Around The Rink: Saturday, October 16th

It’s Saturday and that means it’s a full docket of games, so without further ado, here’s today’s NHL schedule and preview of all the action. Hope you all didn’t have plans that didn’t center around hockey, you’ve got a lot of studying to do. As always, all times listed are Eastern.

6:00 pm

Pittsburgh @ Philadelphia

This one is getting an hour head start so as to not conflict with Game 1 of the NLCS. The Penguins are coming off a win against the Islanders last night but still not looking all that smooth. Philly will hope to take advantage of that and the good sports karma brought to town by the Phillies. Worth watching here is seeing if either team can snap out of their miserable power play doldrums.

7:00 pm

Ottawa @ Montreal

Hockey Night in Canada gets this battle featuring the Senators having to start Brian Elliott while Pascal Leclaire is out with an injury. The Habs will be looking to stay hot after a strong defensive effort in a win over Buffalo last night. Ottawa, meanwhile is still trying to get themselves figured out. Cracking the Montreal defense would do them a world of good.

Boston @ New Jersey

Boston hits the ice once again after their long layoff after returning from Europe. The Bruins haven’t played since Sunday so jet lag shouldn’t be an issue for them. Being rusty may be an issue though and going against a frustrated New Jersey team might not make for the best recipe for success. Expect New Jersey to come out firing after losing last night to Colorado 3-2 despite putting up 43 shots on goal.

Colorado @ NY Islanders

Speaking of the Avs, they’ll be hoping to keep the number of shots on goal down against the Islanders who come back home after dropping a tough one in overtime to Pittsburgh. Colorado’s tenacious high-paced skating should make for a challenge for the Islanders.

Tampa Bay @ Florida

The unbeaten Lightning will be trying to ruin the Panthers home opener in Sunrise. The Lightning are off to a great start going 3-0-0 to start the season. While the Panthers are just 1-2-0, they very easily could’ve finished their western Canada road trip 3-0 with a little bit of luck. The Panthers may not have all the talent in the world, but they’re playing solid hockey. Believe it or not, this one could turn out to be pretty good.

8:00 pm

Washington @ Nashville

Even though the Preds are without starting goalie Pekka Rinne, it hasn’t stopped them from winning. Of course, having to deal with the high-powered Capitals should make for a good test for Barry Trotz’s team. If they can keep Ovechkin and company under control, the buzz about the Predators will only grow.

Columbus @ Minnesota

After the Blue Jackets got virtually run off their own ice against Chicago last night, they get to make the trek to Minnesota to play the schizophrenic Wild. Will the Wild team that attacked and took it to the Oilers in the second half of their last game show up or will the team that struggled and couldn’t put together many chances rear its ugly head? Bet on both happening. It’ll be up to Columbus to try and take advantage of the Wild while they’re figuring out their game.

8:30 pm

Buffalo @ Chicago

You may have heard a little bit about this one. Hawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson makes his return from a two-game suspension for hitting Sabres forward Jason Pominville from behind. Conveniently enough, Hjalmarsson gets to face those very same Sabres in his first game back. The Sabres are struggling to find their way right now, and getting motivated for this game could be the thing they need to snap out of their early season funk.

St. Louis @ Dallas

The Stars are off to a nice start and so are the Blues. Jaroslav Halak has done very well so far, even in spite of dropping his last start against Nashville. Meanwhile Kari Lehtonen is making Stars fans forget about Marty Turco, meanwhile Brad Richards is picking up where left off last year scoring points at will. It’s a shame that Cam Janssen is out for St. Louis, otherwise we could’ve seen the first Twitter-arranged NHL fight between him and Stars enforcer Krys Barch.

9:00 pm

Detroit @ Phoenix

It’s the Coyotes home opener and the fans could be in an even more festive mood considering their team is close to being sold to an investor looking to keep the team in Arizona. As for the game, it’ll mark the first meeting between these two since Detroit beat Phoenix in the first round of the playoffs last year. Detroit will be looking to rebound after a stinkbomb of a game in Dallas the other night.

