Tampa Bay Lightning v New York Islanders

Riding the Zamboni – Wednesday, December 22nd

For a recap of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 5-2 win against the Florida Panthers, click here. Read this post to find out about Pavel Datsyuk’s broken hand and Henrik Zetterberg’s great performance against the Vancouver Canucks.

Now let’s take a look at the other two games with these summaries.

NY Islanders 2, Tampa Bay 1 (OT)

The Lightning had a chance to take the Southeast Division lead with a win tonight, but they lost to the sad sack Islanders in overtime and therefore find themselves one point behind the Washington Capitals. John Tavares ended up being the night’s hero, as he scored the game-winner in overtime. Tavares also assisted on the game-tying tally by P.A. Parenteau.

It didn’t look like the Long Island bunch were even going to be in the game after the first period. The Lightning out-shot the Islanders 16-3 in the first period, but Dwayne Roloson kept his team in the game by only allowing a Ryan Malone power-play goal.

That would end up being the last goal produced by that high-powered offense, as Roloson earned his first win since October by making 34 out of 35 saves. Dan Ellis was solid too, making 26 out of 28 saves, but was not good enough to beat the lowly Isles on this night.

Chicago 4, Nashville 1

How about this for a telling number during the Blackhawks’ three-game winning streak: they’ve only allowed three opportunities in three contests. Sometimes the simplest numbers really do tell you what you need to know.

Jack Skille scored two goals, Dave Bolland had a goal and an assist and Corey Crawford stopped 24 out of 25 shots to help Chicago beat their division rivals from Nashville.

Both Bolland (12 out of 17) and Jonathan Toews (12 out of 20) were outstanding in the faceoff circle, one of those things that pleases a hockey dork such as myself.

Oilers go captain-less, name four alternates instead

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Edmonton’s made a fairly significant shift in its leadership group.

The big news is the Oilers won’t have a captain this season, as Andrew Ference will relinquish the “C” he’s worn for the last two years.

Ference will, however, remain part of the group and wear an “A” as part of a four-man alternate captain collective, one that also includes Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall.

The news of Ference being removed as captain doesn’t come as a huge surprise. The veteran d-man is a well-respected leader, but isn’t expected to be in the lineup every night this season.

The decision to go without a captain, though, is something of a surprise, especially given what new head coach Todd McLellan endured during his final season in San Jose.

The Sharks’ captaincy issue — stripping Joe Thornton, then going with four rotating alternates — was an ongoing problem, something that players, coaches and GM Doug Wilson had to repeatedly address until it blew up in spectacular fashion.

That said, the circumstances in Edmonton are quite different.

It’s believed the club’s intentionally keeping the captaincy vacant, on the assumption that Connor McDavid will evolve into a superstar and, subsequently, the club’s unquestioned leader.

Finally, McLellan noted that with Eberle currently sidelined, a fifth Oiler would be added to the leadership group — veteran forward Matt Hendricks, who will serve as a temporary alternate.

Brandon Sutter didn’t have the greatest preseason

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When Brandon Sutter was acquired by the Vancouver Canucks, GM Jim Benning called the 26-year-old a “foundation piece for our group going forward.”

Sutter was quickly signed to a five-year extension worth almost $22 million, more evidence of how highly management thought of the player.

Fast forward to yesterday, when Benning was asked the following question:

“What does it say that you made the trade for Sutter, you called him a ‘foundation’ player, and it took him until the final night of the preseason to find a spot (with the Sedins) on the wing, which isn’t his natural position?”

Here was Benning’s response:

“Well, [head coach Willie Desjardins] wants to try that out, he thinks that’s going to be a good fit. At various times, the Sedins played with wingers with speed, with [Ryan Kesler], who could get in on the forecheck and had a good shot. Sutter brings some of those qualities, too.”

While all that may be true, Sutter was not signed to play the wing; he was brought in to play center, specifically on the second line. He finished the preseason with zero points in five games. And as mentioned, he’ll start the season on the wing, not his natural position.

Meanwhile, youngsters Bo Horvat, 20, and Jared McCann, 19, had outstanding camps and are expected to start the regular season (tonight in Calgary) centering the second and third lines, respectively.

Though Sutter did finish the preseason with 12 shots on goal, up there with the most on the Canucks, it’s fair to say he did not look like a “foundation” player.

“I haven’t seen him play his best,” Desjardins said last week. “I see a guy who’s big and a good skater and who understands the game real well, but just hasn’t got that involved.”

Now, we are only talking about the preseason here. New players often take time to get comfortable. Perhaps playing with the Sedins can provide Sutter with some confidence.

“I know he’ll be there and I totally believe that,” said Desjardins.

But it hasn’t been the best start, and if it wasn’t for the encouraging play of the youngsters, it would be a far bigger story in Vancouver.

Related: Canucks roll the dice on rookies, waive Vey and Corrado