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.

Sabres confirm signing defenseman Antipin; Is his KHL teammate Lee next?

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The Buffalo Sabres announced the signing of defenseman Victor Antipin* on Thursday, confirming rumors that surfaced more than once this month.

Antipin, 24, enjoyed a solid season in the KHL with Magnitogorsk Metallurg. Even so, the signing might be interesting if it serves as an appetizer for the Sabres bringing in Antipin’s teammate from Metallurg, Chris Lee.

On one hand, Lee is 36 and couldn’t make the jump fromt he AHL to the NHL in previous opportunities (most reently with the Penguins’ farm system in 2009-10). On the other, he had an eye-popping 2016-17 season in the KHL: 65 points in 60 games as a defenseman.

Lee’s previous numbers aren’t as outrageous, but still quite good, at least form a scoring standpoint.

While Lee’s possible addition is a situation to watch, there’s some excitement about Antipin.

“Victor is a well-rounded defenseman who has played in all situations at the pro level,” Sabres GM Jason Botterill said. “His mobility and puck-moving skills make him a perfect match for what we’re hoping to build with our defense corps next season.”

Granted, there’s some debate about his ceiling.

Still, for a Sabres team that badly needs help on the blueline, this addition – or eventually these additions – could provide a nice boost.

* – The Sabres’ releases feature his name spelled “Victor.” Other outlets, including hockeydb, have it as “Viktor.”

WATCH LIVE: Ottawa Senators vs. Pittsburgh Penguins – Game 7

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Will it be the Ottawa Senators or Pittsburgh Penguins against the Nashville Predators in the Stanley Cup Final? We’ll find out after tonight.

Yes, it’s that time: a Game 7 to see who advances to the final round. The winner will also hold home-ice advantage in the Stanley Cup Final.

Could Erik Karlsson, Craig Anderson, and the rest of the Senators pull off an upset on the road, winning the franchise’s first Game 7? Can Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and the Penguins give Matt Murray a birthday present with another Game 7 win?

Find out on NBCSN. You can also watch online and via the NBC Sports App.

Here’s what you need to know:

Ottawa Senators vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (series tied 3-3)

Time: 8:00 p.m. ET

Network: NBCSN (Stream live here)

Check out the highlights from Ottawa’s 2-1 win in Game 6

Related:

Pretty or not, Sens aim to play their game vs. Pens in Game 7

Penguins prepare for another Game 7, this time as favorites

Modern-day Senators have never won a Game 7

It’s “reasonable” to expect Schultz and Hornqvist will play Game 7

Trouble for Ducks: Lindholm and Vatanen need major shoulder surgeries, will miss months

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Not a great week for the Anaheim Ducks.

After being eliminated in Game 6 of the Western Conference final — the toughest loss of Ryan Kesler’s career, apparently — the Ducks broke more bad news on Friday as GM Bob Murray announced d-men Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen both require torn labrum surgery, and will be out an awfully long time.

The timeline on Lindholm is 4-5 months, while Vatanen’s recovery will extend beyond that because his injury was more serious.

Looking at the calendar, four months would run Lindholm up to the end of September, meaning he’d miss a good chunk of the preseason. If it’s five months, he could miss the first three weeks of the regular season.

Murray didn’t even put a timetable on Vatanen, only saying it would be longer.

This adds to what was already going to be a pretty stressful summer in Anaheim. As we wrote earlier, Murray has some big decisions on his hands.

Vatanen and Lindholm are huge parts of the team. Both averaged over 21 minutes per night this season, and both broke the 20-point plateau. They’re also locked in long term — Lindholm at $5.2 million annually through 2022, Vatanen at $4.8M through 2020.

If the Ducks decide to protect seven forwards and three defensemen for the expansion draft, the defense will definitely be worth watching. Lindholm will be protected for sure, and Shea Theodore and Brandon Montour are each exempt. But that only leaves two spots for Vatanen, Kevin Bieksa, Cam Fowler, and Josh Manson.

Bieksa, 35, has a no-movement clause, so unless the Ducks find a way to get around that, they’ll need to protect him. (Chances are, they’ll seek a way around it, either via trade or buyout or just convincing him to waive.)

Fowler, meanwhile, only has one year left on his contract before he can become an unrestricted free agent. There are already reports that extension negotiations are going well but, after the season he just had, with 39 points in 80 games, the 25-year-old won’t be cheap to re-sign.

Yes, there is the option to protect four defensemen and four forwards. But Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Ryan Kesler all have NMCs, and the Ducks won’t want to expose Rickard Rakell or Jakob Silfverberg.

Add it all up, and the Ducks will certainly be worth watching this offseason.

In a surprise, Blues name Steve Ott assistant coach

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Pretty wild last few days for St. Louis on the coaching front.

After gutting Mike Yeo’s staff of four assistants, then hiring hiring Darryl Sydor, the Blues went totally off the grid on Friday by announcing longtime NHLer Steve Ott would become Yeo’s new assistant.

“Steve was a competitor on the ice as a player and I expect him to bring that energy in this role,” Yeo said in a release. “He was highly respected as a player and a person among his teammates and I believe he will be a huge asset to our staff.”

The decision caught many off guard given Ott, 34, has no prior coaching experience and was playing as recently as last month, suiting up for Montreal in its opening-round playoff loss to the Rangers.

Ott is familiar with the Blues organization, having played there for three seasons.

“I am very proud of my playing career and will devote the same work ethic to my coaching career,” said Ott. “The Blues organization is very special to me and my family and I’m excited to take the next step in my hockey career with this franchise.”

Blues GM Doug Armstrong signed Ott to a three-year deal. It’s fitting that Armstrong was the one to engineer this move, as he’s been behind unorthodox coaching moves in the past. Last summer, he defied convention by hiring Yeo as Ken Hitchcock’s assistant, with the understanding that Yeo would inherit the head man position next season.

It didn’t go exactly to plan. Armstrong fired Hitchcock in February, accelerating Yeo’s ascension.