10:00 pm

Edmonton @ Calgary

So they meet again. They seemed to play each other non-stop in the preseason and now they’re already going at each other for the second time this season. Nothing like getting those rivalry games out of the way early I suppose. When these two faced off on opening night, the Oilers routed Calgary and beat them up along the way. Calgary is mired in some miserable play and a game with Edmonton might be what they need to get themselves figured out.

10:30 pm

Atlanta @ San Jose

Atlanta is coming into the Sharks home opener after coming back to beat Anaheim in a shootout last night. They’ll need all of their magic to handle the Sharks in a game that will see more than a few former Blackhawks potentially facing off against each other with Antti Niemi playing goal for San Jose while Ben Eager, Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd, and Brent Sopel hold down Atlanta’s roster. It’d be a bit of a bummer if Niemi doesn’t start for the Sharks now wouldn’t it?

Report: Randy Sexton to become Sabres’ assistant GM

Getty
1 Comment

New general manager Jason Botterill continued his restructuring of the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday by hiring one of his former co-workers from Pittsburgh.

TSN’s Bob McKenzie reports that Penguins director of amateur scouting Randy Sexton will be joining the Sabres to serve as their assistant general manager and also the general manager for their AHL team, the Rochester Americans.

Sexton has seemingly been at top of Botterill’s list since he left the Penguins front office to run the Sabres back in May.

Sexton had been a key member of the Penguins’ scouting staff since 2010. During his time in the front office the team drafted several key players to their past two Stanley Cup winning teams, including Matt Murray, Jake Guentzel, Bryan Rust, Olli Maatta and Scott Wilson.

Following a disappointing 2016-17 season that saw the team take a step backwards in its rebuild, the entire Sabres organization has been overhauled with a new general manager (Botterill), assistant general manager (Sexton), head coach (Phil Housley) and a new coach coming to the AHL team.

Fletcher isn’t too worried about Wild’s cap situation

Getty
Leave a comment

A lot of eyes were on the Minnesota Wild at the NHL draft watching to see if they would make a move involving one of their defensemen.

No move happened (at least not yet).

Part of the issue for the Wild — and the reason for the trade speculation — is their need to re-sign restricted free agents Nino Niederreiter and Mikael Granlund this offseason, while also making any other necessary additions to the team. They have to do all of that staying under the NHL’s salary cap.

As of Saturday, the Wild have around $14 million in salary cap space (via CapFriendly) with only 15 players under contract for next season, while the new deals for Niederreiter and Granlund are almost certain to eat up a significant portion of that remaining salary cap space.

That is going to make things tight under the cap because they certainly do not want to let either of those RFA’s get away. That led to speculation that a defenseman such as Marco Scandella or Mathew Dumba could be on the move this weekend.

But general manager Chuck Fletcher doesn’t sound too concerned about the situation and seems convinced the team can open the season the way it is currently constructed with a few minor moves to fill out the fourth line.

Here is Fletcher, via the Star-Tribune:

“I’m not too worried about that. We have some young guys ready to make the team that will carry good cap hits. We need to fill a couple spots probably in free agency, but again, we’re looking more at fourth-line type players. We like our group, the defense is the strength of our team, we’ve got three lines up front that we like.”

The Wild were determined to keep all of their defensemen out of the hands of the Vegas Golden Knights at the expansion draft and were willing to part with prospect Alex Tuch to steer the Golden Knights toward Erik Haula.

Overall, Minnesota’s roster is pretty solid as it stands so it doesn’t need a ton of work. They have an excellent goaltender, a deep defense and a balanced group of forwards making up their top-three lines so if they have to stick with the status quo it wouldn’t be the worst situation to be in. They were one of the best teams in the league until a late-season slump cost them the top spot in the Central Division. It carried over into the playoffs were they lost to the St. Louis Blues in five games.

Hextall staying patient in Flyers’ goalie search

Getty
6 Comments

The Philadelphia Flyers were hoping to add a veteran goaltender this weekend to complement Michal Neuvirth and as of Saturday evening they had yet to accomplish that goal.

