Around the Rink – Saturday, November 6th

Here are previews of tonight’s hefty 12-game slate. As usual, all times are Eastern (ET).

7:00 pm

Chicago @ Atlanta

What’s the best way to give your sagging attendance a little lift? How about playing against the defending Stanley Cup champions, especially as they struggle so you might even earn a win? It should be an interesting reunion, too, as Dustin Byfuglien, Ben Eager and Andrew Ladd play against their former Blackhawk teammates.

St. Louis @ Boston

Two dominant defensive teams go head-to-head tonight, as Jaroslav Halak (or Ty Conklin?) and the Blues takes on Tim Thomas (or Tuukka Rask?) of the Bruins. Both teams are off to strong starts so far this season, so this could be a good barometer for each team.

Philadelphia @ NY Islanders

This is a contest between two Atlantic Division teams on divergent paths; the Flyers are on to of the division thanks to a five-game winning streak, while the Islanders are tumbling their way back to the cellar thanks to a six-game losing lull.

Ottawa @ Montreal

The Senators are getting their acts together after a tough start to the season, winning five of their last seven games. They were possibly the streakiest team in the league last season so this isn’t much of a surprise. The Canadiens have had their act together more or less all season, so they will provide a nice test for their division rivals.

Florida @ Carolina

The Hurricanes have to hope that their end of the home-and-home back-to-back series is more successful, as they lost 7-4 last night. Then again, Tomas Vokoun probably hopes for a different outcome – at least if he starts tonight – since Vokoun was pulled from Friday’s game.

Buffalo @ Toronto

This is one of those “well, someone has to win it” games. Toronto lost their last four games while Buffalo is on a five-gaming losing streak, with the Sabres being especially hopeless. Perhaps one of these two teams will use this contest to rebuild their momentum?

Minnesota @ Columbus

The Wild seem like they straightened things out, but one misleading fact is that they only played three of their 12 games on the road (1-1-1). The Blue Jackets are keeping pace in the highly competitive Central Division, with Mathieu Garon on quite the hot streak.

9:00 pm

Pittsburgh @ Phoenix

It seemed like the Penguins righted the ship with a four-game winning streak, only now they are 1-4-1 in their last six games. The Coyotes haven’t been very good lately either, going 2-3-2 in their last seven.

Dallas @ Colorado

The Stars finished their six-game homestand dominating their last three, including a thrashing of the Coyotes on Friday. While the Stars have been pretty hot, the Avalanche are growing a little cold, going 2-3-1 in their last six games.

10:00 pm

Nashville @ Los Angeles

It’s a match between two responsible defensive teams on different paths. The Predators have lost their last three while the Kings are on a three-game winning streak. Should be a gone one.

Detroit @ Vancouver

Two Western Conference division leaders – and genuine contenders – go up against each other in this one. The Canucks have won five in a row while the Red Wings are on a three-game winning streak, including a 3-1 win against the Edmonton Oilers last night.

Tampa Bay @ San Jose

The Sharks haven’t scored a goal in their last two games and things aren’t going to get any easier, as captain and leading scorer Joe Thornton will face a two-game suspension. The Lightning have been strong so far this season, but the Capitals have the Southeast Division lead. Will this game involve a not-particularly-emotional reunion between Sharks goalie Antero Niittymaki and his former team?

Video: Ryan Suter doesn’t seem very happy with his coach


As you can see in the video, apparently Ryan Suter doesn’t like being paired with fellow lefty Jonas Brodin.

The Wild defenseman rather openly questioned the coaching staff’s decision-making today after practice.

“Yeah, I don’t know what they’re thinking,” said Suter. “I need to play with a right-handed defenseman. To give me more options. Neutral zone. Offensively. And even coming out of the D zone, it’s not fair to put a guy on his off side.”

Suter didn’t know if the pairings were just for practice or not. The Wild play tomorrow in Chicago. Minnesota has just one win in its last seven games.

Suter also had something to say about that.

