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.

Dahlin headlines Sweden’s roster for World Junior Summer Showcase

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Defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, potentially the NHL’s first overall draft pick in 2018, will suit up for Sweden at the World Junior Summer Showcase in Plymouth, Michigan.

Dahlin, who doesn’t turn 18 until April, has wowed scouts with his skating and puck-moving ability. At the 2017 World Juniors, he participated as a 16-year-old, garnering tantalizing reviews in the process.

Top-10 picks in the 2017 draft, Elias Pettersson (5th, Vancouver Canucks) and Lias Andersson (7th, New York Rangers), will also be in Plymouth representing Sweden.

Click here for Sweden’s and Finland’s Summer Showcase rosters. The tournament runs from July 29 – Aug. 5 and also features players from the United States and Canada.

Among the draft-eligible Finns to watch is 17-year-old forward Jesse Ylonen, who could be a late first-rounder in 2018.

Related: USA Hockey invites 42 players to World Junior Summer Showcase

All of a sudden, hope for hockey in Houston

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Leslie Alexander’s decision to sell the NBA’s Rockets has revived hope for a hockey team in Houston.

That’s because Alexander is arguably the biggest reason that Houston doesn’t already have a team. The 72-year-old billionaire controls Toyota Center, where the Rockets play. Without getting into all the details, he’s essentially been the only one who could bring an NHL franchise to the city.

From the Houston Press:

But Alexander selling the Rockets (and the lease that goes with it), opens up an NHL-ready hockey arena in Houston. And that’s something that Seattle, which the NHL seemed to favor, can’t offer, and unlike Quebec City, Houston offers up a huge media market with many, many large corporations around to buy up luxury seats.

Houston is certainly a big city. In fact, only four metro areas in the United States — New York, L.A., Chicago and Dallas — have higher populations.

And Houston is growing fast.

Jeremy Jacobs, the influential owner of the Boston Bruins, has not hidden his desire to put an NHL team in Toyota Center. Back in 2015, he told ESPN.com, “I would love to see one in Houston, but we can’t get into that building.”

Perhaps soon the NHL won’t have that impediment.

Predators hire new assistant coach in wake of Housley departure

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The Nashville Predators have hired Dan Muse as an assistant coach.

Muse, who spent the last two years as head coach of the USHL’s Chicago Steel, will be in charge of the Preds’ forwards as well as the penalty kill, while associate head coach Kevin McCarthy  — in the wake of Phil Housley’s departure — will now have responsibility for the defense and the power play.

Muse led the Steel to a championship in May. He also won an NCAA title in 2013 as an assistant coach for Yale.

“Dan comes to us as a successful young coach that brings great energy and passion to the game,” said Preds head coach Peter Laviolette in a statement. “He has worked his way up through the coaching ranks, first winning an NCAA title at Yale in 2013, and then taking a Chicago team that had missed the playoffs eight straight seasons and turned them into the Clark Cup champions in just two seasons. We are excited to welcome him to the organization and look forward to his contributions to the coaching staff.”

Senators avoid arbitration with Ryan Dzingel

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The Ottawa Senators have narrowly avoided arbitration with Ryan Dzingel.

Per Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, Dzingel has signed a two-year deal with a cap hit of $1.8 million.

Dzingel’s hearing was scheduled for today. Last season, the 25-year-old forward had 14 goals and 18 assists in 81 games.

Earlier this week, the Sens also avoided arbitration with Jean-Gabriel Pageau, though that case didn’t go down to the wire like Dzingel’s did.

Pageau and Dzingel were the only Sens with arbitration hearings scheduled.

Related: Sens want to avoid arbitration with Dzingel