Riding the Zamboni – Friday, December 3rd

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Vancouver 3 – Chicago 0

The folks on TSN are calling it a “statement game” for Roberto Luongo after stopping 32 shots in shutting out his personal nemeses from Chicago. Fact is, Luongo finally did his job against them and did it very well. Vancouver outplayed the Hawks throughout and got goals from Tanner Glass, Christian Ehrhoff, and Henrik Sedin to make it all work for them.

The Canucks frustrated Chicago captain Jonathan Toews by putting Ryan Kesler on him. Kesler, a Selke finalist last year, draped himself on Toews and tracked him all over the ice whenever possible and it resulted in Toews not getting many good chances. Vancouver needed the win for their collective psyche more than anything else as they got their heads handed to them by Chicago the last two years in the playoffs and 7-1 already this year.

NY Rangers 2 – NY Islanders 0

In what was perhaps the ugliest game of the night, the Rangers continued to make the Islanders lives miserable. This time around, Henrik Lundqvist gets the shutout and only had to stop 17 shots to do it. Marc Staal and Brian Boyle provided the offense and for Boyle it was his 11th goal of the year. For the Isles, it’s a brutal setback after getting stung the night before in an offensive shootout just to come back the next night and not put one home. Such is life this year for the Isles.

Carolina 2 – Colorado 1 (F/OT)

Perhaps the most fun game of the night, the Hurricanes’ youth served all tonight as Jeff Skinner had Carolina’s first goal and Brandon Sutter’s overtime goal won it for the Canes. Rookie Kevin Shattenkirk extended his point streak to eight games assisting on Milan Hejduk’s goal. Cam Ward was sensational stopping 34 shots in the win.

Buffalo 5 – Columbus 0

The Sabres had about a week off since their last game and it showed that whatever issues they were having before were solved for a night. Ryan Miller got his first shutout of the year stopping just 19 shots. Thomas Vanek and Tyler Ennis each had a goal and two assists for the Sabres meanwhile Drew Stafford scored his first goal since returning from injury.

Columbus’ Jared Boll will be getting a call from the NHL for an elbowing major he earned late in the game for a hit on Steve Montador. Boll connected with Montador in the head while also leaving his feet to deliver the hit. Boll was kicked out of the game. That wasn’t the only physicality in this one as Columbus managed to get beat up in the fights as well. Just look at what Patrick Kaleta did to Derek Dorsett in their third period fight.

Calgary 3 – Minnesota 2 (F/SO)

A couple of struggling teams duked it out in Minnesota and of course it had to be settled in the shootout. For the Wild that means bad news as Niklas Backstrom’s record in the shootout is abysmal. Rene Bourque scored the shootout winner. During the real part of the game, Pierre-Marc Bouchard scored his first goal since March 2009 and Martin Havlat had a goal you very well might see as our goal of the night. Mark Giordano and Alex Tanguay scored for Calgary. Rookie Henrik Karlsson earned the win for Calgary making just 20 stops. Backstrom made 30 saves for Minnesota.

Detroit 4 – Anaheim 0

The Ducks have been a tough team to play at The Pond this year, but Detroit handled them with ease tonight. Johan Franzen, Dan Cleary,  Tomas Holmstrom, and Valtteri Filppula scored the goals for the Wings while Jimmy Howard was brilliant in goal stopping 41 shots for the shutout victory. Downside for Anaheim is that they’re now 0-2 when wearing their third jerseys. Calling for a jinx there might be unfair as those losses have come against Chicago and Detroit. Those teams are pretty good. Jonas Hiller stopped 25 shots in a losing effort.

No hearing scheduled for Wingels after Wilson headshot (Updated)

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Ottawa forward Tommy Wingels doesn’t have a disciplinary hearing scheduled for his late game headshot on Pittsburgh’s Scott Wilson, an NHL spokesman confirmed.

The incident occurred with seconds remaining in the Penguins’ 7-0 Game 5 win on Sunday afternoon. Wingels wasn’t penalized on the play, and Wilson exited the ice immediately without celebrating with teammates as the final horn sounded.

Pens head coach Mike Sullivan was asked about Wilson’s condition in his postgame presser, but didn’t have an update. The 25-year-old did not participate in today’s optional skate.

Update:

Wilson has appeared in 13 of Pittsburgh’s 17 games this postseason, and chipped in nicely. He’s scored two goals — including one in yesterday’s blowout win — and four points, while averaging just under 11 minutes per night.

Wingels has been less of a factor for Ottawa. He’s appeared in just nine of 17 games, going pointless while getting 9:53 TOI.

 

Report: Defenseman Viktor Antipin expected to join Sabres next week

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Earlier this month it was reported that defenseman Viktor Antipin was on the verge of joining the Buffalo Sabres after terminating his contract in the KHL.

