Around The Rink – Wednesday, October 13th

Another day is upon us and with it a semi-filled schedule of NHL joy awaits. Many eyes figure to be turned towards Pittsburgh this evening as we’ve got a full-blown Bizarro World situation in effect with the Leafs coming to town. That’s not the only game involving a Canadian team and oozing with intrigue, though. All times listed are Eastern. Some day you’ll all begin to conform to our Easterly ways, I’m just doing my part to help things along.

7:00 pm

New Jersey @ Buffalo

Jason Pominville isn’t expected to play for Buffalo, while the Devils appear ready to go to battle with just 16 skaters after adding Adam Mair to the mix yesterday. Both Mair and Henrik Tallinder make their first appearance in Buffalo with their new teams after leaving the Sabres after last season.

NY Islanders @ Washington

Washington figures to be without forward Marcus Johansson, meanwhile Michal Neuvirth should be in goal once again for the Caps. The Islanders, meanwhile, look to build off of their 6-4 win over the Rangers from Monday. The Isles had an inspired effort against their big rivals, but expect life to be a little bit harder having to try and handle Alex Ovechkin and the Caps.

7:30 pm

Toronto @ Pittsburgh

If we told you one team would be 2-0 and the other 1-2, we’d bet you’d think that the Leafs were starting off the same way they always do by losing while Pittsburgh was busy winning. Guess again, smart guy. See what you get for assuming? You get embarrassed.

Anyhow, the Leafs have gotten their wins by stopping power plays (Leafs are 7-7 on the PK) and getting solid goaltending from Jean-Sebastian Giguere while Phil Kessel does that whole goal-scoring thing. The Pens aren’t playing badly, they’re just getting eked out a bit. Their win over a short-handed Devils team on Monday might be what they needed to get things going.

Tampa Bay @ Montreal

Well, well, well… Hello, intrigue. The Lightning spent the better part of their off-season taking what they wanted from the Canadiens organization in the form of head coach Guy Boucher and both of his assistant coaches who came from the Habs AHL affiliate as well as centerman Dominic Moore and goalie Dan Ellis (although he was a Hab in name only during the off-season). If anyone is going to know how the Canadiens work, it’ll be Boucher. How that translates on the ice we’ll get to find out. Tampa won their only game of the season over Atlanta 5-3. Montreal is 1-1 beating Pittsburgh but losing to Toronto opening night.

8:30 pm

Nashville @ Chicago

Last year’s first round playoff foes square off for the first time this season and Nashville will be going into the game shorthanded in goal. Starter Pekka Rinne is out and Anders Lindback will get the start for the Predators. Chicago will be without the services of defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson serving the first game of his two-game suspension. Expect this one to be a hard-hitting affair.

10:00 pm

Vancouver @ Anaheim

Oh the Anaheim Ducks. They’ve had an abysmal start to the season and things don’t figure to get any easier against the Canucks. At least this time, the fightin’ Ducks have home ice to back them up as this will be their home opener. While the Ducks have been brutal defensively, they’re at least making life miserable for their opponents in other ways by punching everything that moves and fighting everyone. That sort of action doesn’t scare the Canucks. If the Ducks can’t contain the Sedin twins, it could turn into another long, feisty evening for the water fowl.

Video: Ryan Suter doesn’t seem very happy with his coach


As you can see in the video, apparently Ryan Suter doesn’t like being paired with fellow lefty Jonas Brodin.

The Wild defenseman rather openly questioned the coaching staff’s decision-making today after practice.

“Yeah, I don’t know what they’re thinking,” said Suter. “I need to play with a right-handed defenseman. To give me more options. Neutral zone. Offensively. And even coming out of the D zone, it’s not fair to put a guy on his off side.”

Suter didn’t know if the pairings were just for practice or not. The Wild play tomorrow in Chicago. Minnesota has just one win in its last seven games.

Suter also had something to say about that.

“It does no good to pout and get pissed off at each other,” said Suter. “You’ve got to come together and dig out of this. Now’s when you need leadership more than ever. It’s easy to be a coach and a leader when things are going good.”

