Riding the Zamboni – Tuesday, December 21st

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Los Angeles 5 – Colorado 0

Kings captain Dustin Brown made sure the Avalanche’s six game win streak came to an end with a thud. Brown’s two goal, two assist night lead the way while Jonathan Quick had another special game earning his third shutout of the season stopping 23 shots to do it. Colorado’s Craig Anderson stopped 27 of 32 shots he faced and had an uncharacteristically bad game. Perhaps it’s time to dust off Peter Budaj off the bench to get Anderson a break as he’s started their last eight games in a row.

Dallas 5 – Montreal 2

Take your choice of story line here. Either you focus on the Stars winning another game in impressive fashion and vaulting themselves to the top of the Western Conference. Five different players potted goals for the Stars while Stephane Robidas had three assists and Steve Ott had two helpers.

The not-so positive story line are the problems Habs goalie Carey Price is having of late stopping pucks. In his last five starts, Price has allowed 18 goals an average of just over three a game. For a guy playing goal behind a team that pays strict attention to defense he’s both not getting the same help he was earlier this year nor is he doing his part to bail them out. With just one win in their last six games, expect some fans in Montreal to start looking towards the panic button.

San Jose 2 – Edmonton 1

We think it’s high time we start pushing Logan Couture’s bandwagon for Calder Trophy. The rookie forward scored yet again for the Sharks, his 18th goal of the season. Couture’s goal was followed up just three and a half minutes later in the second period by Dan Boyle’s fourth of the year to seal the deal for San Jose. Dustin Penner scored a goal late in the third to spoil Antero Niittymaki’s shutout bid. Niittymaki stopped 26 shots in the win while Nikolai Khabibulin saved 28 for Edmonton.

Washington 5 – New Jersey 1

It’s an official win streak for the Caps. Back to back wins for Washington after humbling the hapless and pathetic Devils. Of concern for the Caps is that it wasn’t the stars leading the way but rather the guys fresh out of the AHL doing damage. Andrew Gordon scored his first career goal while Jay Beagle and John Carlson also added goals. Veterans Jason Chimera and Mike Knuble also scored for the Capitals. Caps fans were so excited about beating the second-worst team in the NHL they began chanting, “We want Pittsburgh.” They’ll get their wish as the Caps host the Penguins on Thursday. Chances this becomes a focus of the story line on 24/7: 100%

Columbus 3 – Calgary 1

The Jackets have been hoping for better goaltending and Mathieu Garon stepped up and delivered tonight stopping 29 shots to earn the win for Columbus. Jakub Voracek, Jared Boll, and Rostislav Klesla each had goals for Columbus. Olli Jokinen was the only Flame to put one past Garon. Meanwhile, Miikka Kiprusoff was the hard luck loser saving 34 shots.

Buffalo 5 – Anaheim 2

The Sabres were able to take advantage of facing Curtis McElhinney instead of Jonas Hiller and lit up McElhinney for three goals in the first and got out to a 4-0 lead before the Ducks could get on the board. Tyler Ennis had two goals for Buffalo while Craig Rivet had a goal and an assist. Corey Perry had both goals for Anaheim. Ryan Miller had a relatively peaceful night all things considered saving just 21 shots.

St. Louis 4 – Atlanta 2

Atlanta’s hold on first place in the Southeast Division was short lived as they weren’t able to hold off the Blues. Vladimir Sobotka and Alex Pietrangelo each had a goal and an assist for St. Louis while Ty Conklin was stellar in goal saving 37 shots to earn the win. Dustin Byfuglien scored his 12th goal of the season in the third period giving him 36 points on the season, a new career high. Yes, it’s still just December. Chris Mason had a relatively poor outing stopping 23 shots for Atlanta.

No hearing scheduled for Wingels after Wilson headshot (Updated)

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Ottawa forward Tommy Wingels doesn’t have a disciplinary hearing scheduled for his late game headshot on Pittsburgh’s Scott Wilson, an NHL spokesman confirmed.

The incident occurred with seconds remaining in the Penguins’ 7-0 Game 5 win on Sunday afternoon. Wingels wasn’t penalized on the play, and Wilson exited the ice immediately without celebrating with teammates as the final horn sounded.

Pens head coach Mike Sullivan was asked about Wilson’s condition in his postgame presser, but didn’t have an update. The 25-year-old did not participate in today’s optional skate.

Update:

Wilson has appeared in 13 of Pittsburgh’s 17 games this postseason, and chipped in nicely. He’s scored two goals — including one in yesterday’s blowout win — and four points, while averaging just under 11 minutes per night.

Wingels has been less of a factor for Ottawa. He’s appeared in just nine of 17 games, going pointless while getting 9:53 TOI.

