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.

Video: Beagle gets stick stuck in visor

Beagle
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Through 40 minutes of action in Game 1 of the second round series between Pittsburgh and Washington and we’ve already seen some big moments, along with a pretty unusual one.

Beagle ended up with a stick lodged into his visor towards the end of the second frame. He tried to get it out himself, but ended up having to go to the bench for assistance. You can see that below:

Stamkos close to game shape, but return might be weeks or months away

Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos (91) competes in the hardest shot competition at the NHL hockey All-Star game skills competition Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
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Steve Stamkos began to practice again on Tuesday and he was back out there on Wednesday and Thursday, which some might interpret as him being close to returning. It seems premature to say that definitively.

“It could be weeks. It could be months,” Stamkos said of his timetable, per ESPN. “That’s the tough part.”

The problem isn’t getting back into game shape after undergoing vascular surgery in early April. He feels he’s already close to reaching that objective. The issue is that Stamkos is on blood thinners, which prevents him from taking any contact. It remains to be seen how long he’ll be on blood thinners.

For what it’s worth, Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy underwent the same surgery and was out for two months and the original timetable provided on April 4 for Stamkos was one-to-three months. So based on that, it sounds like it would be surprising if he returned anytime soon.

Bergeron, Kesler, Kopitar named Selke finalists

Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron celebrates after scoring against the Montreal Canadiens during the second period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016, in Montreal. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press via AP)
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Will Patrice Bergeron join Bob Gainey as the only players to have ever won the Selke Trophy four times?

That’s a distinct possibility after the Bruins center was named as a finalist along with Anaheim’s Ryan Kesler and Los Angeles’ Anze Kopitar.

The Selke Trophy honors the league’s top defensive forward and for three of the last four years, that distinction has gone to Bergeron. However, Kesler and Kopitar have been popular with the voters of this award as well.

Kopitar has finished second in the voting in each of the previous two campaigns while Kesler won back in 2011, though he finished outside of the top-five in each of the last three years prior to the 2015-16 campaign.

Among the trio, Kesler excelled this season on the draw with a 58.5% success rate, which was good for second in the league among forwards who took at least 200 faceoffs. Bergeron was up there too, winning 57.1% of his draws while Kopitar posted a 53.5%. Meanwhile, Bergeron ranked seventh in the NHL with 67 takeaways compared to Kesler’s 39 and Kopitar’s 43. Where Kopitar stood out was in plus/minus as he finished second in the league at plus-34. Kesler was plus-five and Bergeron was plus-12.

Kopitar similarly led the trio with a 57.4% Corsi For versus Bergeron’s 55.9% and Kesler’s 52.9%.

Capitals get Orpik back for series opener

Washington Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik (44) celebrates his goal with teammates on the bench during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the New Jersey Devils, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016, in Washington. The Capitals won 4-3. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
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Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik missed half of Washington’s first round series, but he’s back in time for the opener against his former team.

Orpik last played on April 18 and was regarded as questionable going into tonight’s contest against Pittsburgh. He’s expected to be paired with John Carlson throughout the contest.

Washington’s other projected pairings are Karl Alzner and Matt Niskanen as well as Dmitry Orlov and Nate Schmidt.

Orpik was limited to 41 games during the 2015-16 regular season, but when he did play he averaged 19:48 minutes per contest. He also recorded 125 hits and 102 blocked shots despite missing half the season. The 35-year-old blueliner got his start with Pittsburgh and played in 703 regular season contests with them and an additional 92 postseason contests. This is his second season with Washington.