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?

Mike Yeo gets a vote of confidence; Wild will scratch Vanek, Zucker vs. STL

Minnesota Wild head coach Mike Yeo talks to Jason Zucker (16) in the first period of an NHL preseason hockey game against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Pittsburgh, Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
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Things haven’t been going well with Minnesota’s hockey team, but that doesn’t necessarily mean changes are coming via firings or trades.

On Saturday, Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher reiterated his confidence in his team and his coaching staff going forward.

The Wild have won just three of 15 games since Jan. 1 and they’re currently riding a four-game losing streak.

The Wild have been through mid-season slumps before.

Last year, Yeo lost it during a team practice and that seemed to spark his team, as they were able to turn things around and make it to the postseason.

Will a similar tactic work, again? Probably not.

As PHT pointed out earlier this week, this slump might not be like the previous ones.

The Wild are just one point behind Nashville (with a game in a hand) for the final Wild Card spot in the Western Conference, but will their top guns be able to get them out of this funk?

The numbers aren’t pretty:

Zach Parise has no points in his last four games and just one goal in his last nine contests.

Thomas Vanek hasn’t scored in eight games. He has just one assist during that span.

Mikko Koivu has four assists in 15 games since the new year began.

Mikael Granlund has two assists since Jan. 7 and he has a a minus-11 rating since then.

Jason Zucker has one assist in 11 games. He hasn’t scored since Jan. 7.

How will Yeo get his team’s attention this time around?

Here’s your answer:

Hossa doesn’t think the coach’s challenge is “good for the league”

Chicago Blackhawks' Jonathan Toews, left, Marian Hossa (81) and Bryan Bickell (29) react after Los Angeles Kings' Jake Muzzin scored a goal  during the third period in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals in the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs in Chicago on Wednesday, May 21, 2014. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
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Marian Hossa isn’t a fan of the coach’s challenge.

The veteran winger ripped the NHL’s new challenge system after he had a goal called back in Thursday’s game against Arizona.

–To watch the overturned goal, click here

“I thought that was [a] joke,” Hossa said, per the Sun-Times. “I tried to battle in front of the net and I don’t have any intention to touch the goalie, just try to battle through two guys and put the puck in the net. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the playoffs, if there’s going to be calls after calls after calls. But I don’t think it’s good for the league.”

The goal was called back because as Hossa was battling in front, he got tangled up with goaltender Louis Domingue‘s stick.

It’s safe to say that Joel Quenneville wasn’t pleased with the decision:

One of the main criticisms of the challenge system is that the review is conducted on a small tablet by the referees on the ice instead of someone in a war room in Toronto or New York.

Every time a goal is disallowed, the NHL writes a blog explaining why the decision was made.

Here’s what they said about the call on Hossa:

The Referee determined that Hossa interfered with Domingue before the puck crossed the goal line. According to Rule 78.7, “The standard for overturning the call in the event of a ‘GOAL’ call on the ice is that the Referee, after reviewing any and all available replays and consulting with the Toronto Video Room, determines that the goal should have been disallowed due to ‘Interference on the Goalkeeper,’ as described in Rules 69.1, 69.3 and 69.4.”

Therefore the original call is overturned – no goal Chicago Blackhawks.

Do you think the referee got the call right?

Report: Penguins will host Flyers in an outdoor game in 2017

In this photo made with a fisheye lens, fireworks go off above Heinz Field as fans hold cards with a message honoring veterans before an NFL football game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Kansas City Chiefs, Monday, Nov. 12, 2012, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Associated Press
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It looks like the battle of Pennsylvania will head outdoors in 2017, according to Scott Burnside of ESPN.

The Pittsburgh Penguins are expected to host the Philadelphia Flyers at Heinz Field next year. It’s still unclear if the game will be a Stadium Series tilt or the NHL’s annual Winter Classic game on Jan. 1.

Here’s an excerpt from Burnside’s story:

The two state rivals have been talking for months about a plan for an outdoor game or series of outdoor games. There was discussion about playing an outdoor game at Penn State, but it’s believed financial demands by the university soured the teams on the neutral site as an option, so the two franchises have been looking at a reciprocal arrangement with an outdoor game played one year in Pittsburgh and a second game in Philadelphia perhaps the next year.

Although the Steelers and Penguins have a good working relationship, there could be a scheduling conflict if the NHL wants to make this game the Winter Classic.

Jan. 1 will be the final day of the NFL’s regular season . Should the Steelers host a Wild Card game the following week, they’d likely decide that a hockey game on their field isn’t the wisest decision.

To avoid this dilemma, the league would just have to move the game to Dec. 31.

This would be the second time Heinz Field hosts an outdoor game (2011).

Islanders officially activate Johnny Boychuk (upper body) off IR

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The New York Islanders got some good news on the injury front, as they’ve activated Johnny Boychuk off injured reserve.

The 32-year-old missed a total of 11 games because of an upper-body injury he suffered in a game against the Buffalo Sabres on Dec. 31 (above).

New York went 5-5-1 without Boychuk, and they conceded four goals or more in five of those contests.

In 38 games with Boychuk, the Islanders had allowed four goals or more just six times.

The Islanders currently sit in third place in the Metropolitan Division. They’re three points behind the Rangers (two games in hand) and 18 points behind the first place Capitals.

In a corresponding move, they assigned defenseman Scott Mayfield to the AHL.