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.

WATCH LIVE: Lightning at Islanders – Game 4

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 03: Thomas Greiss #1 of the New York Islanders makes the save against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Second Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Barclays Center on May 03, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. The Lightning defeated the Islanders 5-4 in overtime.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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There is only one game on the playoff schedule tonight, but it’s a crucial Game 4 between the New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning. The Islanders are looking to even the series at two games apiece before it shifts back to Tampa Bay for Game 5.

You can catch Game 4 between the Lightning and Islanders on NBCSN (7 p.m. ET) or online with the NBC Sports’ Live Extra.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Here are some links to check out for tonight’s game:

Andreychuk confident that Stamkos will re-sign in Tampa Bay

No hearings scheduled for Boyle on Hickey hit, or Hickey on Drouin hit

 

Oilers apologize to former player who is, in fact, ‘alive and well’

EDMONTON, AB - APRIL 6:  Longtime Oilers dressing room attendant Joey Moss, along with former Oilers Mark Messier and Wayne Gretzky, watch as a banner is lowered from the rafters during the closing ceremonies at Rexall Place following the game between the Edmonton Oilers and the Vancouver Canucks on April 6, 2016 at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. The game was the final game the Oilers played at Rexall Place before moving to Rogers Place next season. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)
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In an emotional farewell ceremony to Edmonton’s Rexall Place last month, organizers somehow overlooked one rather significant detail about a former WHA player.

We will let the Oilers explain:

Oilers Entertainment Group would like to issue a formal apology to former Edmonton Oiler (WHA) Roger Cote and his family. In a special segment during the Farewell Rexall Place Night on April 6, 2016, the organization honoured members of the Oilers Alumni who have unfortunately passed on. In an extreme oversight and error, we included Mr. Cote in that portion of the program. Roger is alive and well, living in Garson, Ontario. For this action and any confusion or pain it caused Mr. Cote and his family and friends, we sincerely apologize.

In addition to recognizing the error and issuing an apology, the Oilers added that they will be hosting Cote and his son at a game at Rogers Place next season.

Cote played two seasons for Edmonton during the WHA days.

The ceremony following the final game at Rexall Place involved more than 150 Oilers alumni members, staff and special guests, as well current members of the organization, according to the Oilers.

Isles need ‘a short memory,’ can’t get hung up on Game 3 disappointment

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 03: Brian Boyle #11 of the Tampa Bay Lightning scores the game winning goal at 2:48 of the first overtime against Thomas Greiss #1 of the New York Islanders in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Second Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Barclays Center on May 03, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  The Lightning defeated the Islanders 5-4 in overtime. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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NEW YORK (AP) – Despite a disappointing overtime loss in their last game, the New York Islanders were pleased with their improved play.

Now, after falling behind in their second-round series against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Islanders know they’ll have to keep it up to have a chance to advance to the Eastern Conference finals.

“It was our best game so far,” center Frans Nielsen said. “Just have to come out and try to be even better next game.”

After a bad loss in Game 2 in Tampa, the Islanders came out with the increased aggressive play coach Jack Capuano was looking for back in front of the raucous home crowd in Brooklyn. New York was 39 seconds from taking a 2-1 series lead, but the Lightning’s Nikita Kucherov gave the seesaw game its fourth tie, and then Brian Boyle won it less than three minutes into the extra period.

That gave the Lightning the series lead with Game 4 on Friday night back at Barclays Center before shifting to Tampa for Game 5 on Sunday.

Capuano said the players need to forget the loss and just focus on the things they did well.

“It’s a short memory,” Capuano said. “It was probably one of the best games we played all year so there’s a lot of positives you can take. We finally got our D activating more than we want in the offense. … Hopefully, we can build on some of those things. That was Islander hockey, we played to our identity. And that’s the way that we’re going to have to play if we’re going to have success in this series.”

One of the things they did better was get more shots on goal, finishing with 39 in Game 3 after totaling 42 in the first two games.

The Islanders also were more physical with 44 hits, compared to 34 for the Lightning. Those included several punishing jolts, including the two that gained national attention. The first by New York’s Thomas Hickey on Jonathan Drouin, who was knocked out of the game in the second period before returning in the third and assisting on the tying score in the final minute of regulation.

The other was by Boyle on Hickey in the OT just before Boyle went down the ice and scored.

Capuano believed Boyle’s hit was too high and thought he could be suspended a game by the NHL. However, the defenseman was not sanctioned and the Lightning expect the physical play to continue. Tampa Bay, which reached the Stanley Cup Final last year, isn’t taking anything for granted.

“This series has so much more, so long to go,” coach Jon Cooper said. “Everybody that’s watching this series is looking forward to Game 4.”

Tampa Bay defenseman Victor Hedman added: “We’re going to have to play at the same level the next game on Friday. It’s going to be a tough game again so we have to be ready.”

The Islanders are trailing in a series for the first time this postseason. They alternated wins with Florida in the first five games of the first round before closing it out in Game 6 at home for their first playoff series win in 23 years. Then, they won the opener against the Lightning, but have lost two straight since.

“We just got to keep pushing,” said forward Josh Bailey, who scored twice in Game 3. “I think we’ll tweak some things, refocus. … The next game is the most important now and our focus won’t change.”

New York needs a win to avoid going back to Tampa in a 3-1 hole.

“It’s for sure a must-win for us, it feels like now,” Nielsen said. “We just got to come out and play the way we did (Tuesday) and give ourselves a chance to win.”

One loss from elimination, the Caps say they’re ‘not afraid’

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 02:  Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals looks on during the third period in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Second Round against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Consol Energy Center on May 2, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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After running away with the Presidents’ Trophy…

After going into the playoffs as the favorites to win it all…

After all the talk that this could finally be the year…

All of a sudden, the Washington Capitals must win three straight games to keep their Stanley Cup dreams alive.

One more loss and it’s over until next year.

One more loss and it’s heartbreak, again, in D.C.

Well, well, well, it didn’t take long for the first column about Alex Ovechkin’s legacy to come out. Everyone knows the narrative: lose to Sidney Crosby‘s Pittsburgh Penguins and the Great 8 will suffer yet another painful, humiliating loss.

How much responsibility does Ovechkin bear? Why do his teams never win? Is it something about him?

You know those questions are coming. It doesn’t matter if they’re fair. Who says the questions have to be fair? One more loss and they’re coming. One more loss and the finger-pointing starts.

Because it was supposed to be different this time. Not only did the Caps have the world’s greatest goal-scorer, they had depth down the middle, depth on the back end, and a Vezina Trophy finalist in net. They could score. They could defend. They even brought in Mr. Game 7 himself.

On paper, they had it all.

And now?

Three straight wins to stave off elimination. That’s what they need now.

“This group is not afraid of where we’re at,” head coach Barry Trotz told reporters Friday. “We know where we’re at. We’re realists. But at the same time, we know that we won a lot of games this year, and that didn’t happen by accident.”

Trotz is right, it didn’t happen by accident. The Caps are a very good team. They proved it during the regular season.

The problem is, so are the Penguins.

And the Penguins are proving it now.

Related: Game 5 will be ‘the most important game of our lives’