Around the Rink – Monday, November 29th

Thanksgiving made last week’s schedule kind of wacky, but it looks like the NHL will get back to normal … at least until (whatever politically correct term we’re supposed to use for the winter holidays) comes along. Here are previews for tonight’s five games, with all start times being Eastern (ET) as usual.

7:00 pm

Pittsburgh @ NY Rangers

Despite the fact that the Penguins are on a six game winning streak, they’re only three standings points and one win ahead of the up-and-down Rangers (who won two in a row). Both teams are on a roll, with starting goalies – Marc-Andre Fleury and Henrik Lundqvist – who seem like they’ve gotten their games together. Should be a fun one to watch.

7:30 pm

Dallas @ Carolina

The Pacific Division might be the strangest in hockey right now; it seems like there is a new leader every few days. Right now the Stars carry that slippery torch, but only because of the tie-breaker for wins. Dallas and Phoenix have 27 points while Los Angeles and San Jose has 26 points with all of them having played 22 games. To say that the margin of error is small is probably an understatement.

Meanwhile, the Hurricanes are tied for ninth place in the East and are coming off a shootout loss against their division superiors the Washington Capitals. This should be a pretty wide open contest in Carolina.

Edmonton @ Ottawa

Could this be a strange homecoming for former Senators goalie Martin Gerber? It could be, as he won two games ago while Devan Dubnyk lost the Oilers’ last game. Both teams’ typical efforts range from middling to flat-out bad most of the time, but they can put on a good show from time to time too.

9:00 pm

Minnesota @ Calgary

Speaking of being mediocre but showing flashes of brilliance, you have the Flames and Wild (including their talented but overly burdened Finnish goalies). The Wild and Flames are pretty similar teams on the road, too, but Minnesota has one advantage: being pretty strong at home (7-4-0). That won’t matter tonight, though, obviously.

10:00 pm

Los Angeles @ Anaheim

This is a match between two Pacific Division teams that are on serious down streaks. The Ducks are 1-4-1 in their last six while the Kings are 1-6 in their last seven, having only won that game via a shootout. Oddly enough, they were both on similar hot streaks before these slumps; each squad won six in a row before they hit some serious seed bumps. The Ducks have that advantage on at least a superficial level, as their record at the Pond (7-4-1) bodes well for them while the Kings are weak on the road (5-7-0). Will one of these teams generate a little momentum with a win tonight?

Preds hire new assistant coach in wake of Housley departure

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The Nashville Predators have hired Dan Muse as an assistant coach.

Muse, who spent the last two years as head coach of the USHL’s Chicago Steel, will be in charge of the Preds’ forwards as well as the penalty kill, while associate head coach Kevin McCarthy  — in the wake of Phil Housley’s departure — will now have responsibility for the defense and the power play.

Muse led the Steel to a championship in May. He also won an NCAA title in 2013 as an assistant coach for Yale.

“Dan comes to us as a successful young coach that brings great energy and passion to the game,” said Preds head coach Peter Laviolette in a statement. “He has worked his way up through the coaching ranks, first winning an NCAA title at Yale in 2013, and then taking a Chicago team that had missed the playoffs eight straight seasons and turned them into the Clark Cup champions in just two seasons. We are excited to welcome him to the organization and look forward to his contributions to the coaching staff.”

Sens avoid arbitration with Dzingel

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The Ottawa Senators have narrowly avoided arbitration with Ryan Dzingel.

Per Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, Dzingel has signed a two-year deal with a cap hit of $1.8 million.

Dzingel’s hearing was scheduled for today. Last season, the 25-year-old forward had 14 goals and 18 assists in 81 games.

Earlier this week, the Sens also avoided arbitration with Jean-Gabriel Pageau, though that case didn’t go down to the wire like Dzingel’s did.

Pageau and Dzingel were the only Sens with arbitration hearings scheduled.

Related: Sens want to avoid arbitration with Dzingel

 

Palat feels ‘pretty good’ about the Lightning’s chances of bouncing back next season

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Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman accomplished quite a bit this offseason.

Not only did he acquire Mikhail Sergachev for Jonathan Drouin, but he also managed to lose Jason Garrison‘s contract before re-signing Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat. They also signed Chris Kunitz and Dan Girardi in free agency.

Even though fitting everyone under the cap couldn’t have been easy, Yzerman managed to get it done, and it has at least some of his players excited about the prospect of next season.

“I feel pretty good about the team,” Palat, who signed a five-year, $26.5 million contract extension last week, told the Tampa Bay Times. “I like all the new guys. They’re in the league for a while. Great veteran guys, experienced guys. That’s what you need to have on your team if you want to win a Cup.”

Going into last season, many people pegged Tampa Bay as one of the teams that would compete for the East Division crown. Not only did they not win the East, they didn’t even qualify for the playoffs. A lot of that had to do with injuries, but there’s no denying that the 2016-17 season was disappointing for the Bolts.

Despite not playing hockey in the spring last season, there seems to be a good amount of optimism surrounding the team’s chances of making a run this year (a healthy Steven Stamkos would help in a big way).

Sure, keeping guys on the ice and off medical tables would increase the odds of the team having a bounce back season, but there’s more to it than that. Outside of a handful of players (mainly Nikita Kucherov), the Lightning didn’t get consistent efforts from a lot of their key players that were healthy.

“It was an experience for us last year because we came from two good (playoff) runs and we thought we were going to make the playoffs just like that, and it didn’t happen,” added Palat. “In the NHL we have to play good from the beginning of the season, and we have to be good all season long.”

PHT Morning Skate: 3 coaches that are on the hot seat going into 2017-18

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–The Hockey News continues their “2020 Vision” series with the Boston Bruins. Thanks to a number of good drafts over the last few years, Boston’s future looks pretty good. They have a number of quality defensemen in their system, which should help get them back into the postseason sooner than later. (The Hockey News)

–It was five years ago this week that Shea Weber signed that huge offer sheet with the Philadelphia Flyers. The Puck Daddy Blog looks at the fallout from that signing five years later. If Nashville doesn’t match the offer, there’s probably no P.K. Subban in Smashville, maybe Peter Laviolette keeps his job in Philadelphia, and maybe the Flyers don’t miss the playoffs as often. (Puck Daddy)

–TSN’s Scott Cullen breaks down NHL goalies in his latest “Statistically Speaking” article. The way he ranks them is by finding out what their expected goals against will be minus the goals they actually give up. No surprise, Carey Price finds himself at the top of the list (minimum 50 games played). Matt Murray, Philipp Grubauer and Andrew Hammond also find themselves in Cullen’s top 10. (TSN.ca)

–Every year, there’s at least a few coaches who get fired during the season. Last season, names like Jack Capuano, Gerard Gallant and Michel Therrien found themselves on the unemployment line. It’ll be interesting to see who gets their walking papers in 2017-18. The Score believes that Winnipeg’s Paul Marice is one of three coaches that will go into next season on the hot seat. (The Score)

–Ryan Poehling was Montreal’s first round pick in the 2017 draft, and he couldn’t have been more excited to land there. The St. Cloud State product was in awe as soon as he stepped foot in Montreal for the first time. The fact that he’s playing in such a passionate hockey city isn’t bad either. “(The fans) all just go crazy and I haven’t even played here, so it’s special. I just got drafted by them and they’re just crazy about me, so I think that’s pretty cool, how I haven’t even proven anything and they still love me.” (NHL.com)

Dominic Moore hosted the sixth annual Smashfest, which is a ping-pong tournament where fans and NHLers come together for all the bragging rights. For the third time in the tournament’s existence, Ducks forward Patrick Eaves came away the winner: