Toronto Maple Leafs v Washington Capitals

Around the rink – Wednesday, December 8th

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Who’s ready for Hump Day? You’d better be because the schedule today is set to fascinate the living daylights out of you. That’s not overhype, we’re really curious about more games than not tonight. Cancel those dinner plans, fire up the popcorn and get on that couch it demands that you work on that perfect butt imprint. All times are Eastern.

7:00 pm

San Jose @ Philadelphia

The Sharks east coast swing rolls along into Philly and they’ll be looking to keep the good mojo working after beating Detroit soundly on Monday. For the Sharks, the work of rookie Logan Couture is what’s making folks take notice lately. Couture was huge in their win against Ottawa and was solid against Detroit. Meanwhile, Philly has won two in a row and they’d like to keep the good times rolling. One thing for them to take notice of, how much better San Jose is compared to the last two teams they’ve beaten. The Devils and Islanders these are not.

Toronto @ Pittsburgh

Sidney Crosby and his 16-game point streak get to face off with a Leafs team that’s showing some hardcore resilience of late. Two straight shootout wins for the Leafs after coming back to tie both the Bruins and Caps late in those games and suddenly the Leafs have a little bit of confidence. We’ll see how Tim Brent feels about having to shadow Crosby during the game. This could turn into a harsh return to reality for the Leafs as the Penguins are looking for their 11th straight win and playing very good hockey. Crosby isn’t the only story as Marc-Andre Fleury has been vastly improved in leading the Pens to this incredible streak.

7:30 pm

Nashville @ Detroit

The Wings are looking to snap out of their mini-slump. A weekend loss to L.A. followed up by a stinker of a game at home to San Jose and fans start getting a little antsy. It’s Detroit, it’s how the fans get. Getting back on track against Nashville might be tough as the Preds have won three of their last four but dropped their last game against Atlanta in overtime. They’ll have some good news as David Legwand looks to return to action. Center has been a rough position of late for Nashville with Legwand and Matt Lombardi out of the lineup.

8:30 pm

Dallas @ Chicago

So you thought this one would be all about Marty Turco getting to face his former team for the first time, right? Wrong. Corey Crawford gets the call in goal for Chicago as they learn to live life without Patrick Kane for a while. With Kane and Marian Hossa out of the lineup, Chicago’s lineup doesn’t look as intimidating. Guy to keep an eye on in this one? Dallas’ Adam Burish. The trash talker and physical forward is looking forward to giving his former teammates a dose of the medicine he was dishing out to opponents while he was a Blackhawk. The Stars are looking to bounce back after a shootout loss to Columbus that snapped their six-game win streak. Getting to face Turco might’ve given them a bit too much motivation.

10:00 pm

Anaheim @ Vancouver

A test of momentum between these two. The Ducks snapped a two-game skid last night with their epic 10-round shootout win over Edmonton. Vancouver, on the other hand, is looking to bounce back after a loss to St. Louis that broke their four-game winning streak. For Anaheim, a complete effort will be needed against Vancouver who has started getting their act together. Folding up late in the game the way they did against Edmonton will end up costing them a victory if they do that against Vancouver.

 

Lonnie Cameron, hockey-tough linesman, shakes off puck to head (Video)

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Talking about hockey toughness is pretty much a trope at this point, yet there are still moments that impress even the cynical among us.

Linesman Lonnie Cameron accomplished that for many on Tuesday, as he returned to the Nashville Predators – Vancouver Canucks game despite taking a puck to the head in a scary moment.

Judging by the Twitter feed of Brooks Bratten from the Predators’ website, Cameron missed mere minutes of time.

So, yeah, it seems like Cameron qualifies as “hockey tough.”

As far as the game itself went, the Canucks beat the Predators 1-0 thanks to Henrik Sedin‘s goal (his 999th point) and Ryan Miller‘s 30-save shutout.

Is this more than just a slump for Henrik Lundqvist?

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People have been wondering for years if Henrik Lundqvist would finally fall off track and, you know, look human. After the New York Rangers’ zany 7-6 loss to the Dallas Stars, those rumblings are probably getting a little louder.

Don’t expect the Rangers to throw their star goalie under the bus, though, especially after a wide-open game like Tuesday’s goal-filled game at Madison Square Garden.

In fact, Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault is already penciling Lundqvist in for Thursday’s game against the rising Toronto Maple Leafs.