“It does no good to pout and get pissed off at each other,” said Suter. “You’ve got to come together and dig out of this. Now’s when you need leadership more than ever. It’s easy to be a coach and a leader when things are going good.”

Yeo, by the way, has not been very happy with the Wild lately.  In fact, one could go so far as to say he’s been acting pretty “pissed off.”

For example, at today’s practice:

The Star Tribune has more on what went down today.

Yeo, you may recall, went a little “nuts” during a Wild practice last season.

Goalie nods: Sparks to make NHL debut for Leafs

Garett Sparks
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We already knew this yesterday, but in case you missed it, Garret Sparks will make his NHL debut in goal for the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight against Edmonton.

Sparks, 22, has been excellent in the AHL this season, going 8-2-1 with a .938 save percentage. He spent most of last season in the ECHL, where he also posted good numbers.

Sparks is getting the nod tonight because James Reimer is hurt and Jonathan Bernier has been struggling badly.

“He’s got an opportunity like lots of kids have had before him and it’s up to him to grab it,” Leafs coach Mike Babcock said, per “He’s got the [second-best] save percentage in the AHL and he’s winning all the time down there. Obviously we’re in need of some saves and we’ll have to play well in front of him for sure. But it’s an opportunity for him.”

Bernier, meanwhile, will have to sit and watch. The 27-year-old has allowed at least four goals in four of his last five starts. His save percentage has fallen all the way to .888.

Anders Nilsson will be in net for the Oilers.


Cam Ward for the Hurricanes. Henrik Lundqvist for the Rangers, who will try not to rely on him so much.

Semyon Varlamov for the Avs. Thomas Greiss for the Isles.

— The Canucks aren’t saying if it’ll be Ryan Miller of Jacob Markstrom. For the Ducks, it’ll be John Gibson.

Vigneault: ‘After three losses in a row, I think we’ve got everybody’s attention’

Alain Vigneault
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Alain Vigneault has maintained for much of the season that the New York Rangers needed to play better.

The head coach said it a week ago, after the Blueshirts had beaten the Predators, 3-0, despite getting outshot, 31-19.

He’d said it a couple of weeks before that, after they’d beaten the Hurricanes in very similar fashion. (Final score: 3-0. Shots: 33-23 for Carolina.)

But as long as the Rangers kept winning, it was tough, according to Vigneault, to get the message across.

“Sometimes, the results might be going your way, so when you’re pointing out certain things, it might be a little bit more challenging for them to understand because the results are so positive,” Vigneault said, per the New York Post.

“But after three losses in a row, I think we’ve got everybody’s attention.”

Derek Stepan‘s injury — he’ll miss 4-6 weeks with broken ribs — has no doubt captured their attention as well. (Oscar Lindberg will center Chris Kreider and Jesper Fast tonight at home to Carolina.)

The Rangers also play Wednesday, in Brooklyn against the Islanders (on NBCSN).

Benn, Holtby and Galchenyuk are NHL’s three stars of the week

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Stars winger Jamie Benn, Capitals goalie Braden Holtby and Canadiens center Alex Galchenyuk have been named the NHL’s three stars for the past week.


Benn shared the League lead in goals (4) and points (6) as the Stars (19-5-0, 38 points) won two of three games to continue their best start to a season in the franchise’s 48-year history.

Holtby posted a 4-0-0 record with a 1.75 goals-against average, .945 save percentage and one shutout to backstop the Capitals (17-5-1, 35 points) to the top of the Metropolitan Division standings.

Galchenyuk tied for first in the NHL with four goals and added one assist to help the Canadiens (18-4-3, 39 points) earn five of a possible six points and reclaim first place in the League standings.

As much as the injuries to Carey Price and Brendan Gallagher have been frustrating for the Canadiens, those are short-term issues that should be forgotten soon enough. Galchenyuk’s play, in contrast, is reason for long-term optimism. The 21-year-old is trending towards becoming the elite No. 1 center the Habs have needed so badly. He’s not there yet, but when’s all said and done, he could turn out to be the best forward (or player, period) taken in the 2012 draft.