Around the rink – Monday, November 15th

So Colin Campbell might be having a bad Monday, but that doesn’t mean you have to have one too. Hold off on sending a profanity-filled e-mail to your co-workers and try not to complain too loudly to your friends about things because you’ve got actual hockey to watch tonight and, damn it, you’re going to enjoy it. All times listed are Eastern because that’s where the NHL home offices are based from.

7:00 pm

New Jersey @ Boston

Boston’s found themselves in a bit of a mini-slump having dropped their last two games and four of their last five games. The Bruins have hit an offensive outage the last couple games but the Devils might be the solution they’re looking for. The Devils are coming off a comeback win over Edmonton, but the Bruins are not the Oilers so the Devils will have to be a lot better to win this game. The Bruins offense will like hearing this bit of statistical news: In five of the last six Devils games, they’ve given up exactly three goals in each game. That one game that was the outlier? They gave up five goals.

Vancouver @ Buffalo

Perhaps the Sabres are getting things turned around. They’ve won three of their last four games, and have gotten seven out of a possible eight points in those games. Not too bad. With Thomas Vanek scoring overtime winners and Ryan Miller back in goal, this could be the start of a run for the Sabres. Having to deal with Vancouver, however, will be their biggest test to date. The Canucks are 2-1-0 so far on their east coast trip and they’ve looked strong against both Ottawa and Toronto. If they’re for real, they can take care of Buffalo. One fun side show to look out for is how the Sabres fans treat Raffi Torres. Torres turned out to be a bust of a pickup last year at the trade deadline and helped make the Sabres stay in the playoffs a short one.

NY Rangers @ Pittsburgh

The Rangers got things right in a big way against Edmonton yesterday but dealing with the Penguins means that life should be a little harder. The Pens are playing better and Marc-Andre Fleury is perhaps getting his own mojo back. Meanwhile, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are firing on all cylinders. This could turn out to be a special game if the big performances the Rangers got from Marian Gaborik and Alex Frolov carry over to tonight.

Ottawa @ Philadelphia

So the Senators shutout the Bruins in their last game, meanwhile the Flyers have been an offensive wrecking crew in their last two outings scoring 13 goals in the last two games combined. Does Brian Elliott stay hot for Ottawa and keep the Flyers off the board, or will it be a reality check for the Sens and the Flyers continue to pile up goals? It should be fun to see how things shake out. The sneaky superstar in this game could be Sergei Bobrovsky if he gets the call in net again. He’s been the rock the Flyers have relied on and his steady play seems to be making the rest of the team settle down and feel at ease to open things up. Scary, eh?

8:00 pm

St. Louis @ Colorado

Two injury-riddled teams square off in Denver. The Blues ride in losers of three in a row while the Avs will be looking to bounce back after losing to Detroit on Saturday. After getting off to such a hot start, injuries (and perhaps statistical correction) may have caught up to St. Louis. They weren’t giving up lots of goals during their hot start, but lately it’s been a different story having given up 16 goals in their last three games. To be fair, eight of those came against Columbus. The run-and-gun Avs might give the Blues gimpy defense all they can handle.

10:30 pm

Los Angeles @ San Jose

The potential game of the night comes from out west so if you want to see it, you gotta want to see it if you’re out east. The red-hot Kings roll into San Jose looking to teach their rivals a lesson and let them know that they’re the big shots in the Pacific Division this year. The Kings have won six in a row and they’ve been doing it thanks to stellar goaltending. The Kings are tops in the NHL in goals allowed but the Sharks are no slouches either coming in fifth in that category. During their win streak, the Kings have given up just seven goals. It’s not all snazzy goaltending though, the offense has been stellar as well scoring 21 goals during the six-game streak. Dealing with the Sharks in San Jose won’t be easy, they’re 5-2-1 so far this year at the HP Pavillion at San Jose.

Penguins shouldn’t rush to replace Bonino

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This post is part of Penguins Day on PHT…

Nick Bonino was an important player for Pittsburgh the past two years. So when he signed with Nashville on July 1, it was natural for Penguins fans to want an immediate replacement.

But for GM Jim Rutherford, finding a new third-line center may take some time. The Penguins might even start the season without knowing who it will be.

What Rutherford wants to avoid is panicking and being forced into a mistake. All the other general managers are well-aware of what he needs. He’s probably been thrown a few anvils already.

“There’s a couple of guys I could acquire right now,” Rutherford told the Post-Gazette on Wednesday. “I feel like there’s another group of guys that could possibly be available here soon. Kind of just waiting to see if that happens. Something could happen in the very near future or this could drag on for a little while.”

If nothing is done by the start of the season, the Penguins could give someone like Jake Guentzel a chance to take over Bonino’s role. Or, if they’d prefer to keep Guentzel in the top six, maybe a youngster like Daniel Sprong or Zach Aston-Reese would be game to try, at least on a temporary basis.

It should be noted that Rutherford has proven a savvy mid-season trader. In 2015-16, he brought in Carl Hagelin and Trevor Daley, a couple of veterans who played big roles on the way to a Stanley Cup title. And then, last season, he acquired Ron Hainsey, who likewise played a key part in a championship.

Perhaps owing to that experience, Rutherford says he’s more comfortable waiting to unearth a solution than “trading for somebody where I’m not sure whether they can help us or not.”

