Around the Rink – Life after the Winter Classic edition

It’s reasonable to say that there won’t be a day in 2011 in which more people were hungover worldwide (except maybe March 9th, July 5th, May 6th or December 26th*). Yet in the puck world, the huge shadow created by the annual Winter Classic game leaves a hockey hangover itself.

But much like a hard worker fighting down a plate full of eggs shortly after hugging porcelain, the show must go on. Let’s take a look at today’s games, which include some unusual start times, which are all Eastern Standard Time (ET).

* – Get it, because those are the mornings after Mardi Gras, the Fourth of July, Cinco de Mayo and Christmas? Perhaps this is an observation that only can come from someone who lives in the Southwest, by for my money, Cinco de Mayo is possibly the most underrated holiday around.

1:00 pm

Atlanta @ Montreal

It’s a match between two unexpectedly successful teams who rode some hot streaks by two unexpectedly successful goalies (Ondrej Pavelec and Carey Price respectively) who are now starting to slip back to the pack. The Thrashers are in seventh place with a 3-4-3 mark in their last 10 while the Habs are in eighth place in the East with a 3-7-0 mark in their last 10. Maybe one of these teams can start the new year off right with a solid win?

5:00 pm

Philadelphia @ Detroit

These two teams are coping with the injuries of (arguably?) their best players, with Chris Pronger and Pavel Datsyuk out for quite some time. Each club also faces a slightly more challenging road going forward than they experienced to start off 2010-11, so building momentum could start this afternoon.

NY Rangers @ Florida

Both of these teams are admirably scrappy, only the Rangers are producing the kind of work that gives them a great chance of making the playoffs. Don’t sleep on the Panthers altogether, though.

6:00 pm

Columbus @ Nashville

Put this matchup high on the list of games that aren’t likely to headline the next Winter Classic. I cannot help but yawn just thinking about it. (Did that make you yawn? Sorry.)

Phoenix @ Minnesota

Then again, at least the prior game would feature Rick Nash and (restricted free agent contract permitting) Shea Weber. This match wouldn’t even have that going for it.

Dallas @ St. Louis

The Blues might be on the quietest hot streak in the NHL, as they’re on a five game winning streak and have the chance to go five for five in their homestand by beating the slumping Stars tonight. Give St. Louis plenty of credit for muscling through a ton of injury worries, although they’re not out of the woods just yet despite moving into fifth in the West.

8:00 pm

Chicago @ Anaheim

This is an important game because a Blackhawks regulation win would boot Chicago back into the top eight and probably knock the Ducks out. I write probably because the middle quarter of the West is so clogged and convoluted that its better just to watch the action and report afterward instead of attempting to make sense of it from a day-to-day perspective.

Vancouver @ Colorado

I made a big deal out of how high-scoring the Avalanche offense is (131 goals), but the problem is that they allow almost as many tallies as they score (123 allowed). The Canucks are almost as productive (125 goals in two less games played) but also boast the least goals allowed of any Western Conference team with 91. Could it be that Vancouver is the best out West?

Milbury, Jones: Tkachuk walked the walk; Kings’ response was embarrassing

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The Los Angeles Kings got revenge on Matthew Tkachuk and the Calgary Flames on the scoreboard on Wednesday. But was that 4-1 win enough?

Mike Milbury and Keith Jones provided a lengthy “overtime” segment on NBCSN that brought about some really fascinating takes on the situation between Tkachuk and the Flames versus Drew Doughty and the Los Angeles Kings.

Watch the full video above, as it’s worth your time.

A few interesting lines if you’re (tsk tsk) skipping it:

Milbury: Believes that Doughty didn’t “do enough,” noting that star players sometimes have to stick up for themselves. On the other hand, Tkachuk showed that he can “walk the walk.”

He also gave the Kings a “C-, D+ if not worse” for their overall response. “Fight your own battles,” Milbury said of Doughty.

Jones disagreed to some extent, believing that Kings teammates won’t look at Doughty differently. But Jake Muzzin? He believes that Muzzin’s frequent defensive partner (at least over the years, maybe not this season) backing down from a fight was an embarrassment.

Spicy stuff.

For what it’s worth, Drew Doughty has one career fight (against Joe Thornton [!] in 2011-2) while Jake Muzzin’s lone bout came against Andrew Desjardins in 2012-13, according to Hockey Fights. Does that mean they shouldn’t have dropped the gloves on Wednesday? Milbury and Jones seem to believe that they should have answered the bell.

For more, check out a collection of the early violent moments and Tkachuk’s attempted shot at Doughty. The Kings win is summarized in greater detail here.

Measure of revenge: Kings delay clinching efforts for Flames, Blues

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Deep down, the Los Angeles Kings probably realize that their season will end on game 82. Still, they kept their slim playoff hopes alive on Wednesday night … and managed to spite a team they’re growing to hate.

OK, maybe the hate is almost totally focused upon Matthew Tkachuk, yet the disdain for that talented-but-tormenting rookie was palpable.

It didn’t feel like the Kings exacted physical revenge on Tkachuk, but beating his team 4-1 ranked as classic scoreboard vengeance. With that, the Calgary Flames (and by extension the St. Louis Blues) will need to wait to clinch a playoff berth.

Now, as much as tonight was about Tkachuk, the focus was also on a pugnacious player who once dazzled for the Flames: Jarome Iginla.

In what might be Iginla’s final visit to Calgary – at least as an active NHL player – he was one of the best players on the ice. His fitting curtain call included a “Gordie Howe hat trick” with a spirited fight, an assist and a goal.

Seriously, that fight with Deryk Engelland:

That goal included a bit of luck, but hey …

Iginla was named the first star of the contest, and cameras captured his big smile in enjoying a special night. For all the nastiness of that game, it was refreshing to see such a heartwarming moment.

For more on the violence, check out this post on the early stuff and this one on Tkachuk’s missed missile launch on Drew Doughty.

Kings and Canucks will square off in first NHL exhibition games in China

graphic via NHL
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It’s official: the NHL will hold preseason games in China before next season.

The league made the announcement on Wednesday night: the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks will play two exhibitions: one on Sept. 21 (Shanghai) and Sept. 23 (Beijing). How cool is that?

“It is a privilege and an honor for the L.A. Kings to represent the National Hockey League in China as part of these two games against the Vancouver Canucks,” Kings president Luc Robitaille said. “Growing the game of hockey is something we take great pride in and it is a big priority for our hockey club and AEG as a whole. This will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our players and our staff, and we are looking forward to the games taking place in two tremendous facilities in two remarkable cities.”

The press conference inspired some jokes tonight.

Some of the best bits came in roping in … Kobe Bryant and David Beckham?

Alrighty then.

Click here for more details.

 

Video: Drew Doughty (mostly) avoids massive Matthew Tkachuk hit

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Hockey is such a fast sport that it’s probably not so easy to make someone your “target.” Instead, a big hit often comes down to the right combination of circumstance and timing.

Still, there’s no denying that Matthew Tkachuk is gunning for Drew Doughty (and the Kings are gunning for Tkachuk) on Wednesday.

Doughty isn’t oblivious to that notion, either, as you can see him avoid what looked like a pretty terrifying hit above.

We’ve already covered the early violence in this game, and it’s quite possible that there will be more carnage going forward. Stay tuned.