Riding the Zamboni – Saturday, January 1st

It’s now happened enough times to become a trend: with the beginning of each calendar year, we are treated to hockey that will be tough to surpass. Obviously, there’s been a formidable Winter Classic each of those years, but when you add the World Junior Championships, you really cannot go wrong for two amazing weeks.

Of course, some of the bigger fireworks-inducing moments overshadow the “normal” games, so we wanted make sure last night’s other six NHL contests don’t fall by the wayside altogether. Let’s summarize how 12 other teams begin 2011 on the ice.

Buffalo 7, Boston 6 (SO)

When you see a game set to feature the Sabres and Bruins, the expectation is for a low scoring affair. That wasn’t to be on a Saturday evening that might leave all the netminders involved with NYE-sque hangovers.  Seven of the game’s 12 “real” goals were scored in a manic first period in which the Bruins earned a 4-3 lead. Both Tuukka Rask and Tim Thomas allowed three goals for the Bruins while Ryan Miller was in net for all of Buffalo’s allowed scores.

Drew Stafford scored a hat trick which included the game-tying goal plus a shootout goal, Jason Pominville had two goals and two assists and plenty of other players padded their stats on a shocking scoring Saturday.

Carolina 6, New Jersey 3

It’s painful to admit this – although some might say it’s a long time coming – but things have devolved so much for Martin Brodeur that you have to wonder about his future. The future Hall of Famer allowed three goals on seven shots before being pulled in favor of Johan Hedberg after only eight minutes of action. Tuomo Ruutu (one goal, three assists), Jeff Skinner (two goals) and Sergei Samsonov (two goals) were the greatest beneficiaries of this miserable evening by the Devils.

Toronto 5, Ottawa 1

Speaking of miserable moments, things are growing awfully dire for the Senators right now. They’re now on a three-game losing streak, must find a way without Jason Spezza and perhaps worst yet, lost to their hated neighbors from Toronto. Tyler Bozak (two goals) and the rest of the Leafs charged off to a 5-0 lead before Sergei Gonchar scored a meaningless power-play goal in the third period.

Tampa Bay 2, NY Rangers 1 (OT)

Dwayne Rolowhat,son? Cedrick Desjardins probably won’t get a serious look with the Lightning until next season (or later), but he’s made the most of his brief glance with two wins in his first two games. He made 34 saves and almost shut out the Rangers before allowing a Marian Gaborik in the waning seconds of the third period, but Nate Thompson quickly ended the game in overtime to keep the Bolts ahead of the Capitals in the Southeast Division.

The Lightning are now 8-1-1 in their last 10 games.

San Jose 1, Los Angeles 0

Antti Niemi avenged a 4-0 loss on Monday, December 27th by pitching a 29-save shutout against the Sharks’ hated in-state rivals. It’s too early to say that Niemi (and San Jose overall) have “figured things out” but they’re aware enough of the situation in front of them to slide into fourth in the West.

Calgary 2, Edmonton 1

While they’re still a few more wins away from really being in the Western Conference playoff picture, the Flames are heating up in the Jay Feaster Era. Calgary’s on a four-game winning streak overall, which is pretty good considering they hadn’t won more than two games in a row all season before now. They beat the Oilers by pounding Nikolai Khabibulin with 30 shots and giving Miikka Kiprusoff a pretty easy night (16 out of 17 saves).

Kesler believes Ducks are ‘too good to not be in the playoffs’

Shane Doan, Ryan Kesler
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It’s been 24 games for the Anaheim Ducks, more than a quarter of the season, and still they’re having trouble winning.

Friday against Chicago, they surrendered two goals in the last two minutes of regulation and lost in overtime.

Currently, the Ducks sit five points out of a playoff spot with a record of 8-11-5.

Still, forward Ryan Kesler is confident they’ll find a way into the postseason.

“If we keep playing like we are, we’re going to get into the playoffs — this team is too good to not be in the playoffs,” Kesler told The Province ahead of tonight’s home game versus Vancouver.

“We had a bad start and, to be honest, some guys weren’t ready to start the season. There’s a lot of hockey to be played and we’re ready for the challenge.”

To match the 45-30-7 record the Flames squeaked into the playoffs with last year, the Ducks would need to go 37-19-2 over their next 58 games.




