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Riding the Zamboni – Thursday, January 6th

Buffalo 3 – San Jose 0

Some nights we’re reminded why Ryan Miller is one of the best goalies in the NHL. Tonight he stopped all 36 shots he faced en route to a 3-0 Sabres win over the Sharks. The Sharks have been decidedly average so far this year, but tonight they pulled out all the stops to try and beat the Sabres only to be turned away at every turn. Luke Adam, Jochen Hecht, and Thomas Vanek each scored for Buffalo to make the lead insurmountable. The win gives Buffalo victories in three of their last four games. For San Jose, it’s their second loss in a row.

Montreal 2 – Pittsburgh 1 (F/SO)

On a night where the big news turns out to be Sidney Crosby being diagnosed with a concussion, the Canadiens were able to take advantage of a Pens lineup that was without Crosby, Matt Cooke, and had Brent Johnson in goal. Johnson did well enough to keep his team in the game but he couldn’t stop Benoit Pouliot. Pouliot had Montreal’s lone goal in regulation and scored their game-winner in the shootout on a rather Peter Forsberg-like move. Arron Asham had Pittsburgh’s lone goal in regulation as Carey Price saved 31 shots in the win. Johnson stopped 22 in the tough loss. The Pens have now dropped four of their last six games.

Philadelphia 4 – New Jersey 2

It doesn’t seem to matter whether it’s Johan Hedberg or Martin Brodeur in goal for New Jersey these days and tonight it was Hedberg taking the loss once again. Daniel Briere and Scott Hartnell each had two goals in leading the Flyers over New Jersey. New Jersey went into tonight’s game having dropped a drama bomb having captain Jamie Langenbrunner out of the lineup as a healthy scratch and speculation about him being traded dominating the evening. The mess in New Jersey is out of hand and the Flyers were more than happy to take advantage of the aimless Devils.

Nashville 5 – Los Angeles 2

The suddenly sliding Kings keep on falling back in the standings dropping their fifth straight game. Making tonight a bit more painful was the fact the Kings jumped out to a 2-0 lead before folding things up. Patric Hornqvist scored two goals, Marek Svatos scored his first goal since returning from Russia while Colin Wilson and Sergei Kostitsyn each had a goal and two assists each. Jonathan Bernier wasn’t able to contain the Predators attack tonight to the tune of 23 saves. Anders Lindback stopped 28 shots for Nashville in the win.

Minnesota 3 – Boston 1

While the Bruins won’t admit to it, a bad call against Shawn Thornton that turned into a Martin Havlat power play goal got in their heads early in this one. Steven Kampfer was able to tie the game up at 1-1 minutes after that, but the Bruins played a bit off all night. In the third period, the Wild capitalized getting a go-ahead goal from Cal Clutterbuck and an empty netter from Mikko Koivu to ice the game. Tuukka Rask played strong for Boston but was out-dueled by Jose Theodore. Theodore stopped 35 shots compared to Rask’s 31 on the way to the victory. For Boston, it’s their first non-shootout loss since December 20th, but third loss in four games. Meanwhile, the Wild have quietly won three in a row much in thanks to Theodore’s solid play.

Phoenix 2 – Colorado 0

It wasn’t supposed to be Jason LaBarbera’s start tonight, but he made the most of his emergency start in goal pitching a 24-save shutout over the high-scoring Avalanche. Taylor Pyatt made it stick with two goals including an empty netter as the Coyotes got out of last place in the Pacific Division thanks to the win and the Kings loss. For Colorado, it was a sloppy loss and one they’ll need to forget about if they’re looking to get back on the winning side. Losses are becoming a bit too common lately for the Avs as they’ve lost six of their last eight games with their wins coming in overtime and a shootout.

Toronto 6 – St. Louis 5 (F/SO)

The Leafs looked strong tonight getting out to a 5-2 lead at one point and chasing Jaroslav Halak from the game.  But as things go with Toronto of late, they allowed the Blues to score three in a row from Brad Winchester, Eric Brewer, and Matt D’Agostini to send the game into overtime. As the teams went to the shootout, it was Mikhail Grabovsky dazzling the fans with his shootout goal and Tyler Bozak sealing the deal with his shootout winner to get Jonas Gustavsson the win.

Edmonton 2 – NY Islanders 1

It certainly wasn’t the highlight game of the night by any means for Isles starter Nate Lawson giving up two goals on the first three shots he saw, but fellow rookie goalie Kevin Poulin relieved him and at least kept the Isles in the game. As it turned out, Gilbert Brule and Dustin Penner’s goals would be all the Oilers would need to give Devan Dubnyk the win for Edmonton. Dubnyk, unlike Lawson, was able to stop 30 shots on his way to the win. Poulin stopped all 19 shots he saw in relief. Blake Comeau’s second period goal was all the offense the Isles would muster against fellow cellar dwellers in the NHL.

Ducks give Bruins first loss under Cassidy, putting … Islanders in wild card

ANAHEIM, CA - FEBRUARY 22:  Korbinian Holzer #5 of the Anaheim Ducks pushes David Backes #42 of the Boston Bruins during the second period of a game at Honda Center on February 22, 2017 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Wednesday was a night of futility in the Eastern Conference wild card races, so it make sense that a team that didn’t even play ended up grabbing the second spot.

