Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malki

Around the rink – Thursday, December 23rd

With the league taking Christmas Eve and Christmas Day off, tonight sees 13 games hit us square in the face. The featured event will be in Washington where a Winter Classic preview will take place between the Penguins and Capitals. With HBO in the house for 24/7 and it being the first time the two have faced off, the drama level should be off the charts.

All times listed are Eastern because that’s where Santa Claus visits America first.

7:00 pm

Pittsburgh @ Washington

You couldn’t ask for a better Christmas gift. Both teams come in riding two-game win streaks with the Pens playing outstanding hockey and the Caps seemingly having shaken off their eight game slump. The differences here come from the Pens dominating teams with their biggest stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin carrying the weight offensively while the Caps have won with the young upstarts doing the job. This would be a heck of a time to see Alex Ovechkin have a breakout game wouldn’t it?

NY Islanders @ New Jersey

The battle to see who stays out of absolute dead last in the NHL gets a higher profile thanks to the firing of John MacLean and the Lazarus-like return of Jacques Lemaire behind the Devils bench. The Devils are coming off back-to-back thumpings from Atlanta and Washington. The Isles are coming off a big win over Tampa Bay. Big in that it was any win at all. If it weren’t for today’s firing, this game wouldn’t even be on our radar.

Atlanta @ Boston

The slumping Bruins have people wondering aloud if Claude Julien should still be the man in charge there. Atlanta rolls into town with former Julien assistant Craig Ramsay as their head man and the Thrashers are thriving because of it. Well how about that. Julien getting his team to rally and get one over on Ramsay would go over pretty well for the B’s. Another loss and the whispers about wanting Julien out might start to turn into shouts. Truth here is that Boston has a hard time scoring goals even with great play from Tim Thomas. Atlanta’s tough brand of hockey and knack for scoring goals provides quite the gut check for the Bruins.

Tampa Bay @ NY Rangers

No Marian Gaborik for the Rangers in this one so Mats Zuccarello, the Norwegian Olympic hero, gets to make his first appearance with the Rangers. The 5’7″ forward came over from Europe after a successful year there and a spectacular showing in the Olympics. Seeing how he adjusts to the NHL could be fun to watch. The Lightning, meanwhile, would like to forget last night’s embarrassing loss to the Islanders.

Florida @ Buffalo

The NHL schedule makers gift to the Panthers was to play three games in four nights, the last of which coming in Buffalo tonight. Merry Christmas, indeed. The Panthers got worked over by the Penguins last night after shutting out the Flyers on Monday. Buffalo would like to redeem themselves against the Panthers after getting drubbed by them in Florida last week.

Montreal @ Carolina

Believe it or not, Habs fans are still upset at the Hurricanes for knocking them out of the playoffs years ago. Perhaps that’s their way of getting worked up for an opponent. One person Habs fans are getting discouraged with is coach Jacques Martin as he’ll be sitting down P.K. Subban and Benoit Pouliot tonight as healthy scratches. The Habs have lost two in a row and five of their last six. Carolina looks to rebound after getting beat down by Tampa on Monday and hope to reignite the win streak they were on before that when they won five straight.

Vancouver @ Columbus

Vancouver could sure use a pick-me-up after dropping last night’s game to Detroit in particularly chokey fashion. Dealing with the Blue Jackets you never know for sure which team you’ll get. It’s either the team that gets great goaltending and has Rick Nash show up in a big way or the team that gets six or seven goals put up on them and they’re run out of the building. If the Wings didn’t take too much out of Vancouver, this could be a long night for Columbus.

8:00 pm

Detroit @ St. Louis

It’ll be the first game for Detroit without Pavel Datsyuk who’s out four weeks with a broken hand. If the Wings get Henrik Zetterberg to step up and play big the way he did last night, the Wings will be just fine without Datsyuk in the mean time. The Blues are hoping their win over Atlanta the other night was the signal of a turnaround for them after going through a stretch of a few weeks where the goaltending and goal scoring disappeared.

Ottawa @ Nashville

The slumping Senators roll into Music City looking for something to spark them. Losing Pascal Leclaire from their starting lineup has been a sign of the times lately. The losses come in bunches while wins are scattered here and there. For Nashville, their strong play of late has vaulted them up the standings in the Western Conference and they’ve done it while soldiering through injuries to key players throughout the lineup. The Preds are hoping the offense can make a comeback after scoring just one goal in each of their last two games, both losses to the Kings and Blackhawks.

