Tomas Vokoun

Riding the Zamboni – Thursday, December 9th

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Florida 3 – Washington 0

You can’t say the Panthers didn’t give the Caps opportunities to win. The Caps were 0-8 on the power play tonight while Tomas Vokoun made 36 saves to preserve the shutout for Florida. Vokoun will flash brilliance every now and again and tonight was a sterling example of what he can do on any given night. Stymieing the Capitals slumping offense shows just how good he can be and it also reflects on how much the Caps are struggling to score goals. It’s the third time in eleven games the Capitals have been shutout. As for people who did score goals, Michael Frolik, Steve Bernier, and Mike Santorelli tallied for Florida. For the Panthers, it’s their third straight win.

Philadelphia 4 – Toronto 1

Ah the Maple Leafs. After showing some guts against Pittsburgh and getting wins over Boston and Washington, the Leafs were just about out of gas tonight against the Flyers. Daniel Briere scored twice while Chris Pronger and Ville Leino each had one as well. Brian Boucher stopped 31 shots to get the win for Philly. Things don’t get easier for the Leafs on Saturday as they’ll face off with their arch rivals from Montreal.

NY Rangers 5 – Ottawa 3

What looked like it would be a good start for the Sens turned into a third period meltdown. The teams traded goals all game long and then after a brutal Chris Neil penalty in the third, Mike Sauer’s power play goal, his first career NHL goal, put the Rangers up for good. Mike Fisher had two goals for Ottawa while Marian Gaborik and Michal Roszival had two assists each for New York.

All that actual game stuff aside, Matt Carkner turned out to be the game’s story when video surfaced showing what appeared to be Carkner flicking blood from his head onto the players on the Rangers bench after a fight with Derek Boogaard. Carkner denied after the game that he did that but it would seem to us that he’s just a good (bad?) liar.

Buffalo 6 – San Jose 3

Last night the Sharks played what could’ve been one of the games of the season beating the Flyers in a shootout. Tonight, they looked like a team that was just about out of gas. Buffalo took advantage of the tired Sharks and while the Sharks did well to hang in there, Buffalo dominated the action on the night. Thomas Vanek and Paul Gaustad each scored two goals. Gaustad and Cody McCormick each finished the game with three points as McCormick had a goal and two assists of his own. Logan Couture kept his hot play going for San Jose scoring a goal. For Buffalo it was their third win in four games and vaults them over Ottawa in the Northeast Division for third place.

Boston 5 – NY Islanders 2

Milan Lucic scored two goals, including his fourth empty net goal of the year, as the Bruins took out the Isles. The B’s were able to tack on two empty-netters at the end of the game after Rob Schremp made the score 3-2 with a late third period goal. Special teams is where the B’s made their stake tonight with two power play goals and a shorthanded goal. The real story was the great play from backup goalie Tuukka Rask making 33 saves in the win. Rick DiPietro stopped 32 saves but a failed poke check on Brad Marchand lead to his shorthanded goal in the second period that swung momentum back to the Bruins.

St. Louis 4 – Columbus 1

The slide of the Blue Jackets back to reality continues with another rough game. This time, they ran into a red hot Jaroslav Halak and couldn’t stop the Blues on the power play. Halak stopped 27 shots to get the win meanwhile the first three Blues goals of the night all came on the power play. Alexander Steen, Jay McClement, and Vladimir Sobotka had those man advantage tallies while David Backes added the empty netter. Steve Mason Mathieu Garon was underwhelming in the loss stopping 20 shots. Jan Hejda had Columbus’ lone goal. The Jackets have lost six of their last seven games and now sit last in the tough Central Division.

Minnesota 3 – Phoenix 2

Give it up to the Wild for playing a tough and complete game for the first time in a while. The Wild snapped a five-game losing streak on the back of two goals from Andrew Brunette and one by Brent Burns. Niklas Backstrom stopped 33 shots to earn the win but the only guy he couldn’t stop was Taylor Pyatt as he had both Phoenix goals. Ilya Bryzgalov was strong again for the Coyotes stopping 30 shots. On a disappointing note, the game was seen in front of just 7,749 in Glendale, Arizona. Ouch.

Los Angeles 2 – Calgary 1

A wild and exciting game in Los Angeles closes out with the Kings winning their third game in a row and the Flames losing in frustrating fashion. The Flames had an apparent Matthew Stajan goal disallowed in the first period after a video review because he was seen to have kicked it in. Later on in the first, Kyle Clifford got his first career NHL goal after a Wayne Simmonds centering pass bounced in the goal off his skate. Clifford didn’t kick at the puck and it counted. Anze Kopitar’s third period tip-in on the power play proved to be the decider and his third game-winning goal of the year. Both Jon Quick and Miikka Kiprusoff played out standing. Quick stopped 26 shots for the win while Kiprusoff stopped 30 in the loss.

The game closed out in angry fashion when Rene Bourque and Drew Doughty battled in front of the Los Angeles net. Doughty delivered a gamesman-like cross check to Bourque, but when Bourque got back up he speared Doughty in the groin. Bourque received a slashing penalty on the play but he may be hearing from the NHL tomorrow as the Flames have a game with Anaheim tomorrow night.

Kulikov returns to increasingly healthy Sabres lineup

CALGARY, AB - OCTOBER 18: Dmitry Kulikov #77 of the Buffalo Sabres in action against the Calgary Flames during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on October 18, 2016 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
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No one’s going to confuse Dmitry Kulikov with Jack Eichel, but the Buffalo Sabres are likely happy to have him back after a long absence, too.

