Around the Rink – Saturday, January 1st

I imagine when the schedule makers constructed tonight’s slate of six non-Winter Classic games, they did so with the thought that perhaps they could satiate some new hockey fans after the afternoon WC. Unfortunately, Mother Nature decided this weekend would help hockey people relate with the rain delays that are a regular reality for baseball fans, so those games instead must take place in moderate obscurity.

That being said, there are six games played without fear of rain or unseasonably hot weather, so we thought it would be wise to discuss them too. As always, start times are according to Eastern Standard Time (ET).

7:00 pm

Boston @ Buffalo

Both of these teams appeared in Winter Classic games themselves (Boston against Philadelphia in 2010, Buffalo in the first WC versus Pittsburgh in ’08), so they cannot pout too much about being upstaged tonight. Instead of going toe-to-toe for the Northeast this season, the Bruins hold the division lead while the Sabres find themselves in 12th place in the East. Woops.

New Jersey @ Carolina

The Devils are coming off a rare win against the Thrashers while the Hurricanes are gradually gaining on the eighth spot in the East. Hey, it’s a new year. They might as well be a little positive, right?

Toronto @ Ottawa

New Year’s resolution for these two teams: make like George Costanza and do everything the opposite way in 2011.

7:30 pm

NY Rangers @ Tampa Bay

The Rangers finally seem like they have a clear vision thanks in large part to John Tortorella. Oddly enough, this metamorphosis is taking place in the same season that the Lightning finally found a good replacement for their former coach.

8:00 pm

Washington @ Pittsburgh

Wait, the Capitals are playing the Penguins tonight? Really?

9:00 pm

San Jose @ Los Angeles

These battles of California are always more fun when they mean something. Considering how jam-packed the Pacific Division is with competitive teams, it might be a while before these contests are irrelevant again.

10:00 pm

Calgary @ Edmonton

Sadly, the Battle of Alberta is the new standard for irrelevant rivalries, unless you’re a hardcore Flames or Oilers fan. (Then it’s always relevant, I would guess.) On the bright side for Calgary, they’re starting to look relevant again with a three game winning streak and a relatively friendly schedule going forward.

Niemi blanks Pens, notches two assists in Stars debut

Antti Niemi, Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist
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DALLAS (AP) — Antti Niemi recorded his 33rd career shutout and assisted on two goals in his Dallas debut, as the Stars beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-0 on Thursday night in the season opener for both.

Ales Hemsky had a power-play goal and an assist.

Rookie Matthias Janmark scored on his first shot on his first shift in an NHL game to make it 1-0. The Stars acquired Niemi and Janmark in trades earlier this year.

Dallas scored on two of five power plays. Jamie Benn, the NHL’s leading scorer last season, had a power-play goal in the third period.

Niemi made 37 saves to improve his career record against the Penguins to 5-1-1. He withstood a flurry in the final minute after Pittsburgh pulled goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for an extra skater.

Fleury had 21 saves.

The Stars are 4-0-1 in their last five home games against Pittsburgh, and have won three in a row overall.

Janmark skated down the slot, took a pass from Hemsky and shot between Fleury’s legs at 1:39 of the first.

The Penguins dominated the latter half of the period, but couldn’t score. Niemi’s best stop was a reaching glove save of Rod Scuderi’s drive from the blue line with less than 3 minutes remaining. Pittsburgh outshot the Stars 10-4 in the first.

Hemsky scored at 5:42 of the second on Dallas’ first power play. His shot from the top of the right faceoff circle went in over Fleury’s right shoulder.

The Penguins again had an advantage in shots, 13-11. Pittsburgh had chances in close, but Niemi turned those away. Midway through the second, John Klingberg cleared away a loose puck from in front of the net.

Seven seconds into the Stars’ fourth power play of the third period, Jamie Benn tipped in Jason Spezza‘s shot from the right point.

NOTES: Dallas acquired Janmark as part of a March trade that sent Erik Cole to Detroit. The rookie had been playing in the Swedish Hockey League. . San Jose traded Niemi’s rights to the Stars in June for a seventh-round draft pick. Also making their Dallas debuts were LW Patrick Sharp and D Johnny Oduya, teammates with Chicago’s Stanley Cup champions last season. . In his first game for the Penguins, Phil Kessel played in his 447th straight game. . Pittsburgh was 0 for 3 on the power play.

Fabbri’s first spoils McDavid’s debut as Blues down Oilers

Robby Fabbri, Justin Schultz
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ST. LOUIS (AP) — Rookie Robby Fabbri scored the tiebreaking goal midway through the third period to help the St. Louis Blues beat Edmonton 3-1 Thursday night, spoiling Oilers rookie Connor McDavid‘s NHL debut.

Vladimir Tarasenko had the tying goal for the Blues near the midpoint of the second period, and Troy Brouwer added an empty-netter with 18 seconds remaining in the third. Brian Elliott finished with 23 saves.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored in the first period for Edmonton and Cam Talbot had 28 saves.

McDavid, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, took 22 shifts, played 18:07 and was on the ice for Brouwer’s goal. He had two shots on goal, and struggled on faceoffs – winning only three of 13.

Fabbri, a 19-year-old forward — and McDavid’s childhood friend — was also playing in his first NHL game. The Blues’ first-round pick in 2014 was one of three rookies in the St. Louis lineup, joining defensemen Colton Parayko and Joel Edmundson.

Nugent-Hopkins gave the Oilers a 1-0 lead late in the first period with a fluke power-play goal. He lost a face-off but when Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo tried to clear the puck it bounced off Alexander Steen and past Brian Elliott. Nugent-Hopkins was credited with the unassisted power-play goal with 2:38 remaining in the period.

Tarasenko tied it a 9:10 of the second after getting loose on a breakaway with a stretch pass from Alex Pietrangelo and beating Talbot through his legs.

Tarasenko, who signed an eight-year, $60 million extension in the offseason, was the last Blues player to score in his debut.

NOTES: McDavid and F Anton Slepyshev made their NHL debuts for the Oilers. … St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina dropped the ceremonial first puck. … The attendance was announced as standing room-only 19,327.