Around the rink – Friday, December 10th

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It’s a Friday night and there’s an Original Six match-up on the schedule. Life is good, isn’t it? All right so if that doesn’t do it for you perhaps there’s something else on the menu to get you fired up. As for us, we’ll be keeping an eye on Detroit to see how the Wings handle the Canadiens. As always, all times listed are Eastern.

7:00 pm

Montreal @ Detroit

Montreal rolls into Detroit on a three-game win streak. Coincidentally, Detroit is reeling on a three-game losing streak of their own. Coincidences are fun like that. Detroit’s looked out of sorts during their slide and the Habs have been playing great. Doesn’t seem to bode well for the Wings does it? We smell a potential trap game for the Habs.

More coincidences here: The Habs are 3-0 since sitting P.K. Subban in the press box as a healthy scratch in favor of Yannick Weber. Meanwhile, the Wings are 0-3 since Chris Osgood has returned from injury. Of course, Osgood is responsible for just one of those losses.

7:30 pm

New Jersey @ Ottawa

Nothing says excitement like two teams that are playing miserable hockey coming together to see who stinks less. For the Devils, they’ll get Martin Brodeur back in goal to start and that’s the best bit of good news they’ve had in a while. As Ilya Kovalchuk is busy taking the heat for the Devils losing ways, the Senators poor defense and equally suspect offense is dooming them. After losing to the Rangers last night, the Sens have lost five of their last six games. They have to hope that Mike Fisher snapped out of his season-long funk after scoring two goals last night.

Colorado @ Atlanta

There’s only going to be one Stewart brother on the ice for this one as Atlanta’s Anthony will play while Colorado’s Chris is still out with a broken hand. Atlanta has won eight of their last nine games while the Avs are losers of four in a row. Colorado’s east coast swing through the Southeast Division has not gone well dropping all three games they’ve had. The Avs dropped a game to Atlanta in overtime back on November 30th in Denver. Ondrej Pavelec has been the man for Atlanta and he’ll get the chance to show that off again tonight.

8:30 pm

Carolina @ Dallas

We have to assume that Stars coach Marc Crawford is still steaming over the lack of call in their favor against Chicago and by that measure, so are the Stars themselves. With Carolina rolling into town playing their first game since Saturday, they’ll be well rested. For Dallas, they’ll be looking to snap their two game slide. Whether or not Kari Lehtonen is healthy to play is up for debate. Luckily for Dallas, Andrew Raycroft has been outstanding in relief. The Stars will need him to be solid if Lehtonen is again having nagging issues.

9:30 pm

Tampa Bay @ Edmonton

Can the Lightning get any goaltending at all? The Lightning have allowed the most goals in the NHL and lately, both Mike Smith and Dan Ellis have been so bad that teams are snapping out of their offensive slumps against them. Since November 24th, the Lightning are giving up an average of nearly 4.6 goals per game. Even in the 1980s that would leave you hard pressed to win games.

As for the Oilers, they’ve been hot of late winning four of their last five games and dropping their last game to Anaheim in a shootout. You have to think that unless either Smith or Ellis show up for Tampa Bay the young Oilers are going to be able to do some more damage. Youngster and shootout superstar Linus Omark will make his NHL debut. We’re not rooting for a shootout in this game, but if it happens and Omark gets to do his thing, we won’t be too upset about it.

10:00 pm

Calgary @ Anaheim

It’s possible that Calgary could be without one of their leading goal scorers in Rene Bourque after Bourque speared Kings defenseman Drew Doughty late in last night’s 2-1 loss to L.A. Calgary’s been on a spell of alternating between wins and losses so that bodes well for them. Playing the Ducks in Anaheim, however, doesn’t sound so fun. The Ducks are coming off a shootout loss to Vancouver and appear to be back in a streak of scoring goals. If the Ducks can keep the Flames from scoring too many on them they might be able to survive. Expect this one to be a feisty affair regardless.

Rick Nash snaps out of slump, powers Rangers to huge win

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The New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers are two of the teams in the middle of the free-for-all that is the Eastern Conference playoff race that had five teams separated by just three points heading into Tuesday night.

Both teams had been rolling in opposite directions over the past week with the Flyers having won four in a row and five of their past six, while the Rangers were riding a three-game losing skid and had lost four out of five.

Their past two losses coming out of the bye week were especially ugly, losing to the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins (two other teams they are competing with) by a combined score of 12-4.

Both the Rangers’ and Flyers’ streaks came to an end in their game on Tuesday with the Rangers picking up a huge 5-1 win.

Rick Nash was the big star for the Rangers on Tuesday with a pair of goals, including a breakaway goal in the first period to tie the game at one after the Rangers gave up an early goal. It was a big performance for Nash because he had been mired in a brutal slump that had seen him go 12 consecutive games without a goal. He also had just one assist during that stretch. That slump has contributed to a down year offensively that has him on track for one of the least productive seasons of his career.

