Brian Rafalski, Patrick Eaves

Riding the Zamboni – Wednesday, December 29th

Detroit 7 – Dallas 3

Two of the top teams square off, and after looking at the final score you’d never know that Dallas had a lead in this one. The Stars blew a 3-1 second period lead by giving up five unanswered goals with Patrick Eaves leading the way with a hat trick. Eaves also added an assist on his way to a four point night. Pavel, who? Jamie Benn had a goal and an assist for Dallas.

NY Islanders 2 – Pittsburgh 1 (F/SO)

We know you all had the Islanders circled as the team that would break Sidney Crosby’s 25-game point streak. Of course you did. The Isles pull off yet another win and rebound nicely after their dismal effort against the Rangers the other night. Josh Bailey had the regulation goal and P.A. Parenteau had the shootout winner. Rick DiPietro played out of his mind making 37 saves in the win.

NY Rangers 3 – New Jersey 1

It was a valiant effort by the Devils but, alas, they’ll continue to be the NHL’s cellar dwellers thanks to the work of Henrik Lundqvist. Lundqvist stopped 43 shots on his way to victory. Brian Boyle, Michal Rozsival and Brandon Dubinsky each had goals for New York, the latter being an empty netter. The Devils played much better and tougher, but couldn’t crack Lundqvist. Martin Brodeur, meanwhile, will lose sleep over the goals given up to Boyle and Rozsival. Boyle’s was a brutal whiff by Brodeur while Rozsival’s goal bounced in off defenseman Andy Greene’s glove.

Phoenix 6 – Los Angeles 3

When these two get together in Phoenix, the Kings might want to think about changing things up in their routines. The Coyotes ran the Kings out of the house again, this time after a wild first period that saw seven goals scored and the Yotes coming out of it with a 4-3 lead. Shane Doan led the way with two goals and an assist for Phoenix and Keith Yandle added three helpers to pace Phoenix. Jon Quick was less-than stellar for L.A. going just 30 minutes into the game and giving up six goals on 18 shots.

Carolina 4 – Ottawa 0

Every now and then Cam Ward shows us why he won the Conn Smythe Trophy back in 2006 and tonight was one of those nights. Ward stopped 37 shots on the way to his second shutout of the year. Zach Boychuk scored his first two goals of the season in helping knock off a hapless Sens team that could’ve used the momentum to build things up. Perhaps the absence of Jason Spezza will be this team’s undoing.

Minnesota 5 – San Jose 3

Right when you think the Sharks are about to go on a tear and break out in the West, they lay an egg like this against the Wild. The Sharks had two different leads in this game and blew them both, ultimately getting picked apart for three goals in the third period. Kyle Brodziak had two goals, Brent Burns had a goal and an assist, and Martin Havlat had two assists to lead the Wild. The Sharks got points and big plays from their star players, but they didn’t get the goaltending from Antero Niittymaki who stopped just 19 shots in the loss. The Sharks have now dropped their last two games.

Kuznetsov, bad breaks baffle Flyers in loss to Capitals

PHILADELPHIA, PA - FEBRUARY 22: Evgeny Kuznetsov #92 of the Washington Capitals celebrates his first period goal against Michal Neuvirth #30 of the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center on February 22, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Here’s what went right for the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday: the Florida Panthers lost. Yep, that’s about it.

Otherwise, it was a pretty lousy time, as the Washington Capitals beat them at home 4-1 tonight.

Washington’s big names came to play here, highlighted by Evgeny Kuznetsov scoring two goals. T.J. Oshie and Nicklas Backstrom enjoyed one-goal, one-assist nights while Justin Williams and Alex Ovechkin both grabbed two assists.

The Capitals won their first game after a bye week (following two losses), improving their Metropolitan Division lead to five points and Presidents’ Trophy edge over Minnesota to three.

The Flyers fail to make up some ground in the Eastern Conference wild card race, staying at 63 standings points in 60 games played. The Panthers are tied with the Islanders and Bruins at 66 points, though Boston can change the picture ever so slightly against Anaheim (still in action) tonight.