The Sabres have been on an upward trend lately (5-2-2 in their last nine games), and now they get a key defenseman back against the Washington Capitals on Friday night.

Kulikov last played on Nov. 9 and hasn’t recorded a point in 12 games, making for a tough start to his stint with the Sabres. Maybe he’ll begin to get a little more traction with his new team tonight?

He’s far from the only returning Buffalo player, either, as Josh Gorges and Nicolas Deslauriers are also back in the mix. Kulikov is slated to be on the Sabres’ second pairing with Cody Franson.

Buffalo sent Brendan Guhle to the AHL to make room for these tweaks.

With Foligno out sick, Columbus gives Bjorkstrand another shot

COLUMBUS, OH - OCTOBER 13:  Oliver Bjorkstrand #28 of the Columbus Blue Jackets lines up for a face-off during the game against the Boston Bruins on October 13, 2016 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
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The Columbus Blue Jackets will be without captain Nick Foligno because of an illness on Friday, opening up an opportunity for interesting prospect Oliver Bjorkstrand.

The team tweeted out his linemates as Matt Calvert and Lukas Sedlak as a solid fourth line facing the Detroit Red Wings.

He failed to generate much (zero points, two shots on goal) in three games so far with Columbus this season, receiving about 25 minutes of ice time over that span.

With eight goals and 12 points in 19 AHL games so far in 2016-17, there’s the thought that he could eventually make the next step to becoming a decent contributor for the Blue Jackets.

Perhaps this will constitute his first real step in that direction?

Apparently this is a pretty abrupt situation for the 21-year-old:

Gretzky defends McDavid’s outburst after Manning incident

WINNIPEG, MANITOBA - OCTOBER 23: Wayne Gretzky (L) and Dale Hawerchuk drop the puck in a ceremonial face-off between Blake Wheeler #26 and Connor McDavid #97 during the 2016 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic hockey game on October 23, 2016 at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Photo by Fred Greenslade /Getty Images)
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PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) As the primary target of opponents over his Hall of Fame career, Wayne Gretzky can certainly empathize with the frustration of Oilers star Connor McDavid.

McDavid and Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Brandon Manning jostled all evening long in a 6-5 Edmonton loss. McDavid denounced the tactics of his opponent after the game, claiming Manning intentionally injured him last season; McDavid missed 37 games with a broken collarbone.

“I guess we can put the whole ‘if he did it’ thing to rest because what he said out there kind of confirmed that,” said McDavid, who taunted Manning after scoring the second goal in the Oilers’ loss.

“I think anybody who knows me or who has played with or against me along the road here, knows that I am not that kind of player,” Manning said, according to a statement released by the Flyers. “I am not out there intentionally trying to hurt people. I’m a guy who plays the game hard and I take pride in that.”

Gretzky didn’t mind seeing that fire in McDavid, saying competitiveness is part of what makes the great ones great. And he said the targeting comes with the territory of being a superstar. It was something he and Mario Lemieux dealt with, too.

“And Connor, he’s going to get tested every night, but this is not new for him,” Gretzky said Friday at the NHL board of governors meetings. “He’s been tested since he was a kid and then playing junior hockey and now in the NHL and he’s always responded and done his part.”

Related: McDavid accuses ‘classless’ Manning of injuring him on purpose

Bishop trying not to let contract situation affect his play

TAMPA, FL - JUNE 06: Ben Bishop #30 of the Tampa Bay Lightning looks on against the Chicago Blackhawks during Game Two of the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Amalie Arena on June 6, 2015 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Scott Iskowitz/Getty Images)
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Ben Bishop was a Vezina Trophy finalist last season, and that makes it particularly striking to see his numbers a quarter of the way through 2016-17.

After 18 starts, Bishop is 8-10-1 with a .906 save percentage. He got the hook after two periods last night at Amalie Arena, where he surrendered four goals to the Vancouver Canucks in a 5-1 loss.

Last night marked the third time in his last five starts that he’d surrendered at least four goals, and one of the goals he allowed looked like this:

So, do things feel different this season?

“I feel fine,” Bishop said today, per Lightning Insider. “We go back and watch the games and technically it’s all there. There is really no difference from the way I’ve played the last couple of years to now. I don’t like saying this, but it’s been a strange season with goofy goals on tips and bounces, goals off your own players. So I think if you took some of those away, the numbers would be pretty similar to years past. I would like to get the wins a little higher.”

Bishop, of course, is a pending unrestricted free agent who is unlikely to re-sign with the Lightning. Andrei Vasilevskiy appears to be the goalie of the future in Tampa Bay. On July 1, the 22-year-old re-signed through 2019-20.

Vasilevskiy is also 6-2-1 with a .929 save percentage.

So in that regard, it’s a bit like the situation we’re seeing in New York, where Henrik Lundqvist is struggling and Antti Raanta is thriving.

The difference is Lundqvist isn’t going to be looking for a new team anytime soon. Remember that Bishop “was close” to being traded to Calgary in the offseason. He could still end up there in free agency, depending if Brian Elliott bounces back.

Bishop says he’s trying not to let his contract situation affect his state of mind; however, he admits he’d “be lying if I said I never thought about it.”

“It’s definitely there in the back of your head,” he said.

The Lightning host the Penguins on Saturday.

Expect Vasilevskiy to start that one.