Sean Avery

Around the rink: Friday, January 7th

I’ll be honest here, there’s not a lot going on with tonight’s schedule that reaches out, grabs you by the collar, and demands that you watch it. There is one game though that gives off the “circus side show” vibe and that goes down in Dallas as Sean Avery makes his less-than triumphant return to Texas with the New York Rangers. After Avery claimed 100% responsibility for screwing things up with Dallas, we’re suspecting that he’ll get welcomed very poorly back to town. All times listed are Eastern.

7:30 p.m.

Toronto @ Atlanta

The Leafs will have to tighten things up a bit defensively to deal with what should be a grumpy Atlanta team. While the Leafs got a great game out of Phil Kessel last night, getting that kind of output every night would help make them more of a pain to deal with. As for Atlanta, Dustin Byfuglien continues to be their most reliable player on offense. Getting better work from their forwards would do wonder for the Thrashers who are right in the mix of things in the Southeast Division.

Carolina @ Florida

The Hurricanes will have redemption on their minds against the Panthers. These two faced off on Monday night and the Panthers were able to escape with a win in overtime. If Carolina wants to get serious about getting in the playoffs, knocking off divisional foes like Florida will be the key to that. Of course, solving Tomas Vokoun sounds a lot easier than it actually is.

8:30 p.m.

NY Rangers @ Dallas

Sean Avery makes his return to Dallas where his signing there managed to splinter the locker room and caused the team to essentially have a mutiny until he was gone. Now that he’s back in New York the distractions are gone (for the most part) but if you’re a betting person, I’d say there’s even money out there on someone from Dallas looking to make themselves famous for going after Avery. On the other side of things, hey there’s a game to be played and one the Stars could stand to get a win out of to distance themselves from the rest of their division. The Rangers are hoping that Kari Lehtonen can have a relapse to help their offense get jump started and get a winning streak started.

Ottawa @ Chicago

Ottawa rolls into town with nothing but bad feelings surrounding everyone, especially coach Cory Clouston and GM Bryan Murray. Things aren’t going well there but getting a win over the Blackhawks would go a long way towards helping keep the psyche up in Ottawa. Chicago, meanwhile, has dropped four of their last five games and have to be looking at Ottawa as a must-win game to prove to themselves that things aren’t as bad as they seem. Desperate times often lead to spirited games. Let’s hope that’s the case tonight at United Center.

9:00 p.m.

Detroit @ Calgary

Detroit’s five game road trip got off to a good start in Edmonton with a win, but dealing with the Flames in Calgary is never an easy feat. With the Flames having lost two games in a row and eager to get off the skids this sets up like a trap game for the Wings, especially with a game against Vancouver tomorrow night. One curious thought is how Mike Babcock will handle goaltending duties. Will Jimmy Howard get both games or will we see Chris Osgood get his second straight start against Edmonton or a shot at Vancouver? We shall see.

10:00 p.m.

Edmonton @ Vancouver

The Oilers are doing their best to hang tough as a lowly team in the West and getting a win over the Islanders last night helps their confidence. Taking on the streaking Canucks, however, is a completely different brand of monster. The Canucks have won seven in a row and their confidence is soaring. To say this game doesn’t bode well for Edmonton would be completely correct. Perhaps their one saving grace might be that the Canucks could be looking past them and ahead to Detroit tomorrow night.

Columbus @ Anaheim

The Blue Jackets’ four game road trip has not been kind to them so far. They’re 0-2-0 and dealing with an Anaheim team that plays them very hard doesn’t look so good for them to break their slide. The Ducks are winners of three of their last four but dropped their last game to a hot Nashville team. With both of these teams running as streaky as anyone can, it’ll be interesting to see which version of each team shows up tomorrow night.

Letang had a ‘good day’ at practice, Penguins hoping he can return soon

PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 09: Kris Letang #58 of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Joonas Donskoi #27 of the San Jose Sharks battle for the puck during the third period in Game Five of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Consol Energy Center on June 9, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Yesterday, they got Sidney Crosby back.

Soon, the Pittsburgh Penguins should have another key player back in the lineup. Kris Letang, their top defenseman, participated in full-contact practice today, taking the same step Crosby took two days ago.

“He had a good day on the ice today, we’ll see where it goes from there,” head coach Mike Sullivan said of Letang, who’s missed three games with an upper-body injury. “We’re encouraged with his progress. We’re hoping to get him back soon.”

The Penguins host the Islanders tomorrow night. Don’t be surprised if Letang plays. He skated with Ian Cole at this morning’s practice.

If Letang isn’t ready to go against the Isles, his next opportunity to return will be Saturday in Philadelphia.

Goalie nods: After Subban’s rough outing, B’s turn to McIntyre

BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 22: Zane McIntyre #50 of the Boston Bruins makes a save against the Washington Capitals during the second period at TD Garden on September 22, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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Crazy start to the year in Boston.

On Wednesday night, the B’s will start their fourth different goalie of the season — a season that’s just six games old, remember — as Zane McIntyre gets the nod at MSG against the Rangers.

McIntyre made his NHL debut in last night’s 5-0 drubbing at the hands of Minnesota, coming on in relief of Malcolm Subban, who was making his second-ever start. Subban allowed three goals on 16 shots before getting hooked midway through the second period, and McIntyre made 15 saves on 17 shots to close things out.

