VForVendetta

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.

Columbus giving prized rookie Werenski ‘every opportunity to run the power play’

2015 NHL Draft - Portraits
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The Blue Jackets aren’t easing Zach Werenski into his freshman campaign.

Werenski, the highly touted blueline prospect, has been tasked with running the Columbus power play during the exhibition campaign — often as the lone defenseman with four forwards — and it looks like a role he might reprise throughout the regular season.

Even though he’s yet to play an NHL game.

“I want to give him every opportunity to run the power play,” head coach John Tortorella said after an OT win over Nashville, per the Blue Jackets website. “He certainly did a good job of that tonight. We’ll keep on giving him opportunities and we’ll see where we go.”

More: Looking to make the leap: Zach Werenski

The Werenski hype train has been full steam for just over a year now. The eighth overall pick in 2015, Werenski spent two highly decorated years at the University of Michigan before turning pro at the end of last season.

Dispatched to Columbus’ AHL affiliate in Lake Erie, the 19-year-old had a fantastic professional debut. He was a major catalyst on the Monsters’ defense, scoring 14 points in 17 playoff games en route to the Calder Cup championship.

“The skill set he has — his size, strength and poise with the puck, he’s a complete player,” said Monsters coach Jared Bednar (now the head coach in Colorado). “To be able to step into our lineup in intense games and get the job done, it’s impressive especially for his age and that’s why everyone’s so excited about him.”

All signs point to a very talented — and young — Columbus defense this year. It was already assumed 21-year-old Seth Jones and 23-year-old Ryan Murray were going to play major roles, and now it sounds like Werenski will be leaned on just as heavily.

Which means it’ll be interesting to see what happens to the vets.

Jack Johnson averaged over 24 minutes per game last year, a figure that will undoubtedly decrease. It’ll also be curious to see what happens to David Savard, who was playing more than 23 minutes a night — do remember that, at the start of last season, the Jackets gave Savard a hefty five-year, $21.25 million extension.

The playoff race in the West could be ‘tighter than ever’

ST. LOUIS, MO - MAY 9:  Goalie Kari Lehtonen #32 of the Dallas Stars makes a save against Kyle Brodziak #28 of the St. Louis Blues in Game Six of the Western Conference Second Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Scottrade Center on May 9, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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The NHL’s Western Conference should be wild all season, perhaps as much as ever as parity reigns and points are tough to come by on any given night.

A slew of teams have a shot at advancing to the Stanley Cup finals.

The defending Conference champion San Jose Sharks, who had five players in the World Cup of Hockey finals , certainly appear to have a chance to be among the final two still skating in mid-June. That alone would be a feat because no team from the conference has pulled it off since the Detroit Red Wings, now an Eastern Conference team, won the Stanley Cup in 2008 and came within a win of repeating.

Chicago, Los Angeles, Anaheim and St. Louis will likely be among the contenders. Dallas, too.

The Blackhawks and Kings, who alternated as champions from 2012 to 2015 and won five Cups in a six-season span, failed to even make it out of the first round last in 2016.

Both teams certainly have a chance to bounce back this season.

“This is my sixth season in the Central Division and this looks like the most challenging year yet,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said Thursday in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. “The crunching between the top and bottom started last year, and it’s going to be closer this year.”

Hitchcock and Stars general manager Jim Nill both believe the teams that were at the bottom of the conference last season on moving up.

“The Winnipegs and the Colorados are going to be better teams,” Nill told the AP. “I think it’s going to be tighter than ever.”

How tight?

“Everyone has a shot,” San Jose’s Logan Couture said.

 

Related: There’s only one ‘vision’ in Vancouver this season, and that’s winning

 

Tough blow for Blues: Schwartz out ‘at least four weeks’ with elbow injury

ST. LOUIS, MO - FEBRUARY 23: Jaden Schwartz #9 of the St. Louis Blues shoots the puck against the Columbus Blue Jackets at the Scottrade Center on February 23, 2013 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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The St. Louis Blues will have to start the season without one of their most dangerous forwards, Jaden Schwartz.

Schwartz “will miss at least four weeks after injuring his left elbow during a training camp practice on Sept. 29,” the club announced today.

It’s another frustration for the 25-year-old winger. Schwartz was limited to just 33 games last season, after fracturing his ankle in October.

As for this latest injury, Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock originally predicted that Schwartz would only need a “couple of days off.”

St. Louis opens its regular season Oct. 12 in Chicago. If Schwartz is out until the end of October, he’ll miss nine games.

Related: Schwartz signs five-year extension

More bad news in Dallas: Janmark (knee surgery) out 5-6 months

PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 22: Mattias Janmark #13 of the Dallas Stars looks on against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the game at Consol Energy Center on October 22, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Matt Kincaid/Getty Images)
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Earlier this week, we passed along word that Stars forward Mattias Janmark was spotted on crutches at the team’s practice facility.

Now we know why.

Janmark suffered a knee injury that requires surgery, GM Jim Nill said on Thursday. The procedure is expected to sideline the Swedish forward for 5-6 months, putting his return in the neighborhood of February-March of next year.

It’s a big blow for the Stars.

After surprising onlookers by making the team out of camp last year — a “great story,” according to GM Jim Nill — Janmark, 23, went on to have a pretty successful rookie campaign, scoring 15 goals and 29 points in 73 games.

He also fared well in the playoffs, with five points in 12 contests.

Today’s news compounds what’s been a lousy September in Dallas. The club previously lost Tyler Seguin (heel), Cody Eakin (knee) and Ales Hemsky (groin) to injuries, and saw Russian forward Valeri Nichushkin sign in the KHL.

Looking at the schedule, Janmark projects to miss anywhere between 60-70 games this season, assuming the 5-6 month timeline is accurate. That’s a big chunk of man power to replace.