 

Report: Defenseman Viktor Antipin expected to join Sabres next week

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Earlier this month it was reported that defenseman Viktor Antipin was on the verge of joining the Buffalo Sabres after terminating his contract in the KHL.

Following the IIHF World Hockey Championships on Sunday, where Antipin was a key player for the Russian team that won the Bronze Medal, Antipin told a Russian news outlet (via the Buffalo News) that he will be leaving for Buffalo on May 29th so that he can join the Sabres.

The 24-year-old Antipin spent the past six years playing for Magnitogorsk Metallurg in the KHL.

In 59 games this past season he scored six goals and added 18 assists.

He had a really strong showing at the recent World Championship tournament, playing close to 18 minutes per game and recording four assists to go with a plus-five rating.

The Sabres defense was a major sore spot this season as the team took a pretty significant step backward in its ongoing rebuild, resulting in the firing of general manager Tim Murray and coach Dan Bylsma. As a team the Sabres allowed more than 34 shots on goal per game (the worst mark in the league) and 2.82 goals per game (20th in the league).

The only defensemen the Sabres have under contract for the 2017-18 season at the moment are Rasmus Ristolainen, Zach Bogosian, Josh Gorges, Jake McCabe and Justin Falk so Antipin should get a pretty good opportunity to get a significant role right from the start.

Blues owner gives Armstrong vote of confidence

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Given all the upheaval in St. Louis this season, it was fair to ask questions about GM Doug Armstrong’s job security.

So last week the Post-Dispatch did exactly that, posing the query to Blues owner Tom Stillman: Do you think Armstrong’s the right guy for the job?

“Yes, I do,” Stillman replied. “A lot of GMs, I think, are inclined to be focused on what’s going to keep my job next year and the year after. Some would perceive it as taking a risk to be looking farther down the road even though it might not lead to as many wins in the current year.

“That’s an important quality, looking long-term for the organization and not looking at your short-term survival. I think Doug knows that I am in tune with looking at things in that longer-term way.”

Speaking of term, Armstrong is heading into the last of a five-year deal signed back in 2013. At that time, the Blues were coming off an 109-point campaign and Armstrong was the reigning NHL GM of the Year.

In announcing the deal, Stillman was full of praise.

“First, [Armstrong’s] an outstanding general manager, so we want to make sure he’s with us for a longer period,” he said, per NHL.com. “And second, I think you have to give him time to do his work and develop the team he wants to develop.”

If he extends Armstrong, Stillman could probably use the same quote again.

Because the Blues are, again, sort of in a developmental phase.

First, there was the massive hockey operations overhaul. Over the last three months, Armstrong has given six coaches their walking papers: Ken Hitchcock, Jim Corsi, Ray Bennett, Steve Thomas, Rick Wilson and Ty Conklin.

Mike Yeo was inserted as the head coach, while Martin Brodeur temporarily added goalie coach to his assistant GM duties, before dropping the role at the end of the season.

(Brodeur will lead the charge to find a replacement, now that he’s back to being AGM and Conklin was let go.)

The coaching shakeup wasn’t the only significant change Armstrong oversaw.

The club’s younger prospects continued to push for bigger roles at the NHL level. At forward, the likes of Ivan Barbashev and Zach Sanford both worked their way into the mix, while Robby Fabbri was on pace for a career year before a season-ending ACL tear in early February.

The youth movement could continue into next season, too. Tage Thompson, the 6-foot-5 forward taken 26th overall last year, left Connecticut after his sophomore year to turn pro, and gained some valuable experience with AHL Chicago. Vince Dunn, a defenseman taken in the second round in 2015, had a great year with the Wolves and led all d-men in scoring.

So if there’s going to be an ongoing developmental phase in St. Louis, it makes sense that Stillman wants Armstrong to oversee it. He’s done a good job of it throughout his seven years on the job — he’s the NHL’s ninth longest-tenured active GM — and the club has been successful, with five consecutive playoff appearances.

It is worth noting, however, that “club policy” kept Stillman from talking about actually signing Armstrong to an extension.

Report: ‘Hawks could add Ulf Samuelsson to coaching staff

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The Chicago Blackhawks are searching for an assistant coach, and Ulf Samuelsson might just be their guy.

According to the Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune, Samuelsson is the “top candidate” to replace Mike Kitchen, who was fired after the ‘Hawks were swept by the Nashville Predators in the opening round the playoffs.

The obvious connection here, is that Samuelsson and head coach Joel Quenneville were teammates with the Hartford Whalers back in the 1980s.

Samuelsson, 53, was an associate coach with the Arizona Coyotes from 2006 to 2011 and he was an assistant with the New York Rangers from 2013 to 2016. Last season,  he served as the head coach of Carolina’s farm team, the Charlotte Checkers.

He led the Checkers to a 39-29-8 record during the 2016-17 AHL campaign.