Around The Rink – opening day previews

It’s here. We all feel like Navin Johnson from the movie “The Jerk” today because we’re hopping around our homes/cubicles saying to ourselves or out loud, “The new season is here! The new season is here!” Never mind the funny looks you get from your peers, this is your day hockey fans and the NHL has rewarded you with a noon time start and three rivalry games to kick things off. See, Gary Bettman really is looking out for you.

Here’s today’s rundown of the action with all times Eastern.

12:00 pm

Carolina vs. Minnesota (Helsinki, Finland)

The NHL kicks off its season once again in Europe and this time two teams loaded with Finnish talent get to start their seasons off at home. From the Wild you’ve got captain Mikko Koivu, Antti Miettinen and goalie Niklas Backstrom while Carolina rolls out Tuomo Ruutu, Joni Pitkanen, and Jussi Jokinen as the hometown players. Backstrom will start in goal for Minnesota, while Cam Ward gets the nod for the Hurricanes

7:00 pm

Philadelphia @ Pittsburgh 

The Penguins open up their brand new home, the CONSOL Energy Center, and who better to invite in to try and crash the party but your cross-state rivals the Flyers. The Flyers will start Brian Boucher rookie Sergei Bobrovsky in goal while Marc-Andre Fleury gets the nod for Pittsburgh.

Montreal @ Toronto

Two bitter, old rivals kick off their seasons against each other in Toronto. For the Leafs, they hope to get out on the right foot to start their year. After losing a heart breaker in overtime to start their year, things went downhill fast for the Leafs after that. For Montreal, they’re looking to build off an erratic season that closed strong in the playoffs. Jean-Sebastian Giguere gets the start in goal for Toronto while a slightly ill Carey Price is expected to start. Alex Auld waits in the wings just in case he can’t go.

10:00 pm

Chicago @ Colorado

The defending Stanley Cup champions kick off their season on the road in Denver and welcoming them are the Avalanche. With the Avs having a potentially questionable defense, seeing if the Blackhawks can kick things off by ripping tons of shots will be fun to see. Marty Turco starts for Chicago while Craig Anderson starts for Colorado.

Calgary @ Edmonton

The most fascinating game of the night comes from the Battle of Alberta in Edmonton. The Flames reclamation line of Alex Tanguay-Olli Jokinen-Jarome Iginla gets the start against the Oilers rookie big three of Taylor Hall, Magnus Paajarvi, and Jordan Eberle. Miikka Kiprusoff will start for Calgary while Nikolai Khabibulin should start for Edmonton.

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    Islanders officially activate Johnny Boychuk (upper body) off IR

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    The New York Islanders got some good news on the injury front, as they’ve activated Johnny Boychuk off injured reserve.

    The 32-year-old missed a total of 11 games because of an upper-body injury he suffered in a game against the Buffalo Sabres on Dec. 31 (above).

    New York went 5-5-1 without Boychuk, and they conceded four goals or more in five of those contests.

    In 38 games with Boychuk, the Islanders had allowed four goals or more just six times.

    The Islanders currently sit in third place in the Metropolitan Division. They’re three points behind the Rangers (two games in hand) and 18 points behind the first place Capitals.

    In a corresponding move, they assigned defenseman Scott Mayfield to the AHL.

    Wideman’s suspension appeal will be heard in New York City on Wednesday

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    Dennis Wideman‘s appeal for his 20-game suspension will take place in New York City on Wednesday, per ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun.

    The 32-year-old has already served two games for his hit on linesman Don Henderson (above).

    Gary Bettman will be the one to decide if Wideman’s suspension should be reduced. If the Commissioner decides not to reduce the suspension to six games or less, the Flames defenseman will have the right to be heard by a neutral arbitrator.

    Earlier this week, Wideman apologized publicly for the incident, but maintained that he never intended to hurt Henderson.

    “I feel awful about what happened,” the Flames defenseman said after he was suspended 20 games.

    “I feel really bad about the whole situation. The last seven days have been tough. Never in my career have I ever disrespected, or done anything like this, to an official.”

    When the suspension was handed down, the league said Wideman was diagnosed with a concussion after the game, but they aren’t using that as an excuse in this case.

