Around the Rink – Saturday, January 8th

There are a bunch of games tonight, so let’s get right to the previews. All start times are Eastern Standard Time (ET) as usual.

1:00 pm

New Jersey @ Philadelphia

It might only be for a few hours, but the Flyers could re-gain their Atlantic Division (and Eastern Conference) lead with a win over the lowly Devils this afternoon. The Penguins play later today, but cannot take it easy because Philly is right behind them with less games played.

3:00 pm

NY Islanders @ Colorado

The Avalanche are basically everything the Islanders should be: a once-proud franchise restocking with brilliant young talent and plenty of positive energy. Unfortunately, the Long Island bunch are punchless and far from positive. This one could be ugly.

7:00 pm

Florida @ Washington

The Capitals should be a well-rested bunch considering the fact that they only played one game (a 1-0 overtime shutout loss to Tampa Bay) since last Saturday’s Winter Classic. In other words, there aren’t many excuses if they lose to the Panthers tonight.

Tampa Bay @ Ottawa

The Senators are bruised and battered while the Lightning should be awfully angry coming off a humiliating 8-1 loss to the Penguins. This smells like a blowout for Tampa Bay, but you really never know.

Minnesota @ Pittsburgh

If the Wild could pick a time to play the Penguins, this wouldn’t be a bad one. Pittsburgh is stumbling ever so slightly and is without Sidney Crosby. Can Minnesota take advantage?

Boston @ Montreal

Winning the Northeast Division vs. coming in second place currently means the difference between being the third seed in the East and barely hanging onto a playoff spot. The Bruins can take a nice lead with a win in Montreal, but that’s easier said than done.

8:00 pm

Buffalo @ Phoenix

There’s a lot these two teams have in common: both wish they could play like they did in 2009-10, although each club is pretty happy with what is happening off the ice this season. They’re also both in 10th place in their respective conferences, although that means more to the Coyotes than Sabres.

Nashville @ San Jose

Generally speaking, the Predators (strong defense) and Sharks (efficient power play) get things done in different ways but they are producing similar up-and-down results. Right now Nashville is trending up with a four game winning streak while San Jose is struggling. Is it time to cue the record scratching noise for a change of pace?

NY Rangers @ St. Louis

The Rangers are a rough and tumble bunch who can win on the road (14 away wins) while the Blues are a profoundly different animal at home (14 wins in St. Louis). So which strength will matter the most in this game?

10:00 pm

Detroit @ Vancouver

This one should be an absolute treat, even if the absence of Pavel Datsyuk is a bit of a bummer. Whatever way you slice it – the two best teams in the West or NHL period – face off in this game. Hopefully it’s as entertaining on the ice as it is on paper.

10:30 pm

Columbus @ Los Angeles

Blue Jackets-Kings is like a Thanksgiving dinner argument between two dysfunctional family members, except someone actually will win this game. Columbus will be angry after a 6-0 beatdown from Anaheim last night while Los Angeles wants to end a five game losing streak. I’d hate to be in the losing locker room after this game.

Antti Niemi had to make a save with his bare hand

Getty
2 Comments

Antti Niemi made 31 saves in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 4-3 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night, and 30 of them were pretty standard.

The one that wasn’t came in the third period when he lost his glove during a scramble around the net and still managed to instinctively make a save on the puck. With his bare hand.

Niemi said after the game, via the Tribune Review, that he thought the referees would stop the play after his glove came off, and when they didn’t “I just kept playing.”

You can watch the play by clicking here.

Probably not the type of thing you want to see happening because that looks like a great way to break a bone (or the entire hand) and get sidelined for extended period of time. Niemi said the officials told him there will no longer be an automatic whistle for goalies losing a glove or a blocker, but that one will remain for when they lose their helmet.

The Penguins signed Niemi to a one-year contract this summer as a replacement for Marc-Andre Fleury after they lost him in the expansion draft to the Vegas Golden Knights. Niemi is looking to rebound from a tough year in Dallas. He will serve as Matt Murray‘s backup for the season.

‘A good start’ — Stamkos stands out in preseason debut

Getty
2 Comments

The Tampa Bay Lightning and National Hockey League unveiled the 2018 All-Star Game logo Friday.

Far more importantly for the Bolts this evening was the return of their all-star center Steven Stamkos, as he made his preseason debut in what was his first game in 10 months.

His 2016-17 season was abruptly ended in the middle of November because of a knee injury and subsequent surgery, making it the second time in four years his regular season had been disrupted by a major injury.

It may still take a while before Stamkos feels truly comfortable coming back from this injury.But his performance on Friday proved to be a very promising start for No. 91, the Bolts and their fans in Tampa Bay.

He didn’t score, but he assisted on two first period goals, including a nice set-up to linemate Nikita Kucherov, and the Lightning beat the Nashville Predators by a score of 3-1. Stamkos also received a healthy dose of ice time, playing more than 19 minutes, including 5:32 on the power play.

His pass to Kucherov resulted in a power play goal.

“It was exciting to get out there, I was pretty anxious about it… It was a good start, something to build on,” said Stamkos afterward, per the Lightning. “It was nice to just go through a game day, I haven’t done it in a long time… I was glad with how the first one went.”

Golden Knights assign 2017 first-round picks Glass, Suzuki to junior

Getty
Leave a comment

The Vegas Golden Knights continue to make roster moves during their inaugural training camp.

On Friday, the expansion club assigned four players to junior. That includes 2017 first-round picks Cody Glass of the Portland Winterhawks and Nick Suzuki of the Owen Sound Attack.

The Golden Knights made franchise history by taking Glass with the sixth overall pick and then selected Suzuki at 13th overall. Both players appeared in two preseason games for Vegas, each recording two points in the exhibition opener versus the Vancouver Canucks.

“Nobody is going to rush (the rookies), that’s for sure,” Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant told the Las Vegas Sun following the club’s 9-4 win over Vancouver on Sunday.

“We are in a position where we want to make sure they are ready to play. They are going to be good players when they’re healthy and strong enough to play in the league.”

Vegas has all three 2017 first-round picks — Glass, Suzuki and Erik Brannstrom — signed to three-year entry-level contracts.

Mitchell signed PTO with Blue Jackets — shortly after getting cut by Blackhawks

AP
Leave a comment

When the Chicago Blackhawks announced their roster moves yesterday, John Mitchell was among the cuts.

His professional tryout with the Blackhawks had come to an end, as it did for veterans Mark Stuart and Drew Miller.

It can be an uphill battle to make an NHL roster for veterans on professional tryouts. But for Mitchell, he quickly received another opportunity to attend a camp and try to land a spot, signing a PTO with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Mitchell, 32, has appeared in 548 NHL regular season games with 70 goals and 177 points.

Meanwhile, the Blue Jackets are still without forward and restricted free agent Josh Anderson, as the two sides are stuck in a contract impasse right now. It was reported on Thursday that his representatives have been in contact with Hockey Canada about the 2018 Olympics.