Around the rink: Wednesday, November 3rd

It’s the happiest of hump days when there’s nine games on the docket in the NHL. As always, all times listed are Eastern.

7:00 pm

Boston @ Buffalo

It’s unknown as of yet if Ryan Miller will get the nod in goal for Buffalo, but the Sabres will get Jason Pominville back in the lineup. Meanwhile the Bruins roll into town on fire in goal with Tim Thomas leading the way with his 0.50 goals against average and three shutouts. The Bruins offense hasn’t been all that great, but do they need to be when no one can score against them? It could be a long night for the struggling Sabres.

Toronto @ Washington

The Leafs have remembered how to score after getting two goals in a loss to Ottawa last night, but having to go to Washington to deal with Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals may not be the thing that cures what ails them. Washington, meanwhile, is doing pretty well considering the relative offensive quiet coming from their big guns. Expect the Leafs to be without Dion Phaneuf after he left last night’s game with a cut on his leg that required stitches. Brett Lebda would likely take his spot in the lineup. Yikes.

NY Islanders @ Carolina

Two of the league’s more intriguing teams face off. Each of them have some issues scoring goals and occasionally keeping the puck out of the net, but they both play an intense brand of hockey with plenty of youth to show off. Josh Bailey, John Tavares, Jeff Skinner… What’s not to like? All right, that’s as much as I can do to try to hype up this unassuming game.

7:30 pm

Atlanta @ Florida

Two of the builders of the Chicago Blackhawks Cup-winning team last year have their new teams face off. Thrashers GM Rick Dudley and Panthers GM Dale Tallon have their new crews do battle and right now, Atlanta is looking more like the team further along. Of course, Atlanta traded for half of the Blackhawks team that won it all last year so that makes sense. Which Tomas Vokoun shows up for Florida is the question. He’s been either lights out or getting ripped up. He’ll have to look out for Evander Kane and Dustin Byfuglien as both players have been hot of late.

8:30 pm

New Jersey @ Chicago

Speaking of Chicago, the current Hawks get to deal with the smoldering corpse of what used to be the New Jersey Devils. The Devils begin their three month tour of playing without Zach Parise who’s out of action after getting his torn meniscus operated on. The game is the last one on the Devils road trip and they’d like to end it on a high note. Doing that against a stingy Chicago team doesn’t look good.

Pittsburgh @ Dallas

Zbynek Michalek may suit up for Pittsburgh, meanwhile Evgeni Malkin’s status remains questionable. Will Marc-Andre Fleury get a shot in goal or will Brent Johnson get the nod once again? Lots of questions for the Pens. Meanwhile, Kari Lehtonen and the Stars get a chance to prove themselves against a high-profile team. A curious eye will be turned towards the attendance with Sidney Crosby in town and the World Series over with.

9:30 pm

Detroit @ Calgary

Jimmy Howard figures to get the start for Detroit. If not, look for Joey McDonald to get a surprise start for Detroit with Chris Osgood ailing. The Flames, meanwhile, will try to not give up six or more goals the way they have their last couple of times out. These two teams seem to bring out the best and worst of each other when they meet. Lots of potential here for a crazy game.

10:00 pm

Nashville @ Phoenix

This would’ve figured to be Matthew Lombardi’s first game back in Phoenix after spurning the Coyotes to sign with Nashville. Instead, he’s out of the lineup and the Preds are looking to bounce back after dropping their last two games. Phoenix is looking to bounce back after a bad home loss to Tampa that saw the Coyotes get shutout. Expect goal scoring to be tough for both teams with a pair of the league’s most underrated goalies getting the nod in Pekka Rinne and Ilya Bryzgalov.

Tampa Bay @ Anaheim

The Lightning will do their part to stay off of Ducks coach Randy Carlyle’s bad side. Considering the Red Wings and Sharks are already there, perhaps it’s OK to get there since that means you’re winning and beating the Ducks around the ice. The Ducks, on the other hand, have to learn to both play better and stay out of the box. When Ryan Getzlaf’s line is taking all the heat for the Ducks failings, you know things are rough.

Lonnie Cameron, hockey-tough linesman, shakes off puck to head (Video)

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Talking about hockey toughness is pretty much a trope at this point, yet there are still moments that impress even the cynical among us.

Linesman Lonnie Cameron accomplished that for many on Tuesday, as he returned to the Nashville Predators – Vancouver Canucks game despite taking a puck to the head in a scary moment.

Judging by the Twitter feed of Brooks Bratten from the Predators’ website, Cameron missed mere minutes of time.

So, yeah, it seems like Cameron qualifies as “hockey tough.”

As far as the game itself went, the Canucks beat the Predators 1-0 thanks to Henrik Sedin‘s goal (his 999th point) and Ryan Miller‘s 30-save shutout.

Is this more than just a slump for Henrik Lundqvist?