Following the IIHF World Hockey Championships on Sunday, where Antipin was a key player for the Russian team that won the Bronze Medal, Antipin told a Russian news outlet (via the Buffalo News) that he will be leaving for Buffalo on May 29th so that he can join the Sabres.

The 24-year-old Antipin spent the past six years playing for Magnitogorsk Metallurg in the KHL.

In 59 games this past season he scored six goals and added 18 assists.

He had a really strong showing at the recent World Championship tournament, playing close to 18 minutes per game and recording four assists to go with a plus-five rating.

The Sabres defense was a major sore spot this season as the team took a pretty significant step backward in its ongoing rebuild, resulting in the firing of general manager Tim Murray and coach Dan Bylsma. As a team the Sabres allowed more than 34 shots on goal per game (the worst mark in the league) and 2.82 goals per game (20th in the league).

The only defensemen the Sabres have under contract for the 2017-18 season at the moment are Rasmus Ristolainen, Zach Bogosian, Josh Gorges, Jake McCabe and Justin Falk so Antipin should get a pretty good opportunity to get a significant role right from the start.

Blues owner gives Armstrong vote of confidence

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Given all the upheaval in St. Louis this season, it was fair to ask questions about GM Doug Armstrong’s job security.

So last week the Post-Dispatch did exactly that, posing the query to Blues owner Tom Stillman: Do you think Armstrong’s the right guy for the job?

“Yes, I do,” Stillman replied. “A lot of GMs, I think, are inclined to be focused on what’s going to keep my job next year and the year after. Some would perceive it as taking a risk to be looking farther down the road even though it might not lead to as many wins in the current year.

“That’s an important quality, looking long-term for the organization and not looking at your short-term survival. I think Doug knows that I am in tune with looking at things in that longer-term way.”

Speaking of term, Armstrong is heading into the last of a five-year deal signed back in 2013. At that time, the Blues were coming off an 109-point campaign and Armstrong was the reigning NHL GM of the Year.

In announcing the deal, Stillman was full of praise.

“First, [Armstrong’s] an outstanding general manager, so we want to make sure he’s with us for a longer period,” he said, per NHL.com. “And second, I think you have to give him time to do his work and develop the team he wants to develop.”

If he extends Armstrong, Stillman could probably use the same quote again.

Because the Blues are, again, sort of in a developmental phase.

First, there was the massive hockey operations overhaul. Over the last three months, Armstrong has given six coaches their walking papers: Ken Hitchcock, Jim Corsi, Ray Bennett, Steve Thomas, Rick Wilson and Ty Conklin.

Mike Yeo was inserted as the head coach, while Martin Brodeur temporarily added goalie coach to his assistant GM duties, before dropping the role at the end of the season.

(Brodeur will lead the charge to find a replacement, now that he’s back to being AGM and Conklin was let go.)

The coaching shakeup wasn’t the only significant change Armstrong oversaw.

The club’s younger prospects continued to push for bigger roles at the NHL level. At forward, the likes of Ivan Barbashev and Zach Sanford both worked their way into the mix, while Robby Fabbri was on pace for a career year before a season-ending ACL tear in early February.

The youth movement could continue into next season, too. Tage Thompson, the 6-foot-5 forward taken 26th overall last year, left Connecticut after his sophomore year to turn pro, and gained some valuable experience with AHL Chicago. Vince Dunn, a defenseman taken in the second round in 2015, had a great year with the Wolves and led all d-men in scoring.

So if there’s going to be an ongoing developmental phase in St. Louis, it makes sense that Stillman wants Armstrong to oversee it. He’s done a good job of it throughout his seven years on the job — he’s the NHL’s ninth longest-tenured active GM — and the club has been successful, with five consecutive playoff appearances.

It is worth noting, however, that “club policy” kept Stillman from talking about actually signing Armstrong to an extension.

Report: ‘Hawks could add Ulf Samuelsson to coaching staff

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The Chicago Blackhawks are searching for an assistant coach, and Ulf Samuelsson might just be their guy.

According to the Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune, Samuelsson is the “top candidate” to replace Mike Kitchen, who was fired after the ‘Hawks were swept by the Nashville Predators in the opening round the playoffs.

The obvious connection here, is that Samuelsson and head coach Joel Quenneville were teammates with the Hartford Whalers back in the 1980s.

Samuelsson, 53, was an associate coach with the Arizona Coyotes from 2006 to 2011 and he was an assistant with the New York Rangers from 2013 to 2016. Last season,  he served as the head coach of Carolina’s farm team, the Charlotte Checkers.

He led the Checkers to a 39-29-8 record during the 2016-17 AHL campaign.