Around the Rink – Thursday, November 4th

Let’s take a look at tonight’s six game slate of hockey games, shall we? All times Eastern (ET).

7:00 pm

Columbus @ Atlanta

This is a matchup of two teams that are hanging in there, although the Blue Jackets are especially hot right now. Columbus won six of their last eight games, most recently shutting out a strong Montreal Canadiens team. Meanwhile, after losing three in a row, the Thrashers have won three of their last four games. Don’t be surprised to see Ondrej Pavelec play considering the fact that Chris Mason needed to make a daunting 52 saves last night.

NY Rangers @ Philadelphia

Despite having some rocky starts, the Flyers and Rangers are currently at the top of the Atlantic Division right now. New York might be short on talent in some areas, but they’ve been scrappy lately. Just look at their 4-1 road record for evidence that this team plays tough.

7:30 pm

NY Islanders @ Ottawa

After shocking many in the hockey world, the Islanders are plummeting back to Earth with a four-game losing streak. They will have a decent shot at ending that streak against the so-so Senators, although Ottawa is playing solid hockey right now (winning four of their last six).

8:00 pm

San Jose @ St. Louis

The Blues might be the quietest contender in the NHL, mainly because they’ve only played nine games so far (6-1-2) yet are currently on a four-game winning streak. They’re especially strong at home, too, as they are taking advantage of a lot of early games in their own friendly confines (5-0 home record so far). They’ll face a struggling Sharks team that could be angry after being blanked by the Minnesota Wild this week.

9:00 pm

Vancouver @ Colorado

The top of the Northwest Division is the way it often is: crowded. The Avalanche and Canucks are currently jostling for position for the No. 1 spot, but the Wild and Flames are right behind them. That indicates that every win counts, so this is a pretty important early game between the two teams. One thing on Colorado’s side is Vancouver’s weak road record, as the Canucks just earned their first “W” on the road against the Devils (1-3-1 away record overall).

10:30 pm

Tampa Bay @ Los Angeles

It’s a clash of two young, up-and-coming teams that might already be contenders in the NHL. The Kings own a narrow lead over the Stars at the top of the Pacific while the Lightning are a stride ahead of the Capitals in the Southeast. To make things even more interesting, it sounds like Drew Doughty might be ready to return from his concussion problems. This should be a fun one.

Niemi blanks Pens, notches two assists in Stars debut

Antti Niemi, Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist

DALLAS (AP) — Antti Niemi recorded his 33rd career shutout and assisted on two goals in his Dallas debut, as the Stars beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-0 on Thursday night in the season opener for both.

Ales Hemsky had a power-play goal and an assist.

Rookie Matthias Janmark scored on his first shot on his first shift in an NHL game to make it 1-0. The Stars acquired Niemi and Janmark in trades earlier this year.

Dallas scored on two of five power plays. Jamie Benn, the NHL’s leading scorer last season, had a power-play goal in the third period.

Niemi made 37 saves to improve his career record against the Penguins to 5-1-1. He withstood a flurry in the final minute after Pittsburgh pulled goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for an extra skater.

Fleury had 21 saves.

The Stars are 4-0-1 in their last five home games against Pittsburgh, and have won three in a row overall.

Janmark skated down the slot, took a pass from Hemsky and shot between Fleury’s legs at 1:39 of the first.

The Penguins dominated the latter half of the period, but couldn’t score. Niemi’s best stop was a reaching glove save of Rod Scuderi’s drive from the blue line with less than 3 minutes remaining. Pittsburgh outshot the Stars 10-4 in the first.

Hemsky scored at 5:42 of the second on Dallas’ first power play. His shot from the top of the right faceoff circle went in over Fleury’s right shoulder.

The Penguins again had an advantage in shots, 13-11. Pittsburgh had chances in close, but Niemi turned those away. Midway through the second, John Klingberg cleared away a loose puck from in front of the net.

Seven seconds into the Stars’ fourth power play of the third period, Jamie Benn tipped in Jason Spezza‘s shot from the right point.

NOTES: Dallas acquired Janmark as part of a March trade that sent Erik Cole to Detroit. The rookie had been playing in the Swedish Hockey League. . San Jose traded Niemi’s rights to the Stars in June for a seventh-round draft pick. Also making their Dallas debuts were LW Patrick Sharp and D Johnny Oduya, teammates with Chicago’s Stanley Cup champions last season. . In his first game for the Penguins, Phil Kessel played in his 447th straight game. . Pittsburgh was 0 for 3 on the power play.

Fabbri’s first spoils McDavid’s debut as Blues down Oilers

Robby Fabbri, Justin Schultz
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ST. LOUIS (AP) — Rookie Robby Fabbri scored the tiebreaking goal midway through the third period to help the St. Louis Blues beat Edmonton 3-1 Thursday night, spoiling Oilers rookie Connor McDavid‘s NHL debut.

Vladimir Tarasenko had the tying goal for the Blues near the midpoint of the second period, and Troy Brouwer added an empty-netter with 18 seconds remaining in the third. Brian Elliott finished with 23 saves.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored in the first period for Edmonton and Cam Talbot had 28 saves.

McDavid, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, took 22 shifts, played 18:07 and was on the ice for Brouwer’s goal. He had two shots on goal, and struggled on faceoffs – winning only three of 13.

Fabbri, a 19-year-old forward — and McDavid’s childhood friend — was also playing in his first NHL game. The Blues’ first-round pick in 2014 was one of three rookies in the St. Louis lineup, joining defensemen Colton Parayko and Joel Edmundson.

Nugent-Hopkins gave the Oilers a 1-0 lead late in the first period with a fluke power-play goal. He lost a face-off but when Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo tried to clear the puck it bounced off Alexander Steen and past Brian Elliott. Nugent-Hopkins was credited with the unassisted power-play goal with 2:38 remaining in the period.

Tarasenko tied it a 9:10 of the second after getting loose on a breakaway with a stretch pass from Alex Pietrangelo and beating Talbot through his legs.

Tarasenko, who signed an eight-year, $60 million extension in the offseason, was the last Blues player to score in his debut.

NOTES: McDavid and F Anton Slepyshev made their NHL debuts for the Oilers. … St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina dropped the ceremonial first puck. … The attendance was announced as standing room-only 19,327.