The bottom line, again, is that the Flyers failed in a chance to get a little closer to that logjam for the last East spot.

Of course, plenty of Flyers fans will grumble about missed opportunities and iffy calls. Mike Milbury broke down the early setbacks that made life that much tougher for Philly:

Philly couldn’t overcome the Capitals and that bad luck, making their playoff hopes a little dimmer as the trade deadline approaches.

Oilers win on rare Russell goal, Panthers fall out of second wild card spot

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The Edmonton Oilers’ 4-3 win against the Florida Panthers might end up being costly if Andrej Sekera misses significant time.

But, hey, at least it was a win.

The two rising squads engaged in a back-and-forth game, with the Oilers winning in regulation. Maybe fittingly with Edmonton leaking defensemen lately: Kris Russell was the guy to score the game-winner, set up by Connor McDavid‘s blazing speed and a nice pass by Leon Draisaitl.

It was Russell’s first goal in more than a year.

The Oilers will remain in the second spot in the Pacific at the end of the night whether the Anaheim Ducks beat the Boston Bruins or not. Interestingly, this puts them in a reasonable position to catch the Sharks for first place in the division, too.

1. Sharks – 77 points in 60 games
2. Oilers – 74 points in 61 games
3. Ducks – 72 points in 61 games (in progress vs. Boston)

The Oilers likely had some fans out East tonight, as this loss pushes Florida down the wild card rankings. They’re actually out of the second spot thanks to tiebreakers.

Second wild card spot: Bruins – 66 points in 59 games, 30 wins and 28 ROW (in progress)

Islanders – 66 points in 59 games, 28 wins and 27 ROW
Panthers – 66 points in 59 games, 28 wins and 25 ROW

The Isles would move into the second spot if Boston loses in regulation, underscoring just how congested this situation is. But either way, the Panthers won’t be in the East’s top eight at the end of the night.

With Gibson out, Ducks recall interesting goalie: Enroth

TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 11: Jhonas Enroth #35 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Air Canada Centre on November 11, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. The Maple Leafs defeated the Flyers 6-3.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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One player’s injury is another player’s opportunity.

Considering how much the Anaheim Ducks lean on John Gibson, it’s troubling that he’s day-to-day with a lower-body injury.

Even so, it’s interesting to note that such a situation prompted the team to recall Jhonas Enroth, who will back up Jonathan Bernier during Wednesday’s game against the Boston Bruins.

With the way Bernier’s been playing at times, it’s not impossible that Enroth could play as soon as tonight. But if he doesn’t you have to wonder if the Ducks might feel compelled to throw a start his way in the next week.

The trade deadline is coming, and while the goalie market is really cold, some of that slow movement likely comes from how cap-unfriendly netminders like Ben Bishop might be.

But what about Enroth? His cap hit is $750K this season, and while he thoroughly unimpressed Mike Babcock with rapid speed in Toronto, he was fantastic as a backup in Los Angeles last season and has been outstanding lately for the AHL’s San Diego Gulls.

All things considered, it’s almost a little surprising the Ducks aren’t throwing him right into the deep end tonight. If you’re a team with poor backup goaltending like the Edmonton Oilers or any number of other teams,* why wouldn’t you give the Ducks a call?

Maybe they need to see him in action in the NHL before doing so, making this an intriguing scenario to follow.

And, hey, maybe the Ducks themselves might decide that he’s a better option behind Gibson than Bernier. Stranger things have happened.

* – The Leafs might qualify, honestly … but again, Babs doesn’t seem to be an Enroth fan.

Another defenseman down: Niskanen won’t return for Caps tonight (Video)

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Uh oh.

There are only three games on the docket for Wednesday, but injuries are a factor in all of them. The Washington Capitals must now worry about underrated defenseman Matt Niskanen after he left tonight’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers with a lower-body injury.

Niskanen took a shift to end the second period, only not to return, much like Andrej Sekera did in tonight’s Edmonton Oilers game.

The Capitals blueliner got hurt after falling awkwardly following a collision with Radko Gudas, as you can see from the video above.