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: 10 years of Ovechkin; 10,000 days with Lamoriello

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Looking back at 10 years of Alex Ovechkin with the Washington Capitals, in case the above video made you want more. (CSN Mid-Atlantic)

David Conte spent 10,000 days with Lou Lamoriello and lived to tell about it. (TSN)

Want to spot some contract year guys? Here are 32 pending restricted free agents. (Sportsnet)

NHL GMs are starting to sniff around with the 2015-16 season about to kick off. (Ottawa Sun)

Some backstory on Zack Kassian that was passed around on Twitter last evening. (Canucks website)

Hey, you can’t say Raffi Torres hasn’t literally paid for his ways:

This is some quality chirping between Jaromir Jagr and Matthew Barnaby:

Cocaine in the NHL: A concern, but not a crisis?

Montreal Canadiens v Minnesota Wild

Does the NHL have a cocaine problem?

TSN caught up with deputy commissioner Bill Daly, who provided some fascinating insight:

“The number of [cocaine] positives are more than they were in previous years and they’re going up,” Daly said. “I wouldn’t say it’s a crisis in any sense. What I’d say is drugs like cocaine are cyclical and you’ve hit a cycle where it’s an ‘in’ drug again.”


Daly said that he’d be surprised  “if we’re talking more than 20 guys” and then touched on something that may be a problem: they don’t test it in a “comprehensive way.”

As Katie Strang’s essential ESPN article about the Los Angeles Kings’ tough season explored in June, there are some challenges for testing for a drug like cocaine. That said, there are also some limitations that may raise some eyebrows.

For one, it metabolizes quickly. Michael McCabe, a Philadelphia-based toxicology expert who works for Robson Forensic, told ESPN.com that, generally speaking, cocaine filters out of the system in two to four days, making it relatively easy to avoid a flag in standard urine tests.

The NHL-NHLPA’s joint drug-testing program is not specifically designed to target recreational drugs such as cocaine or marijuana. The Performance Enhancing Substances Program is put into place to do exactly that — screen for performance-enhancing drugs.

So, are “party drugs” like cocaine and molly an issue for the NHL?

At the moment, the answer almost seems to be: “the league hopes not.”

Daly goes into plenty of detail on the issue, so read the full TSN article for more.