Around the rink – Friday, November 5th

Remember, remember the fifth of November. It’s Guy Fawkes Day so fire up your copy of “V For Vendetta” and then head out to your local rink tonight wearing your Guy Fawkes mask to watch some hockey. After all, if Guy Fawkes were around today, he’d be a hockey fan – it’s the anti-establishment thing to do you know.

Here’s tonight’s schedule of action and all times listed are Eastern, because that’s the closest time zone we have to Greenwich Mean Time.

7:00 pm

NY Rangers @ New Jersey

The Rangers looked rather shiftless last night losing to Philadelphia, meanwhile the Devils will be looking to build off of their win over Chicago the other night. As always, it’s worth watching to see what Rangers agitator Sean Avery does to try and get in the Devils heads, especially Ilya Kovalchuk. Think he’s got a little bit of material to work with now that the team and Kovalchuk are struggling?

Boston @ Washington

Thanks to the wonders of the NHL schedule, this is already the third meeting between these two teams with Boston winning the previous two battles 3-1 and 4-1. Tim Thomas will face off with Michal Neuvirth once again and for Washington, they’ll be looking to find a way to crack through Thomas. Working in their benefit, Thomas finally allowed more than one goal in a game in his last outing against Buffalo. Downside? He only gave up two goals in a 5-2 win. The Caps could use a breakout by the offense but looking for it to happen against Boston might be asking a lot.

7:30 pm

Montreal @ Buffalo

Buffalo is struggling. Badly. Facing a stingy Montreal team might not be the medicine they need to get things right. While Montreal might be giving up goals, they’re not giving up a ton of shots and for a struggling Sabres offense. The Sabres have to get things turned around here and cracking through Montreal would make for a good start there, otherwise the clamoring for someone to get fired in Buffalo, be it Lindy Ruff or Darcy Regier or both, will continue to get louder.

Carolina @ Florida

Two teams in search of some kind of consistency get to face off with each other in the front end of a home-and-home set. Carolina is coming off a 7-2 curb stomping of the Islanders the other night, meanwhile Florida is coming off a frustrating 4-3 loss to Atlanta where Thrashers goalie Chris Mason stopped 52 shots. For Florida, many of their losses have been in a similarly frustrating manner. Carolina, meanwhile, is hoping that their stomping of the Isles will be the spark they needed to go on a run. Rookie Jeff Skinner continues to be the pace-setter for Carolina as he leads the team in scoring.

8:00 pm

Calgary @ Minnesota

While the two are tied in the standings, the Flames are coming into the game struggling losers of three in a row. Over those three games, the Flames have allowed 15 goals against. That’s not going to win you many games averaging five goals against each night. Minnesota, meanwhile, is inconsistent but playing tough. They don’t give up many goals (they’re sixth in goals allowed in the league) but finding the net more often could help them rise up. The goaltending from Nik Backstrom has been solid and consistent, but as the offense goes, so go the Wild.

8:30 pm

Phoenix @ Dallas

The Stars are playing some good hockey so far this year and they can thank Brad Richards for a lot of that. Richards leads the team with 15 points and he’s the key setup man for them. Meanwhile, the Coyotes are hoping that the return of Martin Hanzal is what they needed. He looked good the other night in helping key the Coyotes to victory. Wojtek Wolski’s effort after being benched for a game was also much better. They’ll need them both to keep bringing it to win.

9:00 pm

Detroit @ Edmonton

If the Wings were struggling we could’ve labeled this game as “old and busted vs. new hotness.” Instead, the Wings are playing just fine and the Oilers are dealing with growing pains with such a young team. So much for predetermined story lines. Johan Franzen should be good to go after missing practice yesterday, meanwhile Jimmy Howard will get the start in goal. Edmonton will hope that their youth crew can give the old guys on Detroit a run for their money with their speed. Jordan Eberle continues to be fantastic for Edmonton.

10:00 pm

Pittsburgh @ Anaheim

An interesting battle to say the least as Pittsburgh is coming off a bad loss to Dallas and the Ducks got a shot of success against Tampa Bay the other night beating them in overtime. Recent call-up Kyle Palmieri scored in his first game with the Ducks meanwhile Teemu Selanne played a bit of “turn back the clock” playing a brilliant offensive game. The Ducks will need all that and more to handle what’s likely to be an ornery Penguins team that resorted to having Sidney Crosby dropping the gloves to stick up for his teammates.

The Panthers are healthy scratching Bolland, and he is their highest-paid forward, but they insist they’re not sending a message

Dave Bolland, Derek Nansen
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It feels like there’s a story brewing in Florida, where Dave Bolland — the team’s most-expensive forward, at $5.5 million a season — has been a healthy scratch for three consecutive games.

