Chicago Blackhawks v Buffalo Sabres

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?

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.

NHL schedules hearings for Stars’ Oleksiak, Sens’ Borowiecki after separate incidents

CALGARY, AB - NOVEMBER 10: Jamie Oleksiak #5 of the Dallas Stars in action against the Calgary Flames during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on November 10, 2016 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
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Two NHL players will have disciplinary hearings Sunday with the league’s Department of Player Safety for separate incidents that occurred Saturday.

The league announced Saturday evening that Jamie Oleksiak of the Dallas Stars will have a hearing for an illegal hit to the head of Philly’s Chris VandeVelde during the third period of the Flyers’ win.

There was no penalty called on the play.

The league also announced that Ottawa Senators defenseman Mark Borowiecki will have a hearing Sunday for a boarding penalty he took against Kings forward Tyler Toffoli.

The incident occurred early in the first period. Borowiecki received a major penalty, but remained in the game. Toffoli left the game to undergo concussion protocol, but he did eventually return.