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People have been wondering for years if Henrik Lundqvist would finally fall off track and, you know, look human. After the New York Rangers’ zany 7-6 loss to the Dallas Stars, those rumblings are probably getting a little louder.

Don’t expect the Rangers to throw their star goalie under the bus, though, especially after a wide-open game like Tuesday’s goal-filled game at Madison Square Garden.

In fact, Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault is already penciling Lundqvist in for Thursday’s game against the rising Toronto Maple Leafs.

“He’s going to play, he’s going to try real hard, and we’re going to try to play better in front of him,” Vigneault said, according to the New York Post’s Brett Cyrgalis. “This is a team.”

Lundqvist, meanwhile, said about what you’d expect:

Naturally, Lundqvist and plenty of other Rangers threw the word embarrassing around quite a bit to describe this game, or at least the first 40 minutes. It’s just that no one’s really raking Lundqvist over the coals.

Is this time different?

Again, Lundqvist is no stranger to struggles, even if he struggles less often than just about any franchise goalie in recent memory.

Still, the sample size is getting large enough for this stretch to be a concern for the 34-year-old netminder.

While goal support and stretches of good play open the door for a respectable 18-12-1 record, Lundqvist’s allowing almost three goals per game (2.89 GAA) and has a backup-level .902 save percentage this season. And that’s over 32 games.

Things get even uglier if you focus on more recent events.

He’s allowed 20 goals in his past four starts, including allowing 12 tallies over four periods during the past two games. Lundqvist has a putrid .841 save percentage in January after producing great work in November (.925 save percentage in 11 games) and nice numbers in December (.915 in eight games).

Lundqvist has given up four goals or more on nine different occasions since Nov. 23.

In other words, there are a lot of different ways in which he’s struggling:

Is this a matter of Lundqvist regaining his focus or is “The King” finally abdicating his throne?

The Rangers are going to let him try to work through this. Otherwise, they might just need to hope that this is an off-year and *gulp* at least consider how far (an eventually healthy?) Antti Raanta could take them.

Supporting cast rallies Blackhawks in win against Avalanche

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For much of the season, the Colorado Avalanche’s biggest names have let them down while many believe that the Chicago Blackhawks are getting it done despite a mediocre supporting cast.

On Tuesday, the script was essentially flipped. The Avs’ stars were productive, yet so were lesser-known Chicago forwards like Tanner Kero and Vinne Hinostroza.

The most important narrative stayed the same, however, as the Blackhawks found a way to get by the Avalanche in a 6-4 decision.

The Blackhawks took a 2-1 lead into the second period, but the Avs put together one of their best stretches of this lousy season. Blake Comeau tied it up, Matt Nieto scored his first goal with Colorado and then Matt Duchene answered Chicago’s only goal of the second period (by Kero) to give the Avalanche a 4-3 edge.

The Avalanche doubled Chicago’s shots on goal in the second period, generating an 8-4 edge. It felt like a rare moment where Colorado’s talent actually flexed its collective muscles.

Then the Blackhawks turned it on in the third, generating a 12-5 shot edge of their own and finding a way to win.

Hinostroza ended up making the biggest difference, scoring the tying and game-winning goals before Kero iced it with an empty-netter thanks to an unselfish pass by Jonathan Toews.

(It’s not to say that Chicago’s big names outright slept through this game, either. Toews got that assist and Marian Hossa made a bunch of plays to help make life easier for Hinostroza and Kero.)

This wasn’t always pretty, but the Blackhawks are doing enough to get points night after night. On some nights, that’s the real difference between a contender like Chicago and a languishing squad like Colorado.

Blue Jackets move back to first in Metro, NHL after beating Hurricanes

COLUMBUS, OH - JANUARY 7:  Sergei Bobrovsky #72 of the Columbus Blue Jackets warms up prior to the start of the game against the New York Rangers on January 7, 2017 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
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After stumbling for a bit, Tuesday was a reassuring night for the Columbus Blue Jackets.

With a 4-1 win against the Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus moved back to the top of the Metropolitan Division (and thus, the NHL) because they now match the Washington Capitals’ 64 points but have more wins (30 to 29) and hold a game in hand.

Also comforting for Columbus: Sergei Bobrovsky returned to the Blue Jackets net, allowing one goal on 25 shots.

They were probably also happy to see Brandon Dubinsky enjoy a strong night (two goals) and Boone Jenner collect an assist and this absolute beauty of a goal:

The Hurricanes actually did hold a 1-0 lead in this game, but it lasted all of 11 seconds, as that Jenner goal erased that advantage.

The Blue Jackets face the Senators in Columbus on Thursday and then host the Hurricanes once again on Saturday. They follow that up with five straight road games and six of seven away from home beginning on Jan. 22. Columbus will pass another big test if they can stick with the Capitals and the rest of the NHL’s best through that stretch.