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Around the Rink – Monday, November 22nd

What’s the general percentage of people working on the Monday during Thanksgiving week? I’m thinking somewhere between 80 and 90 percent, but I could be 100 percent wrong there. Either way, whether you’re planning a leisurely day full of hockey watching or in need of a light at the end of the tunnel at work, here are previews of today’s eight games. As usual, the start times are Eastern (ET).

7:00 pm

Dallas @ Toronto

The Stars have won the last four meetings between these two relative strangers and their odds of continuing that streak are solid. They bring in a high-powered offense while the Maple Leafs are struggling to provide goal support for their beleaguered goalies. Toronto’s biggest advantage is probably the fact that they are playing at home, though.

Calgary @ NY Rangers

When I think of these two teams, the first thing that pops into my head is the recent trend that Darryl Sutter often looks like an even more befuddled general manager than mistake prone Glen Sather. (Sutter’s most recent trade seemed silly, as he had to throw useful defenseman Ian White in a deal just to get rid of a troubled family member.)

The Flames come into this game frustrated, as they coughed up a two goal lead in the third period to lose to the Red Wings in crushing fashion. The Rangers are the more rested of the two teams, so we’ll see if that factors into this contest.

Washington @ New Jersey

This game was supposed to be a clash between two Eastern Conference titans, but only the Capitals are holding up their end of the bargain. Meanwhile, the Devils are off to their second worst start in team history and are especially pitiful at home with a 1-5-2 record. Put their sputtering start together with the fact that Martin Brodeur will be out as he rests his elbow and it’s pretty difficult to predict good things for New Jersey. Then again, the NHL often surprises, so you never know.

Montreal @ Philadelphia

The only thing separates these two teams in the standings is one point via an overtime/shootout loss for the Flyers. Last time these two teams met, Carey Price continued his outstanding play with a shutout victory. We’ll see if the league’s stingiest team (Montreal has only allowed 39 goals this season) can shut down its most explosive (Philadelphia leads the league with 75 goals) once again.

Nashville @ Columbus

The Blue Jackets might just be the most surprising team in the NHL, at least in a positive way. Columbus just wrapped up an undefeated road trip, but are only .500 at home. They are currently on a three game winning streak as they host the Predators, who are starting to get things back together after struggling a bit the last few weeks.

7:30 pm

Pittsburgh @ Florida

It’s been a bumpy start to the season for the Penguins – which really isn’t as big of a surprise as you might think – but it seems like they’re starting to heat up (4-0-1 in their last five games). They’ll pay a Panthers team that is pretty stout at home (5-2-0 in Sunrise so far) and Tomas Vokoun is 4-1 in his last five, so this could be an interesting game even if it seems lopsided in star power.

Los Angeles @ Ottawa

These two teams show how quickly things can change in the NHL. The Kings suddenly find the Coyotes rapidly approaching their rear view mirror in the Pacific Division while the Senators seem to go from hot and cold streaks seemingly with the suddenness of a flick of a light switch. Ottawa was outscored 17-4 in dropping the last three games of a four game road trip, so it’s safe to say they are happy to be home again.

Boston @ Tampa Bay

Each of these teams has 24 points (although Boston got there in two less games played), but they got there in different ways; the Lightning with electric goal scoring and the Bruins with outstanding goaltending and defense. One heartening thing for Tampa Bay: they played 13 of their first 20 games on the road, so they are quietly one of the league’s scrappier clubs. That being said, the Bruins are 7-1 on the road so it won’t be a picnic for the Lightning.

Blue Jackets defeat Coyotes in shootout, but only after Mike Smith made franchise-record 58 saves

GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 07:  Goaltender Mike Smith #41 of the Arizona Coyotes during the preseason NHL game against San Jose Sharks at Gila River Arena on October 7, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. The Coyotes defeated the Sharks 3-1  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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PHOENIX (AP) Columbus pummeled Mike Smith with a franchise-record 60 shots, Alexander Wennberg scored with 2:16 left in the third period and the Blue Jackets beat the Arizona Coyotes 3-2 in a shootout Saturday night.

Smith set a franchise record with 58 saves, but the Coyotes still lost their third straight.

Cam Atkinson and Sam Gagner scored on Smith in the shootout while Curtis McElhinney stopped both Arizona shooters. Boone Jenner also scored for Columbus, which has won three straight.

Shane Doan got his 399th career goal and Radim Vrbata also scored for Arizona, which was playing its eighth overtime game in 23 contests.

Doan put Arizona ahead 2-1 at 11:04 of the second when he redirected Michael Stone‘s lobbed shot from just inside the blue line along the right boards.

