Goal of the Night – Danny Cleary (December 22)

When people think of the best defensemen of the ’00s, there are some obvious choices. Nicklas Lidstrom might be the best player of the decade, let alone blueliner. Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer skated together and apart during those 10 years, but always seemed to make an impact. Rob Blake might not be in the same breath as those three, but his mean streak and angry shot made him a dangerous force.

One player who seems to get lost in the shuffle is Brian Rafalski, though. Despite being a valuable fixture among elite teams as a member of the New Jersey Devils and Detroit Red Wings, he was often overshadowed by Niedermayer, Lidstrom and Scott Stevens.

(In fact, to some extent, the 2010 Vancouver Olympics were a “coming out party” for Rafalski. He made a huge difference as one of the few veterans on the silver medal winning U.S. Olympic team and was one of the few older players who made a true impact.)

Clips like this show that the small defenseman is a very valuable player, though. While Todd Bertuzzi received the first assist and Cleary scored the goal, but Rafalski’s amazing breakout pass made it all happen. It just shows how deceptive a second assist can be, from an importance standpoint.

Anyway, enjoy this beautiful bit of passing. We’ll credit Cleary since he did score the goal, but Rafalski was the real star. It’s almost symbolic of his career in a way, isn’t it?

Video: Hextall comments on AHL d-man Pyett, who was diagnosed with sarcoma in leg

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) Defenseman Logan Pyett of the Philadelphia Flyers’ AHL affiliate has been diagnosed with a form of cancer and will be out indefinitely.

The team said Friday the 27-year-old Canadian has a sarcoma in his upper leg. Flyers general manager Ron Hextall says the club offers “heartfelt thoughts and prayers.”

Pyett signed a one-year contract with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms after being at the Flyers’ training camp. He was selected by Detroit in the seventh round of the 2006 NHL entry draft. He signed as a free agent with the New York Rangers in 2012 and spent two seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League.

Update: Wisniewski tore ACL 47 seconds into ‘Canes debut

James Wisniewski, John-Michael Liles, Elias Lindholm
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Last night, we passed along news that veteran d-man James Wisniewski — acquired from Carolina at the draft — suffered what looked to be a serious injury just 47 seconds into his ‘Canes debut, and was ruled out for the remainder of the night.

Now, he’s been ruled out for a lot longer than that.

From the club:

Ron Francis, Executive Vice President and General Manager of the National Hockey League’s Carolina Hurricanes, today announced that defenseman James Wisniewski will undergo surgery on his left knee after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) during Thursday night’s game in Nashville.

Recovery time for the injury is estimated at six months.

This is, obviously, a tough development for both player and club. The ‘Canes were counting on Wisniewski to be a regular contributor on defense this year, and help improve last year’s middle-of-the-pack power play.

Wisniewski, meanwhile, was looking to bounce back from a disappointing ’14-15 campaign. He was shipped out of Columbus at the deadline to Anaheim but never made an impact for the Ducks, failing to see any playoff action as Anaheim made it all the way to the Western Conference final.