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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    Zetterberg on pace to play 1,000th game in Joe Louis Arena farewell

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    Barring injury, Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg will get the opportunity to make his 1,000th NHL game even more special.

    Detroit head coach Jeff Blashill confirmed today that Zetterberg will play tonight and tomorrow in Carolina, putting the 36-year-old on pace to play his 1,000th game on Apr. 9, the date of the final Wings game at Joe Louis Arena.

    The Wings, who will miss the playoffs for the first time since 1990, have eight games left in their regular season. They host New Jersey on Apr. 9.

    Tonight’s game was originally scheduled for Dec. 19, but had to be postponed due to poor ice conditions at PNC Arena.

    Isles sign Northeastern captain Stevens

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    John Stevens, who just wrapped a four-year career at Northeastern University, has signed a two-year, entry-level deal with the Islanders, the club announced on Monday.

    Stevens, 22, went undrafted but emerged as a valuable player for the Huskies, culminating with a senior season in which he served as captain and averaged better than a point per game (28 in 25 contests).

    Stevens is the son of longtime L.A. Kings associate coach John Stevens, who formerly served as the bench boss in Philly.

    A third member 0f the Stevens clan, Nolan, also played this season at Northeastern — his junior campaign — and was taken by St. Louis in the fifth round of last year’s draft.

    McElhinney to start for Leafs tomorrow

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    Curtis McElhinney will start in goal for the Maple Leafs when they host Florida tomorrow.

    Which means Toronto’s regular starter, Frederik Andersen, will not.

    Andersen, hurt Saturday in Buffalo, only lasted 20 minutes of practice this morning. The Toronto Star, citing a Leafs source, is reporting that Andersen “took a blow to his jaw from a player in Saturday’s 5-2 loss to the Sabres.”

    McElhinney is 4-5-0 with a .919 save percentage in 10 appearances for the Leafs this season. He told reporters that tomorrow will be the biggest start of his NHL career.

    It remains to be seen who will back up McElhinney against the Panthers. The Leafs have recalled goalie Garret Sparks from the AHL on an emergency basis. All three netminders were on the ice today.

    Update:

    Expect Sparks to be the back-up tomorrow.

    Toronto has a three-point playoff cushion, with eight games remaining.

    The Leafs also recalled forward Kasperi Kapanen, the 22nd overall draft pick in 2014. Kapanen, 20, has 18 goals and 25 assists in 43 games for the Marlies this season. He’s expected to replace Ben Smith on the fourth line, alongside Brian Boyle and Matt Martin.

    Habs sign d-man Mete, who ‘does everything’ for junior team

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    Victor Mete, Montreal’s fourth-round pick at last year’s draft, has signed his three-year, entry-level deal, the club announced on Monday.

    Mete, 18, is in his third year with OHL powerhouse London, and finished this season with 15 goals and 44 points in 50 games. He’s developed a reputation as a terrific skater, and often plays alongside fellow Knights d-man Olli Juolevi, who the Canucks took fifth overall at last year’s draft.

    London assistant coach Dylan Hunter had high praise for Mete this season.

    “When it comes to little nuances of his game, stick on puck, knowing when to make a play and when there isn’t a play to just get it out, he’s one of the best there is right now,” Hunter said, per the London Free Press.

    “He does everything for us.”

    Mete has one year of junior eligibility remaining, so it’s likely he’ll be back in London next season. At 5-foot-10 and just 180 pounds, he’s undersized and could use another year of development before turning pro.