Atlanta Thrashers v New York Rangers

Nightly recap – Wednesday, October 27th

The NHL’s ad campaign this year stressed that “questions will be answered” and tonight was loaded with questions. Could the Rangers stay hot? Could Steven Stamkos continue scoring points like Gretzky? Could the Devils get things turned around? Could the Hurricanes remember where the heck their home arena was? All these questions were answered tonight, here’s your recap of the night’s action.

Atlanta 6 – NY Rangers 4

So the Rangers couldn’t keep the hot streak going. It’s fair though since they ran into an Atlanta team playing pretty well themselves. A schizo effort out of the Rangers ran the gamut from looking great to looking abysmal defensively watching both Evander Kane and Bryan Little skate through the defense to score effortless goals. Starter Martin Biron wasn’t immune either getting beat a couple times badly up high. That said, the Thrashers continued to do their thing and playing tough hockey getting other goals from Niclas Bergfors, Dustin Byfuglien, Eric Boulton, and Andrew Ladd. Rangers forward Artem Anisimov suffered an ankle injury and may end up being out for some time.

Washington 3 – Carolina 0

Perhaps the Hurricanes would like to go back out on the road. After being terrors on their long bi-continental road trip to start the season, the Hurricanes returned home for the first time this season only to get shutout by Michal Neuvirth and the Capitals. The shutout was Neuvirth’s first in his NHL career and he made 29 shots to earn it. The Caps got a pair of third period goals from Nicklas Backstrom to seal the deal. The eventual game-winner went to Matt Hendricks.

Montreal 5 – NY Islanders 3

The Canadiens continue to do well and stopping a very game Islanders squad made for a good test for the Habs. Montreal got five goals from five different players and never trailed in the game. The Islanders had a great game by James Wisniewski spoiled as the defenseman had a goal and two assists in the loss. Meanwhile, the Habs had goals each from Mathieu Darche, Andrei Kostitsyn, Travis Moen, and Tomas Plekanec. Carey Price made 18 saves in the win for Montreal, meanwhile Dwayne Roloson stopped 3o in the loss.

Tampa Bay 5 – Pittsburgh 3

You could say this was a roller coaster of a game for both teams. The Lightning’s Dana Tyrell scored on the first shot of the game, only to see that followed up by Pittsburgh scoring shorthanded twice on the same power play to get ahead 2-1 thanks to Craig Adams and Matt Cooke. Pascal Dupuis followed up shortly after that to make it 3-1 and chased starter Mike Smith from the game. From that point on, Dan Ellis would shut the door and the Lightning would rattle off four straight goals to win. Martin St. Louis scored twice while Vincent Lecavalier and Teddy Purcell added goals as well. Wondering about Steven Stamkos? Sure, he didn’t score a goal but he had three assists in the win.

Chicago 3 – Los Angeles 1

Patrick Sharp stays red hot for the Blackhawks as he netted his ninth goal of the year in the Hawks victory. Marty Turco did a stellar job in stopping 33 Kings shots for the win, allowing just a goal to Justin Williams in the first period. Marian Hossa left the game with an unknown injury to this point. The Hawks have done well given the limitations on their roster but losing Hossa for an extended amount of time would be a tough blow. As it is, the team expects to get defenseman Brian Campbell back this weekend so things are looking up elsewhere. For the Kings, rookie netminder Jonathan Bernier took the loss and stopped 25 shots.

San Jose 5 – New Jersey 2

The Devils tough start to the season continues and tonight it was Joe Thornton casting all the daggers in their defeat. Thornton finished the game with a hat trick and two assists, figuring in on all the Sharks goals in the win. Thornton’s linemates Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau also got paid off from Thornton’s good night as each had a goal and three assists. Antero Niittymaki stopped 27 shots in the win while Martin Brodeur stopped 34 shots in the loss. Something is going to give soon for New Jersey, it’s a just a question of when. If there’s an upside for New Jersey it’s that they broke their road power play 0-for-the-season as defenseman Andy Greene netted a power play goal in the third period.

Wild GM Fletcher undecided on Vanek buyout, but notes ‘our cap situation is much better this year’

Minnesota Wild left wing Thomas Vanek controls the puck during NHL hockey training camp in St. Paul, Minn., Friday, Sept. 18, 2015. (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)
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Thomas Vanek hopes he’s not bought out, but his rough 2015-16 campaign has made that a possibility.

Wild GM Chuck Fletcher certainly isn’t ruling it out, but at the same time he also presented an assessment for Vanek that was in a way more of a mixed than negative review.

“I thought Thomas in October and November was arguably our best forward – or certainly played as well as any body on our team,” Fletcher said, per the StarTribune. “He seemed to lose confidence. But I thought he really shot the puck well and did a lot of great things early. And there’s no question he pressed after that and then got banged up. He’s a goal scorer and we need to find a way to score more goals. Our cap situation is much better this year.”

That last point is particularly relevant given that a buyout essentially boils down to missing out on the chance of Vanek bouncing back in exchange for some short-term cap relief. To put figures on it, buying out Vanek would save Minnesota $5 million in cap space for the 2016-17 campaign, but then it will cost Minnesota $2.5 million in 2017-18, per General Fanager.

With Vanek in the books, the Wild are projected to consume $63.8 million in cap space next season and that figure doesn’t including pending restricted free agents Jason Zucker, Jordan Schroeder, Zac Dalpe, Matt Dumba, or Darcy Kuemper. If the 2016-17 ceiling is $74 million, as has been previously suggested, then it seems reasonable to believe that Minnesota can lock up its RFAs, keep Vanek, and still have some flexibility left over to engage in other changes over the summer. Although obviously gaining an extra $5 million would make it easier for them to make more sizable moves.

