Around the rink – Wednesday, November 17th

Happy hump day folks – here’s your beefy rundown of games in the NHL tonight with 12 games rocking your eyeballs across the continent. All times listed are Eastern because that’s just how we roll.

7:00 pm

Tampa Bay @ NY Islanders

Jack Capuano makes his NHL head coaching debut for the Islanders and he gets to deal with a Lightning team that could use a win themselves. A battle between two teams that are trending down of late, the Isles more so having lost 10 straight, doesn’t usually mean there’ll be headlines to be had, but this one’s a bit different.

Boston @ NY Rangers

The Rangers get to debut their 85th anniversary jerseys tonight and doing so against a Bruins team that’s looking for their offense to come back. The Rangers have been playing some solid and tough hockey of late and Marian Gaborik’s return to action has been worth the offense his presence demands. Boston meanwhile may have Johnny Boychuk back in the lineup on defense.

Vancouver @ Pittsburgh

Had this game happened last year, the story line would be “Sid vs. Lou in a battle of gold medalists.” It’s not happening then, and it’s happening now so forget it. Vancouver’s east coast tour is treating them with a .500 record and trying to get one over the Penguins will be tough.

Buffalo @ Washington

The Caps will look to get one back on Buffalo after the Sabres overtime win on Saturday thanks to Thomas Vanek’s crazy overtime winner. The Sabres are winners of four of their last five but beating the Caps in Washington is a tough order to fill. For the Caps, the loss to Buffalo on Saturday was the one hiccup in what’s been a stellar run of late winning seven of their last eight.

Ottawa @ Carolina

The Hurricanes are looking to bounce back after two ugly losses in a row in which they gave up 15 goals total to Philadelphia and Montreal. The Senators would approve if Carolina decided to continue not stopping shots as they’ve scored five goals in their last three games including a 5-1 drubbing by Philly.

Florida @ Atlanta

The Panthers have won two of their last three games and dealing with an Atlanta team in search of a break in goal might be the cure to an ailing offense for Florida. Atlanta has lost five of their last six and in all those losses they’ve given up a ton of goals, an average of 4.6 goals per game in those losses. Ugly.

7:30 pm

St. Louis @ Detroit

The Wings come into tonight’s game winners of six of their last seven and while Mike Babcock has taken his power play players to task, the Blues come into the game looking to turn things around. The Blues have lost four in a row and the great goaltending that was guiding them before has evaporated as the Blues have allowed 22 goals in the last four games. They’ll need Jaroslav Halak to be playoff-good to take down the streaking Wings.

8:00 pm

Anaheim @ Minnesota

After a tough loss last night in Dallas, the Ducks will try and bounce back against the Wild. What’ll be making that difficult is the Wild goaltending which has been outstanding of late. Both Niklas Backstrom and Jose Theodore have been solid-to-stellar this year. Also playing great of late for Minnesota is Martin Havlat. Havlat’s got points in five of his last six games and is coming off a three assist night against Tampa Bay.

9:00 pm

San Jose @ Colorado

The Avs are playing about as well as you can when you’re down as many defensive players as they are. They’re on a streak of winning one then losing one that stretches back to October 30th, a span of seven games. If the trend continues, they’re due to lose tonight and playing a hot Sharks team won’t help their chances. The Sharks are coming in winners of three straight including a thumping of the Kings in their last outing.

9:30 pm

Phoenix @ Calgary

The struggling Flames have lost six of their last seven and dealing with a Coyotes team that’s on a three-game win streak likely isn’t going to help the Flames get their act together. At least they’ll have home ice to keep them warm (cold?) tonight.

Chicago @ Edmonton

Do we think that maybe once the Blackhawks can beat the Oilers this year? Chicago is already 0-2-0 against Edmonton this season with both losses coming in Chicago, all while the Oilers have been able to score at will on the Hawks. Perhaps home ice will treat Edmonton as well as it did Chicago in their previous meetings.

10:30 pm

Columbus @ Los Angeles

The Jackets look to get Mike Commodore back in the lineup tonight and while they’ve been playing well, they’ve lost two of their last three. The Kings, meanwhile, saw their win streak snapped the other night against the Sharks and will be hoping to get back on top of things against the Jackets as they begin their three-game swing through California.

Sabres welcome back oft-injured Kulikov, who has missed 26 games

CALGARY, AB - OCTOBER 18: Dmitry Kulikov #77 of the Buffalo Sabres in action against the Calgary Flames during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on October 18, 2016 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
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Dmitry Kulikov‘s first year in Buffalo has largely been defined by his lingering back injury, but he’ll set about changing that narrative when he returns to the lineup tonight in Nashville.

Today, Sabres head coach Dan Bylsma confirmed Kulikov would play for the first time since Dec. 27, having missed nearly a month with his lingering ailment.

Kulikov also missed 13 games earlier in the year with the same back problem.