8:30 pm

Calgary @ Dallas

A desperate Flames team rolls into Dallas to face a Stars team that’s won three in a row. The Stars have to be careful to avoid the trap game here as the Flames have the ability to get hot at a moments notice and with Miikka Kiprusoff in goal it can spell trouble at any time. The Flames will be looking to snap a three game skid. Yeah, this totally reeks of being a trap game.

9:00 pm

Minnesota @ Colorado

While the Avs have been playing well of late, their last game aside, Minnesota is a team that gives the Avs fits for one reason or another. The Wild are on a two game win streak thanks to beating the Flames in back-to-back games. Whether or not the Wild defense can keep up with the Avs speed is the big question here. The Avs could stand to use a solid game out of Craig Anderson as his last few starts haven’t looked quite so hot.

10:30 pm

Edmonton @ Los Angeles

The Kings are hoping to get some consistent play as they’ve alternated wins and losses over the last few games. Doing so against an Oilers team that’s showing some guts but some typically youthful and inexperienced play would be an ideal place to begin. The Oilers have dropped three of their last four and did so with scoring just one goal in each of those losses. Which Oilers team comes out to play tonight and what the Kings allow them to do are two interesting turns in this one.

Phoenix @ San Jose

The Logan Couture traveling road show comes back home as the Sharks look to continue ascending the standings in the Pacific Division. They’re just four points behind Dallas and after winning three in a row they’ve gotten the fans to relax and have fun again and Couture is the main reason for it. As for Phoenix, they’ve struggled without Ilya Bryzgalov in goal and suffered an embarrassing loss to Pittsburgh on Monday night. Now would make for a good time for a rebound.

Trade: Capitals go all in for Kevin Shattenkirk; Blues receive picks

TORONTO, ON - FEBRUARY 9:  Kevin Shattenkirk #22 of the St. Louis Blues waits for a faceoff against the Toronto Maple Leafs during an NHL game at the Air Canada Centre on February 9, 2017 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Blues defeated the Maple Leafs 2-1 in overtime. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
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If there was any doubt about the Washington Capitals going “all-in” to win a Stanley Cup, they erased it on Monday. They sent a pick-heavy package to the St. Louis Blues to land defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, according to a slew of reports.

Yes, that’s right; the top team in the NHL standings landed the biggest trade deadline target. They also edged other contenders hoping to land Shattenkirk, including division rivals in the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers.

Do note that the teams haven’t made the deal official by the Blues or Capitals just yet, likely due to the complexity of some of the conditions.

***

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Jeremy Rutherford reports that Shattenkirk is headed to the Capitals, per “multiple league sources.” There are a “few conditions” to iron out, but it’s a go “barring a collapse,” according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.

TSN’s Darren Dreger and Frank Seravalli both report that Shattenkirk is expected to play for the Capitals against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday.

TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reports possible elements of the deal: the Blues will receive a 2017 first-rounder, a second-rounder in 2018 and Zach Sanford as the “main parts” of the trade. LeBrun reports that the Blues likely retained some salary to make it all work, though he believes they retained less than 50 percent.

There could be more assets involved, though.

Sanford, 22, was a second-round pick (61st overall) by the Caps in 2013. He has three points in 26 NHL games this season and also played 25 games (compiling 16 points) in the AHL.

***

Almost exactly one year ago, Capitals GM Brian MacLellan said that he believed the team has a two-year window to win a Cup, or at least as their best opportunity to win it all. He’s backing up those words with this bold move.

(And maybe he was playing coy by stating that he was only looking to improve his team “on the fringes.”)

Trade rumblings: Isles interested in Duchene, Caps ponder Shattenkirk

RALEIGH, NC - JANUARY 29:  Keven Shattenkirk #8 and Matt Duchene #9 of the Colorado Avalanche during the Honda NHL SuperSkills competition part of 2011 NHL All-Star Weekend at the RBC Center on January 29, 2011 in Raleigh, North Carolina.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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As has become a custom, NHL teams are being proactive and making big moves before the actual day of the trade deadline. So, what’s bubbling below the surface even with Ben Bishop and Martin Hanzal off the market?

Let’s take a look at what’s out there.

TSN’s Insider Trading segment from Monday night provides a bounty of interesting things to consider, even if it’s important to note that these rumblings don’t argue that anything is imminent. The full video is absolutely worth your time, in part because some bits aren’t covered here.

