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.

Blues re-sign goalie Binnington

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Jordan Binnington, the netminder taken 88th overall by the Blues in 2011, has signed a one-year, two-way extension, the club announced on Friday.

Binnington, 24, has played almost exclusively with St. Louis’ AHL affiliate since turning pro four years ago, though he did spend some time in the ECHL.

Last year he worked alongside Ville Husso and Pheonix Copley in the Wolves’ goal, and will likely do so again with Husso moving forward (Copley was traded to Washington as part of the Kevin Shattenkirk deal.)

Binnington’s NHL body of work is brief — one 13-minute relief appearance during the ’15-16 campaign. Right now he’s jockeying with Husso to be the organization’s No. 3 netminder, a potential call-up should either Jake Allen or Carter Hutton get hurt.

Chris Neil wants a one-way deal, and says he’s received offers

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Here’s what we know about veteran tough guy Chris Neil.

He won’t be back in Ottawa, the city where he’s spent his entire 15-year career. But he does want to keep playing. What’s more, he’s not ready to accept a two-way deal or training camp PTO, because offers for a one-way deal have already come in.

“The offers I’ve had so far haven’t been [two way or PTO]. They’ve been a one-way deal,” the 37-year-old forward said, per the Ottawa Sun. “For me, that’s what I’d be looking for.

“It’s up in the air right now. There’s some interest. There’s some teams you’d prefer over others.”

Neil was informed by the Sens last month that he wouldn’t be brought back next season, which marked the end of an era. Ottawa took Neil in the sixth round of the 1998 draft, and he made his NHL debut three years later. He went on to become one of the club’s most recognizable players, in large part to his pugilistic ways — during the 2003-04 campaign, he fought a remarkable 24 times.

That trademark toughness could be something teams are interested in bringing aboard. There were rumblings St. Louis was eyeing him after trading Ryan Reaves to Pittsburgh, with Fox Sports Midwest reporting that Neil had three offers on the table.

If there’s one thing that’s for certain, it’s that Neil believes he can still play. After learning that he wouldn’t be brought back to the Canadian capital, he had some choice words for Sens head coach Guy Boucher and the perceived lack of opportunity Boucher afforded him.

“I have a lot of respect for Randy [Lee, Sens assistant GM] and Pierre [Dorion, GM] … I think, if it was up to them, I’d be back,” Neil explained, per the Citizen. “But they kind of put it in the coach’s hands and that had a lot to do with it. For whatever reason, Guy [Boucher] never really gave me the chance to show I can play.

“Even before I got hurt, I was a healthy scratch for a couple of games and I saw the writing on the wall.”

After tough year in Florida, Smith ready to reunite with ‘players-first’ Gallant

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For Reilly Smith, the anticipation of playing for Las Vegas next season goes beyond playing for the league’s newest team.

It’s also about playing for his old coach, Gerard Gallant.

“I think he kind of embodies the motto that it’s a players-first league and everything kind of revolves around that,” Smith said, per the Golden Knights website. “I know particularly last year in the Florida Panthers organization, there was a lot of change and things going on and I know one of the main messages that he always put forth was that whatever goes on outside, make sure you guys are a tight-knit group inside and play for each other.

“That was one thing that he definitely tried to convey to the team and try to get us to rally behind.”

Smith’s time in Florida was a two-part tale.

After coming over from Boston as part of the Jimmy Hayes swap — Marc Savard’s contract was also shipped to Florida — Smith had a terrific ’15-16 campaign under Gallant, posting career highs in goals (25) while helping the Panthers qualify for the playoffs.

In the postseason, he was a consistent scoring threat, finishing the series with four goals and eight points in six games.

Year two wasn’t nearly as successful.

Gallant was fired early on — controversially so — and Smith’s production dropped off. He ended with just 15 goals and 37 points, disappointing figures that were exacerbated by the big five-year, $25 million extension he signed in the offseason.

Reading between the lines, fair to suggest Smith struggled with the coaching change from Gallant to Tom Rowe. Things came to a head in early March, when Rowe called out Smith following a loss to Dallas.

On the Stars’ first goal, Smith seemed to lose his man in front of the net. Rowe was asked about it, and responded.

“We went over that exact play in team meeting and we haven’t learned our lesson yet,” he said. “That is the problem.”

Rowe wasn’t done there. Later, he was asked about Dallas’ winning goal, which may have been deflected in off a skate. The criticism went back to Smith.

“I don’t know,” said Rowe. “All I know is Reilly Smith was blowing the zone doing exactly what he is not supposed to be doing.”

Smith will certainly be a guy to watch this season. He’s still only 26 years old, looking for a bounce back, and noted that Gallant gave him the opportunity to play a larger role than he had with the Bruins (and, prior to that, the Stars).

One wonders if that’ll happen again, this time in Vegas.

Subban ‘can’t really envision’ Habs without Markov

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The Montreal Canadiens’ defense looks a lot different than it did two years ago.

For the second offseason in a row, the Canadiens have walked away from a seemingly important puck-moving defenseman. Last summer, they traded P.K. Subban to Nashville for Shea Weber, and yesterday they announced that they were parting ways with Andrei Markov.

Markov and Subban played a lot of minutes together during their time time in Montreal. The two even became good friends (Subban attended Markov’s wedding earlier this month).

Needless to say, when Subban found out that Markov wasn’t going to be returning to the Canadiens, he was pretty surprised.

“I can’t really envision the Montreal Canadiens without Andrei Markov on the blue line. That’s No. 1. Even before I played for the team, I watched him play for the team and be their best defenseman,” The Preds defenseman told NHL.com’s Arpon Basu. “Even while I was there, I still thought he was our best defenseman, even though a lot of people thought because of what I got paid it was me. You can’t really put a price tag on how he plays because he’s so smart, the way he sees the ice.”

With those two players no longer on the team, it’ll be interesting to see who moves the puck for the Habs. Shea Weber is still playing at a high level, but carrying the puck up the ice isn’t his strongest attribute.

GM Marc Bergevin added Mark Streit, Karl Alzner and David Schlemko this offseason, but none of those guys can do the things Markov is capable of doing when it comes to moving the puck efficiently.

Is there another move on the horizon?

Well, Montreal has a huge hole on the left side of their defense and they have over $8 million in cap space. Maybe there is something brewing.

Related:

Andrei Markov opts for KHL after saying goodbye to Canadiens

Habs president pens glowing farewell letter to Markov

Habs sign Streit–is he Markov’s replacement?