Around The Rink – October 9th

The last two days of the NHL season felt like an appetizer for what’s to come today. The NHL is still in Europe with two more games getting the afternoon delight treatment. Meanwhile, the rest of the league comes to the table to check things out.

Oddly enough, a handful of teams are playing the second day of back-to-back games already. Slow down guys, the season goes until April. Anyhow, here’s today’s schedule with all times set to Eastern because we’re fancy that way.

12:00 pm

Phoenix @ Boston (Prague, Czech Republic)

It’s the first game for both teams as the NHL takes over the Czech Republic. Boston might be the home team today, but expect the Coyotes to get a lot of love with Czechs Petr Prucha, Martin Hanzal, and Radim Vrbata. David Krejci of Boston is sure to have a lot of fans himself.

3:00 pm

Columbus @ San Jose (Stockholm, Sweden)

Columbus will look to bounce back after dropping a tough one yesterday. They’ll also look to be a bit better on their special teams after giving up two power play goals.

7:00 pm

NY Rangers @ Buffalo

The new look Rangers look to get off to a big start in Buffalo while the Sabres look to build off an oddly-inspiring victory over Ottawa last night. I say that because they just never beat Ottawa.

Ottawa @ Toronto

The Leafs already took care of one rival team on Thursday beating Montreal. Can they go two-for-two to start the year?

Dallas @ NY Islanders

No Streit, no Okposo, no Schremp, but Rick DiPietro will get the start in goal. Odd, isn’t it? Dallas looks to go 2-0 on their season-starting east coast swing.

Montreal @ Pittsburgh

Don’t suppose the Pens faithful will have anything left over to yell at the Habs do you? The Pens look to break in their new arena with a win while the Habs look to bounce back after a lack-luster effort on Thursday against Toronto.

New Jersey @ Washington

The Caps have their home opener and both teams come into this one off of tough losses last night. Alex Ovechkin was kept off the score sheet against Atlanta, meanwhile his Russian friend Ilya Kovalchuk debuted with two assists. Expect big games from both of them.

7:30 pm

Atlanta @ Tampa Bay

Atlanta looks to get off to a hot start after beating Washington last night but will have to go through the rebuilt and well-hyped Lightning.

8:00 pm

Philadelphia @ St. Louis

St. Louis will be showing off their statue of Brett Hull before the game. No word on whether or not Chris Pronger will try to deliver a body check to it in reverence for his past efforts in St. Louis.

Anaheim @ Nashville

No Sergei Kostitsyn for Nashville, meanwhile no Andy Sutton for Anaheim. If the Preds were hoping to impress the hometown fans with an offensive explosion, they’ve got the right team to open up against. Jonas Hiller could be a very busy guy all year for the Ducks.

8:30 pm

Detroit @ Chicago

The Blackhawks’ home opener means lots of pomp and circumstance for the home team as well as the raising of the team’s Stanley Cup championship banner. Don’t think that it was a coincidence that their hated rivals from Detroit just happened to be scheduled for this game. Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson will likely miss the game with back spasms.

10:00 pm

Los Angeles @ Vancouver

More pageantry in Vancouver, this time of a self-congratulatory kind with the Canucks celebrating their 40th anniversary this season. Both teams will be in throwback jerseys, with the Kings wearing these purple beauties from a bygone era.

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    Sharks flip the script, tie Penguins heading into third period

    PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 30:  Tomas Hertl #48 of the San Jose Sharks celebrates with teammates after scoring a second period goal against Matt Murray #30 of the Pittsburgh Penguins (not pictured) in Game One of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Consol Energy Center on May 30, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    The Pittsburgh Penguins dominated the San Jose Sharks in the first period of Game 1, no doubt about it.

    Even so, the Sharks entered the middle frame down 2-0, and responded rather than shriveling up. They basically switched roles with the Penguins in the second period, ultimately tying things up 2-2.

    The first goal was one Matt Murray would probably like back (even more than a goalie would want any goal back, mind you), as Tomas Hertl beat him five-hole for a power-play goal.

    Witness the Sharks’ first-ever goal in a Stanley Cup Final:

    Fittingly, a grizzled veteran and longtime face of the Sharks’ franchise tied it up, as Patrick Marleau made it 2-2 with a clever wraparound:

    Which team will win the third period? Could we see overtime? Find out on NBC.

    Report: Blues will bring back Hitchcock with one-year deal

    SAN JOSE, CA - MAY 21:  Ken Hitchcock of the St. Louis Blues walks on the ice in game four of the Western Conference Finals against the San Jose Sharks during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at SAP Center on May 21, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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    Yes, the St. Louis Blues fell short of the Stanley Cup Final, but they still broke some playoff hexes in 2015-16. Apparently Blues management saw enough to bring back Ken Hitchcock.

    That’s the word from Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman and Nick Kypreos, who report that the Blues are expected to announce a one-year deal with the veteran head coach on Tuesday.

    Friedman wonders if these one-year pacts (Hitchcock was on one for 2015-16 as well) may chase away other staffers:

    When asked about these scenarios, Hitchcock seemed like he was in favor of experiencing a perpetual “contract year.”

    “I scare myself because I think if I take long-term deal, I’m gonna get sloppy,” Hitchcock told Hockey Central at Noon and Sportsnet back in mid-May. “I want to stay on one-year deals.

    For plenty of fans, it makes perfect sense to bring Hitchcock back after the Blues took steps forward.

    Others wonder if Hitchcock’s style (which leans toward dump-and-chase and “gritty” hockey more than some other teams) may leave the Blues in the dust, however.

    That’s a debate for a bar or a message board, yet one can see deeper logic in giving Hitchcock one more shot.

    While the Blues have decisions to make – including what to do with free agent captain David Backes – the team is also structured to make another run. Brian Elliott, Jake Allen, Kevin Shattenkirk and Colton Parayko all have deals that will expire after 2016-17, and each contract is a bargain.

    If St. Louis believes that Hitchcock is the right fit for that personnel group, then it makes sense to give him another go.

    Crosby, Rust and Sheary lead Penguins’ early charge

    PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 30:  Bryan Rust #17 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates with Evgeni Malkin #71 after scoring a first period goal against the San Jose Sharks in Game One of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Consol Energy Center on May 30, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
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    Generally speaking, the strategic talk heading into Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final focused on the San Jose Sharks’ deeper defense vs. the Pittsburgh Penguins’ blinding speed.

    It’s very early, but so far: advantage Penguins.

    Pittsburgh came roaring out of the gate in front of a boisterous Consol Energy Center crowd, but it took them a while to break through.

    Once the Penguins did, they raced ahead to a 2-0 lead thanks to goals just 1:02 apart.

    First, Bryan Rust kept his red-hot streak going with the 1-0 tally.

    Moments later, Sidney Crosby made a beautiful pass to Conor Sheary to put the Penguins up two.

    There were a few other moments in which the Sharks looked like they were really struggling with the Penguins’ speed, but Martin Jones made some saves that could be big if San Jose can gather its wits.

    Beard breakdown: Burns vs. Thornton (Video)

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    Sometimes you need to ask important questions, breaking down positional battles and strategies.

    Other times you can’t help but ask “Which guy has the better beard?”

    In the case of Joe Thornton and Brent Burns, the San Jose Sharks boast two players with elite beards to match their elite skills. “Jumbo Joe” drew a lot of attention for his wild facial hair, yet Burns may very well have inspired Thornton to go heavy-whisker in the first place.

    The video above breaks down those two beards, in case you’re itching for a comparison.

    One thing that sparks little debate? Both players’ wives are real troopers.