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Riding the Zamboni – Wednesday, December 15th: Hat tricks for everyone!

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Detroit 5 – St. Louis 2

The night of hat tricks starts with a legend getting his first career hat trick. 40 year-old Nicklas Lidstrom had the hat trick to lead Detroit to an impressive win over Jaroslav Halak and the Blues. Considering how long Lidstrom’s been in the league this being his first hat trick is amazing in itself. Lidstrom has had a remarkable year and with a healthy Wings lineup around him, he looks like the multiple Norris Trophy winner once again. We’re not exactly sure that Lidstrom ages the way humans do.

Buffalo 3 – Boston 2

Drew Stafford was healthy for Buffalo tonight and for the Sabres it’s a good thing because his hat trick was all the offense they could muster in taking out Boston. Tuukka Rask and Ryan Miller were equally solid in goal, but it was Miller’s 32 saves that stood taller than Rask’s 32 saves in the end.

Vancouver 3 – Columbus 2 (F/OT)

Much like Drew Stafford did for Buffalo, Ryan Kesler was all that for Vancouver. His overtime winner gave him a hat trick and gave the Canucks a tough win over the Blue Jackets. Roberto Luongo \stopped 28 shots in this one playing the part of a clutch goaltender while Mathieu Garon stopped 27 shots. For Vancouver it’s their third win in their last four games.

Colorado 4 – Chicago 3

Chicago is getting tired of seeing Colorado and tonight it was new Avalanche forward Tomas Fleischmann causing them pain netting a hat trick to lead the Avs to victory. Fleischmann’s trick helped make Chicago goalie Corey Crawford look bad in the loss as the speedy Avs kept giving the Blackhawks fits. Crawford stopped just 19 shots in the loss while Craig Anderson saved 35 for the Avs.

New Jersey 3 – Phoenix 0

From the department of “Headlines the Devils wish they saw all year long” Ilya Kovalchuk had a pair of goals while Martin Brodeur earned his third shutout of the season stopping 29 Coyotes shots. Is it the sign of a breakout coming? Perhaps. Kovalchuk has two goals and three assists in his last three games. It’s baby steps for the Devils but it’s something.

NY Rangers 4 – Pittsburgh 1

It’s only natural that after a 12 game winning streak that things slow down a little bit right? Tonight the Rangers had a four-goal third period to put the Penguins away in Pittsburgh. Erik Christensen and Alexander Frolov scored goals 13 seconds apart in the third to silence the Pittsburgh crowd. The Pens had what they thought was a tying goal disallowed because Pascal Dupuis interfered with Henrik Lundqvist. The Rangers then added two more goals from Artem Anisimov and Brian Boyle to put it away. The win is impressive since Ryan Callahan left the game in the first period with a broken hand. Lundqvist stopped 27 saves in the win while Brent Johnson ate the loss for Pittsburgh saving 18 shots.

Anaheim 2 – Washington 1 (F/OT)

Seven losses in a row for Washington now. Ryan Getzlaf put the Caps away in overtime with his game winner, but if there’s an upside to things for Washington, they played tough defensively and got solid goaltending out of Semyon Varlamov. That’s a start. The offense continued to suffer, this time at the hands of the posts and the hot game from Jonas Hiller. Hiller stopped 31 shots in the win

Philadelphia 5 – Montreal 3

Another night, another intense game between these two teams. Philadelphia had a 3-0 lead before Chris Pronger left the game with an injury and the Habs stormed back to tie it up at three halfway through the third period on a Brian Gionta goal. It would be James van Riemsdyk’s power play goal with just over five minutes to play that would put Philly ahead for good though. For van Riemsdyk it was his second goal of the night to lead the way for the Flyers. Claude Giroux would score a minute later to provide the final tally of the game. Jeff Carter had a goal and two assists while Sergei Bobrovsky made 38 saves in the win. Habs defenseman P.K. Subban will likely be the center of discussion again as offensively he had a solid game with a goal and an assist, but defensively he made two big mistakes that turned into Flyers goals.

