Early ride on the Zamboni – Saturday, December 18th

For a recap of the Flyers-Rangers game, click here. To find out more about how the Capitals lost their eighth straight game to the Bruins, read this post. Expect a recap of the Minnesota-Calgary game tomorrow.

Dallas 2, Columbus 1

The Stars might have a little trouble keeping Chris Osgood from earning his 400th career win considering that they’ll need to play Detroit less than 24 hours after this game began because this was a tough, physical game. On the bright side, they scratched and clawed to win this one with great performances by their best two players: Brad Richards (both goals) and Kari Lehtonen (35 saves).

Vancouver 4, Toronto 1

It’s tough not to wonder if Brian Burke looks on with deep envy at Vancouver, especially considering the fact that he’s a former Canucks general manager. Roberto Luongo made 27 saves  while Alexandre Burrows and Jannik Hansen each earned two points in a fairly easy Canucks win.

Atlanta 7, New Jersey 1

It doesn’t get sweeter for this for Atlanta: they took the Southeast Division lead by absolutely throttling Ilya Kovalchuk and the woeful New Jersey Devils. Eric Boulton (of all people) scored a hat trick in this game. Boulton’s career high is four goals, so this was a bit of a surprise.

Phoenix 4, NY Islanders 3 (SO)

The Coyotes must feel blessed any time someone not named Ilya Bryzgalov wins a game for them. It didn’t come easy, as the Coyotes needed Jason LaBarbera to make 41 saves and one shootout stop while Martin Hanzal had to score a late goal in the third to best surprise Islanders starter Nate Lawson.

Carolina 4, Anaheim 2

It was a battle between the team’s two big, talented centers and Eric Staal (natural hat trick, including the game winner) beat Ryan Getzlaf (two goals). Cam Ward was also excellent for Carolina, earning 43 saves.

Tampa Bay 3, Buffalo 1

Earlier, I wrote that the Lightning could earn a slight lead over the Capitals for second in the Southeast if they beat the Sabres. Tampa Bay did indeed hold onto that 2-1 lead as Martin St. Louis put it away with an empty net goal. Perhaps Mike Smith is hearing the Evgeni Nabokov rumors, because he played well (22 out of 23 saves) to win.

Los Angeles 6, Nashville 1

So much for the Predators doing fine without Pekka Rinne. Both of their other goalies allowed three goals, as Anders Linback was pulled after allowing three goals on nine shots and then Mark Dekanich allowed three on 25. Jonathan Bernier played like the hot prospect he was coming into 2010-11, stopping 29 out of 30 himself.

Ryan Smyth had two goals, Drew Doughty had a goal and an assist and Trevor Lewis also provided a tally and a helper.

San Jose 4, St. Louis 1

Antero Niittymaki is quietly putting together a great season with the Sharks as his record is 11-3-3 now. There was plenty of goal support as Logan Couture stayed hot (two goals) while Dan Boyle (two assists), Marc-Edouard Vlasic (one goal and one assist) and Devin Setoguchi (one goal) also played well.

Foley aware of Seattle reports, but says Vegas is ‘proceeding as if we will play in 2017’

Gary Bettman, Bill Foley
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Bill Foley, the man behind Las Vegas’ prospective NHL expansion team, says he knows about reports claiming the league is keeping an eye on a proposed Seattle arena.

He also says he isn’t going to worry about things out of his control.

“I’m aware of what’s going on (in Seattle) but in my communication with the league, our situation isn’t dependent on third parties,” Foley said Tuesday, per the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “We believe we’re in good shape and we’re proceeding as if we will play in 2017.”

Over the weekend, a Seattle Times piece suggested the NHL had yet to award Vegas or Quebec City an expansion franchise because the league is “avoiding any expansion decision until after an upcoming Seattle City Council vote likely to decide the fate of Chris Han­sen’s proposed Sodo District arena.”

The piece also suggested Seattle could be granted an expansion club for the 2018-19 campaign.


That vote, on granting Hansen part of Occidental Avenue South for his arena, is expected by January. No one knows how it will go, only that the lead-up should be politically charged and fiercely contested.

But passing it — future legal appeals notwithstanding — paves the way for Hansen to obtain his Master Use Permit and have his arena “shovel ready” should he choose to build.

