Let’s face it — some of the matchups on NBC Sports Net’s “Wednesday Night Rivalry” in recent seasons stretched the definition of “rivalry” as the network seemingly prioritized getting certain popular teams on frequently.
The strategy has changed some. The Pittsburgh Penguins and Sidney Crosby will still make their appearances – seven of them on Wednesday nights on NBCSN – but the network is going for more diversity for 2018-19. It has renamed the weekly game simply “Wednesday Night Hockey.”
“With the impressive growth of fan interest in non-traditional NHL markets combined with the emergence of a number of rising stars, we felt the time was right to broaden our Wednesday night schedule and evolve the brand,” Sam Flood, executive producer and president of production for NBC Sports and NBCSN, said in a statement Monday when the network announced its plans for NHL coverage.
“Fans will still see plenty of games between traditional powers, but our new approach to Wednesday nights – including a record number of doubleheaders – allows us to show more rising stars and more Western Conference and Canadian teams than ever before.”
The Wednesday night schedule features 17 doubleheaders, and the early or sole games those nights will often start at 7 or 7:30 p.m. Eastern rather than 8. The 40 Wednesday games will be among at least 96 shown on NBCSN.
In all, NBC Sports plans to show 109 regular-season games, its most ever, and those games will be streamed live on NBCSports.com.
NBC specifically pointed to these stars appearing multiple times on its “Wednesday Night Hockey” telecasts: Crosby, Washington’s Alex Ovechkin, Vegas’ Marc-Andre Fleury, Chicago’s Patrick Kane, Nashville’s P.K. Subban, Boston’s Patrice Bergeron, Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos, Philadelphia’s Claude Giroux, Edmonton’s Connor McDavid, Winnipeg’s Patrik Laine, Toronto’s Auston Matthews, the Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist, Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau, San Jose’s Joe Pavelski, Los Angeles’ Jonathan Quick and Colorado’s Nate MacKinnon.
Not surprisingly, Stanley Cup champion Washington has the most scheduled Wednesday appearances, eight, including two against the Penguins.
In addition, NBC Sports announced it will carry several specialty games. That includes the Penguins’ outdoor Coors Light Stadium Series game against the Flyers at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field. That game, Saturday, Feb. 23, will be shown on NBC at 8 p.m.
NBC also will show 13 games on the parent network beginning in late November, and between NBC and NBCSN will cover the All-Star weekend from San Jose. Besides the outdoor game, the Penguins will appear on NBC Sunday, Feb. 17, against the Rangers at 12:30 p.m., as well as six non-Wednesday games on NBCSN.
Here are the Penguins’ scheduled games. The “Wednesday Night Hockey” games are marked with an asterisk.
*Nov. 7 at Washington, 7:30 p.m., NBCSN
*Nov. 28, at Colorado, 9:30 p.m., NBCSN
*Dec. 12, at Chicago, 8 p.m., NBCSN
*Dec. 19, at Washington, 8 p.m., NBCSN
*Jan. 2, at NY Rangers, 7 p.m., NBCSN
Jan. 6, vs. Chicago, 8 p.m., NBCSN
*Jan. 30 vs. Tampa Bay, 8 p.m., NBCSN
Feb. 11, at Philadelphia, 7 p.m., NBCSN
*Feb. 13, vs. Edmonton, 8 p.m., NBCSN
Feb. 17 vs. NY Rangers, 12:30 p.m., NBC
Feb. 23 at Philadelphia, 8 p.m., NBC (outdoor game)
March 7 vs. Columbus, 7 p.m., NBCSN
March 12 vs. Washington, 7 p.m., NBCSN
March 17 vs. Philadelphia, 7:30 p.m., NBCSN