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.

In Jets return, Burmistrov delivers headshot to Bergeron

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Didn’t take long for Alex Burmistrov to make his presence felt — though not in a good way.

Burmistrov, playing in his first game for the Jets after a two-year stint in Russia, delivered a questionable elbow to the head of Boston’s Patrice Bergeron late in the first period of Thursday’s season-opener:

Burmistrov received a two-minute minor for an illegal check to the head, while Bergeron received a matching minor for roughing (retaliating for the elbow, specifically).

The Bruins went into the intermission leading 1-0, and have yet to update Bergeron’s status.

Ducks name Kesler alternate captain

Ryan Kesler
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For the second time in his career, Ryan Kesler is wearing an “A.”

On Thursday, the Anaheim Ducks announced that Kesler would serve as one of the club’s alternate captains this season, taking over for Francois Beauchemin, who signed in Colorado this summer.

With the move, Kesler joins Anaheim’s existing leadership group of captain Ryan Getzlaf, and alternate Corey Perry.

“It’s an honor,” Kesler said, per the Ducks. “It’s special. I’m going to wear it with pride and lead by example.”

As mentioned earlier, Kesler has some experience as an alternate — he wore an “A” in Vancouver from 2008-13, but had it removed prior to the start of the ’13-14 campaign.

It’s not surprising Anaheim went in this direction. GM Bob Murray made a huge investment in Kesler this summer by inking the 31-year-old to a six-year, $41.25M extension.