“I’m much more comfortable with our flexibility this year than last year. It’s going to give us more options,” Fletcher said.

The plan is for Fletcher to take a couple weeks before deciding on what to do with Vanek.

Related: No Chemistry issues or character problems here, says Wild GM

WATCH LIVE: Pittsburgh at Washington – Game 1

Washington Capitals' goalie Braden Holtby (70) makes a save during the first period of an NHL hockey game, against the Ottawa Senators, Tuesday, March 22, 2016 in Ottawa, Ontario.  (Fred Chartrand/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
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The series between Pittsburgh and Washington will kick off tonight and while it’s obviously highlighted by Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, that’s far from the only interesting storyline in this series.

For example, for all the offensive might that these two squads feature, this series has the potential to be a terrific goaltending duel. Braden Holtby is a Vezina Trophy finalist who posted a 0.84 GAA against Philadelphia in the first round. Matt Murray is just 21 years old and naturally far less established as a result, but so far he has looked like a star in the making. After dominating in the minors, Murray had a 2.00 GAA and .930 save percentage in 13 regular season games this season. In the playoffs he’s managed to improve to a 1.33 GAA and .955 save percentage in three starts.

This series will be a big test for both goaltenders, but while we might be talking about a player that had a hat trick at the end of the night, it also wouldn’t be surprising if the final score is 2-1 or 1-0 thanks to some stellar work between the pipes.

If you want to see what happens, the game is scheduled to start at 8:00 p.m. ET and will air on NBCSN. You can also stream it online via the link below:

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Flyers not ‘focusing on or looking’ to trade Neuvirth, Mason

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One of Philly’s areas of strength this year was in goal, where Steve Mason and Michal Neuvrith both enjoyed solid seasons and, at times, held the No. 1 gig.

That’s led some to suggest that a trade could be in the works — y’know, deal from a position of strength.

But that’s not what GM Ron Hextall is thinking.

“I don’t believe that’s a strength that you want to weaken,” Hextall said, per CSN Philadelphia. “The old saying, Wayne Gretzky got traded, right? So I’m not going to sit here and say no I wouldn’t trade anybody on our team, because the reality of it is, if the deal was right, it’s my job to strengthen our team and the organization.

“It’s certainly not something we’re focusing on or looking to do.”

In fact, Hextall suggested both goalies would head into next season in a similar situation to this year, and platoon the starting job. Mason was the busier of the two — 53 starts to Neuvirth’s 29 — but some of that had to do with Neuvirth’s late-season knee injury, which saw Mason play exclusively down the stretch and at the start of Philly’s opening-round playoff series against the Caps.

Neuvirth was the one that finished the Washington series, however, and finished it strong. He posted a ridiculous .981 save percentage over the final three games, allowing just two goals on 105 shots.

Now yes, Neuvirth’s appearance came after Mason struggled, allowing a horrific long-range goal in Game 2 before getting beat six times in Game 3. But that didn’t take away from his body of work this season — “Mase played the last month-and-a-half and was terrific,” Hextall said — and Mason is under contract for one more year, at $4.1 million.

Finances matter for the cap-strapped Flyers, and that’s probably why Hetxall is comfortable keeping the status quo in goal. Like Mason, Neuvirth is also under contract for one more year — with a tidy $1.625M cap hit — which makes for a much more affordable goaltending duo than in, say, Dallas, where the Stars have over $10 million tied up in Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi.

Both Mason and Neuvirth have expressed their desires to be the No. 1 guy. Hextall seems content to let them battle for it.

“To have inner competition is a good thing,” the GM explained. “So we get two good goalies and I think as we saw this year, it’s nice to have.”

Good news for the Senators, who move one step closer to building a new arena

OTTAWA, CANADA - OCTOBER 11: Owner, governor and chairman Eugene Melnyk of the Ottawa Senators walks the red carpet and greets fans during the Senators' 20th anniversary pre-game ceremonies prior to the start of the NHL home opener against the Minnesota Wild at Scotiabank Place on October 11, 2011 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)
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The Ottawa Senators got some very good news today in their quest to build a downtown arena.

From the Ottawa Citizen:

The plan from Eugene Melnyk’s RendezVous LeBreton team has emerged as the highest ranked of two competing proposals for the redevelopment of 21.6 hectares of vacant land on LeBreton Flats.

RendezVous LeBreton’s plan focuses on a new downtown arena that would house Melnyk’s Senators and major events. It also includes a restored “heritage aqueduct” lined with shops and cafes and an Abilities Centre catering to disabled and able-bodied athletes.

The Sens were one of two bidders to develop LeBreton Flats and build an arena on the vacant land. The other proposal came from the deep-pocketed Devcore Canderel DLS Group — a group that was bidding despite Melynk’s insistence that 1) the Sens weren’t for sale “at any price” and 2) he had no interest in moving into an arena he didn’t control.

According to the Citizen, the DCDLS bid was “rated lower but will remain in contention as a second choice,” meaning the Sens will still need to deliver on their proposal.

From CTV Ottawa:

This is one major step in a long process, but the Senators group promised in their bid that a new arena would be ready for the puck to drop by September of 2021.

The big question for Kanata residents now: what are the plans for the Senators current home the Canadian Tire Centre.

Melnyk says he has plans for that site too, and will reveal them soon.