Dustin Byfuglien

Around the rink – Thursday, December 30th

With a short slate of games tonight, there’s a couple that grab our attention and one of them because there just might be some bad blood on the ice. If you’re looking for fisticuffs, Atlanta is the place to be as the Bruins come to town with ill will towards Freddy Meyer still on the mind of Milan Lucic. This one’s got enough heat on it to almost make us forget about San Jose and Chicago getting ready to dance again. Almost. All times listed are Eastern.

7:00 pm

Boston @ Atlanta

Sure the Bruins beat Atlanta around last week 4-1, but they still weren’t happy about it and Milan Lucic might be hoping Freddy Meyer is back out on the ice to get some revenge. A better idea for Boston might be to just worry about beating Atlanta again. Then again, if that’s what it takes for Boston to get motivated, they’ll get right back to it. Expect some shenanigans to go down in this one now that Boston’s got a bit of their swagger back.

Columbus @ Toronto

Did the Jackets put bad times behind them after getting a shootout win over Minnesota? Beating the Leafs would go a long way towards getting back in shape and show that they’re moving past their issues. Of course, the Leafs are hoping the bad Steve Mason or Mathieu Garon shows up in goal instead. The Leafs are hoping to bounce back after a tough loss to Carolina on Tuesday. If the right Blue Jackets team shows up, they might be able to pull that off easily.

7:30 pm

Montreal @ Tampa Bay

Montreal gets to face their double-secret rivals in Tampa Bay. Tampa Bay, of course, is coached by former Habs farm team coach Guy Boucher and the Habs are in need of a win badly. The Habs have lost four of their last five games and seven of their last nine and the fans in Montreal are getting antsy again. Tampa Bay, meanwhile, has won six of their last eight games and are looking to bounce back after losing to Boston on Tuesday. The upside for Tampa Bay is that Vincent Lecavalier is scoring goals again. The bad news is that their goaltending hasn’t gotten any better.

8:30 pm

San Jose @ Chicago

Last year’s Western Conference finalists renew acquaintances again and the Sharks might want to give Antti Niemi the start again. Niemi was solid last time out against Chicago and after Antero Niittymaki’s lackluster effort last night, Niemi makes a lot of sense. Of course, the Blackhawks would like to catch a break health-wise as they’ll be without Jonathan Toews for two weeks with a shoulder ailment. A grumpy San Jose team won’t make for a pushover on this night.

9:30 pm

Colorado @ Edmonton

Someone’s slide will end in this one. Colorado comes in having lost three in a row while the Oilers are losers of four straight. For Edmonton, things are tougher defensively now with Ryan Whitney out for an extended period. What could help both of these teams is some better defense and goaltending as they’re both in the bottom five in goals allowed.

10:30 pm

Philadelphia @ Los Angeles

A rough couple of games for the Flyers only grows harder as they move along to L.A. After a beating of a loss against Vancouver on Tuesday and an equally poor effort against the Panthers last week, the Flyers could stand to have a breakout game. Doing that against a Kings team that doesn’t give up a lot of goals and got stomped on for six goals against last night could mean the Flyers are in for tough night. The Flyers have to keep opponents off the board because they’ve given up 11 goals in their last two games.

The Panthers are healthy scratching Bolland, and he is their highest-paid forward, but they insist they’re not sending a message

Dave Bolland, Derek Nansen
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It feels like there’s a story brewing in Florida, where Dave Bolland — the team’s most-expensive forward, at $5.5 million a season — has been a healthy scratch for three consecutive games.

But according to head coach Gerard Gallant, there’s nothing to see here. Move along.

“There’s nothing to talk about,” Gallant said, per the Miami Herald. “He sat out, our team is playing well. There’s nothing more than that. We have to sit two guys and I like the way we’re playing. The next game is a different game. We may change something up, who knows.”

Bolland had just one goal and five points in 18 games prior to getting parked in the press box. Well, technically he got dropped to the fourth line before hitting the press box, but you get the idea. He’s not exactly in Gallant’s good graces.

