Around the Rink – Wednesday, November 24th

After such a quiet night last night, the NHL is back with a vengeance. 13 games are on tap tonight to make sure there’s something entertaining on TV while you’re out getting loaded up to ensure you’ve got a fantastic Thanksgiving hangover. Pass the gravy! All times listed are Eastern.

7:00 pm

Pittsburgh @ Buffalo

Ryan Miller and Craig River are no-go’s for Buffalo. That could mean trouble for the Sabres as the Pens come rolling into town on a three-game win streak and winners of five of their last six games.

Columbus @ NY Islanders

So, let’s see. Columbus is on fire and playing great. The Isles are in the midst of a 12-game losing streak and just sent Josh Bailey, one of their top forwards, down to the AHL. Columbus should win in a walk, right? Mmm, trap game.

Washington @ Carolina

The Caps have dropped their last three games and their previous two road games ended with 5-0 losses. It’d be a good time to turn things around, right? Carolina has lost four of their last five and their last two have come in the shootout. Something’s got to give here.

Detroit @ Atlanta

A pair of teams on winning streaks pair off in this one. Atlanta is coming off wins against Washington and the Islanders while Detroit is coming off their overtime comeback win against Calgary and winners of five out of their last six. The Wings get see Dustin Byfuglien once again while Alex Burmistrov will get to face off against his idol Pavel Datsyuk. It’s like the storyline for an episode of “Family Matters” or something.

7:30 pm

Los Angeles @ Montreal

Both teams are looking to bounce back after tough losses on Monday night and the players to watch in this one might just be the goalies. Carey Price has been nothing short of amazing for the Habs and Jonathan Bernier gets the nod for L.A. It’s a big deal for Bernier because he’s a Quebec native and will have plenty of family and friends in person to see him play.

Dallas @ Ottawa

Dallas is looking to put their ugly loss to Toronto behind them and going against an unassuming but tough Ottawa team might not be the solution they’re looking for. After dropping three straight ugly games, Ottawa’s win against L.A. made for a distinct change. That being they weren’t blown out. At least Brad Richards doesn’t have to worry about trade rumors to Ottawa… Right?

Calgary @ New Jersey

New Jersey is looking to get their first two-game win streak of the season. Yeah, it’s been that kind of year. Calgary, meanwhile, has played two tough games in a row against Detroit and the Rangers and dropping both in stomach-punch fashion. Henrik Karlsson will start in goal for Calgary so the Flames defense has to tighten things up for him. For the Devils, another dominating performance might get them going for the season.

NY Rangers @ Tampa Bay

Steve Stamkos mania will ramp up once again and with the Rangers in town, impressing the New York media might help continue the craze sweeping the league. We’re OK with that. Meanwhile, the Rangers are on a mini-roll of late winning their last two games. They’re playing tough hockey but trying to bust the Lightning’s four-game win streak will be tough to do.

Boston @ Florida

What will Nathan Horton do to get back at his old team this time? When these two met earlier this year, Horton had three assists in helping Milan Lucic’s hat trick in a 4-0 B’s win. The Panthers are seemingly stuck in this pattern of winning one game and losing the next. They can’t get a winning streak going, but they don’t get a losing streak either. Zen hockey? If the pattern holds, they’ll be celebrating a victory tonight.

8:00 pm

St. Louis @ Nashville

Barret Jackman makes his return for St. Louis and for the Blues, getting their defense back healthy will be a huge boost. Jaroslav Halak hasn’t needed the help all year, but lately getting some better work in front of him would help. The Blues are on a two game win streak but Nashville has been tough on them all year. The Preds are 2-1-0 against the Blues so far this year.

Philadelphia @ Minnesota

The Flyers hit the road and land in Minnesota to deal with the Wild. The key in this one for Philly will be to stay out of the penalty box. The Wild have the second best power play in the NHL and they play things a bit tougher at home. The Wild will send out Jose Theodore against the Flyers and in his career, he’s 14-8-1 against them. There’s your random stat for the day.