Tampa Bay 2 – Atlanta 1 (F/SO)

Carolina 4 – Florida 3

What started off looking like a Florida romp turned into a great comeback win for the Hurricanes. The Panthers jumped out to an early 3-0 lead scoring two goals in the first 1:42 of the game with Evgeni Dadonov scoring 29 seconds in followed up by a Michal Frolik goal. That chased out starter Cam Ward from the game and Justin Peters would take over to allow just one more goal four minutes later and settle in after that. From then on it was all Carolina with Tuomo Ruutu scoring twice with Jeff Skinner and Sergei Samsonov each adding two assists a piece. Tomas Vokoun would surrender the lead in perplexing manner as he’d go from making outstanding highlight reel saves to making brutal turnovers that ended up in the back of the net. Vokoun finished the game with 30 saves while Peters finished out with 20 and the win.

Nashville 3 – San Jose 2

In case you haven’t noticed, the Predators are on a bit of a roll now. They’ve won their fourth straight game and seven of their last eight games. They’ve done it with rookie goalie Anders Lindback providing all the support they need and tonight he was huge on the score sheet and in stature. The 6’5″ Swede stopped 25 shots to earn the win as the Predators came back from down 2-1 heading into the third to secure the victory. Sergei Kostitsyn and Colin Wilson scored 44 seconds apart with under four minutes to play to pull ahead and secure the win. Dany Heatley scored his 14th goal of the year for San Jose while Antti Niemi was the tough luck loser stopping 32 shots.

Oilers’ Yakimov going back to KHL — this time, on loan

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 14:  Bogdan Yakimov #39 of the Edmonton Oilers looks on prior to the start of the game against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center on October 14, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
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Bogdan Yakimov is on his way back to Russia.

On Wednesday, the Oilers announced they’ve loaned Yakimov to KHL club Nizhnekamsk Neftekhimik, the same team he joined after leaving AHL Bakersfield last season.

The 83rd overall pick in 2013, Yakimov has appeared in one game for the Oilers since getting drafted. He’s spent almost all of his time in North America in the AHL, and didn’t impress the club last year when he bolted the farm team to return to his native land.

“He made a career decision to return to Russia and I’m not sure how he played or how many games he played,” Oilers head coach Todd McLellan said at the time, per the Edmonton Sun (McLellan was then informed Yakimov was away for 11 games).

“Well, that’s 11 games he didn’t spend with us. During his time away, there were a number of players recalled. I would have preferred to see him in an Oilers uniform and he was real close. Now he has to reset his Oiler clock and get playing again.”

All told, Yakimov played in 36 games with the Condors last season, scoring five goals and 15 points.

At 6-foot-5 and 232 pounds, Yakimov has impressive size and is still only 21 years old, so he’s got some value. But it remains to be seen whether he wants to try and push for an NHL career, or opt to stay in the KHL.

 

Max is back: Lapierre to attend Rangers camp on PTO

PITTSBURGH, PA - APRIL 01: Maxim Lapierre #40 talks with Craig Adams #27 of the Pittsburgh Penguins before a face-off during the game against the Philadelphia Flyers at Consol Energy Center on April 1, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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After a year abroad, Maxim Lapierre is getting a shot to rejoin the NHL.

Per TVA, Lapierre has agreed to join the Rangers in training camp on a professional tryout. The news comes after he split last season between Swiss League outfit Lugano and Swedish League side Modo, with midseason rumblings there were NHL teams interested in bringing him back.

In New York, Lapierre will be reunited with Alain Vigneault, his former head coach in Vancouver. Vigneault has brought in a few former Canucks during his time with the Rangers, including Tanner Glass, Nicklas Jensen and Michael Grabner.

Lapierre, 31, last played in the NHL during the ’14-15 campaign, splitting time between Pittsburgh and St. Louis. A known agitator, he finished the year with 11 points in 80 games, and appeared in all five games of the Pens’ opening-round playoff loss to the Rangers.

Prior to his time in Pittsburgh and St. Louis, “Yappy Lappy” played in Montreal, Anaheim and Vancouver. His best season came in 2008-09, when he scored a career-high 15 goals and 28 points, earning a handful of Selke votes.

Ready for No. 1 duties, Elliott wants to be ‘backbone’ for Flames

ST LOUIS, MO - MAY 15:  Brian Elliott #1 of the St. Louis Blues tends goal during the first period against the San Jose Sharks in Game One of the Western Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scottrade Center on May 15, 2016 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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At 31, Brian Elliott will be one of most experienced guys on the Calgary roster next season.

