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24/7 Penguins/Capitals Episode 3: A rivalry comes alive and Bruce Boudreau becomes a fan favorite

Last night’s third episode of HBO’s 24/7 provided us the perfect appetizer for what’s to come at the Winter Classic on New Year’s Day. With the Capitals again winning games and the Penguins rolling along into their December 23rd match-up, the scene was set to help show how these teams would tackle each other and provided some insight as to what they think of each other.

Setting the stage for the big showdown was the tale of two rookies. Andrew Gordon for Washington was shown getting his first goal and getting heaps of love from his teammates after a big win over New Jersey. As for Ben Lovejoy of the Penguins, he too notched his first goal and his first NHL fight. He also earned his first terrifying moment in the league after taking a puck off his face. The end result of which was tough to watch and even more stomach turning after the team’s flight when Lovejoy’s face swelled up to make him look like a character from “The Hills Have Eyes.”

As for the main event of the third episode, the table was set for a showdown of teams that had it all working right. It was fitting that the game evened up and ended in a shootout but what made our ears perk up was what Pens coach Dan Bylsma thought of Michal Neuvirth after the first period. The Pens jumped out to an early lead on the Caps in that one and Bylsma told his team in the locker room that he thought Neuvirth was “shaky” and that they should get after him.

Neuvirth responded by clamping down and allowing the Caps the opportunity to get back in the game. Stepping up when you’re put on the spot is clearly a big deal and Neuvirth responded. What was interesting to see was how the teams responded to the shootout. The shootout, of course, is hotly debated as to whether or not people enjoy it and if the teams get fired up about it.

After Pascal Dupuis’ shootout winner, the answer is a definitive “yes” that the teams get into it. The Penguins were hooting and hollering while the Caps were down in the dumps after the skills competition loss. Read into it what you will, but I view it as the Caps being down for not getting the ultimate reward for getting back into the game and roaring back against the Pens.

With the Christmas break coming after that game, it afforded the HBO cameras the chance to see more downtime with the players and coaches and the cameras did not disappoint us offering us some classic moments, the biggest of which centered around Caps coach Bruce Boudreau’s Christmas shopping trip with his sons to find a gift for his wife. It wasn’t so much what he got his wife as it was Boudreau going cuckoo for Haagen-Dazs at 10 in the morning.  Upon walking into the mall Boudreau says, “I smell food.” How do you top that? I want to party with Boudreau just so long as I don’t have to pick up the check.

Ever get the feeling that Coach Boudreau is the guy you have to usher out of the house at Thanksgiving? After being busted with sauce on his face in episode one and now his shopping trip nearly derailed by a feeding frenzy in the food court we’re thinking that Boudreau is in line to be the next host of Man v. Food if Adam Richman ever gives it up.

Other highlights included:

  • Brent Johnson’s Christmas sweater. Going for solidarity with fellow Christmas sweater wearing goalie Marc-Andre Fleury never looked so scary.
  • Penguins forward Mike Rupp getting a jab in on Caps defenseman Mike Green’s orange vespa by asking his daughter if her pink bike was the same thing Mike Green had. Priceless.
  • Rupp being an equal-time needler after saying he can’t get away from Sid after pointing at the picture of a kid on a Nerf gift his kids got for Christmas.
  • Eric Fehr of the Capitals spreading holiday cheer to folks in D.C.
  • Dan Bylsma living up to his “Disco” nickname playing XBox Kinect with his son. Disco Dan rides again.
  • Nicklas Backstrom celebrating a traditional Swedish Christmas at home in the States. Hey, seeing how others do their traditions is cool.
  • The closing montage of the episode made us want the game to be played immediately after it was over. Awesome stuff.

Next week we’ll get the full monty treatment of the lead up to and the playing of the Winter Classic in Pittsburgh. Expect nothing but the absolute best and I can’t wait to see what the camera views will capture here at Heinz Field because there’s only so much justice my own dinky little camera can bring to it. Tying in the end of Sidney Crosby’s 25-game point streak and the Penguins coming into the game off a loss to the Islanders should help shape the drama beautifully.

Ristolainen, still without a contract, makes ‘good will’ gesture towards Sabres

BUFFALO, NY - JANUARY 22: Rasmus Ristolainen #55 of the Buffalo Sabres makes a pass during the game against the Detroit Red Wings on January 22, 2016 at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Tom Brenner/Getty Images)
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Rasmus Ristolainen doesn’t have a contract yet, and he’s not particularly close to getting one either.

But the Sabres defenseman, a restricted free agent, doesn’t want to burn any bridges, so he arrived at KeyBank Center on Thursday as a “good will” gesture, reports The Buffalo News. He’ll practice with his teammates, head coach Dan Bylsma confirmed.

“Everyone knows how dedicated he is to his training, and he wanted to continue to build on the gains he made this summer,” Ristolainen’s agent, Mike Liut, wrote in an email to the News. “In the end, this made sense to him, at least in the short term.”

The eighth overall pick in the 2013 draft, Ristolainen had nine goals and 32 assists in 82 games for the Sabres last season.

“I still trust that we will make that contract happen,” Ristolainen told reporters a couple of weeks ago at the World Cup in Toronto, where he was representing Finland. “I like Buffalo. I want to be there as long as I can and I feel they feel the same way about me. I trust it’s going to be taken care of.”

