Around the Rink – Monday, December 20th

Let’s take a look at today’s seven games, with start times at Eastern Standard Time (ET) as usual.

7:00 pm

Phoenix @ Pittsburgh

While the day-to-day upheaval in the Western Conference provides great evidence too, the top of the East provides a great sense of the “What have you done for me lately?” nature of this hockey season. The Flyers ended the Penguins’ 12-game winning streak and after two Pittsburgh losses, Philadelphia now has a five point divisional lead.

Meanwhile, the Coyotes are hanging tough in the playoff race in the West, as they’re tied with the Kings for ninth place at the moment.

Florida @ Philadelphia

Speaking of the Flyers, they host the perennially just-short-of-decent Panthers tonight. While Tomas Vokoun & Co. have been stingy enough to tie their club for the least goals allowed with Pittsburgh (albeit in three less games), their goal differential is only +2. In other words, the Flyers will kick themselves if they lose this one.

Atlanta @ Toronto

The Leafs are still a questionable team, but they’re almost playoff-caliber at home with an 8-6-3 record. The Thrashers are scrappy on the road, though, with an 8-5-3 record. In other words, this one could go either way.

Could this game be more exciting than a shouting match between the two boisterous general managers (Brian Burke vs. Rick Dudley), though?

7:30 pm

Carolina @ Tampa Bay

There’s a significant difference between the top eight teams in the East (Lightning included) and the teams on the outside looking in, but the Hurricanes are one of three teams that might have a chance to make up the difference. Tampa Bay has played six more games on the road than at home so far this season, though, so my guess is that Carolina will have to pass someone else.

(Naturally, you never know.)

Anaheim @ Boston

Hey, look at that: the eight best team in the West vs. the eight best team in the East. Well, for once, the East team should be better, theoretically at least. The Bruins and Ducks both have 38 points, but Boston took five less games to get there. Of course, Claude Julien’s bunch doesn’t have to deal with the brutally competitive Pacific Division, so this game could go either way.

8:00 pm

Calgary @ Minnesota

I’m not going to lie, this is a paring of two of the NHL’s least optimistic franchises. The Wild’s glass might be closer to half full, as they can boast young talent like the underrated Miikko Koivu and slightly younger goalie Niklas Backstrom. The Flames seem like an older, clumsier version of Minnesota (only with more angst).

Then again, the Wild (-15 goal differential) have been losing much uglier than the Flames (-6 goal differential) this season, so perhaps they’re both equally down in the dumps.

Vancouver @ St. Louis

The Canucks are hot right now (8-1-1) and can re-claim the Northwest Division lead from the Avalanche with a win. The Blues find themselves in the just-out-of-the-playoffs muck, but are a tough out at home (10-3-2 in St. Louis; 5-8-3 on the road). In other words, these are two teams in their element right now, so this should be another good one.

Ducks come to terms with Lindholm, so what happens now?

ANAHEIM, CA - OCTOBER 14:  Hampus Lindholm #47 of the Anaheim Ducks  at Honda Center on October 14, 2015 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

And now we wait for the other shoe to drop, because according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, the Anaheim Ducks have come to terms with defenseman Hampus Lindholm on a six-year contract extension with a cap hit of $5.25 million.

It’s a win for the Ducks, who succeed in their quest to get Lindholm locked up with a lower cap hit than the Sabres got Rasmus Ristolainen ($5.4 million).

But will the Ducks now have to make a trade? It’s been rumored for a while that Cam Fowler could be dealt once Lindholm’s deal got done. Anaheim may prefer to trade a veteran like Kevin Bieksa or Clayton Stoner, but Bieksa has a no-movement clause, and there may not be a market for those two anyway.

The Ducks won’t get Lindholm back in the lineup right away, so there’s plenty of time for GM Bob Murray to make any moves that need to be made.

Lindholm, 22, had 10 goals and 18 assists in 80 games last season, logging 22:00 of ice time per game.

Pastrnak to have hearing for Girardi headshot


Bruins forward David Pastrnak will have a hearing for his illegal check to the head of Rangers d-man Dan Girardi, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety announced.

Pastrnak was whistled for a minor penalty on the play, which occurred in the second period of Boston’s 5-2 loss at MSG on Wednesday night. Girardi left the contest momentarily, but was able to return and finished with 16:15 TOI.

“I don’t really know it makes contact with my face at first, but it is what it is, I’m kind of vulnerable,” Girardi said of the hit, per the New York Post. “He’s going to try to make a hit. He just hit me in the front of the face, so it wasn’t like it was the side-of-the-head hit or something.

“As soon as I got up, I was fine.”

Pastrnak, who did appear to leave his feet to make the hit, doesn’t have any history with the DoPS, and has never been subjected to supplemental discipline from the department.

His hearing will take place on Friday.

Former Isles goalie Kevin Poulin signs with KHL club

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 12:  Goaltender Kevin Poulin #60 of the New York Islanders in action during the NHL game against the Phoenix Coyotes at Arena on December 12, 2013 in Glendale, Arizona. The Coyotes defeated the Islanders 6-3.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Kevin Poulin is leaving the pro hockey scene in North America to sign with the KHL’s Astana Barys.

It’s a one-year deal, per Igor Eronko of Sports-Express.

The former Islanders goalie spent last season with the Stockton Heat of the AHL, where he had a 14-11-3 record with a 2.86 goals-against-average and a .909 save percentage in 29 games.

The 26-year-old last played in the NHL during the 2014-15 season. He made one appearance with the Isles that year.

He had a few opportunities with the Islanders, but it was usually the result of players ahead of him on the depth chart getting injured.

Poulin leaves the NHL with a career 18-25-3 record, a 3.07 goals-against-average and a .899 save percentage in 50 games.

He’ll join former NHLers Vitaly Kolesnik and Henrik Karlsson in Astana Barys’ crease. Nigel Dawes, Brandon Bochenski, Martin St. Pierre, Cam Barker and Kevin Dallman are also on the roster.

PHT Morning Skate: Hockey’s spookiest goalie masks

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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.

–Here are some of hockey’s all-time spookiest goalie masks. (Sports Illustrated)

Beau Bennett‘s funny response to his name being left off the Stanley Cup. (BarDown)

Alex Ovechkin made this young fan’s night by giving him one of his sticks. (Sportsnet)

–Watch the highlights from last night’s game between the Rangers and Bruins. (Top)

–Everybody remembers Grant Fuhr, Curtis Joseph, Jacques Plante, Tom Barrasso and Sean Burke, but these are the teams you don’t remember them playing for. (The Hockey News)

–Bruins goalie Zane McIntyre honors his late grandmother on the back of his goalie mask. (The Score)

–Former NHL goalie Niklas Svedberg made an incredible stick save in a KHL game: