Semyon Varlamov, Steven Stamkos

Around the Rink – Tuesday, January 4th

Much like Monday night, we have five games to work with on Tuesday. Let’s take a look at all of them, with start times according to Eastern Standard Time (ET) as always.

7:00 pm

Tampa Bay @ Washington

It’s quite possible that the Capitals will face a more important game – at least from a pure standings perspective – tonight than in the Winter Classic. The Lightning lead the Capitals in the Southeast Division simply because they lost one less game, so whoever wins this contest will take a slight lead in the Southeast Division.

While the rivalry might not be as seasoned as his duel with Sidney Crosby, there may someday be a serious Alex Ovechkin vs. Steven Stamkos debate considering the two sniper’s elite scoring skills. This should be a fantastic – and possibly wide open – game. It’s a shame that it won’t be on national TV, though.

Minnesota @ New Jersey

Instead, this game will be shown on Versus. It’s too bad they couldn’t use a “flex schedule” in this one, as the Devils are easily the worst team in the East while the Wild are one of the Western Conference’s weakest clubs. Maybe Minnesota’s struggles are slightly predictable, but who would have thought that New Jersey would be in the swamps of the standings? The shock hasn’t completely worn off.

9:00 pm

Detroit @ Edmonton

The Red Wings are struggling a bit (two game losing streak, 5-3-2 in their last 10), but the Oilers tend to be an elixir for such maladies. Edmonton is currently on a six-game losing slump, nixing whatever good feelings were being developed when the team showed some friskiness upon Nikolai Khabibulin’s return from injury. The young team has been dominated by Detroit but also gave them a few headaches, so there’s no telling which effort we might see tonight.

Buffalo @ Colorado

The Sabres have been playing better in the short term (two wins in a row) than the Avalanche (two straight losses), but over 10 games the teams are both pretty mediocre. That being said, Ryan Miller is having a tough time cleaning up mistakes made by the shaky Buffalo defense, so sending him to face the explosive Avs offense might be like feeding the wolves.

Columbus @ Phoenix

On face value, it seems like the Coyotes are much better on the road, with 10 away wins to only seven on the road. That ignores the fact that they’ve played six more away games than home games, though. They’ve managed to stay semi-competitive with a tough schedule, but if they hope to make the playoffs again, they need to start winning now that they’re getting some games in Scottsdale.

Video: Marc Staal was no match for Alex Ovechkin on this goal

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 15: Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals looks on against New York Islanders during the second period at Verizon Center on October 15, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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After being held without a point in his first two games of the season, Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin has now scored a goal in three consecutive games.

That includes his goal on Saturday night in the first period against the New York Rangers.

It’s one that will probably make the personal highlight reel for Ovechkin, but it certainly won’t make the highlight reel for Rangers defenseman Marc Staal.

To say that this head-to-head matchup turned out to be a mismatch would be … well … a bit of an understatement.

As Ovechkin crossed the blue line into the Rangers zone he started to toe-drag around Staal, only to stop midway through and just rip it from outside the circle, using Staal as a screen and beating Henrik Lundqvist for the goal.

It is probably not a good sign when the defenseman has his back to the shooter when the puck is released.

That goal gave the Capitals a 2-0 lead.

Red Wings’ Abdelkader out with lower body injury

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MARCH 15: Justin Abdelkader #8 of the Detroit Red Wings skates against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center on March 15, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Flyers defeated the Red Wings 4-3.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The Detroit Red Wings will be without veteran forward Justin Abdelkader on Saturday night when they host the San Jose Sharks.

The official word from the team is that he is sidelined with a lower body injury.

He will be replaced in the lineup by Andreas Athanasiou. Athanasiou has appeared in three games this season and yet to record a point.

He was not only in the lineup on Friday in the Red Wings in their 5-3 win over the Nashville Predators, but also scored his first goal of the season and played a season-high 17:55.

After scoring 19 goals and recording 23 assists in 82 games in 2015-16 the Red Wings signed a seven-year $29.7 million contract extension.

According to general manager Ken Holland (via Helene St. James) he is expected to be back in the lineup on Tuesday.

Former Canadiens coach Jacques Demers hospitalized

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OTTAWA, Ontario (AP) Former Montreal Canadiens coach Jacques Demers has been hospitalized.

Demer’s director of parliamentary affairs confirmed Saturday that the 72-year-old Demers, a Canadian senator, had been admitted to a Montreal hospital, but couldn’t immediately provide any details.

Demers had a stroke in April. He was at the Canadiens’ home opener Tuesday night, smiling in a wheelchair while handing a torch to captain Max Pacioretty to close out a pregame ceremony.

Demers led the Canadiens to their last Stanley Cup in 1993. He also coached Quebec, Detroit, St. Louis and Tampa Bay in the NHL, and Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Quebec in the WHA.

Ales Hemsky returns to Stars lineup tonight

NEWARK, NJ - OCTOBER 24:  Ales Hemsky #83 of the Dallas Stars skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on October 24, 2014 in Newark, New Jersey. The Stars defeated the Devils 3-2 in the shootout.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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When the Dallas Stars take on the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday evening one of their top forwards will be making his 2016-17 debut.

The team announced on Saturday afternoon that forward Ales Hemsky will be activated from injured reserve after missing the first four games of the season due to a groin injury at the World Cup of hockey.

He is expected to skate on the Stars’ top line on Saturday night alongside Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn.

Now 33 years old, Hemsky isn’t quite as dynamic as he was during his prime years in Edmonton, but he is still an extremely skilled playmaker that is a solid fit in Dallas’ system. He is entering his third year with the Stars and has 71 points (24 goals, 47 assists) in 151 games with the team.

With Hemsky now activated and back in the lineup, the Stars also announced on Saturday that veteran forward Jiri Hudler has been placed on IR retroactive to Oct. 15 due to illness.