struggling Detroit Red Wings.

As a lifelong fan of the sport, nostalgia is all but guaranteed while watching games take place in the new Little Cesears Arena. Sure Joe Louis Arena was uncomfortable, inconvenient, and had some interesting scents, but a lot of history took place in that building. Unfortunately, a new building wasn’t enough to jump-start a team which has failed to move beyond the first round of the playoffs in the last four years — twice losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The team is currently sitting middle of the pack in the Atlantic Division and has experienced a mix of ups and downs. Veteran goaltender Jimmy Howard (U. Maine represent!) has been playing above expectations but is currently nursing a lower-body injury. It is an issue which has maintained a common theme throughout his career. While he is expected to play in Saturday’s game against Pittsburgh, backup Petr Mrazek needs to step it up if they are to land a wild-card spot.

Sunday, January 14th - 4:30 PM PST

The New York Rangers are 5-3-2 in their last 10 games. They are sitting fourth in the Metropolitan and currently hold the top wild-card spot in the east. None of which would be true if it wasn’t for the absolute stunner of a season that goaltender Henrik Lundqvist is currently piecing together. In fact, they can thank the success of their season to the play between the pipes as both netminders are combining for a .936 save percentage and 2.17 GAA in 32 games since November — all while playing for a team who has given up the second-most shots on goal.

There have been plenty of rumors circulating concerning trades and firings, but the season is only half over and a solid push towards the playoffs could ease the tensions in New York.

They will be facing off against a Penguins team who will be looking to make a statement in the back end of a troubled season.