Needless to say, these are tough times in Boston’s crease.

The club’s No. 1 netminder, Tuukka Rask, is still sidelined with injury (though head coach Claude Julien said Rask may be available for Saturday’s game against Detroit). Anton Khudobin, the club’s No. 2, is out three weeks with an upper-body ailment.

Unsurprisingly, the Bruins have struggled with all the flip-flopping in goal. They’ve allowed nine goals over their last two games — both losses — and that came after Rask stopped 62 of 64 shots in back-to-back wins over the Jets and Devils.

For the Rangers, Henrik Lundqvist gets the start in goal.


— Battle of the Backups in Brooklyn, as Al Montoya and the Canadiens take on Thomas Greiss and the Isles.

Cam Talbot, fresh off a shutout win over Winnipeg in the Heritage Classic, goes for the Oilers. Braden Holtby is expected to play for Washington.

— Some uncertainty in Anaheim: John Gibson, who came on in relief for the injured Jonathan Bernier in last night’s OT loss to San Jose, would (presumably) be the guy tonight against Nashville. That said, Gibson has played quite a bit lately — three games in the last six nights — and the club did recall Dustin Tokarski from AHL San Diego today. Tokarski has a fair bit of NHL experience, with 33 regular season and five playoff games on his resume.

No word yet on a Preds starter.

Alain Vigneault got an interesting call from Patrick Roy this past summer

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 29:  Nick Holden #22 of the New York Rangers in action against the New Jersey Devils  during their pre season game at Madison Square Garden on September 29, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Patrick Roy quit the Colorado Avalanche due to “philosophical differences” with GM Joe Sakic. That much we know for sure.

And while those differences were never explained in full detail, it sure sounds like one of them — and let’s face it, there were probably a bunch of them — was the assessment of defenseman Nick Holden.

To refresh your memory, Sakic traded Holden to the Rangers in June, and all the Avs got in return was a fourth-round draft pick in 2017.

Rangers coach Alain Vigneault remembers the trade well.

“It was funny, we were coming back from (the draft in) Buffalo, I got a call as I got off the plane in Ottawa from Patrick Roy saying to me, ‘You just got one of my better defensemen,'” Vigneault said, per the New York Post.

“And I don’t know why Pat called me out of the blue.”

Yeah, funny.

For the record, we’re not suggesting that the Holden trade tore the Colorado Avalanche apart. At the end of the day, it was a minor trade. But it may have been illustrative of the philosophical differences between Roy and Sakic. The former was clearly a Holden fan. The latter thought he was worth a fourth-round pick.

According to Vigneault, Holden has been a good early fit with the Rangers (4-2-0). The 29-year-old, whose cap hit is just $1.65 million, has logged over 20 minutes a game while skating mostly on the top pairing with Ryan McDonagh, who’s been excellent to start the season.

It remains to be seen if Holden and McDonagh, both left shots, will remain together all year. McDonagh spent most of last year with right-shooting Dan Girardi or Kevin Klein, but those two are currently paired with Brady Skjei and Marc Staal, respectively. The healthy scratches last game were both rights shots, Adam Clendening and Dylan McIlrath, the latter of whom is reportedly on the trading block.

So a lot could still change with this Rangers defense, which came into the season under a powerful microscope. The early returns have been encouraging, though. (Or, at the very least, not as poor as many had expected.)

Meanwhile, the Avs’ back end remains a work in progress. Sakic said the Holden trade would open up opportunities for youngsters Nikita ZadorovChris Bigras, and Duncan Siemens; however, the latter two didn’t make the team out of camp and Zadorov has averaged just 16:25 of ice time so far.

In Colorado’s first five games, new coach Jared Bednar has leaned heavily on Erik Johnson, Tyson Barrie, and Francois Beauchemin, with support from Zadorov, Eric Gelinas and free-agent additions Fedor Tyutin and Patrick Wiercioch.

Bernier out, Ducks recall Tokarski as rash of goalie injuries continues

GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 01:  Goaltender Jonathan Bernier #1 of the Anaheim Ducks during the preseason NHL game against Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on October 1, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. The Coyotes defeated the Ducks 3-2 in overtime.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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One of the prominent storylines early in this NHL campaign — the health, or lack thereof, of various netminders — has played out again, this time in Anaheim.

Last night, backup Jonathan Bernier exited just his second start of the year with an upper-body injury, forcing John Gibson to come on in relief for an eventual 2-1 OT loss to the Sharks.

Today, the Ducks announced Bernier is day-to-day with his ailment, and recalled Dustin Tokarski from AHL San Diego.

Bernier had been solid for the Ducks in limited action this year, stopping 52 of 56 shots over his two appearances for a .929 save percentage. Tokarski has been less successful with the Gulls, allowing seven goals over two appearances (both wins, mind you) for a .885 save percentage.

The bigger story, obviously, is Bernier joining a laundry list of injured netminders.

A quick rundown:

— Arizona is without Mike Smith
— L.A. is without Jonathan Quick and Jeff Zatkoff
— Boston is without Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin
— Buffalo is without Robin Lehner (illness)

The Ducks are back in action tonight, hosting Nashville, and it’s likely they’ll go with Gibson again, rather than throw Tokarski right into action fresh off a recall.