10:00 pm

Colorado @ Vancouver

The Canucks will honor former goalie Kirk McLean in their ring of honor in this one and Roberto Luongo could use the inspiration. Vancouver’s dropped four straight and having to deal with the speedy and tenacious Avalanche won’t help matters. The Avs, meanwhile, have won four in a row and are third in the league in scoring. Vancouver throwing out another stinker in this one could get fans pushing the panic button.

10:30 pm

Chicago @ San Jose

Antti Niemi will get the start for San Jose against his old team and while these two faced off in the Western Conference finals last year, obviously Chicago is a different team than they were then. San Jose would like to snap their three-game skid but with Chicago coming into town after thumping Vancouver on Monday, things might get scary. Big question: Do Chicago’s shooters have the book on how to beat Niemi the way they do Luongo?

NHL players weigh in on national anthem protests, divisive President Trump comments

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A number of National Hockey League players and coaches on Monday expressed their opinions about the national anthem protests and the divisive comments of President Donald Trump during a rally on Friday and on Twitter this weekend.

At a rally on Friday, Trump urged NFL team owners to fire players that take a knee during the National Anthem. He reiterated those remarks on Twitter the following day.

On Sunday, almost every NFL team took part in a form of protest against racial inequality and injustice during the anthem. Some players took a knee. Other players linked arms with fellow players, coaches and even team owners in a show of solidarity. Some teams, like the Pittsburgh Steelers, Seattle Seahawks and Tennessee Titans did not take the field during the anthem.

On Monday, Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews, who is 20 years old and from Scottsdale, AZ., said he would not take part in protest during the anthem.

“My great uncle served, I have friends and family who’ve served, there’s men and women who have risked their lives for the United States, people who have died for the United States,” Matthews said, per Sportsnet.

“I don’t know if kneeling, sitting, stretching is something I’d really look into doing because to me it’s like a dishonour to the men and women that fight for that flag, fight for the U.S. I don’t think I’d be one of the people to take part in that.”

Boston Bruins forward David Backes, who is from Minneapolis, MN., said he will continue to stand during the Star Spangled Banner.

“My opinion is that I’m American and I love my country and I love my flag,” said Backes, per CSNNE.com.

“I’ve got great buddies that have been in the military and they’ve sacrificed for my freedom, so I’d never want to do anything to disrespect that. My standpoint is that I’m standing for every national anthem with my hand over my heart and I’m staring at that flag recognizing those sacrifices. If I’ve got beef with a social justice issue or something else-wise, I’m going to find different avenues that are not disrespectful, especially to those that are military men and women that give me the freedom to do what I do.”

Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Justin Faulk told the Edmonton Journal that players have the right to protest, while his head coach Bill Peters does not believe that kneeling during the National Anthem is a sign of disrespect.

“I understand both sides. I don’t think anyone is truly trying to disrespect the flag, to be honest with you,” Peters told the Raleigh News & Observer. “I think people have too much pride in what’s going on in their countries, and they just want to make it better and there’s nothing wrong with that.”

Winnipeg Jets forward Blake Wheeler is believed to be the first NHL player to publicly speak out against the comments of President Trump, doing so from his verified Twitter account on Saturday. His comments followed scathing criticism of the President from a number of athletes, including NBA stars LeBron James and Stephen Curry, in the wake of what Trump said at the rally. Following Sunday’s schedule of games, a number of NFL players spoke about the protests.

“I’m absolutely for the first amendment,” said Wheeler, when asked if he would support a teammate if they decide to take a knee during the National Anthem.

“I’m a big believer that what makes America a special place is you’re allowed to stand up for what you believe in. With just cause, if someone were electing to do that they would 100 percent have my support. Even if I don’t necessarily agree with why they do it it is their right to feel that way, it is their right to behave that way. If I didn’t agree with it, I would absolutely sit down, have a coffee, talk about it, try to understand why they feel that way and maybe you become a little more sympathetic.”

McLellan expects Strome to ‘respond and be better’ after sending preseason message

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Ryan Strome played a portion of Saturday’s preseason game on a line with Connor McDavid.

