Around the Rink – Sunday, November 14th

Here is a preview of today’s four games, including one oddly early start. All times are Eastern (ET) as usual.

12:30 pm

Edmonton @ NY Rangers

Both teams cannot really blame a loss on fatigue, unless it’s in a big picture sense. The Rangers haven’t played in a game since Thursday while the Oilers most recent skirmish was on Friday.

The Oilers are wrapping up a troubling five-game road trip with this match. So far, they are 1-2-1 in the first four road contests. Getting a win would earn them a respectable five points in five games.

5:00 pm

Atlanta @ Washington

Both teams are coming back from losses, with the Thrashers being beaten handily by the Pittsburgh Penguins while the Capitals lost in overtime against the Buffalo Sabres. Ultimately, the Caps are the class of this division, though. I would guess that they will probably dominate this one.

Minnesota @ Tampa Bay

It’s pretty difficult to believe that only one win separates the positivity-soaked Lightning and the shoulder shrugging Wild. That being said, it could be interesting to see which team blinks first: offense-first Tampa Bay or traditionally defense-first Minnesota.

7:00 pm

Anaheim @ Chicago

The struggling defending Stanley Cup champions play against one of the hottest teams in the NHL in this one. These two teams seem to be going in two directions, with the Ducks winning their last six while the Blackhawks lost their last three. It should be an awfully interesting game, especially since Jonas Hiller is likely to miss it after getting hit in the face with a puck.

Goalie nods: Slumping Flames go back to slumping Elliott

EDMONTON, AB - OCTOBER 12:  Goalie Brian Elliott #1 of the Calgary Flames skates against the Edmonton Oilers on October 12, 2016 at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)
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Calgary head coach Glen Gulutzan made a noteworthy decision over the weekend, opting to sit No. 1 netminder Brian Elliott against his former team, the St. Louis Blues, in favor of backup Chad Johnson.

The move didn’t pay off. Calgary lost 6-4, with Johnson allowing five goals on 39 shots.

So now, Elliott is back in goal was the Flames take on the ‘Hawks tonight at the United Center.

Acquired to fix the goaltending issues that plagued Calgary all of last season, Elliott has gone 0-3-0 with an .839 save percentage and 4.72 GAA.

Not good, obviously — especially for a 31-year-old pending UFA that’s looking to score a contract extension.

The Flames will hope that Elliott’s former goalie partner, Jake Allen, is something of a psychic. Over the weekend, Allen predicted that Elliott “will find his game very soon,” and tonight would be a good night for that to happen — Chicago’s offense has been firing over the last four games, finding the back of the net 16 times.

That said, the ‘Hawks are facing issues of their own.

They’ll give Corey Crawford the start tonight.


— Just one other game on the ledger, as the Flyers will take on the Habs in Montreal. Philly is going with Steve Mason, who allowed three goals on 30 shots in a win over Carolina on Saturday. The Canadiens are going with Carey Price, who allowed two goals on 21 shots in a win over Boston on Saturday.

Crosby skates in full-contact practice, but still no timetable for a return

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His official status hasn’t changed, but Sidney Crosby wasn’t wearing a no-contact jersey at Penguins practice today, and that’s progress.

“Sid is day-to-day, as he has been. We’ll take tomorrow as it comes,” head coach Mike Sullivan said, per the club’s website. “It’s obviously a big step when he joins the group. To have him join the group in a full-contact practice like that is encouraging from our standpoint.”

Crosby has not played this season due to a concussion. There remains no timetable for his return, and the Pens aren’t going to rush their captain. But the way things have been progressing, don’t be surprised if he plays pretty soon. The Penguins host Florida tomorrow and the Islanders Thursday, then it’s off to Philadelphia for a game Saturday before embarking on a three-game trip to California.

“I got the OK to go out there and be in a full practice,” Crosby said. “It was just good to be back on the ice with the guys. It’s not easy watching. To be out there was nice and hopefully a good step.”

Budaj getting the job done, so far

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 22:  Peter Budaj #31 of the Los Angeles Kings makes a save on Brandon Sutter #20 of the Vancouver Canucks for a 4-3 overtime shootout win at Staples Center on October 22, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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He hasn’t been perfect, but Peter Budaj has been good enough to give the Kings a two-game winning streak. Now the 34-year-old goalie is just hoping to keep it going, while Jonathan Quick and Jeff Zatkoff recover from their groin injuries.

“I just want to take it one game at a time,” Budaj said, per LA Kings Insider. “I know it’s a cliché and you guys probably hate it when players say that, but it is true. You just want to look up one game ahead, and that’s what you want to look at. We won today, we’re very happy, but we’ve just got to regroup, come back to work.”

Again, Budaj hasn’t been perfect. His save percentage is just .889, which isn’t very good at all.

But for a guy who’d started just one NHL game since the 2013-14 season, simply playing well enough to give his team a chance to win is about all that could be asked, and on that he’s delivered. He was a perfect three-for-three in Saturday’s shootout versus Vancouver, recovering nicely after allowing a late goal to send the game to overtime.

Next up for the Kings is a home game tomorrow against Columbus. After that comes a visit from Nashville, and then it’s off on a two-game trip to St. Louis and Chicago.

“There are a lot of tough games coming up for us, so we’ve got to just be ready and work hard and try to focus on the next game and don’t look too far ahead,” said Budaj, “because then you’re going to get caught in the moment and the present’s going to kind of slip away from you, so you’ve just got to focus on the present.”

Blackhawks’ issues go beyond penalty killing

CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 15:  Daniel Winnik #26 of the Toronto Maple Leafs tries to control the puck under pressure from Brent Seabrook #7 of the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center on February 15, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The Blackhawks defeated the Maple Leafs 7-2.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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With all the talk about the Chicago Blackhawks’ dreadful penalty killing to start the season, it should probably be noted they haven’t been all that great at even strength either.

In fact, per Natural Stat Trick, in six games worth of five-on-five action, the ‘Hawks have been outshot by a margin of 143-115, and that’s the worst ratio in the entire league.

Yes, even worse than Arizona, Calgary, and Buffalo, all of whom have just one win each.

What’s saved the ‘Hawks has been scoring 14 goals on those 115 shots, while allowing just eight on the 143. At five-on-five, Richard Panik has three goals on just five shots. Meanwhile, Goalie Corey Crawford has been excellent at even strength, even if his .886 save percentage at all strengths doesn’t show it.

On Saturday, the ‘Hawks needed two late goals to send their game against the visiting Maple Leafs to overtime. They went on to win in the shootout, improving their record to 3-3-0.

“We’re certainly fortunate to come back in a game like that,” head coach Joel Quenneville said, per CSN Chicago. “There have been a lot of comebacks in the league this year and we’ve given up some leads ourselves. That was a little different way of going about it. There are some positives but more so how we played in the third period. But we still lose a lot of momentum in the game. That’s what we’ve got to shore up.”

Tonight at home to Calgary, the main focus will rightly be on the penalty kill, which has surrendered a ridiculous 12 goals already.

Just don’t ignore the other elements of the Blackhawks’ game, because right now this looks like a two-line team, with a bottom six that’s struggling to keep its collective head above water.