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.

Stanley Cup Final odds: Penguins open as favorites over Predators

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The 2017 Stanley Cup Final is set with the Pittsburgh Penguins, continuing their quest to repeat as champions, facing the Nashville Predators.

Both teams come in missing some key players (Kris Letang, Pittsburgh; Ryan Johansen, Nashville) but both still have plenty of star player with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, P.K. Subban, Filip Forsberg and the rest of Nashville’s defense headlining the series.

According to the folks at Bovada, the Penguins open the series as favorites to win it over the Predators.

NHL Stanley Cup Finals Series Price
Nashville Predators +135 (27/20)
Pittsburgh Penguins -155 (20/31)

The series begins on Monday night in Pittsburgh.

Related

2017 Stanley Cup Final Schedule: Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Nashville Predators

Canucks sign free agent defenseman Philip Holm to one-year deal

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The Vancouver Canucks announced on Friday that they have signed free agent defenseman Philip Holm to a one-year, entry-level contract.

Before signing with the Canucks Holm had been rumored to be on the verge of joining the Toronto Maple Leafs, but that obviously did not come together.

“Philip is a mobile, two-way defenseman who adds depth to our blue line,” said Canucks general manager Jim Benning in a statement released by the team. “He made strides in his development last season with Vaxjo and played a strong series with Sweden at the World Championships We’re pleased to welcome him to the Canucks organization.”

The 25-year-old Holm has spent the past seven seasons playing professionally in Sweden for Vaxjo HC and Djurgardens IF.

He is regarded as a smooth skating, puck-moving defenseman and had a pretty strong season for Vaxjo this past year, scoring four goals and adding 17 assists in 52 games. He was the top-scoring defenseman on the team.

He also had three points (one goal, two assists) in seven games for Sweden at the 2017 IIHF World Ice Hockey Championships. Sweden won the Gold Medal at the tournament by defeating Canada in the championship game.

The Canucks already have six defensemen under contract for 2017-18 (and they do not seem to be in a hurry to trade any of them) but it was a unit that clearly needs an upgrade, so Holm should be an opportunity to make an impact next season.

Sabres fire AHL coach Dan Lambert

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The Buffalo Sabres continued to overhaul their organization under new general manager Jason Botterill on Friday when they announced that Dan Lambert, the coach of the Rochester Americans, their AHL affiliate, has been relieved of his duties.

“I would like to thank Dan for his hard work and contributions to our organization during the last two seasons and I wish him the best in the future,” said Botterill in a statement released by the team.

“I felt this was the right move for both the Sabres and Amerks and we will begin the process of searching for a new head coach immediately.”

The 2016-17 season was Lambert’s only season as the head coach. The team ended up finishing with a 32-41-3 mark.

When he was hired by the Sabres Botterill talked about wanting to improve the team in Rochester and this appears to be the first step in that process. The entire Sabres organization took a pretty significant step backwards this season with the NHL team finishing with a worse record than it did a year ago. That resulted in general manager Tim Murray and head coach Dan Bylsma all being replaced.

The Sabres have yet to hire a replacement for Bylsma.

Now both of the top teams in the organization are in need of a new head coach.

Report: KHL team in talks with Capitals’ Orlov

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After losing in the second-round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs again and entering an offseason where they have several free agents, it is expected that the Washington Capitals roster is going to be look very, very different next season.

One of those upcoming free agents already seems to be drawing some interest, and not from an NHL team.

According to a report from Sport-Express’ Igor Eronko, the KHL’s CSKA Moscow is in talks with defenseman Dmitry Orlov.

Orlov, who turns 26 in July, is slated to be a restricted free agent this offseason. He has played in every game for the Capitals the past two seasons and has emerged as a solid defenseman on the team’s blue line. He has posted pretty dominant possession numbers the past two seasons and has tallied 29 and 33 points during that stretch. He played nearly 20 minutes per game for the Capitals this season and should be in line for a pretty significant pay raise.

Along with the Orlov news, the Washington Post’s Isabelle Khurshudyan mentioned on Twitter that another KHL team may also be in talks with restricted free agent Evgeny Kuznetsov, though she downplayed the possibility of him leaving. Given that Kuznetsov is one of the top offensive players in the league that would certainly be a shocking move, but it still seems like a long-shot to think that he would leave the NHL.