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.

Predators’ Kevin Fiala taken off on stretcher, hospitalized after scary fall

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The crowd in St. Louis was sent to stunned silence at the scary sight of Nashville Predators rookie Kevin Fiala crashing feet-first into boards during the first period of Game 1.

Fiala was taken off the ice on a stretcher after he awkwardly hit the boards following a hit by Blues defenseman Robert Bortuzzo. An arena announcement indicated that Fiala will be taken to a nearby hospital.

It’s a cruel twist for the 20-year-old forward, whose high-end speed stands out most when you first see him. A bit longer than a week ago, he scored the biggest goal of his career as he ended Game 3 against the Chicago Blackhawks with the overtime-clincher. Now one has to wonder about his health.

Video will be added soon. Until then, here’s a GIF of that frightening moment:

Members of the Blues and Predators both escorted Fiala off the ice during a stunning moment for all involved.

Colin Wilson: still far more productive in playoffs (Video)

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When you put together a list of “clutch” players, do you put Colin Wilson on it?

Before you laugh that question off – which, really, that’s kind of mean – consider how productive the under-the-radar Nashville Predators forward is during the postseason.

In 33 career playoff games, Wilson had 11 goals and nine assists for 20 points. He’s now at 12 goals and 21 points in 34 games after the first period of Game 1, and there is time to add to those totals.

That’s already pretty solid, but consider his regular season: 12 goals and 35 points in 70 games. He’s only scored 20 goals once in his career.

Yet … for whatever reason, when the games get bigger, the 27-year-old has developed a knack for scoring at a much higher clip. In the case of Game 1 against the Blues – his first game of this postseason thanks to injuries – he deflected P.K. Subban‘s booming shot for the 1-0 goal. Watch it above.

And wonder: is it hasty to consider him clutch?

Video: Erik Karlsson gets Jeremy Roenick’s seal of approval

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Jeremy Roenick is so impressed by Erik Karlsson, he almost likes him as much as Ottawa Senators GM Pierre Dorion does.

As a reminder, Dorion … didn’t exactly go the humble route in his praise of the all-world defenseman. When speaking of Karlsson’s play through ridiculous injuries, he provided quite the quote, as the Ottawa Citizen reports.

“Was I surprised? A bit,” Dorion said. “What do you say? I’ll probably get in trouble for saying this but, you believe in whatever you believe in, and they always say God rested on the seventh day, I think on the eighth day he created Erik Karlsson.”

Surely Karlsson’s critics will love this.

Anyway, Roenick and Keith Jones had some fun with such comments, as you can see in the video above.

For more genius Swedish fun, enjoy the Henrik Lundqvist video above. That’s a bonus, folks.

Babcock, McLellan and Tortorella are 2017’s Jack Adams finalists

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The NHL Broadcasters’ Association named the three finalists for the 2017 Jack Adams Award on Wednesday: Mike Babcock, John Tortorella and Todd McLellan.

The Jack Adams is given to the head coach who “contributed the most to his team’s success.”

It might tickle some to realize that Babcock and McLellan once coached together on the Detroit Red Wings’ staff. All three coaches share the distinction of bringing teams to the playoffs who failed to make the postseason in (at least) the previous season.

The Maple Leafs missed from 2013-14 to 2015-16. Columbus failed in its previous two seasons. And, of course, the Oilers hadn’t seen the playoffs since falling in Game 7 of the 2006 Stanley Cup Final.

One could make an argument for each coach in a number of ways.

Babcock molded a Maple Leafs team topped by young players, showing a refreshing willingness to take the good with the bad (especially for a guy who’s known for his scowl). McLellan broke that Oilers slump, gradually finding a lineup that could be “more than just Connor McDavid.” The Blue Jackets were expected to be one of the worst teams in the NHL to the point that they’d get Torts fired; instead, they boasted a power play that baffled opponents for much of the season and Tortorella enacted some (gasp) progressive ideas to help Columbus compete.

Now, you could critique all three in different ways – barely making the playoffs, riding hot goaltending, deploying Connor McDavid – but that’s part of the fun, right? There are certainly some cases to be made for snubs (Bruce Boudreau, perhaps even Joel Quenneville?), yet this trio of finalists is strong nonetheless.

The NHL has a more traditional rundown of each coach’s credentials, by the way.