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.

Struggling Sabre Tyler Ennis out with upper-body injury

Tyler Ennis, James Wisniewski
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Tyler Ennis can probably relate with the Buffalo Sabres’ opponent on Wednesday, as he’s struggling almost as much as the Nashville Predators.

Perhaps some of that has to do with health?

Whether that’s the case or not, Ennis is out for the Sabres tonight, as the team announced that he’s dealing with an upper-body injury.

The Buffalo News discussed Ennis’ struggles in this article.

“I’d say he’s pressing too much. You can’t make those plays in every situation and in every point you touch the puck,” Dan Bylsma said to the Buffalo News. “ … He’s just got to simplify his game. He is a special player who can make those plays, but he can’t be trying to do it every time he touches the puck.”

He’ll need to wait a while to start getting things together, anyway.

WATCH LIVE: Wednesday Night Rivalry (Flyers-Islanders; Blackhawks-Sharks)

Ryan White, Matt Martin
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You can check out tonight’s Wednesday Night Rivalry doubleheader on NBCSN, and you can also stream them online.

Here are the handy links for the two contests.

First, the New York Islanders host the Philadelphia Flyers.


After that, the Chicago Blackhawks visit the San Jose Sharks.


Braun out with upper-body injury; Zubrus to make Sharks debut

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The San Jose Sharks will be missing a top-4 defenseman tonight when they host the defending champs from Chicago.

Justin Braun has an upper-body injury. His status is considered day-to-day.

“Brauny has been one of our unsung heroes here through the first quarter of the season,” coach Peter DeBoer told CSN Bay Area. “He’s played some outstanding hockey. So, we’re going to miss him, but it’s a great opportunity for Mueller and Tennyson and one of these guys to establish themselves. It’s a great opportunity for us to reward Dillon for how well he’s played.”

Against the Blackhawks, Brenden Dillon will take Braun’s spot on the top pairing alongside Marc-Edouard Vlasic; Paul Martin and Brent Burns will stay together on the second pairing; and 20-year-old Mirco Mueller will skate with Matt Tennyson.

Mueller has played just four games for the Sharks this season. In his last game, Thursday in Philadelphia, he received only 9:13 of ice time.

Also tonight, new Shark forward Dainius Zubrus is expected to debut on the fourth line.

Related: Sharks sign Zubrus, because DeBoer

Johansen calls trade rumblings ‘weird,’ says relationship with Torts is ‘great’

Ryan Johansen
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One day after reports surfaced of Ryan Johansen being at the center of trade talks, all parties involved from Columbus did what they’re supposed to do — downplay the situation.

You can read the denials in full over at the Dispatch, but here’s the gist:

— Johansen said the rumors were “weird” and that he’s “never seen it before.” He also said there were no issues between him and head coach John Tortorella, calling the relationship “great.”

— GM Jarmo Kekalainen wouldn’t address the report, nor would Johansen’s agent, Kurt Overhardt.

— Johansen added he hasn’t spoken to any of Columbus’ management about the trade rumblings.

So there’s that. What’s next?

At this stage of the game, it’s hard not to think about another Overhardt client, Kyle Turris.

Turris, you’ll recall, spent four (mostly) stormy years with the Coyotes before his trade out to Ottawa was orchestrated. Turris eventually told GM Don Maloney “this is not going to work out” with the club, and he was gone.

So, consider the similarities now:

— Turris was 22 at the time of the trade, with four years and 137 games under his belt.

— Johansen is 23, with five years and 291 games.

— Both had contentious contract holdouts with their respective clubs.

— Both are Overhardt guys.

— The Turris trade happened after the Coyotes went from Wayne Gretzky to Dave Tippett as head coach.

— Johansen is already on his third head coach (Scott Arniel, Todd Richards, Tortorella).

For now, these are all coincidences (or a forced narrative, depending what you think of the author).

And, of course, the one big — big — difference between the two is that, at the time of his trade, Turris wasn’t as good or established a player as Johansen currently is. Therefore, logic suggests any Johansen trade would be a lot more blockbuster-y and, therefore, probably more complex.

And as we know, complex deals aren’t easy to pull off.