Yeo, by the way, has not been very happy with the Wild lately.  In fact, one could go so far as to say he’s been acting pretty “pissed off.”

For example, at today’s practice:

The Star Tribune has more on what went down today.

Yeo, you may recall, went a little “nuts” during a Wild practice last season.

Goalie nods: Sparks to make NHL debut for Leafs

Garett Sparks
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We already knew this yesterday, but in case you missed it, Garret Sparks will make his NHL debut in goal for the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight against Edmonton.

Sparks, 22, has been excellent in the AHL this season, going 8-2-1 with a .938 save percentage. He spent most of last season in the ECHL, where he also posted good numbers.

Sparks is getting the nod tonight because James Reimer is hurt and Jonathan Bernier has been struggling badly.

“He’s got an opportunity like lots of kids have had before him and it’s up to him to grab it,” Leafs coach Mike Babcock said, per “He’s got the [second-best] save percentage in the AHL and he’s winning all the time down there. Obviously we’re in need of some saves and we’ll have to play well in front of him for sure. But it’s an opportunity for him.”

Bernier, meanwhile, will have to sit and watch. The 27-year-old has allowed at least four goals in four of his last five starts. His save percentage has fallen all the way to .888.

Anders Nilsson will be in net for the Oilers.


Cam Ward for the Hurricanes. Henrik Lundqvist for the Rangers, who will try not to rely on him so much.

Semyon Varlamov for the Avs. Thomas Greiss for the Isles.

— The Canucks aren’t saying if it’ll be Ryan Miller of Jacob Markstrom. For the Ducks, it’ll be John Gibson.

Vigneault: ‘After three losses in a row, I think we’ve got everybody’s attention’

Alain Vigneault
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Alain Vigneault has maintained for much of the season that the New York Rangers needed to play better.

The head coach said it a week ago, after the Blueshirts had beaten the Predators, 3-0, despite getting outshot, 31-19.

He’d said it a couple of weeks before that, after they’d beaten the Hurricanes in very similar fashion. (Final score: 3-0. Shots: 33-23 for Carolina.)

But as long as the Rangers kept winning, it was tough, according to Vigneault, to get the message across.

“Sometimes, the results might be going your way, so when you’re pointing out certain things, it might be a little bit more challenging for them to understand because the results are so positive,” Vigneault said, per the New York Post.

“But after three losses in a row, I think we’ve got everybody’s attention.”

Derek Stepan‘s injury — he’ll miss 4-6 weeks with broken ribs — has no doubt captured their attention as well. (Oscar Lindberg will center Chris Kreider and Jesper Fast tonight at home to Carolina.)

The Rangers also play Wednesday, in Brooklyn against the Islanders (on NBCSN).

Benn, Holtby and Galchenyuk are NHL’s three stars of the week

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Stars winger Jamie Benn, Capitals goalie Braden Holtby and Canadiens center Alex Galchenyuk have been named the NHL’s three stars for the past week.


Benn shared the League lead in goals (4) and points (6) as the Stars (19-5-0, 38 points) won two of three games to continue their best start to a season in the franchise’s 48-year history.

Holtby posted a 4-0-0 record with a 1.75 goals-against average, .945 save percentage and one shutout to backstop the Capitals (17-5-1, 35 points) to the top of the Metropolitan Division standings.

Galchenyuk tied for first in the NHL with four goals and added one assist to help the Canadiens (18-4-3, 39 points) earn five of a possible six points and reclaim first place in the League standings.

As much as the injuries to Carey Price and Brendan Gallagher have been frustrating for the Canadiens, those are short-term issues that should be forgotten soon enough. Galchenyuk’s play, in contrast, is reason for long-term optimism. The 21-year-old is trending towards becoming the elite No. 1 center the Habs have needed so badly. He’s not there yet, but when’s all said and done, he could turn out to be the best forward (or player, period) taken in the 2012 draft.