Wennberg tied it at 2 by backhanding the puck between Smith’s pads off a pass from Brandon Saad.

The Blue Jackets needed only 13 seconds to take the lead in the first period. Jenner took a pass from Jack Johnson between the hashes and fired over Smith’s glove.

Smith made 47 saves between the two Columbus goals and 21 in the third period alone.

After failing to take advantage of a two-man advantage late in the first, the Coyotes evened the score on Vrbata’s rising shot off McElhinney’s blocker from the left faceoff circle for a power-play goal 63 seconds into the second period.

Smith helped preserve the lead with 5:30 left in the second, stopping Saad’s breakaway attempt with a sprawling pad save.

McElhinney finished with 32 saves.

Related:

Why the Blue Jackets are the NHL’s biggest surprise

Panthers lament slow start versus Sens, as debate over controversial Gallant firing continues

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 20:  Keith Yandle #3 of the Florida Panthers skates against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on November 20, 2016 in New York City. The Panthers defeated the Rangers 3-2 in the shootout.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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It’s been one week since the shocking and controversial firing of Gerard Gallant. The decision made by the Florida Panthers continues to be a hot topic of debate.

Don Cherry weighed in on it Saturday. As you might expect, he wasn’t in favor of the decision. Meanwhile, the Panthers lost 2-0 to the Ottawa Senators in a game that completely swung in favor of the hosts in the span of just 19 seconds.

Erik Karlsson and Derick Brassard scored early in the first period, giving Ottawa a two-goal lead and that was the only scoring of the evening.

On taking over from Gallant, interim coach Tom Rowe said, per the Sun Sentinel: “This isn’t a knock on Gerard, because he did a great job.

“I just thought some guys weren’t bringing it the way they’re capable of bringing it every single night. A little too much inconsistency. They’d come out one period and play great. Another period they just sit back a little bit too tentative.”

That second paragraph is interesting.

Against the Senators, the Panthers had a slow start, illustrated by their 19-second lapse leading to the Ottawa goals. The Panthers found their game in the second period but tested Mike Condon with only 24 shots on goal by the end of the night.

They also couldn’t capitalize on a five-on-three power play in the second period.

“It’s a tough one to swallow,” said Keith Yandle, per the Miami Herald. “They had a good start, and sometimes you have to weather the storm throughout courses of games, and they did a good job in the first 10 or 12 minutes. If you look at the second period we were better.”

There were anxious moments for the Panthers, as defenseman Aaron Ekblad took a puck to the face in the second period. He missed about two minutes of game time, but did require stitches, according to Rowe.

Avs’ D-man Johnson suffers broken fibula, out six to eight weeks

DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 11:  Erik Johnson #6 of the Colorado Avalanche in action against the Winnipeg Jets at Pepsi Center on November 11, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
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Another loss for the Colorado Avalanche, but the news following this latest defeat is much worse.

Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson has suffered a broken fibula and is out six to eight weeks, the team announced following Saturday’s 3-0 loss to the Dallas Stars.

Johnson left the game because of the injury and didn’t return.

This development occurred later in the same day the team’s captain Gabriel Landeskog skated briefly with his teammates, leading to the possibility that he may travel with the Avs on their upcoming road trip.

It’s obviously devastating news for Colorado, which recently had its effort ripped by coach Jared Bednar. Issues with consistency and work ethic have been around since Patrick Roy was in charge.

The Avalanche have struggled since the beginning of the season after a late-summer coaching change, but they now occupy last place in the Western Conference with five straight losses.

Johnson has 11 points, which ties him with Tyson Barrie for the team lead among defenseman in that category.

In addition to playing 22 minutes a night, which is a substantial loss because he plays on both the penalty kill and power play, he’s also one of only two blue liners with the Avalanche to have even-strength puck possession numbers greater than 50 per cent.

The difficult times for the Avalanche continue.

Video: Caggiula (finally) scores his first NHL goal

EDMONTON, AB - SEPTEMBER 26:  Drake Caggiula #36 of the Edmonton Oilers skates against the Calgary Flames on September 26, 2016 at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)
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Drake Caggiula had to wait to make his NHL debut because of a hip injury suffered in pre-season. He had to wait even longer for his first NHL goal.

On Saturday, the wait for the latter ended.

Playing in just his eighth career NHL game, the North Dakota product and NCAA Frozen Four MOP — pursued by at least half a dozen teams as a college free agent — ripped home a wrist shot from the slot on the power play for career goal No. 1 in the big league.

That goal gave Edmonton a 1-0 lead over the visiting Anaheim Ducks.