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.

Treliving: Flames paid price in Hamonic deal, but ‘you can never have enough top d-men’

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Two years ago, Brad Treliving acquired Dougie Hamilton at the draft. On Saturday, he picked up Travis Hamonic from the New York Islanders.

Those are two moves that have significantly helped the Flames build a formidable top-four defense in the Western Conference, and it’s already been suggested it could be in the conversation with Nashville’s group that includes Ryan Ellis, P.K. Subban, Roman Josi and Mattias Ekholm.

Yes, the Flames paid a price — first and second-round picks in next year’s NHL Draft and a second-round pick in either the 2019 or 2020 NHL Draft.

But after making the playoffs this season and then making a recent trade with Arizona to acquire goalie Mike Smith, the Flames seem to feel they’re in their window to win now. Today’s move further solidifies that notion.

“You’ve got to give to get,” said Treliving, the Flames general manager, of the Hamonic deal. “You hate paying the price. But we looked at a lot of things: We looked at the makeup of our team, where he fits. He’s a right shot. We think he fits in real good with our team.

“I like the looks of our top-four. He moves pucks. He’s a character kid. He’s got some bite to him.”

The Flames now have their top four defensemen locked into contracts through at least 2020, which was one of the important factors in acquiring Hamonic, according to Treliving. Mark Giordano, who turns 34 in October, is signed through 2022 and Hamilton is signed through 2021.

Treliving lauded the puck-moving ability of Giordano, Hamilton and T.J. Brodie — who combined for 31 goals and 125 points, led by Hamilton’s 13-goal, 50-point campaign. But, he said, the move to acquire Hamonic brings added toughness and versatility into the group.

“He checks a lot of boxes for us,” he said. “I think you build up through the middle. This, to me, solidifies our defense. I like our center ice position. There’s depth there and we’ll keep tweaking at it, but I like the looks of that defense.”

As a result of injuries, Hamonic played in only 49 games last season.

With the way Hamonic plays, Treliving admitted there may be greater risk for injury, but the Flames don’t have any concerns about that heading into next season.

The Flames also have some young, up-and-coming defensemen in their system, most notably 20-year-old prospect Oliver Kylington, who fell to 60th overall in 2015, even though there was talk he could be a first-round pick.

“I think we’ve got some young kids coming. It allows them to progress and develop at their own timeline,” said Treliving. “But you can never have enough defensemen. You can never have enough top defensemen.”

Snow open to trading picks, prospects to improve roster now

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CHICAGO — Garth Snow may not be done dealing.

After trading defenseman Travis Hamonic to Calgary, the New York Islanders’ general manager said the return from the Flames could be used as “currency” to bolster the roster.

The Isles received a first-round pick in 2018 and a second-round pick in 2018, plus other considerations, for Hamonic.

“I don’t envision anything happening here in the next two days, though that could always change,” said Snow. “We feel we have a good hockey team. We have a team that’s built for now and for the future. I mean, you look at our prospects and the draft picks, we also have the ability to use some of those assets to bring in a player that can improve our club in the near term.”

Snow has reportedly had his eye on Colorado forward Matt Duchene, but so far has been unable to make a deal with the Avalanche.

As for trading Hamonic, Snow said it was made more palatable by the “great depth” the Isles have got on the back end.

That said, it was a tough, emotional decision.

“I think the world of him, on and off the ice,” Snow said of Hamonic. “Just a first-class player and first-class person.”

Snow would not divulge if the move was related to Hamonic’s trade request from 2015.

“I think he’s in a good place to play for his family, and the Islanders got a solid return,” said Snow. “I think it’s a win-win for both teams.”

Report: Rangers to hire Lindy Ruff as an assistant coach

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More coaching news on Saturday.

Lindy Ruff’s time with the Dallas Stars ended in April following a disappointing regular season, but it appears he’s found another coaching gig in the NHL.

It is, however, a different role than what he’s been used to for the past 20 years.

Per Larry Brooks of the New York Post, a deal has not been done yet, however, Ruff will join the Rangers as an assistant coach on Alain Vigneault’s staff. He’ll reportedly replace Jeff Beukeboom and will be in charge of New York’s defense.

Ruff certainly brings experience, with 1,165 games coached in the NHL. He’s been a head coach since 1997 when he joined the Buffalo Sabres, and hasn’t been an assistant since a four-year tenure with the Florida Panthers from 1993 to 1997.

The Rangers’ defense has undergone notable changes this offseason, with Dan Girardi getting bought out of his six-year, $33 million contract. With about $20 million now in cap space, New York may not be done making moves to their blue line this offseason.

The Rangers made a blockbuster trade with the Coyotes on Friday, sending Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta to the Coyotes in exchange for the seventh overall pick and 21-year-old defenseman Anthony DeAngelo.

Vegas parlays second-round pick into prospect forward Keegan Kolesar

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The Vegas Golden Knights had a surplus of draft picks in the opening two rounds this weekend, and they used one of those to make a deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday.

The Golden Knights sent the 45th overall pick in this year’s draft to Columbus in exchange for 20-year-old prospect forward Keegan Kolesar, who has spent the last four years with the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds.

In each of the last two years, Kolesar has put up good numbers, scoring a junior career high of 30 goals and 61 points in 64 games in 2015-16. He had 60 points this past season, but played in 10 fewer games due to a sports hernia surgery, so he was on pace to far exceed his totals from the previous campaign.

He was most impressive for the Thunderbirds in the 2017 WHL playoffs. In 19 games, he scored 12 goals and 31 points. Great production for that time of year. But in addition to those numbers, what may be most intriguing to Vegas is that Kolesar brings tremendous size down the right wing. Standing 6-foot-2 and 223 pounds, his physical play for the Thunderbirds was lauded during their postseason run, which resulted in a Memorial Cup berth.

“Keegan is one of the most important guys to our success,” Thunderbirds coach Steve Konowalchuk told the Columbus Dispatch. “He could easily have been a co-MVP of the playoffs. Not only does he produce a ton of points, but his physical play has had a huge impact on every playoff series.”

Having turned 20 in April, Kolesar will be eligible to play in the AHL or NHL next season, per the Golden Knights.