“He’s going to play, he’s going to try real hard, and we’re going to try to play better in front of him,” Vigneault said, according to the New York Post’s Brett Cyrgalis. “This is a team.”

Lundqvist, meanwhile, said about what you’d expect:

Naturally, Lundqvist and plenty of other Rangers threw the word embarrassing around quite a bit to describe this game, or at least the first 40 minutes. It’s just that no one’s really raking Lundqvist over the coals.

Is this time different?

Again, Lundqvist is no stranger to struggles, even if he struggles less often than just about any franchise goalie in recent memory.

Still, the sample size is getting large enough for this stretch to be a concern for the 34-year-old netminder.

While goal support and stretches of good play open the door for a respectable 18-12-1 record, Lundqvist’s allowing almost three goals per game (2.89 GAA) and has a backup-level .902 save percentage this season. And that’s over 32 games.

Things get even uglier if you focus on more recent events.

He’s allowed 20 goals in his past four starts, including allowing 12 tallies over four periods during the past two games. Lundqvist has a putrid .841 save percentage in January after producing great work in November (.925 save percentage in 11 games) and nice numbers in December (.915 in eight games).

Lundqvist has given up four goals or more on nine different occasions since Nov. 23.

In other words, there are a lot of different ways in which he’s struggling:

Is this a matter of Lundqvist regaining his focus or is “The King” finally abdicating his throne?

The Rangers are going to let him try to work through this. Otherwise, they might just need to hope that this is an off-year and *gulp* at least consider how far (an eventually healthy?) Antti Raanta could take them.

Supporting cast rallies Blackhawks in win against Avalanche

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For much of the season, the Colorado Avalanche’s biggest names have let them down while many believe that the Chicago Blackhawks are getting it done despite a mediocre supporting cast.

On Tuesday, the script was essentially flipped. The Avs’ stars were productive, yet so were lesser-known Chicago forwards like Tanner Kero and Vinne Hinostroza.

The most important narrative stayed the same, however, as the Blackhawks found a way to get by the Avalanche in a 6-4 decision.

The Blackhawks took a 2-1 lead into the second period, but the Avs put together one of their best stretches of this lousy season. Blake Comeau tied it up, Matt Nieto scored his first goal with Colorado and then Matt Duchene answered Chicago’s only goal of the second period (by Kero) to give the Avalanche a 4-3 edge.

The Avalanche doubled Chicago’s shots on goal in the second period, generating an 8-4 edge. It felt like a rare moment where Colorado’s talent actually flexed its collective muscles.

Then the Blackhawks turned it on in the third, generating a 12-5 shot edge of their own and finding a way to win.

Hinostroza ended up making the biggest difference, scoring the tying and game-winning goals before Kero iced it with an empty-netter thanks to an unselfish pass by Jonathan Toews.

(It’s not to say that Chicago’s big names outright slept through this game, either. Toews got that assist and Marian Hossa made a bunch of plays to help make life easier for Hinostroza and Kero.)

This wasn’t always pretty, but the Blackhawks are doing enough to get points night after night. On some nights, that’s the real difference between a contender like Chicago and a languishing squad like Colorado.

Blue Jackets move back to first in Metro, NHL after beating Hurricanes

COLUMBUS, OH - JANUARY 7:  Sergei Bobrovsky #72 of the Columbus Blue Jackets warms up prior to the start of the game against the New York Rangers on January 7, 2017 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
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After stumbling for a bit, Tuesday was a reassuring night for the Columbus Blue Jackets.

With a 4-1 win against the Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus moved back to the top of the Metropolitan Division (and thus, the NHL) because they now match the Washington Capitals’ 64 points but have more wins (30 to 29) and hold a game in hand.

Also comforting for Columbus: Sergei Bobrovsky returned to the Blue Jackets net, allowing one goal on 25 shots.

They were probably also happy to see Brandon Dubinsky enjoy a strong night (two goals) and Boone Jenner collect an assist and this absolute beauty of a goal:

The Hurricanes actually did hold a 1-0 lead in this game, but it lasted all of 11 seconds, as that Jenner goal erased that advantage.

The Blue Jackets face the Senators in Columbus on Thursday and then host the Hurricanes once again on Saturday. They follow that up with five straight road games and six of seven away from home beginning on Jan. 22. Columbus will pass another big test if they can stick with the Capitals and the rest of the NHL’s best through that stretch.