And that means, once a vote passes, it’s entirely possible the NHL could conditionally award Seattle an expansion team.

To his credit, Foley remains solely focused on his Vegas bid — not what potential rival bids could bring to the table. And while he confirmed he has yet to be invited to the Dec. 7 NHL Board of Governor’s meeting in Pebble Beach, he re-iterated his only objective is to strengthen Sin City’s case for a hockey team.

“I’m focused on trying to find a place to build our practice facility,” he said. “I’m focused on the new arena and our fans who’ve put down deposits on season tickets.”

Report: Sabres’ Lehner (ankle) suffered minor setback in recovery

Robin Lehner
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Sabres fans hoping Robin Lehner would return early from his high ankle sprain received some tough news on Tuesday — per ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, Lehner suffered a “little setback” in his recovery.

Lehner was hurt in Buffalo’s opening game of the year and, originally, slated to miss 6-10 weeks. Six weeks have now passed, but optimism he’d be able to return in the earlier part of the timeframe has been dashed — LeBrun says Lehner’s projected return is now for mid-to-late December.

(So, closer to the 10-week estimate.)

While it’s not great news for the Sabres, it’s a positive development for the club’s other Swedish netminder, Linus Ullmark.

Recalled from AHL Rochester shortly after Lehner got hurt, Ullmark is on a really nice run in November — just check his last five games played:


The last Lehner update from the Sabres came in early November, when head coach Dan Bylsma told the News his goalie was “doing really well,” but “not close yet to getting back on the ice.”

Welcome Ryan Johansen to the trade rumor mill

Ryan Johansen

Well, this kind of seemed inevitable — there are now trade rumblings involving Columbus center Ryan Johansen.

This evening, TSN’s Darren Dreger revealed that teams have been calling Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen about the talented pivot, adding that one team classified Johansen as being “softly” in play.

More (transcribed from video):

“That doesn’t mean [Kekalainen] is calling teams, saying ‘what are you going to give me?’ However, when teams call, he’s not dismissing the interest. He is saying ‘well, what’s your offer?’

“What that tells you is there’s at least some interest in considering the trade of Ryan Johansen and, as we saw on the weekend, his minutes dropped, he was demoted to the fourth line — so if the right deal comes along, they’ll consider it.”

The incident Dreger referred to occurred during Sunday’s 5-3 loss to San Jose, in which head coach John Tortorealla limited Johansen to just 13:52 TOI — his lowest total of the season.

It’s the latest incident from what’s already been a tumultuous year; not long after getting hired, Tortorella told the reigning All-Star MVP he was out of shape.

Johnansen was then away from the team for a pair of games dealing with an undisclosed illness. During that absence, the Dispatch reported Johansen had been hospitalized this summer because of an accelerated heart rate.

All this, of course, came one year after an ugly contract dispute at the start of last season, during which the Jackets and Johansen’s representation engaged in a public spat before agreeing to a three-year, $12M deal.

‘John leaves a lasting mark’: NHL announces Collins’ departure as COO

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One of the driving forces behind the NHL’s growth over the last decade is moving on.

John Collins, who’s served as the league’s chief operating officer for the last seven years, will be leaving his post to embark on a new business opportunity.

More, from the League:

Collins, who joined the NHL in November 2006, had been COO since August 2008.

“John leaves a lasting mark,” said Commissioner Bettman. “His energy, creativity and skill at building strategic partnerships helped drive significant revenue growth for our League. We are grateful for his many contributions and wish him the best in his new endeavors.”

Said Collins, “I’m grateful to Commissioner Bettman for his leadership and friendship over the past nine years. He had a vision for extending the reach of the NHL and supported us completely as we set out to make the game as big as it deserves to be.

“The NHL’s future is filled with promise and potential and I will admire and cheer the League’s successes to come on the global stage.”

Collins, 53, was regarded as one of main presences behind a number of the NHL’s most successful initiatives, including the Winter Classic and Stadium Series, the HBO 24/7 collaboration, the relaunched World Cup of Hockey, Canadian and American television deals and partnerships with companies like SAP, Adidas, Major League Baseball Advanced Media and GoPro.

During Collins’ tenure, the NHL was twice named “Sports League of the Year” by the SportsBusiness Journal and SportsBusiness Daily — once in 2011, and again in 2014.