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.

Report: Bruins’ Khokhlachev to sign in KHL

Montreal Canadiens v Boston Bruins
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Alexander Khokhlachev’s time with the Boston Bruins is up, according to a report out of Russia that has the 22-year-old forward signing with SKA Saint Petersburg of the KHL.

The deal reportedly won’t be announced until after June 30; Khokhlachev is under contract with the B’s until then. But the fact he’s apparently decided to depart for the KHL should come as no surprise.

A second-round draft pick in 2011, Khokhlachev has spent the last three seasons piling up points in the AHL; however, he’s only appeared in nine NHL games.

Earlier this month, his agent told CBS Boston, “Alexander did not really get a chance for all the years that he signed a deal, for four years, the deals he signed with Boston, didn’t really get a chance to play in the National Hockey League, so he won’t stay in the organization.”

SKA acquired Khokhlachev’s KHL rights last summer.

Related: Khokhlachev just wants a chance

Jackets not expected to sign Quebec league prospect Pelletier

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JUNE 28:  Julien Pelletier meets his team after being drafted #107 by the Columbus Blue Jackets on Day Two of the 2014 NHL Draft at the Wells Fargo Center on June 28, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Julien Pelletier, the QMJHL Sherbrooke forward taken in the fourth round of the ’14 draft, is unlikely to receive an entry-level contract from the Blue Jackets, per the Columbus Dispatch.

The move would mean Pelletier could re-enter this year’s draft. The Blue Jackets have until Wednesday to decide if they want to sign him, or trade his rights to another team.

Taken five spots ahead of Viktor Arvidsson — who’s become a nice young player for Nashville — Pelletier had a solid season in Sherbrooke, finishing second on the team in goals (with 27).

This year, he was in training camp with the Jackets but sent home early.

Per the Dispatch, the Jackets are also unlikely to sign another ’14 draftee — Olivier Leblanc, who was taken in the seventh round.

‘Invigorated’ Hitch signs for one final year in St. Louis

SAN JOSE, CA - MAY 21:  Ken Hitchcock of the St. Louis Blues walks on the ice in game four of the Western Conference Finals against the San Jose Sharks during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at SAP Center on May 21, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Ken Hitchcock is taking one last shot at winning a Stanley Cup with the St. Louis Blues.

The club announced today a one-year contract extension for the 64-year-old head coach. Hitchcock then confirmed during a press conference that 2016-17 will be his final year. He plans to retire from coaching once it’s over.

“I just feel like I’ve got this really good year in me,” Hitchcock said. “This season has invigorated me like no season before.”

The Blues, of course, made it all the way to the Western Conference Final this year. The previous four postseasons under Hitchcock, they made it to the second round once, then lost three straight times in the first round.

“This group of players, their dynamic has changed, and it’s really exciting right now,” he said.

There will be at least one change to the coaching staff. GM Doug Armstrong said today that associate coach Brad Shaw will not be back. The rest of the staff has been offered one-year extensions to match Hitchcock’s.

Now that the decision has been made on the head coach, Armstrong can turn his full attention to the roster. Getting Jaden Schwartz, a pending restricted free agent, signed to a long-term deal will be his initial focus.

As for the captain, pending unrestricted free agent David Backes, there’s interest in bringing him back, but the numbers have to make sense. Forwards Troy Brouwer, Steve Ott, Kyle Brodziak and Scottie Upshall are also UFAs.

On the back end, Kevin Shattenkirk is probably the biggest wild card. He can become unrestricted next summer, and there has been speculation he could be traded this summer. But as of right now, Armstrong expects him to be back.

Armstrong also said there’s a chance Vladimir Sobotka could return to the Blues next season. Sobotka has spent the last two years in the KHL.

However the roster looks next season, it will be interesting to see what Hitchcock can get out of it. The Blues got over a big hump in 2016, but they only got halfway to winning it all.

One thing’s for sure, though, and that’s this:

Related: Parayko’s ‘memorable’ season has extended into the playoffs

NHL explains no suspension for Marleau, says he didn’t ‘pick’ Rust’s head

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PITTSBURGH — Shortly after reports surfaced that San Jose’s Patrick Marleau wouldn’t face supplemental discipline for his hit on Pittsburgh’s Bryan Rust in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety issued a series of tweets explaining their decision.

Following last night’s game, Marleau said he didn’t think he’d be suspended for the hit, explaining that he “kind of let [Rust] skate into me.”

“I just tried to keep everything down,” Marleau added. “I didn’t want to get too high on him.”

Marleau’s assessment was in direct contrast with Pittsburgh head coach Mike Sullivan.

“It’s a blindside hit to the head,” he said. “[Marleau] gets a penalty and I’m sure the league will look at it.”

As for Rust, Sullivan listed him as day-to-day with an upper-body injury following the contest. The hit knocked Rust out of last night’s game, and the Penguins haven’t began their off-day practice yet.

More to follow…