Related: Rieder’s agent thinks trade from Coyotes is best for both parties

Wild to play Coyle at RW, likely on top line with Parise and Staal

Minnesota Wild center Charlie Coyle, right, controls the puck against Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith during the first period of Game 1 in the second round of the NHL Stanley Cup hockey playoffs in Chicago, Friday, May 1, 2015. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
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It’s been the ongoing storyline over Charlie Coyle‘s four years in Minnesota — center, or wing?

This year, it’ll be the latter.

At least to start.

Head coach Bruce Boudreau confirmed Coyle will begin the year playing at right wing, potentially on the club’s top line next to Zach Parise and Eric Staal.

“I think I’m built more for that game,” Coyle said, per the Star-Tribune. “Long-term, I think they like me at center, I don’t know. It doesn’t matter to me, but it is nice to be able to consistently play one place and not go back and forth.

“Mentally, once you play one place, you feel more comfortable.”

Coyle has played center quite often, most notably during the ’14-15 campaign when he finished third on the team in faceoffs taken (behind Mikko Koivu and Mikael Granlund). And while it’s obvious he’d be able to impact the game more playing down the middle rather than outside, Coyle’s attributes on the wing are hard to pass up.

Specifically, his ability to find the back of the net.

Coyle scored a career-high 21 goals last year, many of them coming while playing RW. For a Wild team that isn’t all that dynamic offensively, such production is hard to pass up.

What’s more, the Wild do have options down the middle.

Staal and Koivu are there, as is Mikael Granlund. Erik Haula‘s proven to be a quality 3C or 4C, and Coyle could always flip back to center in a pinch.

Putting Coyle on the wing would also give Boudreau more balance among his forward group. Granlund — who, like Coyle, is also versatile enough to play wing — could move to the left side on the Koivu-Jason Zucker line, which would give Minnesota a nice third unite comprised of Haula, Nino Niederreiter and Jason Pominville.

Stecher makes memorable debut for Canucks, the team he grew up supporting

Vancouver Canucks' Alexander Edler, of Sweden; Joseph Labate; Alexis D'Aoust; James Sheppard; and Troy Stecher, from left, celebrate Labate's goal against the Edmonton Oilers during the second period of an NHL hockey preseason game Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2016, in Vancouver, British Columbia. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)
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Troy Stecher admitted he was “still shaking” when he met with reporters following last night’s preseason game in Vancouver. The 22-year-old rookie defenseman had just scored one goal and added two impressive assists in the Canucks’ 5-3 win over the Oilers.

Not bad for an undrafted, local kid who grew up a fan of the team.

“Something I’ll never forget, obviously,” Stecher said. “First game at Rogers (Arena). I grew up watching the Canucks, coming here. It was a different feeling being on the other side of it.”

It was only one game, but for the second year in a row, a defenseman who just finished his college career appears to be pushing for a spot on the Canucks. Last year, it was Ben Hutton, out of Maine, and he made it.

So, could Stecher, out of North Dakota, actually crack the Canucks’ roster as a right-shot, offensive defenseman?

Well, he’s already beaten out Jordan Subban, who’s been returned to the AHL. His main, remaining competition figures to be North America returnee Philip Larsen, who’s been in the KHL the past couple of seasons.

The answer has to be yes.

But again, it’s only been one game. He’s earned another one, according to head coach Willie Desjardins, so he’ll have to build on his first one.

“I’m a young guy, so confidence is huge,” said Stecher. “I think I played pretty well. If I have a poor game, then you kind of dwell on it all day tomorrow and it’s in your mind. At the same time, I’ve just got to put it in my back pocket. Tomorrow’s a new day and I’ve got to come to the rink prepared to work hard and just continue to do my thing.”

Related: Prized North Dakota d-man Stecher goes pro, signs with Canucks

Report: Lindholm seeking eight-year deal from Ducks, at least $6M per

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 04:  Hampus Lindholm #47 of the Anaheim Ducks reacts to his power play goal with Kevin Bieksa #2 to take a 4-1 lead over the Los Angeles Kings during the second period at Staples Center on February 4, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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Details are starting to come out about the contractual impasse between Anaheim and prized young defenseman Hampus Lindholm.

Fresh off an appearance with Team Sweden at the World Cup, Lindholm — a still-unsigned RFA — is reportedly seeking “more than $6 million per season over eight years,” according to the O.C. Register.

The 22-year-old is currently in Sweden training with SHL club Rogle BK, the team he played for prior to getting drafted sixth overall in 2012.

Lindholm is coming off his three-year, entry-level deal, one that carried a cap hit of $894,166.

The Ducks are in a bit of a financial squeeze and also need to sort out another RFA — versatile forward Rickard Rakell — so it’s understandable why negotiations with Lindholm have been drawn out.

That said, they’re not going to want to drag feet much longer.

Lindholm is a budding star on defense, coming off a year in which he scored a career-best 10 goals and 28 points in 80 games, averaging 22 minutes per night. He was also a huge part of Anaheim’s run to Game 7 of the Western Conference Final the previous spring, scoring 10 points in 16 games while increasing his ice time to 23:15.

According to the Register, the “feeling” is that Anaheim’s closer to a deal with Rakell than Lindholm. And on that note, it’s worth mentioning the Ducks make their season debut in two weeks — on Oct. 13, with a road date in Dallas.