Around the Rink – Wednesday, November 10th

Let’s take a look at today’s six game slate. All games are Eastern (ET).

7:00 pm

St. Louis @ Columbus

With an outstanding 9-1-2 record, the Blues are considered by many to be the surprise team (in a good way, at least) in the NHL. This month will be a real test for them, though, beginning with a tough match in Columbus. The Blue Jackets won seven of their last 10 games, so it won’t be an easy Central Division confrontation.

Boston @ Pittsburgh

Both teams have the same amount of points … only the Penguins played (and lost) four more games. Each team also has a goalie who is pushing the established No. 1, as Tim Thomas and Brent Johnson are in the process of usurping Tuukka Rask and Marc-Andre Fleury. This should be an interesting game to watch regardless of which two goalies appear between the pipes.

Buffalo @ New Jersey

The team tied for second worst in the NHL (the Sabres) play against the league’s worst (the Devils). It seems quite likely that it will be a battle of backups, too, as Jhonas Enroth and Johan Hedberg are probably going to play in this one. Sabres coach Lindy Ruff will hit the 1,000 mark for games coached with this one.

7:30 pm

Toronto @ Florida

The Maple Leafs are on a six-game losing streak, but they might solve it by beating the last team they have a win against: the Panthers. Florida’s low stance in the East (tied for second-to-last with 10 points) is a little misleading since they’ve played in only 12 games, tied with St. Louis for the least in the NHL.

8:30 pm

Phoenix @ Chicago

One three-game losing streak will come to an end tonight: either the Coyotes’ overall skid or the Blackhawks’ three game skid at home. Chicago seems like they might be losing their edge at the United Center, going 4-6 overall after earning 29 wins in 41 regular season games there in 2009-10.

10:00 pm

NY Islanders @ Anaheim

These two teams are on wildly different paths right now. After starting the season on a hot streak, the Islanders are on a troubling seven-game losing streak. Meanwhile, the Ducks began the season as one of the league’s worst teams, but look like they’re working things out with a four-game winning streak. Jonas Hiller faced 41 shots against the San Jose Sharks last night, so it will be interesting to see if Anaheim will give him another start or allow him to catch his breath tonight.

Niemi blanks Pens, notches two assists in Stars debut

Antti Niemi, Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist
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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.