Around the rink – Tuesday, November 30th

7:00 pm

Tampa Bay @ Toronto

Nothing like a good old fashioned showdown that sees the winner break a losing skid. Both teams come into this game on two game losing streaks and with opposite problems. Tampa Bay has Steve Stamkos to do the bulk of their scoring while the Leafs could stand to use anyone they can rely on for consistent offense. Look for Leafs prospect Nazem Kadri to get the first big test of his career working against Stamkos. No pressure, kid.

8:00 pm

Phoenix @ Nashville

Phoenix had their seven game win streak snapped by the Ducks on Saturday but they’re still a team doing well having won seven in a row previous to that. The Predators, meanwhile, are looking to snap a four game losing streak. The Preds will be hoping that Ed Jovanovski doesn’t burn them the way he did back on November 3rd when the burly defenseman had a hat trick.

St. Louis @ Chicago

An old rivalry is renewed once again and for the streaky Blues they’ll be looking to snap a two-game skid after they lost two straight to Dallas. Chicago comes in winners of three of their last four games. In those three games they Blackhawks have given up just one goal in each of them. You might think it’s Marty Turco doing the heavy lifting there, but it’s not. Corey Crawford has been the stud in goal. For the Blues, they’ll need to find a way to score some goals. In their last three games they’ve scored a total of four goals.

10:00 pm

Atlanta @ Colorado

The scorching hot Thrashers hit the road with two of the league’s players of the week in Ondrej Pavelec and Dustin Byfuglien playing brilliant hockey of late. Pavelec has been one of the best goalies in the NHL over the last couple weeks leading Atlanta to a five-game win streak. Over those five games, the Thrashers have given up a total of three goals while they’ve scored 19 of their own. Colorado comes into the game with a new defenseman in tow in Matt Hunwick who was acquired from Boston yesterday. Can he help tighten up an Avs defensive unit that’s allowed 14 goals over their last four games or will he help them just score more goals to make goaltending irrelevant? It’ll be fun to watch either way.

10:30 pm

Detroit @ San Jose

Last year, the Sharks ended the Red Wings run in the playoffs by ushering them out of the playoffs in no time. The Wings aren’t looking for revenge but they will be looking to make a statement. The Wings are winners of three out of their last four and while the Sharks have been inconsistent this year, they’re dangerous. Perhaps they’ll be just hoping that Dany Heatley’s mind will be looking ahead to facing his former team in Ottawa on Thursday.

Report: NHL has already made adjustment on slashing, faceoff calls

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The NHL preseason began with the league trying to crackdown on slashing and faceoff violations.

The early results were a lot of confusion, a ton of penalties, and a lot of griping from players, former referees and media about the confusion and the number of penalties.

Former NHL referee Paul Stewart griped on Twitter that it was taking away from the officials ability to call a game by feel and hockey sense. The Winnipeg Jets brought in retired referee Paul Devorski to work with their players in an effort to help them gain an understanding of what the league was looking for and to cut down on penalties.

It was obvious that something was going to have to give.

Either the players would have to adjust to the new standard implemented by the league, or the league would make its own adjustment and scale things back a bit.

In most matters like this in the NHL, it usually tends to be the latter.

That also seems to be the case here as Sportsnet’s John Shannon Tweeted on Saturday morning that the league has already sent a note to its officials to “dial it back” a bit when it comes slashing and faceoff violation calls.

Well, that was fast.

The enforcement of the faceoff rule seemed like a minor thing that really wasn’t going to make much of a difference, but the emphasis on slashing is one that needs to be kept (and extended to interference, holding, hooking or any other sort of obstruction), especially given the way some of the league’s star players are defended where slashing down on their hands or stick seems to be the preferred way of playing them. Not only from a player safety standpoint to help reduce injuries (getting hit with a stick can break bones … or fingers) but because the drop in power plays over the past decade (the “let them play” mindset) has been one of the many factors in the continued decline in goal scoring across the league.

If the NHL is serious about changing this stuff the onus needs to be on the players to adjust, not the officials. Set the standard. Call it consistently. The players will figure out what they can and can not do.

Anything less than that basically just amounts to the league saying, “hey guys, we would really like you to cut down on the slashes” and hoping that the players listen. But as long as they can get away with it, they will not listen.

Capitals’ Tom Wilson has a discipline hearing today for interference

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The NHL’s department of player safety announced on Saturday morning that it has scheduled a disciplinary hearing with Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson as a result of his late hit on St. Louis Blues forward Robert Thomas on Friday night.

It will be the first hearing for the department under the direction of its new leader, George Parros.

This particular incident happened early in the third period of the Blues’ 4-0 win on Friday night.

Here is a look at the entire sequence, including the fight that Wilson found himself in with Dmitri Jaskin in response to the hit.

It is clear that Wilson delivered his hit long after Thomas was in possession of the puck.

Even though Wilson always seems to be getting attention for some of his hits and physical play he has never been suspended in his career. His only punishment from the league has been in the form of two fines — one for diving/embellishment, and another for kneeing Pittsburgh Penguins forward Conor Sheary during the 2015-16 playoffs.

The fact that he has a hearing for his hit would seem to indicate a suspension might be on the horizon. The only question is whether or not it will just end his preseason (the Capitals still have four more games) or if it will carry over into the regular season.

Antti Niemi had to make a save with his bare hand

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Antti Niemi made 31 saves in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 4-3 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night, and 30 of them were pretty standard.

The one that wasn’t came in the third period when he lost his glove during a scramble around the net and still managed to instinctively make a save on the puck. With his bare hand.

Niemi said after the game, via the Tribune Review, that he thought the referees would stop the play after his glove came off, and when they didn’t “I just kept playing.”

You can watch the play by clicking here.

Probably not the type of thing you want to see happening because that looks like a great way to break a bone (or the entire hand) and get sidelined for extended period of time. Niemi said the officials told him there will no longer be an automatic whistle for goalies losing a glove or a blocker, but that one will remain for when they lose their helmet.

The Penguins signed Niemi to a one-year contract this summer as a replacement for Marc-Andre Fleury after they lost him in the expansion draft to the Vegas Golden Knights. Niemi is looking to rebound from a tough year in Dallas. He will serve as Matt Murray‘s backup for the season.

‘A good start’ — Stamkos stands out in preseason debut

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The Tampa Bay Lightning and National Hockey League unveiled the 2018 All-Star Game logo Friday.

Far more importantly for the Bolts this evening was the return of their all-star center Steven Stamkos, as he made his preseason debut in what was his first game in 10 months.

His 2016-17 season was abruptly ended in the middle of November because of a knee injury and subsequent surgery, making it the second time in four years his regular season had been disrupted by a major injury.

It may still take a while before Stamkos feels truly comfortable coming back from this injury.But his performance on Friday proved to be a very promising start for No. 91, the Bolts and their fans in Tampa Bay.

He didn’t score, but he assisted on two first period goals, including a nice set-up to linemate Nikita Kucherov, and the Lightning beat the Nashville Predators by a score of 3-1. Stamkos also received a healthy dose of ice time, playing more than 19 minutes, including 5:32 on the power play.

His pass to Kucherov resulted in a power play goal.

“It was exciting to get out there, I was pretty anxious about it… It was a good start, something to build on,” said Stamkos afterward, per the Lightning. “It was nice to just go through a game day, I haven’t done it in a long time… I was glad with how the first one went.”