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Around the rink – Monday, December 27th

Tonight a couple of die-hard rivals dig out of the snow to battle at Madison Square Garden while a pair of other rivalries, old and new, renew acquaintances in Denver and San Jose respectively. As always, all times are Eastern.

7:00 pm

NY Islanders @ NY Rangers

As New York City digs out from the snow, the Rangers and Isles will have at it once again only this time the Isles come into the game on fire. The Isles have gone 4-0-1 in their last five games and a lot of that is thanks to the NHL’s #1 star of the week Dwayne Roloson. The Rangers, meanwhile, should have Marian Gaborik back on the ice tonight. Forgive us if our eyes are fixed upon James Wisniewski and Sean Avery tonight to see if Wisniewski renews acquaintances with the Rangers pest. That didn’t work out so well for Wisniewski last time.

7:30 pm

Minnesota @ Columbus

Minnesota comes into tonight’s game looking to get back to their winning ways after having their three-game win streak snapped by Detroit last night. The Blue Jackets, on the other hand, are desperate for any kind of success tonight. The Jackets have lost six of their last seven games and miserable goaltending has been the root of the problem. Tonight, Steve Mason gets another chance to redeem himself in goal and don’t fault us if we say our confidence in that happening is low.

Boston @ Florida

The off-season dance partners meet once again. Nathan Horton will look to continue haunting his former team. As will Dennis Seidenberg and Greg Campbell. Well, hey, at least Florida still has Dennis Wideman and they’re riding high off beating Buffalo back on Thursday night. Boston will have Milan Lucic in the lineup after he avoided a suspension for sucker punching Atlanta’s Freddy Meyer. The Bruins will want to keep the good momentum riding after that win over Atlanta, they’re just four points ahead of Ottawa in 8th place in the East.

9:00 pm

Detroit @ Colorado

It’s not the rivalry it used to be, but these two do still get together for some exciting games. Detroit sends Chris Osgood out to try once again to win his 400th game. He’s failed in his last two chances to do it against St. Louis and Dallas. Keeping up with the speedy Avalanche could turn ugly for Detroit if the defense and Osgood aren’t sharp. Colorado is one of the league’s highest scoring teams and our own confidence is low that Osgood gets it done tonight. The Wings will be without Dan Cleary tonight after he broke his ankle in last night’s win over Minnesota.

Buffalo @ Calgary

With the World Junior Championships going on in Buffalo, the Sabres hit the road for western Canada and they’ll do it without Derek Roy who tore a tendon in his leg and is out for the season. These two teams come into this game as inconsistent and frustrating teams that go from playing great to awful on a game to game basis. As for which team we’ll see of each of them, your guess is as good as ours. Buffalo dropped their last game to Florida while the Flames beat Dallas in a shootout on Thursday.

10:30 pm

Los Angeles @ San Jose

The Kings are finishing up their post-Christmas tour of California. They took out the Ducks last night and now get to deal with a San Jose team that’s figuring themselves out. The Kings have won three in a row while the Sharks have won four straight. Logan Couture versus Anze Kopitar? Yeah, we’ll take that for a marquee match-up for sure. The guy who could steal the show is Kings goalie Jonathan Quick who’s helped the Kings to be second in the league in goals allowed.

Sharks swarm in the third period, take down Predators in Game 1

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For two periods, the San Jose Sharks couldn’t solve Pekka Rinne.

Maybe it was because of that black cat that found its way on to the ice prior to the start of Friday’s game, or the video review that didn’t go in San Jose’s favor in the opening period.

But that all changed in the final period. It started with Tomas Hertl on the power play finding room just under the glove of Rinne to get San Jose on the board. Joel Ward followed that up with a gorgeous deke, tucking the puck in behind Rinne just as he started to go behind the net, as San Jose was able to take advantage of a defensive breakdown.

Logan Couture added the eventual winner. Within the span of 13 minutes, the Sharks had completely taken over, cashing in on two Nashville penalties and a defensive lapse.

When the onslaught was over, the Sharks skated off with a 5-2 win in Game 1 of this second-round series with the Predators, who only wrapped up a seven-game series win over Anaheim on Wednesday.

Ryan Johansen made it interesting, cutting into San Jose’s lead with under two minutes remaining, but any further comeback attempt was quickly halted by a pair of empty net goals from the Sharks.

The game ended with a dust-up along the boards, before cooler heads did prevail.

Another North Dakota junior goes pro as Blackhawks sign Luke Johnson

Quinnipiac forward Tommy Schutt, left, moves the puck as North Dakota forward Luke Johnson, middle, checks Quinnipiac forward Travis St. Denis during the first period of an NCAA college hockey tournament game Friday, March 27, 2015, in Fargo, N.D. North Dakota won 4-1. (AP Photo/Bruce Crummy)
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Another day, another University of North Dakota player deciding to enter the professional hockey ranks.

This time, it was 21-year-old forward Luke Johnson who turned pro following his junior year, as he signed a three-year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks, the team that selected him in the fifth round of the 2013 NHL Draft.

In 43 games with the NCAA champs this season, Johnson scored 11 goals and 21 points, just shy of his college career high of 24 points set the previous year.

Johnson will forgo his senior year at North Dakota, making him the fourth member of that program’s junior class to turn pro since the end of the season. Keaton Thompson signed with the Anaheim Ducks, Troy Stecher inked with the Vancouver Canucks and Paul LaDue signed with the L.A. Kings.

Senior forward Drake Caggiula, now a free agent, has reportedly narrowed down his list of NHL suitors to six teams.

Brock Boeser, Vancouver’s 2015 first-round pick and coming off an impressive freshman year, will return to North Dakota for his sophomore year, as per Canucks general manager Jim Benning earlier this month.

Video: Black cat hits the ice before Sharks-Predators Game 1

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Perhaps it’s an ominous sign of bad luck to come, but for which team?

Prior to puck drop between the host San Jose Sharks and Nashville Predators in Game 1 on Friday, a black cat hit the ice at SAP Center, taking a nervous stroll along the boards.

Not sure exactly where it came from, although it’s possible someone was feeling extra superstitious before the start of this series.

Official update on the really important story of the evening:

Speed, skill help Stars score late victory to take series lead over Blues

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The Dallas Stars scored a late winner, held on in the final minute and eventually struck first in their best-of-seven second-round series with the St. Louis Blues.

Once again, it was the speed and skill of the Stars that proved to be the difference in the end. Radek Faksa scored with less than five minutes remaining in the third period, breaking the deadlock and giving Dallas a 2-1 victory and 1-0 series lead over their Central Division foes on Friday.

As he entered the zone on the rush, Faksa dished off to a flying Ales Hemsky, who was denied by Brian Elliott in alone. But Faksa followed up, jamming in the rebound to give the Stars the lead, as both St. Louis defensemen Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo were caught by the speed of the Dallas forwards on the rush.

The Stars held on from there, as the Blues made a late push to tie the game.

Kari Lehtonen stopped 31 of 32 shots for Dallas, while Elliott was busy throughout the night, stopping 40 of 42 shots.

Elliott was furious after the Stars opened the scoring in the second period, as Antoine Roussel tallied on a rebound after yet another nice Dallas passing play in the offensive zone.

Stars forward Patrick Eaves left the game early in the third period and didn’t play another shift after being hit in the lower part of his leg with the puck from a point shot.