An especially interesting potential destination for Matt Duchene

OK, so the most important part to note is that Bob McKenzie reports that the Colorado Avalanche remain firm on what they want for Matt Duchene: three or four “high-end” pieces, preferably an NHL-ready defenseman. McKenzie reasonably notes that such a deal might be more feasible during the off-season instead of this week.

The segment does bring in a fascinating possibility, remote or not: what if the New York Islanders go in on Duchene, with Travis Hamonic maybe helping to make a deal possible?

It might be a long shot – the Islanders are labeled a “dark horse” for Duchene, a market that’s already seemingly shaky since Colorado wants a lot for the speedy forward – but it’s fun to imagine an Islanders center duo of Duchene and John Tavares.

Tavares was the first pick in 2009 while Duchene went third to Colorado, so this move would be a bit like the Sharks trading for Joe Thornton, who was drafted right before Patrick Marleau in 1997.

Anyway, that would be fun on the outside chance it could happen.

The battle for Shattenkirk

Some people might be tired of hearing about St. Louis Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, especially since he’s allegedly nixed some deals. Still, there are plenty of interesting teams connected to the high-scoring blueliner.

TSN’s Darren Dreger notes the Washington Capitals interest in Insider Trading … though it’s possible that Washington is just as interested in driving up the price for other contenders as they might be in acquiring him. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman makes the Blues – Capitals connection, too.

The Blues understandably want to drive the price up one way or another.

Puck Daddy acknowledges the possibility of the New York Rangers landing yet another blockbuster in Shattenkirk. Former GM Brian Lawton wonders if the Capitals are in a bidding war with the Pittsburgh Penguins for Shattenkirk.

There … are just a lot of things flying around.

Assorted bits

Overall, there’s a lot to take in. Enjoy pondering all the possibilities.

Mumps hit Wild as Parise, Pominville will not play vs. Kings

ST PAUL, MN - MAY 5: Johnny Oduya #27 of the Chicago Blackhawks falls onto the puck as Jason Pominville #29 and Zach Parise #11 of the Minnesota Wild attempt to get the puck during the first period in Game Three of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on May 5, 2015 at Xcel Energy Center in St Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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Add the Minnesota Wild to the unsettling pattern of teams affected by mumps this season.

In their case, two significant players will at least miss Monday’s game against the Los Angeles Kings (on NBCSN, by the way): Zach Parise and Jason Pominville have been sidelined with that condition.

It’s not clear how much time they might miss nor is it clear if anyone else on the team is dealing with symptoms. Here’s a release via the Wild:

Members of the organization that have symptoms are being tested immediately and placed in isolation for a five-day period. Team doctors recently provided players and staff an MMR vaccination and the organization will continue to work closely with the NHL, NHLPA and the Minnesota Department of Health to help prevent further infection. 

Uh oh.

Martin Hanzal and Ryan White are set to make their debuts tonight. Their presence could be especially welcome if this becomes a more widespread issue for Minnesota. (You may remember the Wild dealing with an outbreak in 2014, too.)

Tyler Graovac and Jordan Schroeder are expected to be in Minnesota’s lineup tonight, according to the Star-Tribune’s Michael Russo. Russo indicates that assistant coach Scott Stevens may also be dealing with mumps.

WATCH LIVE: Los Angeles Kings at Minnesota Wild (featuring Hanzal)

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The beauty of the Los Angeles Kings’ goalie situation is that they can now roll with two experienced, respected goalies. It makes it tougher to tell if Ben Bishop will make his Kings debut tonight or at a later date, however.

(Update: Quick starts on Monday.)

While that fun bonus nugget is in doubt for Los Angeles, it sure looks like Martin Hanzal and Ryan White will play for the Minnesota Wild for the first time. That’s especially welcome, as it sounds like Jason Pominville and Zach Parise might miss tonight’s game.

… Hopefully not with the mumps (update: Yes, sadly that’s the case … ):

Uh oh. If Bishop plays, he might look a little out of place, even from a purely aesthetic standpoint.

Hey, sometimes it’s a work in progress to get used to trades.

Whether it’s Bishop or Quick vs. Hanzal and a possibly under-the-weather Wild team, Monday’s game should be interesting. Check it out on NBCSN, online or via the NBC Sports App.

Click here for the livestream.