Around the Rink – Thursday, November 18th

Let’s take a look at the NHL’s five games of the day. All start times are Eastern (ET) as usual.

7:00 pm

New Jersey @ Toronto

Two of the worst teams in the East (and the NHL) square off in this one. At least each club will be “in their element” (relatively speaking), as the Devils are much better on the road (4-6-0) and the Leafs are much more comfortable at home (4-4-2). Whoever gets the start in the Toronto net should have a lot to gain; New Jersey has been shut out in three of their last six games and scored the least amount of goals in the NHL (33) so far this season.

Tampa Bay @ Philadelphia

This should be a real fun one to watch. The Lightning have fallen behind the Capitals quite a bit in the Southeast Division, but they are still a team on the rise. Steve Stamkos is making his presence felt as arguably the most unstoppable scorer in the NHL. Meanwhile, the Flyers finally dropped a game after getting shut out by the Montreal Canadiens and their red-hot goalie Carey Price, but they’re 8-1-1 in their last 10 games.

The game is on NHL Network, by the way.

Florida @ Boston

It’s not yet clear if the Bruins will play Tim Thomas or rest him in favor of Tuukka Rask, but if Tomas Vokoun plays in both back-to-back contests, this could be a real showcase of great goaltending. Oddly enough, Boston has been a lot better on the road (7-1-0) than at home (3-4-1) at this point. These two teams aren’t quite rivals, but it might be interesting to see Nathan Horton play against his former team.

7:30 pm

Nashville @ Montreal

Not too long ago, the Predators were 5-0-3 and stood as the last team in the NHL without a regulation lost. In the eight games since then, the Predators went 2-6 and needed shootouts to gain those victories.

While the Predators are falling apart, the Canadiens are on fire. They have a four point lead on the Bruins for the Northeast Division lead, although it’s really a two win lead. That’s because they’ve played in two more contests than Boston, so Montreal still needs to continue to pile up the wins. Tonight appears to be a great opportunity to do just that, as long as they don’t take Nashville too lightly.

8:30 pm

San Jose @ Dallas

Both teams are playing well, but not exceptionally so, in the ultra-competitive Pacific Division. At this point, the Sharks just seem to be better at losing. Both teams have nine wins to their credit, but San Jose earned three points via shootout/overtime losses while every Dallas loss came in regulation.

These two clubs don’t like each other at all, so it should be entertaining. The Sharks come off a tough loss to the Colorado Avalanche, while the Stars are more rested and are at home, so I’d give Dallas a slight advantage going into this contest.

Isles sign Northeastern captain Stevens

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John Stevens, who just wrapped a four-year career at Northeastern University, has signed a two-year, entry-level deal with the Islanders, the club announced on Monday.

Stevens, 22, went undrafted but emerged as a valuable player for the Huskies, culminating with a senior season in which he served as captain and averaged better than a point per game (28 in 25 contests).

Stevens is the son of longtime L.A. Kings associate coach John Stevens, who formerly served as the bench boss in Philly.

A third member 0f the Stevens clan, Nolan, also played this season at Northeastern — his junior campaign — and was taken by St. Louis in the fifth round of last year’s draft.

McElhinney to start for Leafs tomorrow

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Curtis McElhinney will start in goal for the Maple Leafs when they host Florida tomorrow.

Which means Toronto’s regular starter, Frederik Andersen, will not.

Andersen, hurt Saturday in Buffalo, only lasted 20 minutes of practice this morning. The Toronto Star, citing a Leafs source, is reporting that Andersen “took a blow to his jaw from a player in Saturday’s 5-2 loss to the Sabres.”

McElhinney is 4-5-0 with a .919 save percentage in 10 appearances for the Leafs this season. He told reporters that tomorrow will be the biggest start of his NHL career.

It remains to be seen who will back up McElhinney against the Panthers. The Leafs have recalled goalie Garret Sparks from the AHL on an emergency basis. All three netminders were on the ice today.

Update:

Expect Sparks to be the back-up tomorrow.

Toronto has a three-point playoff cushion, with eight games remaining.

The Leafs also recalled forward Kasperi Kapanen, the 22nd overall draft pick in 2014. Kapanen, 20, has 18 goals and 25 assists in 43 games for the Marlies this season. He’s expected to replace Ben Smith on the fourth line, alongside Brian Boyle and Matt Martin.

Habs sign d-man Mete, who ‘does everything’ for junior team

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Victor Mete, Montreal’s fourth-round pick at last year’s draft, has signed his three-year, entry-level deal, the club announced on Monday.

Mete, 18, is in his third year with OHL powerhouse London, and finished this season with 15 goals and 44 points in 50 games. He’s developed a reputation as a terrific skater, and often plays alongside fellow Knights d-man Olli Juolevi, who the Canucks took fifth overall at last year’s draft.

London assistant coach Dylan Hunter had high praise for Mete this season.

“When it comes to little nuances of his game, stick on puck, knowing when to make a play and when there isn’t a play to just get it out, he’s one of the best there is right now,” Hunter said, per the London Free Press.

“He does everything for us.”

Mete has one year of junior eligibility remaining, so it’s likely he’ll be back in London next season. At 5-foot-10 and just 180 pounds, he’s undersized and could use another year of development before turning pro.

 

After ‘great’ senior year, Pens sign Union standout Taylor

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Pittsburgh wasted little time in getting Jeff Taylor in the mix.

Taylor, the Union College senior defenseman who had his collegiate career end over the weekend, signed a two-year, entry-level deal on Monday, and also inked an ATO to join the club’s AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

Taylor, the club’s seventh-round pick in 2014, enjoyed a career year at Union, helping the Dutchmen advance to the NCAA Tournament by setting career highs in goals (9) and points (33) in 38 games.

Back in December, Pens assistant GM Bill Guerin spoke glowingly about Taylor’s last collegiate campaign, saying he was in the midst of a “great” senior season.

“This is a kid we’ve been looking forward to getting since we drafted him,” Guerin said, per the Post-Gazette. “I remember his first development camp, everybody was like, ‘Oh, wow, look at this kid. He can move the puck, he can skate, he’s quick. He thinks the game well.’ And it hasn’t stopped.

“He’s an undersized guy, but he has the ability to get himself out of trouble because he’s got great feet and he thinks the game well.”