To recap:

  • The Florida Panthers began the night in the second wild card spot. However, they were knocked down the totem pole when they lost in regulation to the Edmonton Oilers.
  • The Boston Bruins inherited the second wild card spot from Florida, but the Anaheim Ducks just gave them their first loss under Bruce Cassidy. With that defeat coming in regulation, it meant that the Bruins’ stay in the East’s top eight lasted mere hours.
  • So, congrats to the New York Islanders, who enjoyed the rare tiebreaker treat of climbing into playoff position even though they didn’t even play on Wednesday.

(The Philadelphia Flyers were out of reach here, but they didn’t do themselves any favors in losing to the Washington Capitals.)

Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak were kept off the board as Jonathan Bernier won one for the Ducks, who stay right behind the Edmonton Oilers in a battle for second in the Pacific.

Despite Pastrnak’s -3 rating in this one, Marchand probably had the toughest night thanks to Bernier and Josh Manson:

This one hurts, but it’s also a reminder that there will probably be plenty of twists and turns in the races for the lower spots in the East and Atlantic Division. With that in mind, the Bruins have to shake it off and get ready to face the Kings in Los Angeles on Thursday.

Kuznetsov, bad breaks baffle Flyers in loss to Capitals

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Here’s what went right for the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday: the Florida Panthers lost. Yep, that’s about it.

Otherwise, it was a pretty lousy time, as the Washington Capitals beat them at home 4-1 tonight.

Washington’s big names came to play here, highlighted by Evgeny Kuznetsov scoring two goals. T.J. Oshie and Nicklas Backstrom enjoyed one-goal, one-assist nights while Justin Williams and Alex Ovechkin both grabbed two assists.

The Capitals won their first game after a bye week (following two losses), improving their Metropolitan Division lead to five points and Presidents’ Trophy edge over Minnesota to three.

The Flyers fail to make up some ground in the Eastern Conference wild card race, staying at 63 standings points in 60 games played. The Panthers are tied with the Islanders and Bruins at 66 points, though Boston can change the picture ever so slightly against Anaheim (still in action) tonight.

The bottom line, again, is that the Flyers failed in a chance to get a little closer to that logjam for the last East spot.

Of course, plenty of Flyers fans will grumble about missed opportunities and iffy calls. Mike Milbury broke down the early setbacks that made life that much tougher for Philly:

Philly couldn’t overcome the Capitals and that bad luck, making their playoff hopes a little dimmer as the trade deadline approaches.

Oilers win on rare Russell goal, Panthers fall out of second wild card spot

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The Edmonton Oilers’ 4-3 win against the Florida Panthers might end up being costly if Andrej Sekera misses significant time.

But, hey, at least it was a win.

The two rising squads engaged in a back-and-forth game, with the Oilers winning in regulation. Maybe fittingly with Edmonton leaking defensemen lately: Kris Russell was the guy to score the game-winner, set up by Connor McDavid‘s blazing speed and a nice pass by Leon Draisaitl.

It was Russell’s first goal in more than a year.

The Oilers will remain in the second spot in the Pacific at the end of the night whether the Anaheim Ducks beat the Boston Bruins or not. Interestingly, this puts them in a reasonable position to catch the Sharks for first place in the division, too.

1. Sharks – 77 points in 60 games
2. Oilers – 74 points in 61 games
3. Ducks – 72 points in 61 games (in progress vs. Boston)

The Oilers likely had some fans out East tonight, as this loss pushes Florida down the wild card rankings. They’re actually out of the second spot thanks to tiebreakers.

Second wild card spot: Bruins – 66 points in 59 games, 30 wins and 28 ROW (in progress)

Islanders – 66 points in 59 games, 28 wins and 27 ROW
Panthers – 66 points in 59 games, 28 wins and 25 ROW

The Isles would move into the second spot if Boston loses in regulation, underscoring just how congested this situation is. But either way, the Panthers won’t be in the East’s top eight at the end of the night.

With Gibson out, Ducks recall interesting goalie: Enroth

TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 11: Jhonas Enroth #35 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Air Canada Centre on November 11, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. The Maple Leafs defeated the Flyers 6-3.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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One player’s injury is another player’s opportunity.

Considering how much the Anaheim Ducks lean on John Gibson, it’s troubling that he’s day-to-day with a lower-body injury.

Even so, it’s interesting to note that such a situation prompted the team to recall Jhonas Enroth, who will back up Jonathan Bernier during Wednesday’s game against the Boston Bruins.

With the way Bernier’s been playing at times, it’s not impossible that Enroth could play as soon as tonight. But if he doesn’t you have to wonder if the Ducks might feel compelled to throw a start his way in the next week.

The trade deadline is coming, and while the goalie market is really cold, some of that slow movement likely comes from how cap-unfriendly netminders like Ben Bishop might be.

But what about Enroth? His cap hit is $750K this season, and while he thoroughly unimpressed Mike Babcock with rapid speed in Toronto, he was fantastic as a backup in Los Angeles last season and has been outstanding lately for the AHL’s San Diego Gulls.

All things considered, it’s almost a little surprising the Ducks aren’t throwing him right into the deep end tonight. If you’re a team with poor backup goaltending like the Edmonton Oilers or any number of other teams,* why wouldn’t you give the Ducks a call?

Maybe they need to see him in action in the NHL before doing so, making this an intriguing scenario to follow.

And, hey, maybe the Ducks themselves might decide that he’s a better option behind Gibson than Bernier. Stranger things have happened.

* – The Leafs might qualify, honestly … but again, Babs doesn’t seem to be an Enroth fan.