Acquired at last year’s draft in a deal that sent Mark Pysyk to Florida — along with picks being exchanged — Kulikov was expected to play a big role in Buffalo this season, and projected to play on the club’s top defensive pairing with Rasmus Ristolainen.

“You watch Florida when they go on the PK; he was the first guy on the ice, when they needed a goal on the playoffs he was on the ice, when they needed to protect a lead late in the game he was on the ice,” Sabres GM Tim Murray said at the time of the trade, per NHL.com. “So we certainly liked what we saw.”

All told, the 26-year-old Russian’s appeared in just 20 games this year, registering a single point. He has averaged over 22 minutes per, though — meaning head coach Dan Bylsma has used Kulikov quite a bit, when available.

Kulikov didn’t take this morning’s skate, so no clear indication on who he’ll pair with this evening.

Coyotes’ Holland fined for punching Palat

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Arizona’s Peter Holland has been fined $3,611.11, the maximum allowable under CBA, for punching Tampa Bay’s Ondrej Palat during Saturday’s Coyotes-Lightning game in Glendale.

Holland threw the punch halfway through the second period after getting taken out along the boards by Palat. Holland didn’t like the hit, so he got up, dropped his gloves, and leveled the unsuspecting Palat with a bare fist to the face.

Holland received four minutes for roughing, but the Lightning failed to capitalize with the man advantage.

The Coyotes would go on to win, 5-3.

Ladd back for Isles, who are playing well lately

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 26:  Andrew Ladd #16 of the New York Islanders skates against the Montreal Canadiens at the Barclays Center on October 26, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. The Canadiens defeated the Islanders 3-2.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The streaking New York Islanders will get a key piece back on Tuesday, as Andrew Ladd returns from a four-game absence to face the visiting Blue Jackets.

Ladd has been out of the lineup since Jan. 16 with an upper-body injury.

“I just wanted to be a part of the way we’ve been playing the last little bit, last five games and have put ourselves back in the position where we can get into the playoff race,” Ladd said, per the Isles’ website. “You try to inject some energy, some emotion into getting back in the lineup and just want to be a part of winning some hockey games. I’m excited to get back in there.”

As mentioned, the Isles are on a bit of a roll. They’re 4-1-1 in their last six and have points in four straight games, all of which came under interim bench boss Doug Weight. Weight, of course, took over from Jack Capuano after the longtime head coach was fired from his post last week.

Ladd’s largely been a disappointment this season after signing a monster seven-year, $38.5 million deal in free agency. He has just eight goals and 12 points through 41 games, but did have a decent stretch of production prior to getting hurt.

The biggest reason for New York’s improved play lately has been Thomas Greiss. Now firmly locked into the starting gig — after Jaroslav Halak cleared waivers and sent to the minors — Greiss has gone 2-0-1 in his last three starts with a 0.98 GAA, and .971 save percentage.

Unsurprisingly, Greiss will get the nod against Columbus this evening.

If the Isles can get another result tonight, they could draw closer to the idle Flyers in the wild card chase. New York currently sits just five back of Philly for the final spot, but needs to leapfrog five teams — Boston, Florida, Carolina, New Jersey and Detroit — to get there.

 

 

Elliott has cooled off, and so have the Flames

EDMONTON, AB - OCTOBER 12:  Goalie Brian Elliott #1 of the Calgary Flames covers up the puck while playing 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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It looked for a while like Brian Elliott had regained his form. From Dec. 14 to Jan. 5, he went 5-0-0 with a .922 save percentage.

Alas, things have gone sideways again. From Jan. 6 onward, Elliott has gone 0-3-1 with an .872 save percentage. Last night, he allowed four goals on 28 shots as his Calgary Flames fell, 4-0, in Toronto.

“I think the difference tonight was they capitalized on some chances that they had and we had some really good looks that we didn’t capitalize,” said Flames captain Mark Giordano, per the Calgary Herald. “That’s the end of the story — it’s a 4-0 game. You have to score at least a few goals to win games in this league.”

Indeed, it’s hard to blame the goalie when he doesn’t get a single goal of support. The Leafs’ first goal, the winning goal, certainly wasn’t Elliott’s fault.

But the second goal could’ve been stopped…

…and the third was the back-breaker, coming with his team on the power play.

The Flames didn’t put up much of a fight after that. The loss was their third in a row, and tonight they have to play in Montreal.

Expect Chad Johnson to get the nod against the Canadiens. He hasn’t been too good lately either. In fact, he only lasted 5:58 of his last start, before he was pulled after allowing three goals on four shots in an eventual 7-3 loss to Edmonton.

Read more: ‘It’s embarrassing,’ says Gulutzan after lopsided loss to Oilers

The Flames are still in a playoff spot, thanks in large part to the struggles of the Kings and Jets. But for a team that thought its goaltending problems had been solved by the addition of Elliott, it has to be frustrating that the position remains a weak spot.

Both Elliott and Johnson are pending unrestricted free agents.

Related: An interesting goalie market awaits in the summer