But he came through in a big way on Tuesday to help give the Rangers two huge points and move them three points ahead of the Flyers. The Flyers still have one game in hand while the two teams will still play three more games the rest of the season.

The Rangers’ win on Tuesday, combined with the Islanders’ 4-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils, moves the Rangers back into the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference for the time being.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Predators place forward Viktor Arvidsson on injured reserve

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) The Nashville Predators have placed forward Viktor Arvidsson on injured reserve with a lower-body injury and recalled forward Frederick Gaudreau from the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals.

The Predators made the move Tuesday afternoon.

Arvidsson was helped off the ice Monday during practice, and The Tennessean reports he tested himself during Tuesday morning’s skate.

The forward ranks third on the Predators with 13 goals and fourth with 27 points. The Predators already have Filip Forsberg on injured reserve with an upper-body injury.

Gaudreau has played 18 games with the Predators with three assists. He had 14 points in 21 games with the Admirals this season.

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey

WATCH LIVE: Philadelphia Flyers at New York Rangers

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2017-18 season continues on Tuesday night, as the New York Rangers host the Philadelphia Flyers at 7:00 p.m. ET.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

PROJECTED LINES

Rangers

Rick NashMika ZibanejadPavel Buchnevich
Mats ZuccarelloJ.T. Miller – Vinni Lettieri
Jimmy VeseyDavid DesharnaisPaul Carey
Michael Grabner – Peter Holland – Jesper Fast

Ryan McDonaghNick Holden
Brady SkjeiKevin Shattenkirk
Marc StaalSteven Kampfer

Startling goalie: Henrik Lundqvist

[Flyers look to push winning streak to five games against Rangers]

Flyers

Claude GirouxSean CouturierTravis Konecny
Michael RafflValtteri FilppulaJakub Voracek
Jordan WealNolan PatrickWayne Simmonds
Taylor LeierScott LaughtonJori Lehtera

Ivan ProvorovShayne Gostisbehere
Robert HaggAndrew MacDonald
Brandon ManningRadko Gudas

Startling goalie: Brian Elliott

 

Golden Knights’ defense coming into focus with signings

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As the Vegas Golden Knights’ success gradually goes from shocking to accepted, there’s still the question of what this team might look like next season and beyond. Such questions are only natural when you consider all the key players who still need contract extensions.

Golden Knights management is chipping away at those questions regarding their defense in 2018-19, particularly this week.

On Monday, the Golden Knights signed local favorite and rugged defenseman Deryk Engelland to a one-year extension worth $1.5 million. (That deal includes $1M in potential performance bonuses, according to Cap Friendly.)

One day later, the team announced a two-year extension for Jon Merrill (pictured). The deal is for $2.75M overall, so it will make for a $1.375M cap hit in 2018-19 and 2019-20.

The Golden Knights now have five defensemen on their current roster who are signed through 2018-19, if not longer: Engelland, Merrill, Nate Schmidt, Brayden McNabb, and Brad Hunt. McNabb is locked up the longest, with a $2.5M cap hit kicking in next season and expiring after 2020-21.

The most interesting remaining defensemen to sort out are Colin Miller and Shea Theodore, both pending RFAs. The Golden Knights have been buying up blueliners at bargain rates, but Theodore and Miller could be tougher nuts to crack contracts-wise. (Two UFA defensemen Luca Sbisa and Clayton Stoner on IR.)

Quick look at Engelland and Merrill

Engelland, 35, has been one of the Golden Knights’ ice time leaders with 19:39 per night, collecting 13 points while limiting his time in the penalty box (16 PIM in 41 games) compared to his usual numbers. He’s not perfect, but it’s conceivable that he’ll be worth that minimal cost to Vegas, especially since he’s an ambassador for the still-new franchise.

While Vegas hopes Engelland can bring that veteran presence for another year, they’re likely banking on Merrill to be more effective at a cheap rate.

The 25-year-old has been dealing with injuries and other issues, limiting him to 14 games played.

***

These defensive signings aren’t as important as locking up Jonathan Marchessault, nor is it as crucial as making the right call with the likes of James Neal and David Perron. With Malcolm Subban and Marc-Andre Fleury seeing their deals expire after 2018-19, management will need to make some goaltending decisions not that long from now.

A little bit of greed can inspire players to go that extra mile and stay that much hungrier, yet it’s also comforting to sometimes have some answers. After this week, there’s some clarity on the blueline, even if some decisions still need to be made.

And, hey, the Golden Knights haven’t really locked themselves into bad contracts yet. Old teams could probably learn a thing or two from these new kids.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.