Vincent Lecavalier, Steven Stamkos, Ryan Malone, Martin St. Louis

Around the rink – Wednesday, January 5th

7:00 p.m.

Tampa Bay @ Pittsburgh

With Tampa Bay getting the win over Washington last night, all of a sudden this game is for the right to sit atop the Eastern Conference standings and both teams are treating it like one. Well, Pittsburgh hasn’t played since the Winter Classic so they’ll be itching to go. For Tampa Bay, a win over the Pens would be a mid-season crowning victory.  For Pittsburgh, they’ll be looking to rebound after a lackluster effort in the Winter Classic. To say there’s a lot of talent on display here would be an understatement with Sidney Crosby going head to head with Steve Stamkos.

Carolina @ NY Rangers

The Rangers host the Hurricanes looking to end a two game slide that saw their offense disappear. In those two losses they’ve got just one goal and for a team that’s got Chris Drury back in the mix and a healthy Marian Gaborik, it’s curious at best. Tonight will be the first game this year without Michael Del Zotto after he was sent down to the AHL. If the Rangers defense tightens up, they’ll be able to get a better handle on Eric Staal and Jeff Skinner. Asking the slumping Rangers offense to get a few past Cam Ward, however, is a taller order. Carolina’s won three of their last four, but their last game was an overtime loss to Florida.

7:30 p.m.

Atlanta @ Florida

Believe it or not, this game features a pair of teams that are playing some good, tough hockey of late. We’ve talked a ton about Dustin Byfuglien and the Thrashers but of late, it’s the Panthers that are stealing games. An OT win over Carolina in their last game which was preceded by Tomas Vokoun’s fifth shutout of the year in a 3-0 win over the Rangers. How do things shake loose in this one depends on the power play. The Panthers power play is awful having scored just 12 power play goals all year. Byfuglien alone has six goals on the man advantage.

8:30 p.m.

Dallas @ Chicago

An old rivalry is renewed as both teams look to create a win streak. For Chicago, getting Jonathan Toews back into the lineup provided instant dividends in beating the Kings on Monday night. Dallas, meanwhile, looking to get more consistent as they’ve been trading off winning and losing games and how Kari Lehtonen handles things is a key to that. A better, more consistent Lehtonen means wins for Dallas. Getting James Neal back on track can do that too and after busting out with a goal on Sunday against St. Louis, perhaps the Stars can get their legs back.

10:00 p.m.

Calgary @ Vancouver

Vancouver will look to continue being the top team in the NHL by going up against a Flames team that had their four game win streak dissolved by the Islanders on Monday night. The Canucks are riding a six game win streak and looking dominant while winning. Opponents aren’t scoring on them and they’re efficiency in beating them is quite incredible to see as they’re able to roll four lines that can get it done. Basically, this is the kind of play Canucks fans would sell their first born to get during the playoffs.

Nashville @ Anaheim

While the Ducks are without Ryan Getzlaf still, one team that won’t feel any sympathy for them are the Predators. The Preds are without Cal O’Reilly, Matthew Lombardi, and until recently, David Legwand. Legwand’s return to action the last two games has seen him notch three assists. The names might not be as flashy, but they’re important to Nashville’s success. The Preds have won two in a row while the Ducks are on a three game win streak. Expect this one to be a tough, hard-fought game with a pair of teams that look to skate through you rather than around you.

Bruins’ second line officially goes under the microscope

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While much has been written about the Boston Bruins’ depleted defense, there’s also a good amount of intrigue about the forward group, which will look dramatically different tonight compared to last year’s season opener.

Here are the Bruins’ expected lines versus the Jets:

Brad MarchandPatrice BergeronLoui Eriksson
Matt BeleskeyDavid KrejciDavid Pastrnak
Jimmy HayesRyan SpoonerBrett Connolly
Chris KellyJoonas KemppainenZac Rinaldo

The line most under the microscope may be that second one. In today’s Boston Globe, there’s a lengthy story on Krejci. The 29-year-old center with the big contract only played 47 games last season due to injuries. He finished with just 31 points.

So, where is Krejci’s game now?

Then there’s free-agent addition Matt Beleskey, a.k.a. Milan Lucic‘s replacement. Prior to scoring 22 times last year for the Ducks, the 27-year-old Beleskey had never tallied more than 11 goals in a season.

So, is Beleskey a legitimate top-six forward?

On the other wing, it’s David Pastrnak, the 19-year-old who, somewhat surprisingly, emerged as one of the top rookies in the league last year.

So, can Pastrnak take another step forward?

“It’s been a good three plus weeks where we’ve been able to kind of work individually, as a group, as a line, with different players and different personalities,” said coach Claude Julien. “We’re pleased with it. We’re optimistic and we just have to let things work themselves out too.”

Lucic: If I wanted to hurt Couture, ‘I would have hurt him’


Last night in Los Angeles, Kings forward Milan Lucic received a match penalty after skating the entire width of the ice to give San Jose’s Logan Couture a two-hand shove to the face.

Lucic didn’t hurt Couture, who had caught Lucic with an open-ice hit that Lucic didn’t like. Couture’s smiling, mocking face was good evidence that the Sharks’ forward was going to be OK.

This morning, Lucic was still in disbelief that he was penalized so harshly.

“I didn’t cross any line,” Lucic said, per Rich Hammond of the O.C. Register. “Believe me, if my intentions were to hurt him, I would have hurt him.”

While Lucic knew he deserved a penalty, he said after the game that he didn’t “know why it was called a match penalty.” His coach, Darryl Sutter, agreed, calling it “a borderline even roughing penalty.”

And though former NHL referee Kerry Fraser believes a match penalty was indeed warranted, Lucic said this morning that he hasn’t heard from the NHL about any possible supplemental discipline.

Nor for that matter has Dustin Brown, after his high hit on Couture in the first period.

In conclusion, it’s good to have hockey back.

Related: Sutter says Kings weren’t ‘interested’ in checking the Sharks