Riding the Zamboni – Saturday, December 11th

There’s a lot to get to tonight so… Let’s just get to it already.

Philadelphia 2 – Boston 1 (F/OT)

A Bruins comeback sent to defeat as Mike Richards scored with three seconds left in overtime to give Philly the win. James van Riemsdyk had Philly’s other goal while Nathan Horton continues to be Boston’s main source of offense. Both Brian Boucher and Tim Thomas were both outstanding in this one, but Boucher’s 35 save performance was top notch. Thomas was no slouch stopping 31 shots of his own. Every time these two teams match up it makes us hope they get to face each other again in the playoffs.

Pittsburgh 5 – Buffalo 2

Make it 12 in a row for the Penguins. In a feisty affair with Buffalo it wasn’t Sidney Crosby who led the way but rather recently called up rookie Dustin Jeffrey, the AHL’s leading scorer this season, who got it done. Jeffrey had a goal and an assist to lead the Pens to victory. Sidney Crosby did keep his point streak alive and extended it to 18 games with an assist on Alex Goligoski’s third period goal. Goligoski finished with an impressive +4 rating for the game.

Toronto 3 – Montreal 1

A classic rivalry tilt in Toronto ended up with happy fans and no waffles hitting the ice from anyone posing as the Waffle Man. Phil Kessel and Tomas Kaberle had first period goals to set the pace against what looked like a bad Habs team tonight. You can’t hang the loss on backup goalie Alex Auld who got a rare start in this one, it was on the effort of his teammates in front of him instead. Kris Versteeg added an empty net goal for the final tally. Jean-Sebastian Giguere was solid in the win stopping 22 shots.

Detroit 4 – New Jersey 1

This one was over before it really got started. The Red Wings scored on their first two shots of the game with Tomas Holmstrom scoring 28 seconds in and Dan Cleary scoring 1:14 after that. For the Devils it was a rough night with the fans booing the team and Martin Brodeur hearing Bronx cheers for making saves. They at least had a Patrick Elias goal to cheer for, but that’s about it. Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk added goals for Detroit while Chris Osgood won his 399th career game.

Atlanta 5 – NY Islanders 4

A wild, up and down game with 1,100 Quebec Nordiques fans in attendance helped make this one hell of a way to sell the game to these fans that likely won’t get to see either of these teams play in Quebec City.  Johnny Oduya scored his first two goals of the year for Atlanta, Bryan Little scored a goal reminiscent of something Mario Lemieux or Adam Oates would do off a face off and the Thrashers held on to beat the Islanders. Blake Comeau had two goals in a losing effort for the Isles who keep slipping away in the East.

Colorado 3 – Washington 2

The Caps dropped their fifth game in a row in a game Colorado was in control of most of the way thanks to goalie Craig Anderson. Anderson made 40 saves in the win while Kevin Shattenkirk, Ryan Wilson, and Paul Stastny had goals. Mike Knuble had a goal and assisted Matt Hendricks on his third period goal but it wasn’t enough. Caps fans are likely getting as antsy as the players are frustrated.

Columbus 3 – NY Rangers 1

Tonight was the Rick Nash show as the Jackets superstar scored twice to lead the way over New York. Steve Mason wasn’t too bad either stopping 32 shots for Columbus. For Nash, the goals are his 15th and 16th on the season as he’s quietly gotten himself back into position in the goal scoring race. While Crosby and Stamkos are well ahead of the pack, all it takes is one hot streak to get serious. This could be the start of something big for Nash.

Carolina 2 – St. Louis 1 (F/SO)

Goalie showdown? Goalie showdown. Cam Ward came out on top in this one making 38 saves and standing tall in the shootout to get Carolina the win. Jaroslav Halak was no slouch himself making 28 saves. Brandon Sutter and Alex Pietrangelo had the goals in regulation while Jussi Jokinen had the shootout winner.

Nashville 3 – Florida 0

Anders Lindback earned his first career shutout stopping 22 shots. Ryan Suter added a goal and an assist for the Predators who have now won two in a row.

Phoenix 5 – Dallas 2

A bad night for Andrew Raycroft and the Stars in Phoenix. Shane Doan scored twice and Raycroft was chased from the game leading to Richard Bachman seeing his first NHL action in goal. Keith Yandle had a goal and two assists to pace the offense. Ilya Bryzgalov was solid once again making 33 saves.

Tampa Bay 5 – Vancouver 4 (F/OT)

Remember Steve Stamkos? Sure you do, he was the guy that was taking the NHL by storm just a week or two ago. He was back tonight in leading the Lightning to victory spoiling Markus Naslund’s special night in Vancouver. Stamkos scored twice, including the game-winner in overtime, and added an assist to give Tampa Bay the win. For Stamkos the goals bring him to 24 on the season, two behind Sidney Crosby for the NHL lead. Daniel and Henrik Sedin each had a goal and an assist for Vancouver. Dan Ellis stopped 23 for Tampa Bay while Cory Schneider stopped just 18 for the Canucks.