Depends who you ask.

Anaheim’s playoff chances will depend a lot on how Pacific Division teams like San Jose, Arizona, and Vancouver finish. The Ducks may need to leapfrog two of those three to get in.

Yes, there’s always the chance four teams from the Pacific qualify, because it’s not like Colorado, Winnipeg, and Minnesota don’t have their problems. Even Nashville you have to wonder about lately. Heck, even Chicago isn’t assured of anything yet.

Bottom line, though, the Ducks have dug themselves a hole, and it’s starting to look a lot like the one the Kings dug last year.

In the NHL, even good teams don’t always climb out.

Related: Boudreau does the playoff math, and it’s no ‘easy task’ for Ducks

Video: Ryan Suter doesn’t seem very happy with his coach


As you can see in the video, apparently Ryan Suter doesn’t like being paired with fellow lefty Jonas Brodin.

The Wild defenseman rather openly questioned the coaching staff’s decision-making today after practice.

“Yeah, I don’t know what they’re thinking,” said Suter. “I need to play with a right-handed defenseman. To give me more options. Neutral zone. Offensively. And even coming out of the D zone, it’s not fair to put a guy on his off side.”

Suter didn’t know if the pairings were just for practice or not. The Wild play tomorrow in Chicago. Minnesota has just one win in its last seven games.

Suter also had something to say about that.

“It does no good to pout and get pissed off at each other,” said Suter. “You’ve got to come together and dig out of this. Now’s when you need leadership more than ever. It’s easy to be a coach and a leader when things are going good.”

Yeo, by the way, has not been very happy with the Wild lately.  In fact, one could go so far as to say he’s been acting pretty “pissed off.”

For example, at today’s practice:

The Star Tribune has more on what went down today.

Yeo, you may recall, went a little “nuts” during a Wild practice last season.

Goalie nods: Sparks to make NHL debut for Leafs

Garett Sparks

We already knew this yesterday, but in case you missed it, Garret Sparks will make his NHL debut in goal for the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight against Edmonton.

Sparks, 22, has been excellent in the AHL this season, going 8-2-1 with a .938 save percentage. He spent most of last season in the ECHL, where he also posted good numbers.

Sparks is getting the nod tonight because James Reimer is hurt and Jonathan Bernier has been struggling badly.

“He’s got an opportunity like lots of kids have had before him and it’s up to him to grab it,” Leafs coach Mike Babcock said, per NHL.com. “He’s got the [second-best] save percentage in the AHL and he’s winning all the time down there. Obviously we’re in need of some saves and we’ll have to play well in front of him for sure. But it’s an opportunity for him.”

Bernier, meanwhile, will have to sit and watch. The 27-year-old has allowed at least four goals in four of his last five starts. His save percentage has fallen all the way to .888.

Anders Nilsson will be in net for the Oilers.


Cam Ward for the Hurricanes. Henrik Lundqvist for the Rangers, who will try not to rely on him so much.

Semyon Varlamov for the Avs. Thomas Greiss for the Isles.

— The Canucks aren’t saying if it’ll be Ryan Miller of Jacob Markstrom. For the Ducks, it’ll be John Gibson.

Vigneault: ‘After three losses in a row, I think we’ve got everybody’s attention’

Alain Vigneault

Alain Vigneault has maintained for much of the season that the New York Rangers needed to play better.

The head coach said it a week ago, after the Blueshirts had beaten the Predators, 3-0, despite getting outshot, 31-19.

He’d said it a couple of weeks before that, after they’d beaten the Hurricanes in very similar fashion. (Final score: 3-0. Shots: 33-23 for Carolina.)

But as long as the Rangers kept winning, it was tough, according to Vigneault, to get the message across.

“Sometimes, the results might be going your way, so when you’re pointing out certain things, it might be a little bit more challenging for them to understand because the results are so positive,” Vigneault said, per the New York Post.

“But after three losses in a row, I think we’ve got everybody’s attention.”

Derek Stepan‘s injury — he’ll miss 4-6 weeks with broken ribs — has no doubt captured their attention as well. (Oscar Lindberg will center Chris Kreider and Jesper Fast tonight at home to Carolina.)

The Rangers also play Wednesday, in Brooklyn against the Islanders (on NBCSN).