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.

Kassian suspended without pay, placed in Stage 2 of Substance Abuse Program

Anaheim Ducks v Vancouver Canucks
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Zack Kassian may have avoided major injuries stemming from his Sunday car accident, but it likely sent the signal that he may need help.

The response: he was placed in Stage Two of the Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program (SABH) of the NHL and NHLPA on Monday.

According to the league’s release, Kassian “will be suspended without pay until cleared for on-ice competition by the program administrators.”

Speaking of being suspended without pay, here’s a key detail:

The 24-year-old ended up with a broken nose and broken foot from that accident. The 2015-16 season was set to be his first campaign in the Montreal Canadiens organization after a tumultuous time with the Vancouver Canucks.

Kassian spoke of becoming more mature heading to Montreal, but the Canadiens were critical of his actions, wondering how many wake-up calls someone can get.

In case you’re wondering about the difference between stage one and two:

Add Lecavalier to list of expensive Flyers healthy scratches

Vincent Lecavalier

Are the Philadelphia Flyers aiming for some sort of record when it comes to expensive (potential) healthy scratches?

While lineups are obviously subject to change, notes that Vincent Lecavalier appears to be among a rather rich group of Flyers who are expected to sit during their season-opener.

Also likely to be in street clothes: Sam Gagner and Luke Schenn.

That’s $11.3 million in cap space rotting on the bench.

“I really don’t know what to say,” Lecavalier said. “I’ll practice hard and be ready when they call me up.”

The quotes from Lecavalier, Gagner and Schenn only get sadder from there, a reminder that there are human beings attached to these numbers – whether you focus on disappointing stats or bloated salaries.

Flyers fans with the urge to reach for an Alka-Setzler can at least take some comfort in knowing that the team will see $6.8 million in savings after this season, as both Gagner and Schenn are on expiring deals.

It could be a long season, though, and this Lecavalier headache may not truly end until his contract expires following the 2017-18 campaign.