Riding the Zamboni – Thursday, December 23rd (early edition)

To read about the much-hyped (and justifiably so) game between the Penguins and Capitals, click here. Check out this post to read Scott Arniel’s angry comments regarding the Blue Jackets’ 7-3 loss to the Vancouver Canucks.

There’s a whopping 11 other games on the NHL docket tonight, so here are summaries of the nine that ended at a reasonable hour. Stay tuned for the final two games later.

Florida 4, Buffalo 3

The Sabres lost Derek Roy to an injury that “looks serious” and also lost the game. Both Chris Higgins and Jordan Leopold scored two goals each, with Jason Pominville, Stephen Weiss and Jason Garrison also scoring. Garrison ended up with the game-winner.

Montreal 3, Carolina 2

Scoring spread in this game’s second period like an infection on Cam Ward’s forehead. Chad LaRose gave Carolina a 1-0 lead and Erik Cole made it 2-1, but goals by Scott Gomez (on his 31st birthday), Andrei Kostitsyn and Alexandre Pickard powered the Canadiens to a win.

Tampa Bay 4, NY Rangers 3 (SO)

Shootout haters will cringe at this one: the Lightning now lead the Southeast Division because they won in the skills competition while the Capitals lost against the Penguins the same way. (Although their lead is based on games played, not wins or points.) Martin St. Louis was great as usual, with one goal and one assist.

NY Islanders 5, New Jersey 1

Jacques Lemaire is the new coach, but his mere presence didn’t change much on Day 1. In fact, the Islanders’ mini-run ensures that the Devils are the worst team in the NHL right now. Josh Bailey scored two goals and one assist and Dwayne Roloson made 34 saves to win the game with startling ease.

Boston 4, Atlanta 1

The Thrashers are on a two-game losing streak now, but they shouldn’t worry too much because the Bruins are sneaky-good. Despite resting at the eighth seed in the East, only Pittsburgh (+35) and Philadelphia (+30) sport a better goal differential than Boston’s +24 in the conference.

Of course, many will remember this game mainly for the big brawl at the end of the game and Claude Julien’s anger regarding a “cheap shot.”

St. Louis 4, Detroit 3

Here’s a not-so-bold prediction: the Blues will be in the top eight in the West around the time the Winter Classic begins. Why? Because they just began a five-game homestand and sport an 11-4-2 record in St. Louis in 2010-11. Beating the slightly struggling Red Wings is a great way to start that home streak.

Ottawa 2, Nashville 1

The Senators beat the Predators at their low-scoring game, winning 2-1 thanks to 25 Brian Elliott saves, one Nick Foligno goal and one score by Alex Kovalev. Marcel Goc provided Nashville’s only goal.

Calgary 3, Dallas 2 (SO)

Jamie Benn beat up Jarome Iginla, Mike Ribeiro scored a goal and an assist and Kari Lehtonen made 31 saves … yet the Flames won the game. Go figure.

Minnesota 3, Colorado 1

Trap team or not, the Wild want to win. They earned their third consecutive win and handed the Avalanche their second loss in a row on the strength of Niklas Backstrom’s 36 saves and Matt Cullen, who scored two goals and one assist.

Ducks cement Pacific lead as Getzlaf continues his mammoth March

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By the end of Sunday night, the Anaheim Ducks removed all doubt: they’re on top of the Pacific Division.

Now, it’s not the sort of substantial lead that the sliding San Jose Sharks squandered; Anaheim merely leads the Sharks and Edmonton Oilers by two standings points after beating the New York Rangers 6-3.

With everyone at 75 games played, it’s kind of nice to enjoy the clarity that comes with a clear lead (though the Sharks and Oilers will disagree):

Pacific top four (all teams with 75 games played)

1. Ducks – 93 points (38 ROW, 41 W)
2. Sharks – 91 poitns (40 ROW, 42 W)
3. Oilers – 91 points (37 ROW, 41 W)

Flames – 88 points (38 ROW, 42 W)

The Ducks are now on a four-game winning streak and managed an 8-1-1 mark in their last 10 contests.

With all due respect to Patrick Eaves‘ two goals, it’s Ryan Getzlaf who’s really playing outstanding hockey. He generated four assists in this one, giving him eight helpers in his past four games. He now has a whopping 20 points in March.