Not helping Bolland’s case is the fact that, as Gallant pointed out, the club is playing pretty well without him. The Panthers have rebounded from a rough start to November by winning back-to-back games against the Islanders and Red Wings, which set them up nicely for the remainder of this current five-game road swing.

Florida has games still to play in St. Louis, Nashville, Columbus and New Jersey. It’ll be interesting to see when — or, if — he draws back into the lineup.

In closing, a reminder that Bolland’s in the second of a five-year, $27.5 million deal.

Canucks rookie Virtanen exits with upper-body injury, won’t return


After sitting out Friday’s game in Dallas, Vancouver’s Jake Virtanen had to be excited at drawing back in for tonight’s game against the Ducks.

Unfortunately, the excitement didn’t last long.

Virtanen suffered an upper-body injury after playing just 1:45 in the opening frame, and was ruled out of the contest during the intermission. It’s unclear exactly what happened, but it looks like Virtanen was injured on a hit by Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf.

Virtanen didn’t take another shift following the incident, and Getzlaf was given a minor penalty on the play.

While we don’t know what the injury is or it’s severity, losing Virtanen for any length of time would have ramifications for the Canucks and this year’s Canadian entry at the World Juniors. There has been talk of Virtanen possibly being released by the Canucks to participate in the tournament; last year, he was part of the team that captured gold in Montreal and Toronto.

Virtanen has played in 18 games for the Canucks this year, scoring one goal and four points while averaging 10:17 TOI per night.

McLellan sounds off on Oilers after shutout loss in Toronto

Todd McLellan

Edmonton lost for the fourth time in five games on Monday, a 3-0 defeat in Toronto that marked the second time in a week the Oilers have been shut out.

Needless to say, the head coach wasn’t happy.

In a fairly blunt and harsh assessment aimed at a variety of players, Todd McLellan had some choice words for what he called a “disappointing” effort.

Some of the more choice quotes:

“I didn’t think we were a very hard team. I didn’t think we stood over a lot of pucks. I didn’t think we won a lot of battles along the boards. I didn’t think we were competitive enough in a lot of areas.”

“When I look at the trip as a whole, we had some key, key people really under-perform on the trip. Significant minus numbers, not hitting the score sheet. It can’t always be the [Leon DraisaitlTaylor Hall line] that provides that.”

It’s fair to suggest that last one was directed at Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle.

Nugent-Hopkins has just two points and zero goals in his last five games, with a minus-8 rating. Eberle is pointless entirely, and also at minus-8 over the same stretch.

They’re hardly the only Oilers not pulling their weight at the moment, however. Edmonton has lost 15 times in its first 25 games, a figure that suggests there are more problems that just a couple of underachieving forwards.

Just ask McLellan, who all but admitted his team has issues matching up.

“We’re not where we need to be,” he said. “We’ve got work to do as a team, work to do as an organization to get bigger, stronger, harder, and physically win more battles than we lose.”

Roy: Avs ‘need, expect more’ from Varlamov


The tough times continue for Semyon Varlamov.

After another unsuccessful outing on Monday — allowing four goals on 27 shots in a loss to the Islanders — Varlamov was subjected to a familiar refrain: Patrick Roy saying the Avs need more from their No. 1 netminder.


You can hear all of the head coach’s comments in the video above but, for brevity’s sake, here’s the Varlamov stuff:

“It’s not easy for him. Obviously we need that extra save and we didn’t get it on the road. It’s hard to win if you’re giving four goals on the road.

“We just need more from him. He’s our No. 1 guy and we’re behind him, but we need, we expect more from him.”

There has to be serious concern about Varlamov right now, if there wasn’t already.

His save percentage through seven games in November (.891) is marginally better than it was through seven games in October (.889), and that’s not the only alarming stat. Varlamov’s yet to record a shutout this year, yet to record back-to-back victories and has given up at least three goals in six of his last seven starts.

Not good.

Compounding things for Colorado are the standings. The Avs are now 9-14-1 and mired in the Central Division basement, meaning that — if they have any hope of going on a tear and getting back into playoff content — they’ll need to do it soon.

Which means they might not have the time, or the patience, for Varlamov to find his game.