That, according to reports, eventually changed throughout the course of the game, as coach Todd McLellan put prospect Jesse Puljujarvi on the top line in place of Strome.

In part, the move was made to help get Puljujarvi, the fourth overall pick in 2016, going offensively. In part, the move was made to send an early message to Strome, who was acquired in the Jordan Eberle trade in June. That was essentially the explanation McLellan delivered following the game, according to Sportsnet.

He reiterated that on Monday.

“In Ryan’s case, it was a message that went to him fairly early in the process, just so that he gets it out of his system early,” McLellan told reporters.

“I’d rather do that now than do it two or three games into the year and have him confused or wondering what or why. We sat with him today and went through some video clips and we expect him to respond and be better. We’re still trying to figure him out as he’s trying to figure us out. But we’re going to push him . . . to be the player that we believe he is and hopefully it pays off for him and for us.”

The Oilers continue their preseason schedule tonight at home against the Carolina Hurricanes. Strome, 24, has the ability to play both center and on the wing, which should give McLellan more options as he sets his forward combinations ahead of the regular season.

In terms of the message from the coaching staff, Strome called it a “learning process.”

“I saw a couple of the clips that I thought could have been improved on,” said Strome, per the Oilers. “Clean that up and I really just think that at the end of the day you have to get yourself ready for the start of the year. It’s building, and trying to get to where you want to be.”

Ducks’ duo of Getzlaf and Perry could reportedly be reunited

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The Anaheim Ducks appear to be putting the band back together.

With three preseason games remaining for head coach Randy Carlyle to nail down different line combinations ahead of the beginning of the regular season, reports out of Anaheim suggest he may be reuniting a duo that has had success in the past.

From the Orange County Register:

And there appears to be the reunion of Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry as linemates after the two largely played apart from each other last season. Perry did finish up with Getzlaf in the playoffs after Patrick Eaves went down to injury.

The combination of Perry and Getzlaf has over the years, been able to dominate the opposition at times, using both their size — Perry is apparently the smaller of the two, listed at 6-foot-3 and 213 pounds — and skill to help drive the Ducks offensively.

That doesn’t mean they haven’t been subject to separation in the past, just like any other line around the league at one point or another. That included last season, as the pair went through an offensive slump.

Last season, the now 32-year-old Perry scored only 19 goals, which, if you exclude the 2013 lockout-shortened season, is the third lowest total for his entire career, and the lowest since 2006-07. Perry and Getzlaf were once again united during the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs, as the Ducks looked to jump-start the former while he endured a down year in the scoring department.

“It’s a line I’m comfortable with,” Perry told the L.A. Times at the time of Carlyle’s playoff decision. “We played a lot of the year together and we had some good success in past years as well.”

Canadiens’ Drouin ‘day-to-day’ with upper body injury

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Some mildly concerning news for the Montreal Canadiens on Monday as the team announced Jonathan Drouin will not play in their preseason game tonight due to an upper body injury.

He is currently listed as being day-to-day. He will be replaced in the lineup tonight by veteran forward Torrey Mitchell.

At this point it is just something that is keeping him out of a preseason game, so it’s not really a huge deal at this point. Seeing as how the game doesn’t count there is no sense in risking further injury for a player that is going to be a key piece of this year’s roster. But the fact he still has something that is bothering him enough to keep him out of a game has to be at least a little bit of a concern for Canadiens fans.

The Canadiens acquired Drouin this summer for top defense prospect Mikhail Sergachev and are counting on him to be an impact player. They also immediately signed him to a six-year, $33 million contract extension.

The plan right now seems to be to try him out at center to help fill what might be the Canadiens’ biggest organizational need — a top-line, No. 1 center.

Drouin is an exceptional talent and still has superstar potential and is coming off of a season that saw him take a huge step forward. In 73 games with the Lightning he scored 21 goals and added 32 assists. His 53 total points would have made him the third-leading scorer on the Canadiens. If he takes another leap in his development and solidifies that No. 1 center spot his addition could be a total game-changer for the Canadiens’ roster.