Minnesota 3 – Los Angeles 2 (F/OT)

Kings goalie Jon Quick played like a secret agent for the Wild. Sloppy play and puck turnovers helped lead the Wild to victory as two brutal mishandles by Quick led to both of Minnesota’s goals in regulation. Quick stopped just 18 shots in the loss. On the other side of things, Jose Theodore played solidly for Minnesota. Brent Burns’ overtime power play goal proved to be the game winner. Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown each had two points for Los Angeles, Brown with a goal and an assist and Kopitar with two assists.

San Jose 2 – Chicago 1 (F/OT)

Ryane Clowe’s two-goal night for San Jose will get overlooked in this one thanks to one quick whistle in the first period. What was believed to be a goal by Viktor Stalberg was waived off thanks to a fast whistle by the officials. That non-goal turned out to be big for San Jose as they were able to get the game to overtime and help Antti Niemi beat his former team. Both Niemi and Corey Crawford played well, each stopping 28 shots.

No suspensions, just fines for Dustin Brown, Evgeni Malkin

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At least one things seems consistent when it comes to the NHL’s fines and suspensions: Dustin Brown sure has a knack for avoiding supplemental discipline.

The hard-hitting Los Angeles Kings forward agitates and frustrates, and sometimes he hurts with polarizing hits. Yet, even with a resume full of debatable checks, Brown only has one suspension to his name.

Many expected that toll to rise to two today after an ugly looking cross-check on Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Justin Schultz, but that was not the case. Instead, the Department of Player Safety is only giving Brown a $10K fine.

Evgeni Malkin was also fined $5K for spearing Brown (video isn’t available at the moment, but many claim that Malkin speared Brown in the groin).

The Penguins ended up winning last night 3-1, adding to their recent upswing and extending the Kings’ losing streak to five games.

You can see the Brown incident, which drew a match penalty, in the video above this post’s headline. Brown explained his side of the story, as you can see in this post, and maybe that hearing ended up going in his favor?

“I’m going to close on him. He stumbles, toe picks. I don’t drive him into the wall or anything,” Brown said afterward via LA Kings Insider. “Also, closing on the play, at the most it’s probably a two, I think. I mean, who knows because of the protocol and all that, but it’s one of those plays where I’m going to close and he’s in an unfortunate spot.”

The bright side is that Schultz at least seems OK.

Even so, plenty of people are upset with this drawing a mere fine instead of forcing Brown to miss time, particularly in the backdrop of Andrew Cogliano seeing his ironman streak end thanks to a two-game suspension.

This isn’t just a matter of Penguins fans griping, either, as Brown tends to draw wider ire from observers in moments like these.

The Department of Player Safety is no stranger to handing out head-scratching rulings, but we’re no longer in the Brendan Shanahan days in which there would be more widespread explanations for decisions. The league seems responsive when it comes to complaints about spin-o-ramas and lengthy offside reviews, but when it comes to suspensions and fines, it seems like fans and media are still on for an uphill battle.

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.

Ryan Ellis hasn’t missed a beat for Predators

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For much of this season, people have been wondering how much higher the Nashville Predators’ ceiling might be with a healthy Ryan Ellis. Of course, we’ve seen plenty of instances in which a player comes back, but isn’t quite himself for a while, especially when a knee injury is involved.

It’s early, yet through six games, it looks like Ryan Ellis is … indeed, Ryan Ellis.

Last night’s 3-2 shootout win against the Coyotes was maybe the strongest statement so far in that regard, as Ellis scored a goal and an assist, bumping his season totals up to four points in six games.

In the process, he’s impressed his teammates and coaches, as Brooks Bratten of the team website reports.

That said, the best is yet to come, if you as head coach Peter Laviolette.

“He’s catching a moving train,” Laviolette said. “I’m sure he’d tell you he feels good. Every time we talk to him he says he feels good, but I think his game will continue to get better as he plays more and gets more ice time.”

You can see that Laviolette’s confidence is increasing in Ellis being Ellis by checking his game log. In his first three games back from injury, Ellis received 18:43 or less in time on ice. In the past three games, he’s received at least 21 minutes of ice time, with last night’s 22:33 representing a season high.

So far, Ellis’ possession stats are where you’d like to see them, another heartening sign that he can help Nashville much like he did before: on both ends of the ice.

There’s still an element of being eased into the mix, mind you. Through his first six games, Ellis began 61.6 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone, a huge bump from last season’s 47.7 percent and his career average of 52.1 (via Hockey Reference).

It should be fascinating to see how Ellis’ deployment tracks through this season. If Laviolette feels like he needs to be sheltered a bit all throughout 2017-18, it might not be such a bad thing, as P.K. Subban is putting up Norris-worthy all-around numbers, Mattias Ekholm is trusty in his own zone, and Roman Josi might benefit from an offensive-minded deployment himself.