But he’s also ready to embark on something unique.

Elliott will have the chance to be a clear-cut, unquestioned, No. 1 starting netminder for the first time in his career when the Flames open play in October — an opportunity he’s ready to embrace.

“As a goalie you want to be wanted. You want to have that opportunity,” Elliott said on Wednesday during his introduction to the Calgary media. “I’m going to do my best to be the backbone of the team and try to be a leader and just do whatever I can to be the rock for the guys on the back end and let the guys do the rest of the work.”

There’s little doubt about Elliott’s role in Calgary for next season. He was stellar in ’15-16, posting a .930 save percentage and 2.07 GAA, helping the Blues advance to the Western Conference Final. And the Flames further anointed Elliott as the No. 1 by signing career backup Chad Johnson to fill the No. 2 role.

So, next year is sorted.

But what about after that?

Elliott is a UFA after this season, and so is Johnson. Flames GM Brad Treliving did say at the draft that Elliott’s contractual status and cap hit played a role in the acquisition, adding that discussions about a new deal could be in the works.

“As part of this deal, Doug [Armstrong, Blues GM] allowed me to talk to [Elliot’s] representative, so there may be the opportunity to look at an extension,” Treliving said at the time. “We’ll look at that. There’s no need to rush, but maybe there is a need to look at something.”

It’s been long rumored that Calgary wasn’t looking for a long-term solution in goal, but rather a “transitional guy.” That’s why Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury, currently under contract for two more years, had been tied to the Flames.

Looking down the road, it’s clear Calgary is anticipating one of their draftees pans out in goal. The club took Providence standout Jon Gillies 75th overall in 2012, Mason McDonald 34th overall in ’14, and Tyler Parsons 54th overall this  year — but none of them are close to being NHL ready.

Which brings us back to Elliott.

Given how erratic things were in Calgary’s net last year both performance- and contractual-wise, one would assume Treliving would like to keep “Moose” around for more than just this season.

With ‘no expectations’ for Franzen or Vitale to play, Wings aren’t worried about cap situation

Detroit Red Wings v Edmonton Oilers
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At first glance, Detroit’s current financial situation isn’t good. Petr Mrazek’s recent two-year, $8 million extension pushed the payroll to nearly $78 million, well over the $73M ceiling for next season.

But there is a catch.

“Certainly we have no expectations that [Johan] Franzen and [Joe] Vitale are playing hockey this year,” GM Ken Holland said Wednesday, per MLive. “I talked to Vitale after we traded (for) him. He’s having on-going issues with concussion.

“He certainly not expecting to be in camp. I’m not expecting to see Johan Franzen on the ice.”

Vitale, acquired from Arizona as part of the Pavel Datsyuk deal at the draft, carries at $1.16 million cap hit. Franzen, who played in just two games last year while dealing with concussion issues of his own, carries a $3.95M hit.

Putting those two on long-term injured reserve would almost get Detroit right back into cap compliance. Holland can also exercise a similar option with Teemu Pulkkinen, who underwent shoulder surgery this offseason (and makes $812,500).

Thing is, cap compliance isn’t all Holland wants to accomplish.

Though he re-signed Danny DeKeyser to a big six-year, $30 million contract earlier this week, Holland still wants to add to his blue line. The Wings have a surplus of forwards, and Holland has said he’d “love to get a top-three defenseman” prior to the start of next season.

A top-three defenseman will undoubtedly cost a fair bit of money. Which means a fair bit of money would need to go the other way in return.

Detroit has reportedly spoken to Anaheim about acquiring Cam Fowler. Fowler, 24, would be a good fit — he’s got a very reasonable contract ($4 million annually through 2018), the type of money the Wings could bring aboard if they were to part with the likes of, say, Gustav Nyquist ($4.75 million through 2019).

The catch, of course, is that the asking price for defensemen is sky high. It cost the Oilers Taylor Hall to get Adam Larsson out of New Jersey, and there are teams like Boston — still desperately searching for a “transitional” defenseman — that have publicly stated the acquisition cost is steep.

So while Detroit might not be worried about its cap situation for next season, it has to be concerned about having what it takes to upgrade the defense.

Related: Blues GM says he might just keep Kevin Shattenkirk