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).

Rozsival to make season debut for Blackhawks

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 20: Michal Rozsival #32 of the Chicago Blackhawks passes against the San Jose Sharks at the United Center on December 20, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. The Blackhawks defeated the Sharks 4-3 in overtime.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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An injury to Trevor van Riemsdyk has paved the way for Michal Rozsival to make his season debut for the Chicago Blackhawks.

Rozsival might’ve been scheduled to play anyway, as the veteran defenseman is expected to replace Michal Kempny when the ‘Hawks host the Flames tonight at United Center.

“We want to get everyone in at some point,” said head coach Joel Quenneville, per the Chicago Tribune. “We don’t want to wait too long to get him into the season here. He can be useful, gives us some experience and can play minutes against top guys.”

At 38, Rozsival is one of the oldest players in the NHL. When the ‘Hawks re-signed him for another year, it came as a surprise to many. And by the time training camp rolled around, even he wasn’t exactly sure what his role would be this season.

But not surprisingly, after last season, GM Stan Bowman would rather err on the side of too much depth on the back end.

“It’s funny, because we had these [interviews] a year ago and they were always saying, ‘Are you worried about your defense? Do you have enough depth there?'” Bowman said, per the Sun-Times. “And now you’re saying we have too much depth. I think no matter what the story is, there’s a story line to it. But I’d rather have more guys who can play. Are we going to be healthy all year long? I hope so. But I don’t know if we will. … The thing with Michal, even last year, he just played too much consecutively. He still has a lot of hockey left.”

Related: Blackhawks’ issues go beyond the penalty kill

Goalie nods: Slumping Flames go back to slumping Elliott

EDMONTON, AB - OCTOBER 12:  Goalie Brian Elliott #1 of the Calgary Flames skates against the Edmonton Oilers on October 12, 2016 at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)
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Calgary head coach Glen Gulutzan made a noteworthy decision over the weekend, opting to sit No. 1 netminder Brian Elliott against his former team, the St. Louis Blues, in favor of backup Chad Johnson.

The move didn’t pay off. Calgary lost 6-4, with Johnson allowing five goals on 39 shots.

So now, Elliott is back in goal was the Flames take on the ‘Hawks tonight at the United Center.

Acquired to fix the goaltending issues that plagued Calgary all of last season, Elliott has gone 0-3-0 with an .839 save percentage and 4.72 GAA.

Not good, obviously — especially for a 31-year-old pending UFA that’s looking to score a contract extension.

The Flames will hope that Elliott’s former goalie partner, Jake Allen, is something of a psychic. Over the weekend, Allen predicted that Elliott “will find his game very soon,” and tonight would be a good night for that to happen — Chicago’s offense has been firing over the last four games, finding the back of the net 16 times.

That said, the ‘Hawks are facing issues of their own.

They’ll give Corey Crawford the start tonight.


— Just one other game on the ledger, as the Flyers will take on the Habs in Montreal. Philly is going with Steve Mason, who allowed three goals on 30 shots in a win over Carolina on Saturday. The Canadiens are going with Carey Price, who allowed two goals on 21 shots in a win over Boston on Saturday.

Crosby skates in full-contact practice, but still no timetable for a return

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His official status hasn’t changed, but Sidney Crosby wasn’t wearing a no-contact jersey at Penguins practice today, and that’s progress.

“Sid is day-to-day, as he has been. We’ll take tomorrow as it comes,” head coach Mike Sullivan said, per the club’s website. “It’s obviously a big step when he joins the group. To have him join the group in a full-contact practice like that is encouraging from our standpoint.”

Crosby has not played this season due to a concussion. There remains no timetable for his return, and the Pens aren’t going to rush their captain. But the way things have been progressing, don’t be surprised if he plays pretty soon. The Penguins host Florida tomorrow and the Islanders Thursday, then it’s off to Philadelphia for a game Saturday before embarking on a three-game trip to California.

“I got the OK to go out there and be in a full practice,” Crosby said. “It was just good to be back on the ice with the guys. It’s not easy watching. To be out there was nice and hopefully a good step.”

Budaj getting the job done, so far

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 22:  Peter Budaj #31 of the Los Angeles Kings makes a save on Brandon Sutter #20 of the Vancouver Canucks for a 4-3 overtime shootout win at Staples Center on October 22, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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He hasn’t been perfect, but Peter Budaj has been good enough to give the Kings a two-game winning streak. Now the 34-year-old goalie is just hoping to keep it going, while Jonathan Quick and Jeff Zatkoff recover from their groin injuries.

“I just want to take it one game at a time,” Budaj said, per LA Kings Insider. “I know it’s a cliché and you guys probably hate it when players say that, but it is true. You just want to look up one game ahead, and that’s what you want to look at. We won today, we’re very happy, but we’ve just got to regroup, come back to work.”

Again, Budaj hasn’t been perfect. His save percentage is just .889, which isn’t very good at all.

But for a guy who’d started just one NHL game since the 2013-14 season, simply playing well enough to give his team a chance to win is about all that could be asked, and on that he’s delivered. He was a perfect three-for-three in Saturday’s shootout versus Vancouver, recovering nicely after allowing a late goal to send the game to overtime.

Next up for the Kings is a home game tomorrow against Columbus. After that comes a visit from Nashville, and then it’s off on a two-game trip to St. Louis and Chicago.

“There are a lot of tough games coming up for us, so we’ve got to just be ready and work hard and try to focus on the next game and don’t look too far ahead,” said Budaj, “because then you’re going to get caught in the moment and the present’s going to kind of slip away from you, so you’ve just got to focus on the present.”