Early ride on the Zamboni – Thursday, December 16th

Let’s take a look at some of Thursday’s earlier games. We’ll recap the latest couple contests later tonight.

NY Rangers 4, Phoenix 3 (SO)

It’s been a nice couple days for Erik Christensen, who earned Wednesday’s goal of the night and won the game for the Rangers with the only shootout goal in the contest. If the Coyotes end up missing the playoffs by a narrow margin, this will be one of those games they’ll remember with regret. They had a 3-1 lead but Jason LaBarbera couldn’t off the Rangers in this one.

NY Islanders 3, Anaheim 2

The Islanders almost lost their 3-0 lead in this one, but Rick DiPietro (30 saves) and company were able to hold on to end a six-game losing streak. Curtis McElhinney couldn’t make it through the first period, as he allowed three goals before giving way to Jonas Hiller. Maybe the Ducks are the ones who should consider signing Evgeni Nabokov to spell Hiller and spite the Sharks?

Montreal 4, Boston 3

The Canadiens widened their division lead over the Bruins to four points in the best way: by beating them. This ended a three-game winning streak for Montreal and extended Boston’s losing streak to three. Michael Cammalleri scored a gorgeous shootout goal, Max Pacorietty had a goal and an assist and P.K. Subban nailed Brad Marchand with a wicked check as the Habs were too much for the Bruins tonight.

Carolina 3, Atlanta 2 (SO)

Speaking of three-game winning streaks, the Hurricanes extended their run to that level with a shootout win over the Thrashers, who are starting to struggle just a bit after a scorching-hot November. Ondrej Pavelec has been the best goalie in the Southeast lately, but Cam Ward – normally the Southeast’s best – topped him with 45 saves.

St. Louis 6, Los Angeles 4

The banged-up Blues really needed this one. They’ve been struggling on the ice (3-5-2 in their last 10, including tonight’s win) and keep losing valuable players to amend that situation. St. Louis beat Los Angeles to tie the two teams at 35 points thanks to a game winning goal by Alex Steen and a one goal, two assist performance by Vladimir Sobotka.

David Backes – one of the few top Blues forwards who is healthy – scored one goal and two assists to contribute to the win.

Ottawa 3, Minnesota 1

For a second, it seemed like Wild forward Tyler Bozak would be the hero of this one. He scored a goal and looked like he had his second, but that one was called off because of a too many men on the ice penalty. Nine seconds later, Senators forward Nick Foligno scored what would be the game winner on the power play as Pascal Leclaire won in his return from yet another injury.

San Jose 4, Dallas 3 (OT)

Don’t sleep on Logan Couture when you fill out your imaginary (or real) Calder Trophy ballot. The talented rookie scored the game winner in during a power play in overtime, as Mike Ribeiro gave the Sharks a four minute man advantage late in the third (and into OT) by drawing Dany Heatley’s blood with a high stick. Devin Setoguchi (two goals) and Joe Pavelski (two assists) also stood out in this one.

On the bright side, Brenden Morrow scored a goal and had 10 hits while wearing a shield for his broken nose, Kari Lehtonen returned to keep them in the game (39 out of 43 saves) and the Stars are still hot at home, going 9-0-2 in their last 11 in Dallas.

PHT Morning Skate: Crosby would ‘love to’ be a goalie for a game

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Sidney Crosby has accomplished so much in his career, but there’s still one thing he wants to cross off his bucket list. In an interview with Dan Patrick, Crosby admitted that he’d like to be a goalie for a game. “I’d love to play one game in the NHL (as a goalie). We’ll see. There’s still some time left if it ever came down to it. I’d love to get that.” Just a hunch, but I don’t think the Pens would go for that. (Top-4:20 mark)

–The Score looks at three 2017 draft prospects that will have the most long-term value to their respective teams. The first two picks of the draft are on the list, but the third name may surprise you. (The Score)

–As you may remember, Connor McDavid took an awkward looking picture with two strangers hugging him pretty tight. The picture, which took place at an airport, immediately went viral. Now, McDavid explained exactly how everything unfolded. Well, that story is pretty stupid. I was walking into the security line and I had actually walked past them. And then they say ‘hey Connor can we get a picture?’ and I say ‘sure’ and sure enough they come up to me and start hugging me. (Yahoo)

