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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.

PHT Morning Skate: Adam Henrique wants to make NHL 17 great again

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Martin Jones is a calming presence in the Sharks’ net. (Sports Illustrated)

–The Rangers should go after Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. (The Hockey News)

–Some people have pretty wild hockey tattoos. (BarDown)

–Watch the highlights of last night’s game between the Penguins and Capitals. (Top)

–A great piece on how Bruce Boudreau impacted the Ducks and Capitals. (Sportsnet)

–It should be an interesting off-season for the Anaheim Ducks. (Daily Breeze)

Adam Henrique is a funny guy. He took to Twitter to try and get himself on the cover of NHL 17:

Capitals accuse Letang of leaving his feet, hitting Johansson in head

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Get this: the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins seem divided on the legality of Kris Letang‘s hit on Marcus Johansson.

(Take a moment to gather your thoughts amid this shocking revelation.)

You can watch the hit over and over in the video above. This post features some takes on that check, which the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is reportedly reviewing.

Generally speaking, the three things people discuss regarding the check is how late it might be, if Letang used his feet and if Johansson’s head was the principal point of contact.

Letang told his side of the story:

The Capitals disagree:

While Barry Trotz pleads the Fifth after his previous comments about Brooks Orpik‘s suspension:

No doubt about it, Letang’s status is the top story to follow in this series between Games 3 and 4. We’ll find out soon enough how it all shakes out.

Penguins ride Murray’s masterpiece to 2-1 series lead vs. Capitals

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If Marc-Andre Fleury suiting up bothers Matt Murray, then the rookie goalie channeled those feelings into a masterful performance on Monday.

The Washington Capitals absolutely dominated Game 3, but Murray was even better, stopping 47 shots as the Penguins stole one 3-2 to take a 2-1 series lead.

(Capitals fans might see some parallels to Washington’s Game 5 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers; they fell 2-0 despite a 44-11 shots on goal edge thanks to Michal Neuvirth‘s heroics.)

Murray stopped chance after chance before Alex Ovechkin finally broke through for his first goal of this series. Justin Williams then brought the Penguins’ lead down to 3-2 to make for a hold-your-breath final minute.

A driven Ovechkin and strong overall play from the Capitals (despite this defeat) aren’t the only reasons why Game 4 might present some twists.

First things first: Kris Letang might get suspended for Game 4 (if not for more than one game) thanks to this controversial check on Marcus Johansson.

Beyond that, there could be some bumps and bruises from this contest.

Bryan Rust left during the first period and didn’t return to the game after blocking a shot. Brian Dumoulin seemed shaken up after an Alex Ovechkin hit in the third period. The Capitals might have a player or two to look at, as well.

In other words, the Penguins could really lack for quality defensemen with Letang possibly suspended and possible injury absences for Dumoulin and Olli Maatta.

This series is living up to the hype … and really building up the hate.

Yes, NHL is reportedly looking at Letang’s hit on Johansson

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It remains to be seen if Kris Letang will get suspended for his hit on Marcus Johansson … and if he does, for how long.

(You can read initial reactions and some analysis about the specifics of the check vs. the one that got Brooks Orpik suspended here.)

There are a few things we do know already.

For one thing, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is reportedly looking into it.

Another factor that could help Letang avoid a suspension or limit the duration of supplemental discipline: Marcus Johansson returned during the second period.

In fact, Johansson delivered some hits on Letang.

There have been some nasty moments in Game 3, and more might be coming. The Penguins lead 2-0 with a few minutes remaining in the middle frame.