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?

A big night for the rookies and a big win for the Maple Leafs

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William Nylander helped get Toronto started on Thursday, extending his point streak to 10 games — a new Maple Leafs franchise record for a rookie.

Connor Brown finished it with his 17th goal of the season, securing a 4-2 win for the Maple Leafs over the New Jersey Devils.

Toronto has won three in a row and moves three points clear of Boston for third in the Atlantic Division, with a game in hand, which further helps the Maple Leafs’ playoff chances with nine games remaining on their schedule.

Just another big night for Toronto’s impressive crop of rookies.

Auston Matthews had a pair of assists.

— Nylander had a goal and an assist. He set one and tied another franchise rookie record on Thursday.

Mitch Marner had an assist, giving him 40 helpers this season, which ties the franchise rookie record set in 1943-44.

“They’re good players,” said coach Mike Babcock, per the Toronto Star. “I didn’t know Marner would make the team. I knew Matthews and Nylander were good players. I knew Brown and (Zach) Hyman were relentless. I had no idea (Nikita) Zaitsev was as close to how good he is.

“We have lots of good players.”

In May of 2015, Babcock predicted at his introductory press conference that the Maple Leafs would, during their massive rebuild, endure “pain.” This was, he said, to be a long process — a “massive, massive challenge.”

Approaching the two-year anniversary of that event — after all the losing that franchise and its fan base has gone through, which obviously helped them with the Matthews lottery last year — the Maple Leafs are poised to make the playoffs with a nucleus of young players that present even more promise for the future.

“We just want to get in to the playoffs, and give ourselves a chance,” continued Babcock. “We’re playing well, and finding a way to win games. That’s what we have to continue to do.”

Capitals defeat Blue Jackets in clash of Metropolitan Division powers

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WASHINGTON (AP) T.J. Oshie scored the shootout winner as the Washington Capitals overcame a stellar performance from Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky to beat the Blue Jackets 2-1 Thursday night.

Despite 44 saves from Bobrovsky, the Capitals reached 104 points and extended their lead atop the Metropolitan Division and NHL standings. Oshie engendered memories of his Sochi Olympic shootout performance by again beating Bobrovsky, the goalie he scored on four times in six chances that day.

Dmitry Orlov finally cracked Bobrovsky early in the third period on Washington’s 35th shot of the game. Orlov’s goal tied the score after Seth Jones beat Braden Holtby on a wild scramble early in the third for his first goal since Feb. 7.

Holtby had 29 saves in regulation and overtime and three more in the shootout to pick up his 38th victory of the season, one shy of Bobrovsky for the league lead.

A showdown between two of the top three teams in the league jockeying for position atop the Metropolitan Division lacked a playoff feel. But the matchup of two likely Vezina Trophy finalists lived up to that billing as Bobrovsky and Holtby went back and forth with big saves.

Bobrovsky entered the night first in wins, goals-against average and save percentage with Holtby second, second and third in those categories. The 2013 Vezina winner could also be an MVP contender this season given his value to Columbus’ third playoff berth in franchise history.

“When he’s in his game it’s very hard to score on him,” said Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, who had eight shots stopped by one of his Russian national teammates. “He likes the big moments, he likes pressure. His worth ethic is unbelievable. … In my opinion he’s one of the best goalies in the league right now.”

Methot ‘out for weeks’ after suffering a shattered finger from Crosby clash

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The Ottawa Senators lost defenseman Marc Methot for the bulk of Thursday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and it seems he’ll be out for quite a while longer, too.

Methot was injured on a Sidney Crosby slash across the hand in the first period. He didn’t return to the game and there was no penalty called on the Penguins captain.

Footage showed the gruesome aftermath of the slash — Methot’s finger on his left hand bloodied and injured as he skated back to the bench.

“His finger is shattered and he’s out for weeks,” said Senators head coach Guy Boucher, per the Ottawa Sun.

Methot immediately confronted Crosby after the slash, which occurred as the Sens blue liner went to dump the puck into the Pittsburgh zone late in the first period.

The Senators got revenge, scoring a 2-1 shootout victory to move within a point of Montreal for the Atlantic Division lead. Crosby was also denied in the shootout.

NHL to make ‘special announcement’ in China next week

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The National Hockey League has announced it will make a “special announcement” at the LeSports Center in Beijing, China next Thursday.

In January, the league’s deputy commissioner Bill Daly made it clear the NHL has interest in playing games in China — likely starting out with pre-season games before potentially adding in some regular season contests in the future, as well.

Just after the league made its announcement on Thursday, the L.A. Kings tweeted out that they will participate in next week’s event, along with the Vancouver Canucks.

In January, hockey insider Darren Dreger reported that the Canucks and Kings were likely to play NHL pre-season games in China this upcoming September.

Last July, members of the Boston Bruins visited China, specifically Beijing and Shanghai, to host hockey clinics in those cities.

Beijing will also host the 2022 Winter Olympics.