–Devils beat reporter Chris Ryan sat down for a Q&A with top pick Nico Hischier, who has a pretty busy summer ahead of him. “I’ll go back (o Switzerland) and practice and do my workouts every day, then I’ll come for Development Camp, and they’ll sit together and tell me what I still need, what I need to improve. Then I’ll go back again and work on those things.” (NJ.com)

–Speaking of Hischier, did you know that he didn’t start playing hockey full time until he was 12 years old? That’s only six years ago. “What you’re looking at is a guy who has a big upside and isn’t even close to reaching the ceiling,” Devils head coach John Hynes said. (New York Times)

 –Kyle Beach was selected 11th overall by the Chicago Blackhawks back in 2008. Unfortunately for Beach, he never made it to the NHL and he still isn’t over that. “Whenever you get as close as I did and don’t make it, there are going to be a lot of questions that never can be answered. I was a player growing up who never had to work that hard because I was always a top player. It was a rude awakening. Could I have been more prepared? Absolutely.” (Chicago Tribune)

Video: Crosby to Dan Patrick – Subban fight ‘wasn’t as bad as it looked’

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Listerine, the 2017 Stanley Cup Final, and a growing rivalry. Sidney Crosby and P.K. Subban battled it out at the highest level not so long ago, but some of that action looked worse than it actually was.

At least, that’s the message Crosby sent on “The Dan Patrick Show,” as you can enjoy in the clip above.

As a bonus, Crosby also discussed his favorite Stanley Cup traditions – hey, there can be traditions when something happens three times – and how Mario Lemieux inspires some especially creative ideas:

Rebuild on hold? Red Wings reportedly eye Girardi, Hainsey, Daley

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For the first time in ages, the Detroit Red Wings missed the playoffs. To some, the sliver lining was that this might send a message to management to truly commit to a rebuild.

Perhaps GM Ken Holland & Co. aren’t quite ready for that.

Look, one or even a couple of potential free agent signings won’t disqualify the Red Wings from going younger. Still, the rumored defensemen they’re targeting aren’t exactly spring chickens.

Three names floating out there are Trevor Daley, Dan Girardi, and Ron Hainsey.

Daley was mentioned by The Athletic’s Craig Custance, MLive.com’s Ansar Khan, and the Detroit Free-Press’ Helene St. James. Khan and Custance both mention Hainsey and Girardi, too.

Even in one-case mentions, the “veteran” theme continues, with Brian Campbell‘s name coming up while forward Thomas Vanek seems like at least a remote possibility to return to Detroit.

Let’s look at the ages of the defensemen mentioned, noting that Daley is older than some might have expected.

Daley – 33
Girardi – 33
Hainsey – 36
Campbell – 38

In the case of Daley and Girardi, you could also argue that each blueliner also has a lot of “mileage” for their age. Girardi, in particular, plays the sort of grinding, shot-blocking style that might have accelerated his troubles with the Rangers.

As great as experience might be, even for a “final push,” this sends a troubling signal. In Mike Green (31), Jonathan Ericsson (33), and Niklas Kronwall (36), the Red Wings already have an aging group of defensemen. Kronwall and Ericsson are dealing with injuries that may hinder them for the remainder of their careers, too.

When you also note that Holland exposed 25-year-old goalie Petr Mrazek instead of 33-year-old Jimmy Howard, the picture isn’t especially pretty.

Maybe the Red Wings can have their cake (push for a playoff rebound) and eat it too (start to transition to youth), yet it’s not necessarily the aggressive move toward a rebuild that many likely hoped to see.

At least there’s time for Holland to prove these early worries wrong.

Note: In other Red Wings news, the team signed Ben Street to a one-year extension.

Blue Jackets sign Schroeder after trading for him

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Not long after acquiring him in a minor trade from the Minnesota Wild, the Columbus Blue Jackets signed Jordan Schroeder to a two-year contract.

The team confirms that it is a two-way deal for 2017-18 and then becomes one-way in 2018-19.

Schroeder is guaranteed $350K for the first year of that contract and then $650K in 2018-19, according to the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline.

The 22nd pick of the 2009 NHL Draft receives a fitting contract: he’s been a “tweener,” bouncing around the NHL and AHL. He hasn’t been able to make much of an impact, Schroeder at least provides some organizational depth.

That could come in handy, as Portzline indicates that Sam Gagner – not so surprisingly – is expected to garner a lot more attention this time around in free agency. Perhaps Schroeder could serve as insurance for Gagner?