In fairness, it’s not easy to just replace a productive third-line center whose salary was a bargain. The Penguins had Bonino for a cap hit of just $1.9 million, and he turned his time in Pittsburgh into a four-year, $16.4 million deal with the Predators.

One potential target that’s come up in speculation is the Maple Leafs’ Tyler Bozak, who just so happens to be Phil Kessel‘s good friend and former center.

Bozak, 31, has one year left on his contract before he can become an unrestricted free agent, a status that naturally lends itself to trade speculation.

But with a $4.1 million cap hit, making room for Bozak could be a challenge for the Penguins. And on top of that, the Leafs are bound to ask a fair bit for a guy who had 55 points (18G, 37A) last season.

That’s why it’s so hard to win back-to-back Stanley Cups in today’s NHL. The Penguins were lucky to bring back mostly the same roster last season.

Things will be different in 2017-18.

Related: Matt Murray discusses the ‘new look’ Penguins

Tavares says ‘no rush’ to sign extension with Isles

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John Tavares keeps saying all the right things about his future with the New York Islanders.

But that doesn’t change the fact he still doesn’t have a contract extension in place.

Tavares, who can become an unrestricted free agent next summer, spoke with Newsday yesterday, telling the newspaper he was in “no rush” to sign and that he’s comfortable to just “let the process run its course, keep the lines of communication open, keep it all internal.”

It’s been reported that the Isles’ uncertain arena situation could be complicating matters. It’s still not clear where the team will call home for the long term.

On that topic, Tavares chose to avoid making any definitive statements.

“The possibility with Belmont and that RFP coming out, there’s great potential there,” the 26-year-old said. “We’ll see where it goes. A lot of those things are out of my hands. Some things I don’t try to worry about them too, too much. I’m just a hockey player. I try to be as best prepared as I can be. It’s a big decision obviously because it’s eight years of my career, really entering into my prime years and a great opportunity for myself to achieve what I set out to achieve when I was a kid, making it to the NHL, wanting to win a Stanley Cup and wanting to do that with the Islanders.”

There’s more in the interview, including his thoughts on the Isles’ offseason moves. Click here to give it a read.

Tavares also spoke with Newday about the thumb surgery he had in April. All’s well on that front, according to the captain.  

“I felt I didn’t want this reoccurring and the recovery time was only six weeks,” he said, “so it was the right thing to do once the season ended.”

Related: Tavares open to signing contract extension this summer

Under Pressure: Derrick Pouliot (again)

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For the second straight year, Derrick Pouliot is our pick for the Pittsburgh player under the most pressure heading into the season.

Perhaps we should just focus on someone else, but the Penguins gave the 23-year-old defenseman a one-year contract extension in July. The eighth overall pick in the 2012 draft, Pouliot knows time is running short to prove Pittsburgh didn’t make a big mistake.

It should be compelling to watch how he fares.

“I’ve got to make an impact right away and show that I belong in the NHL,” he said, per the Post-Gazette. “It’s been three years now. I haven’t fully established myself yet. I want to take it one step at a time and build as the year goes on.”

Pouliot felt he had a strong finish to his AHL season, and perhaps that will help his confidence heading into camp.

But it’s worth noting that he’s no longer exempt from waivers. So unless he earns a spot, that could mean a change of scenery, with the Penguins either losing him for nothing or trading him for pennies on the dollar.

Pouliot could feasibly crack the opening roster as Pittsburgh’s eighth defenseman, behind Kris Letang, Justin Schultz, Brian Dumoulin, Olli Maatta, Ian Cole, Chad Ruhwedel and new addition Matt Hunwick.

He could then languish on that roster until an injury gives him a chance to play.

The first step, though, is coming into camp and building off the back half of last season.

“For me to establish myself as an NHL defenseman, a regular guy in the lineup, it’s kind of playing how I ended the season: solid defensively, consistent in that regard,” Pouliot said, per the Tribune-Review. “That’s been one thing that’s always been brought up about me, inconsistency. So I think it’s starting with that and building each game.”

Looking to make the leap: Zach Aston-Reese

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This post is part of Penguins Day on PHT…

With a number of departures from a roster that won back-to-back Stanley Cups, it’s imperative that the Pittsburgh Penguins get a push from some of their prospects in 2017-18.

One of the top candidates to earn a regular spot is forward Zach Aston-Reese, a 23-year-old who just wrapped up an impressive career at Northeastern University.

Aston-Reese signed with the Pens in March, hoping to follow in the footsteps of fellow undrafted NCAA products Chris Kunitz and Conor Sheary.

In a twist, Kunitz is one of those departed players that Aston-Reese may help replace.

“He was a college free agent, too, and kind of a goal scorer his last couple years in college,” Aston-Reese said of Kunitz, per NHL.com. “Just made a career for himself playing with good guys and being able to put the puck in the back of the net.”

Aston-Reese scored 31 goals in 38 games for the Huskies last season, making him a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award.

But despite all the accolades, he knows he’s still just a prospect, with a lot left to learn, and a lot left to prove.

“Whether we start up top or down in Wilkes-Barre, I think it’s important to be in the same mindset that, you’re trying to get better every day you show up to the rink,” he said, per the Post-Gazette. “If we do get that opportunity, we need to have a good mindset, produce and do what they ask of us.”