General manager Ron Hextall does not seem too concerned about that development and is leaning on the fact it seems to be a buyer’s market at the position.

“I don’t know what’s going to present itself. My comfort level is there’s a number of goalies out there. Not six No. 1 spots out there and one goalie out there. I have comfort in that,” Hextall said, via Adam Kimelman of NHL.com.

“We’re still doing our due diligence and in the end it’ll probably come down to the guys we like and then we’ll look at term and length. If we like this guy and he’s asking unreal term or whatever we’ll go somewhere else.”

He also added that Steve Mason is still in the mix to potentially return, even though most signs point to that not happening.

So far this offseason a number of goalies have already changed teams, with Ben Bishop going to the Dallas Stars, Mike Smith going to the Calgary Flames and Marc-Andre Fleury being selected in the expansion draft by the Vegas Golden Knights.

Still, Hextall isn’t wrong in his assessment of the goaltending market because there are more good goalies available than there are starting spots.

Just about every team in the league right now is settled with its starting goalie. Other than maybe the Winnipeg Jets there really isn’t anybody else out there along with the Flyers that is in the market to find a No. 1 goalie. That leaves the Flyers with what should be their pick of potential starters (or platoon partners for Neuvirth).

The unrestricted free agent market includes Ryan Miller, Brian Elliott, Jonathan Bernier and Mason.

As of this moment the Flyers’ goaltending duo would be Neuvirth and rookie Anthony Stolarz, a combination that Hextall did not seem entirely comfortable with given Stolarz’s inexperience and Neuvirth’s injury history, so he seems determined to bring in somebody else to help solidify the position.

It is just a matter who it is going to be and how much it costs to acquire. He is certainly going to have plenty of options over the next week.

The Neuvirth/Mason duo was a fantastic value for the Flyers two years ago, but due to injury and just all-around poor play everything kind of fell apart for them this past season.

It was a big factor in what turned out to be an extremely disappointing season for the Flyers.

McPhee says Golden Knights ‘accomplished a lot of things’ in first draft

Getty
2 Comments

No team was busier at the NHL draft this weekend than the expansion Vegas Golden Knights.

Armed with 13 draft picks thanks to their dealings in the expansion draft, the Golden Knights began the process of building the real future of their team. It started on Friday night when they kept all three of their first-round selections and used them to select a pair of centers along with a puck-moving defenseman. They continued the process on Saturday with the remainder of their picks.

A quick look at the selections indicates McPhee tried to begin by building his roster down the middle by selecting six centers, two defensemen and a pair of goalies.

“We accomplished a lot of things in this draft,” McPhee said, via Steve Carp of the Las Vegas Review Journal. “We got some skill, we got some size and we got some goaltending.”

Their entire draft haul ended up as follows

1 (6) — Cody Glass, center

1 (13) — Nick Suzuki, center

1 (15) — Erik Brannstrom, defense

2 (34) — Nicolas Hague, defense

2 (31) — Jake Leschyshyn, center

3 (65) — Jonas Rondbjerg, right wing

4 (96) — Maksim Zhukov, goalie

5 (127) — Lucas Elvenes, center/right wing

5 (142) — Jonathan Dugan, left wing

6 (158) — Nick Campoli, center

6 (161) — Jiri Patera, goalie

7 (189) — Ben Jones, center

Along with those picks, they also traded one of their second-round picks (No. 45 overall) to the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for prospect Keegan Kolesar, a 6-2, 223-point forward that is ready to make the jump to pro hockey after averaging a point-per-game the past two seasons in the Western Hockey League.

Size did seem to be a common trend with their picks as eight of their selections were listed as 6′ or taller, including Hague, a 6-5, 207-pound defenseman.

While the inaugural Golden Knights roster will be made up primarily of players taken in the expansion draft this past week, most of them will not be with the team for more than a year or two as the organization begins to take shape.

Some of them probably will not even begin the season on the team as McPhee continues to wheel and deal.

This weekend is where the real building of the organization started.