    “It is accepted for the purposes of this decision that he was later diagnosed as having suffered a concussion,” the NHL said. “However, that fact even accepted as true, cannot excuse Wideman’s subsequent actions.”

    The Ducks look pretty mighty right now after six consecutive wins

    Anaheim Ducks v Los Angeles Kings
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    In what should be a disturbing trend for every other team in the Pacific Division, the Anaheim Ducks have now won six consecutive games, and eight of their last 10.

    After dominating the shot clock for pretty much all of Friday’s game against the Arizona Coyotes, the Ducks completely took over on the scoreboard in the third period. It seemed like only a matter of time before a breakthrough would occur.

    Just 24 hours after beating the L.A. Kings, the Ducks earned a 5-2 victory over the Coyotes.

    Ryan Kesler has eight points in his last six games. Corey Perry has seven points in his last six games. Patrick Maroon, who had only eight points all season prior to Friday, had a three-point night versus Arizona.

    Again. Bad news for every other team in the Pacific.

    The Ducks now have a three-point lead over the Coyotes for third place in the division. They’re one point back of second-place San Jose and eight back of division-leading L.A.

    As for everyone else, more specifically the Canucks, Flames and Oilers, well it might be time to start focusing more on the upcoming trade deadline and, beyond that, the draft.

    The Ducks had a terrible start to this season, one that started with so much hype about a team seen as an immediate Stanley Cup contender for 2015-16.

    Count Corey Perry as one who believes those early season struggles could pay off at playoff time.

    And remember all of that talk in October about Bruce Boudreau perhaps at the end of his days as coach of the Ducks?

    At the end of October, GM Bob Murray vowed to be patient despite such a poor start just a few months after being one win away from the Stanley Cup Final last June.

    There is still plenty of hockey remaining in the regular season. The Ducks have 32 games remaining on their schedule. But it appears that patience Murray showed in October is paying off.

    Jets can’t complete the comeback after miserable start against Hurricanes

    Colorado Avalanche v Winnipeg Jets
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    WINNIPEG, Manitoba (AP) Phillip Di Giuseppe, Andrej Nestrasil, Jordan Staal and Justin Faulk scored in the first period, and the Carolina Hurricanes held on for a 5-3 victory over the Winnipeg Jets on Friday night.

    The Hurricanes scored four times on their first nine shots, taking a 4-0 lead just 10:04 into the game. Nestrasil added another goal in the third period, and Cam Ward made 33 saves. Staal and Joakim Nordstrom each had a pair of assists.

    Alexander Burmistrov, Andrew Ladd and Blake Wheeler scored for Winnipeg.

    Jets rookie Connor Hellebuyck allowed three goals while facing only six shots before being replaced by Michael Hutchinson after Staal’s power-play goal just 4:33 in. Hutchinson, who hadn’t played since a 4-1 loss in Anaheim on Jan. 3, finished with 21 saves.

    The loss wrapped up Winnipeg’s season-high six-game homestand, which included just one victory.

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    Carolina’s first goal came after the Jets turned over the puck and Di Giuseppe scored on a sharp-angled shot at 1:43.

    Hellebuyck then kicked out a bad rebound and Nestrasil tallied his 16th goal of the season in his 100th NHL game from almost the same angle at 3:05.

    With Byfuglien in the penalty box for delay of game, Staal’s shot beat Hellebuyck, ending the young goalie’s night.

    Faulk made it 4-0 when his team’s third shot at Hutchinson went between his pads at 10:04.

    The Jets came out at a faster, more aggressive pace to start the second period and it paid off with 1:25 remaining.

    Andrew Copp and Chris Thorburn were battling a pair of Hurricanes behind the net when Thorburn poked the puck out front as he was falling and Burmistrov got his sixth goal of the season.

    Ladd, who hit the post late in the second period, banged home a rebound with Hurricanes winger Jeff Skinner off for hooking at 9:07 of the third.

    Byfuglien one-timed a pass from Nikolaj Ehlers that Wheeler deflected to make it 4-3 with 6:12 remaining.

    Nestrasil sealed the win with his second goal at 18:40.

    NOTES: Ehlers’ assist extended his point streak to six games, with four goals and four assists. … Winnipeg heads out for a two-game road trip starting in Colorado on Saturday. Carolina visits Montreal on Sunday.