A lot going on – fight included – between Corey Perry, Brendan Smith (Video)

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If there’s one thing that’s undeniable from the clip going on, it’s that Corey Perry and Brendan Smith squeezed a lot of activity (carnage?) into a single shift.

Early on in Sunday’s New York Rangers – Anaheim Ducks game, both player delivered hits that were at least borderline dangerous. After that, they traded punches in a pretty solid fight (especially since they seemed a little tired because, again, this was a fairly elaborate sequence).

It’s way too messy a sequence to call neat, but there is something efficient about trading hits and then getting into a fight. That’s a mini-hockey feud in short order.

If you want a pretty moment to counteract all that, check out the great puck movement on this 3-on-1 goal for the Rangers:

Penguins lose to Flyers and lose another key player to injury

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PITTSBURGH — Even with a ridiculously long injured list that would be the foundation of a pretty good hockey team, the Pittsburgh Penguins still found a way to go 8-1-3 in their previous 12 games entering Sunday’s contest against the Philadelphia Flyers.

The injuries finally seemed to start catching up to them on Sunday in a 6-2 loss, extending their current losing streak to three games, matching their season long.

While the loss certainly impacts their pursuit of the top spot in the Metropolitan Division (they remain three points back of the Washington Capitals), and even their quest for home ice advantage in the first round, it is still not the worst thing to come out of Sunday’s game.

The worst thing for them would be the fact the Penguins lost yet another key player to an injury when forward Conor Sheary had to leave the game mid-way through the first period.

Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said after the game that Sheary is dealing with a lower body injury and that right now he is considered to be day-to-day. It was initially believed that Sheary was injured blocking a shot, but Sullivan insisted that was not the case and that it happened in the offensive zone at some point in the first period.

With Jake Guentzel still sidelined due a concussion he suffered in a recent game against the Buffalo Sabres, that means two-thirds of the team’s recently assembled top line (Sidney Crosby-Sheary-Guentzel) is now sidelined due to injury. Sheary’s injury is especially concerning given how good he has been on Crosby’s wing dating back to the 2016 playoffs. Entering play on Sunday Sheary was averaging nearly a point per game (50 points in 54 games) with almost all of that production coming at even-strength.

They had yet another scare in the third period on Sunday when defenseman Brian Dumoulin had to briefly leave the game and head to the locker room after he was elbowed in the side of the head by Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds.

On Sunday, all of the injuries finally seemed to be too much with the Flyers pretty much dominating the game over the final two periods.

The Flyers received goals from six different players (Jordan Weal, Valtteri Filppula, Dale Weise, Jakob Voracek, Radko Gudas and Shayne Gostisbehere) in the win and outshot the Penguins by a 24-15 margin over the final 40 minutes.

“That wasn’t a good effort and at this point of the season we can’t afford to have those,” said Penguins forward Matt Cullen after the game. “I don’t think that was a typical effort for us. I don’t think we had a lot of life, to be honest.”

Even more than winning games the rest of the way the biggest concern for the Penguins has to be getting their list of injured players healthy and finding a way to avoid adding to it, something that has proven to be difficult in recent weeks.

At this point, whether they win the Metropolitan Division or not, they know their path through the Eastern Conference playoffs is very likely going to have to go through both Washington and Columbus, and they are going to need their full complement of players to do it.

One of the biggest factors in winning a Stanley Cup is having all of your key players in the lineup come playoff time.

A year ago the Penguins did.

Right now they are not even close to having that.

Video: Dumoulin shakes off elbow, Sheary out day-to-day for Penguins

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Barring a major comeback, the Pittsburgh Penguins look like they’re going to lose to the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday. Their injury losses might be just as big.

On the bright side, it seems like Brian Dumoulin was able to shake off an elbow from Wayne Simmonds. You can watch the hit, which didn’t draw a penalty, in the video above.

Meanwhile, Conor Sheary has been missing since the first period with what might be a lower-body injury.

The Penguins’ list of injuries is already pretty ridiculous, so if one or both of these players miss significant time, tonight will sting deeper than a setback on the scoreboard.

Update after the Penguins’ loss: Seemingly good news, if very early and vague: