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.

Devils send ’15 first-rounder Zacha back to junior

2015 NHL Draft - Round One

Pavel Zacha was this close to making his NHL debut.

Just days prior to opening their season against the Jets, the Devils returned Zacha — the sixth overall pick at this year’s draft — back to his junior club in OHL Sarnia.

The move comes after Zacha, 18, impressed throughout training camp and the preseason. He appeared in four exhibition games for New Jersey, scoring one point while endearing himself to the organizational brass, coaching staff and players.

“He understands the game. He plays with a maturity. It’s crazy to think an 18-year-old coming out of high school is up here and playing with the maturity and understanding of the game with the new system,” Kyle Palmieri told “I think he’s got a lot of raw talent there as a power forward. He’s got the body for it, the puck-handling skills and the nose for the net.”

At 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, Zacha has the frame and physical stature to play at the NHL level, and looked the part for long stretches of the exhibition season, getting turns on New Jersey’s top line.

The decision to send him back to junior is probably the right one, however.

Zacha only turned 18 in April and has limited experience even at the OHL level; ’14-15 was his first year with Sarnia, though he did appear in 38 Czech League games (for Liberec) the season prior.

Raffl coverts PTO into one-year, $575K deal with Jets

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There’s another Raffl in the NHL.

On Tuesday, the Jets announced that Thomas Raffl — the older brother of Flyers forward Michael Raffl — has signed a one-year, one-way deal worth $575,000.

Raffl, 29, was in Winnipeg’s camp on a PTO after a lengthy career in Europe. He spent time playing in Sweden and his native Austria, most recently with powerhouse EC Red Bull Salzburg — last year, Raffl scored 53 points in 52 games for Salzburg and three in seven games for Austria while serving as team captain at the World Hockey Championships.

“We would like to recognize and express our appreciation to the EC Red Bull Salzburg organization for allowing Thomas and the Winnipeg Jets this opportunity,” Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said in a statement.

With the Jets, Raffl projects to play in the bottom-six forward group, where he can utilize his 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame in a checking-slash-energy role.

For now, though, he’ll start out with the club’s AHL affiliate in Manitoba.