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.

Sharks defeat Hurricanes, but Vlasic exits game with lower-body injury

Marc-Edouard Vlasic
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Talk about the ideal start.

Patrick Marleau scored just 12 seconds into the first period and the San Jose Sharks had a 2-1 lead before Saturday’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes was even four minutes old.

The Sharks held on for a 4-3 win over the Hurricanes, Kevin Labanc‘s goal late in the second period standing as the winner, as the two teams traded three goals in the span of just over three minutes.

It remains awfully crowded in the Pacific Division. The Flames lead with 34 points, while the Sharks, Ducks and Oilers are all one point back.

The victory came with bad news for the Sharks.

Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic left the game in the second period and didn’t return. He’s now day-to-day with a lower-body injury, according to coach Pete DeBoer following the win.

Flames dominate the Jets to take over top spot in the Pacific Division

CALGARY, AB - DECEMBER 10: Dougie Hamilton #27 of the Calgary Flames celebrates after scoring his team's third goal against the Winnipeg Jets during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on December 10, 2016 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
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Is there a changing of the guard in the Pacific Division?

It’s the middle of December and the Calgary Flames, now with six straight wins, lead the same division dominated last season by the California powers in Anaheim, San Jose and L.A. The Edmonton Oilers have been inconsistent at times this season but they are right there, too, one point back. Same goes for the Ducks. The Sharks and Kings are definitely in contention.

There is plenty of hockey remaining in the season. Plenty of chances for change in the NHL’s division standings, including in the Pacific. But there’s no denying the Flames are on an impressive run.

Late last month, they had a particularly frustrating loss to Philadelphia and coach Glen Gulutzan voiced his displeasure about it. They followed that up the next day with an overtime loss to the Islanders. Prior to that weekend, there had been rumblings about the future of Gulutzan with the club, despite being only a few months into his tenure.

But since then, the Flames have yet to lose. They continued their winning streak with a convincing 6-2 victory over the visiting Jets on Saturday.

Dougie Hamilton — remember all that trade speculation surrounding the Flames defenseman and Brian Burke’s classic response? — had two goals for Calgary. Chad Johnson was solid in net again. It was a pretty dominant performance all around.

Frustrating night for the Jets and it showed when Dustin Byfuglien dropped the gloves with Garnet Hathaway late in the third period.

There are more difficult tests ahead for Calgary.

The Flames face the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday and then the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday.

In previous seasons, a Friday night game between the Flames and Blue Jackets in the middle of December might not garner much interest. But they are both among the hottest teams in the league right now and it’s likely not many would’ve predicted that a short time ago.

Video: Perlini’s first NHL goal helps lift Coyotes over Predators

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 10:  Brendan Perlini #29 of the Arizona Coyotes reacts alongside Calle Jarnkrok #19 of the Nashville Predators after Perlini scored his first career goal during the second period of the NHL game at Gila River Arena on December 10, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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The Arizona Coyotes have moved out of last place in the NHL’s overall standings, courtesy a 4-1 win over the Nashville Predators on Saturday.

Minus forward Max Domi, placed on IR and expected to be out on a week-to-week basis, the Coyotes got a 44-save performance from goalie Mike Smith and recently recalled forward Brendan Perlini pitched in with his first career NHL goal.

That goal gave Arizona a 3-1 lead. Thanks to the play of Smith, the Coyotes wouldn’t relinquish the lead, snapping a six-game losing skid.

It wasn’t all good news for the Coyotes.

Defenseman Connor Murphy played only 4:12. He left the game with an upper-body injury and didn’t return. Per reports, Murphy is considered day-to-day at this point.

The Blue Jackets just keep on winning

COLUMBUS, OH - OCTOBER 15:  Zach Werenski #8 of the Columbus Blue Jackets is congratulated by Cam Atkinson #13 of the Columbus Blue Jackets after scoring his first career NHL goal during the third period of the game against the San Jose Sharks on October 15, 2016 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. San Jose defeated Columbus 3-2. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) Jack Johnson, Cam Atkinson and Seth Jones each had a goal and an assist as the Columbus Blue Jackets beat the New York Islanders 6-2 on Saturday night for their sixth straight win.

Josh Anderson, Brandon Saad and Lukas Sedlak also scored for Columbus and Sergei Bobrovsky had 25 saves.

Josh Bailey and John Tavares scored for New York, which had earned a point in a season-high five straight games (4-0-1). Jaroslav Halak made 32 saves until he was pulled after the Blue Jackets scored four consecutive goals in the third period.

Anderson put Columbus ahead 3-2 at 2:19 when he picked off a defensive pass and banged it in from the slot seconds after coming onto the ice for his shift.

Saad, Sedlak and Jones scored in a 5-minute span to make it 6-2 with 5:37 to go.

New York’s third-string goalie Jean-Francois Berube then replaced Halak and stopped the one shot he faced in his season debut.

The Islanders came out quick and it took Columbus a while to get going. New York took a 1-0 lead 5:59 in when a defensive pass by the Blue Jackets’ Sam Gagner at the boards was deflected by Bailey, and the popup was bobbled by Bobrovsky into the net. Bailey was given credit for an unassisted goal.

The Blue Jackets tied it up on a power play with 6:01 left in the first when Johnson wound up from just inside the neutral zone and fired a bullet past Halak. It was Johnson’s first goal of the season.

Columbus’ Brandon Dubinsky and New York’s Travis Harmonic went to the penalty box for 5 minutes each when both threw down the gloves and threw punches near the end of the first quarter.

Columbus took a 2-1 lead when a speeding Atkinson took a pass from Johnson in the neutral zone and beat Halak on the breakaway 10:16 into the second. New York tied with 7:28 left in the period when Tavares lifted the puck over Bobrovsky’s pad from in front of the net.

The Blue Jackets took off in the third period.

After Anderson gave Columbus the lead for good, Saad made it 4-2 on a wrister from the high slot at 9:23.

Sedlak, who scored his first NHL goal on Friday night, scored another when he tapped in a loose puck with 7:21 to go. Jones capped it with just over 5 1/2 minutes remaining.