But according to head coach Gerard Gallant, there’s nothing to see here. Move along.

“There’s nothing to talk about,” Gallant said, per the Miami Herald. “He sat out, our team is playing well. There’s nothing more than that. We have to sit two guys and I like the way we’re playing. The next game is a different game. We may change something up, who knows.”

Bolland had just one goal and five points in 18 games prior to getting parked in the press box. Well, technically he got dropped to the fourth line before hitting the press box, but you get the idea. He’s not exactly in Gallant’s good graces.

Not helping Bolland’s case is the fact that, as Gallant pointed out, the club is playing pretty well without him. The Panthers have rebounded from a rough start to November by winning back-to-back games against the Islanders and Red Wings, which set them up nicely for the remainder of this current five-game road swing.

Florida has games still to play in St. Louis, Nashville, Columbus and New Jersey. It’ll be interesting to see when — or, if — he draws back into the lineup.

In closing, a reminder that Bolland’s in the second of a five-year, $27.5 million deal.

Canucks rookie Virtanen exits with upper-body injury, won’t return


After sitting out Friday’s game in Dallas, Vancouver’s Jake Virtanen had to be excited at drawing back in for tonight’s game against the Ducks.

Unfortunately, the excitement didn’t last long.

Virtanen suffered an upper-body injury after playing just 1:45 in the opening frame, and was ruled out of the contest during the intermission. It’s unclear exactly what happened, but it looks like Virtanen was injured on a hit by Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf.

Virtanen didn’t take another shift following the incident, and Getzlaf was given a minor penalty on the play.

While we don’t know what the injury is or it’s severity, losing Virtanen for any length of time would have ramifications for the Canucks and this year’s Canadian entry at the World Juniors. There has been talk of Virtanen possibly being released by the Canucks to participate in the tournament; last year, he was part of the team that captured gold in Montreal and Toronto.

Virtanen has played in 18 games for the Canucks this year, scoring one goal and four points while averaging 10:17 TOI per night.

McLellan sounds off on Oilers after shutout loss in Toronto

Todd McLellan

Edmonton lost for the fourth time in five games on Monday, a 3-0 defeat in Toronto that marked the second time in a week the Oilers have been shut out.

Needless to say, the head coach wasn’t happy.

In a fairly blunt and harsh assessment aimed at a variety of players, Todd McLellan had some choice words for what he called a “disappointing” effort.

Some of the more choice quotes:

“I didn’t think we were a very hard team. I didn’t think we stood over a lot of pucks. I didn’t think we won a lot of battles along the boards. I didn’t think we were competitive enough in a lot of areas.”

“When I look at the trip as a whole, we had some key, key people really under-perform on the trip. Significant minus numbers, not hitting the score sheet. It can’t always be the [Leon DraisaitlTaylor Hall line] that provides that.”

It’s fair to suggest that last one was directed at Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle.

Nugent-Hopkins has just two points and zero goals in his last five games, with a minus-8 rating. Eberle is pointless entirely, and also at minus-8 over the same stretch.

They’re hardly the only Oilers not pulling their weight at the moment, however. Edmonton has lost 15 times in its first 25 games, a figure that suggests there are more problems that just a couple of underachieving forwards.

Just ask McLellan, who all but admitted his team has issues matching up.

“We’re not where we need to be,” he said. “We’ve got work to do as a team, work to do as an organization to get bigger, stronger, harder, and physically win more battles than we lose.”

Roy: Avs ‘need, expect more’ from Varlamov


The tough times continue for Semyon Varlamov.

After another unsuccessful outing on Monday — allowing four goals on 27 shots in a loss to the Islanders — Varlamov was subjected to a familiar refrain: Patrick Roy saying the Avs need more from their No. 1 netminder.


You can hear all of the head coach’s comments in the video above but, for brevity’s sake, here’s the Varlamov stuff:

“It’s not easy for him. Obviously we need that extra save and we didn’t get it on the road. It’s hard to win if you’re giving four goals on the road.

“We just need more from him. He’s our No. 1 guy and we’re behind him, but we need, we expect more from him.”

There has to be serious concern about Varlamov right now, if there wasn’t already.

His save percentage through seven games in November (.891) is marginally better than it was through seven games in October (.889), and that’s not the only alarming stat. Varlamov’s yet to record a shutout this year, yet to record back-to-back victories and has given up at least three goals in six of his last seven starts.

Not good.

Compounding things for Colorado are the standings. The Avs are now 9-14-1 and mired in the Central Division basement, meaning that — if they have any hope of going on a tear and getting back into playoff content — they’ll need to do it soon.

Which means they might not have the time, or the patience, for Varlamov to find his game.