Few teams enjoy the sort of luxuries the Predators enjoy on defense, at least when Ellis is available.

Even with their top line of Ryan Johansen, Viktor Arvidsson, and Filip Forsberg all somewhere between banged-up and actually injured, the Predators are currently on a four-game winning streak and play five of their next six games in Nashville.

Things are looking up for this Predators team, as they’re in a strong position to take the Central Division, and just seem to get stronger as each month goes along.

If Ryan Ellis being Ryan Ellis is legit instead of being a mirage, then the rest of the NHL better beware.

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.

Nugent-Hopkins’ injury: blessing in disguise for Oilers

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In the short term, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins being sidelined for five-to-six weeks with cracked ribs is awful news for the Edmonton Oilers, especially since the initial outlook was more positive.

Let’s be honest, though: only the most delusional Oilers observers really give them much of hope of salvaging the 2017-18 season. They’re basically in “so you’re telling me there’s a chance” territory by just about every measure.

So, allow me to be optimistic about the bigger picture while burying the current: RNH’s injury could be a blessing in disguise, at least if the Oilers receive the bat signal about their lost season.

This would be how it could be beneficial.

The Oilers probably won’t be able to bungle an RNH trade

Look, it’s plausible that Nugent-Hopkins could be part of a trade that helps the Oilers at some point. They can’t totally disregard that notion, not when they’ve made some cap mistakes and the solid center carries a $6 million cap hit.

That said, does anyone trust GM Peter Chiarelli with an RNH trade at this point? (We might need to hide your car keys if you do.)

It almost feels like every day or so is another slap in the face for Chiarelli, as Mathew Barzal tears it up for the Islanders and Taylor Hall is enjoying an All-Star season for the Devils. RNH being out might just save the Oilers from themselves, especially if Edmonton sees front office changes this summer. Might as well hit the “pause” button on trading actual core pieces after losing that game over and over, right?

Inflate Ryan Strome?

OK, this category might give the Oilers too much credit, but maybe they’d consider it.

It seems like Ryan Strome might be the beneficiary of RNH’s lost opportunities, particularly on the power play. As a pending RFA, there’s concern that this might actually hurt Edmonton.

What if the Oilers do a “pump and dump” with Strome, instead, driving up his value and then trading him to a contender? If Strome went on a hot streak, maybe a team would want him as a rental considering his cheap $2.5 million cap hit would be even cheaper at the deadline (he’s already down to about $1M according to Cap Friendly).

Get the memo: you’re a seller

Maybe RNH’s injury stands as that final push for the Oilers to sell at the trade deadline.

Chiarelli’s track record of player for player trades is … not great. That said, he’s done OK with smaller deals, buying low on the likes of Cam Talbot.

The Strome example might be too outside of the box, but moving an affordable, productive player like Patrick Maroon is very conceivable. Mark Letestu is another expiring contract that might bring at least moderate interest from around the NHL.

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As bad as things are for the Oilers, they don’t necessarily need to panic and blow everything up. If this eliminates the chance of RNH being moved, it might not be such a bad thing, as the franchise might as well get its ducks in a row before they make that decision.

In the meantime, they can undergo less of a rebuild and more of a spring cleaning.

With the right moves on the peripheral, they might just be glad that RNH is still around. By not dodging an injury, the Oilers may have just dodged another bullet.

After all, they keep shooting themselves in the foot.

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.

Kings’ Dustin Brown earns hearing for boarding Justin Schultz (Video)

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Dustin Brown of the Los Angeles Kings will speak with the NHL’s Department of Player Safety on Friday following his game misconduct for boarding Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Justin Schultz.

The hit occurred midway through the third period of the Penguins’ 3-1 win Thursday night. Brown was handed a major for boarding and ejected from the game.

“I’m going to close on him. He stumbles, toe picks. I don’t drive him into the wall or anything,” Brown said afterward via LA Kings Insider. “Also, closing on the play, at the most it’s probably a two, I think. I mean, who knows because of the protocol and all that, but it’s one of those plays where I’m going to close and he’s in an unfortunate spot.”

Schultz did not return to the game but head coach Mike Sullivan said he was in the locker room afterward and it seemed like he was going to be fine.

Brown sees Schultz is on his knees by the boards and it isn’t like the Kings forward’s momentum takes him into the Penguins defender. He gets his hands raised as he cross-checks Schultz into the boards. As Jim Fox said during the broadcast, the DoPS wants players to avoid or minimize contact along the boards. This hit was completely avoidable.

“I fell, I’m facing the wall and then all of a sudden my face gets driven into the dasher there,” Schultz said via the Post-Gazette. “I don’t know why. There was plenty of time to not do that.”

The NHL has suspended Brown only once in his career, so he’s not considered a repeat offender here. Still, he’s going to be sitting for at least one game, possibly two, beginning Friday night in Anaheim.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.