Riding the Zamboni – Friday, December 7th

Check out the Thrashers’ ugly loss to the Maple Leafs (and Ben Eager’s ugly sucker punch on Colby Armstrong) by clicking here.

OK, now here are summaries of the night’s six other games.

Carolina 5, Florida 3

Apparently the Hurricanes rallied back from two or three goal deficits in three of their last five games against the Panthers this season. It’s not exactly the kind of stat that rolls off your tongue, but it shows that Carolina is pretty resilient (or often in need of wake-up calls, depending on how you look at it).

Jeff Skinner had two goals and one assist to help the Canes win this one.

NY Rangers 3, Dallas 2 (SO)

Once again, Mats “Norwegian Hobbit Wizard” Zuccarello came up big for the Rangers, this time around in the shootout. The short forward was the different in a game that featured great goaltending from winning goalie Henrik Lundqvist (28 saves) and the losing goalie Kari Lehtonen (29 saves).

Chicago 3, Ottawa 2 (SO)

The Blackhawks keep scraping together wins here and there despite injuries while the Senators fail to persevere (0-2-2 in their last four games). Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews ultimately were the difference makers in the shootout.

Detroit 5, Calgary 4 (SO)

The Red Wings came back from a 4-2 deficit to send the game into overtime and then Todd Bertuzzi scored the only shootout goal to help Detroit steal a win from Calgary in this game. Brian Rafalski scored two goals for the Red Wings while Curtis “Glengarry” Glencross scored two goals and one assist for the Flames. After showing some life after the Darryl Sutter firing, Calgary’s now on a three game losing streak.

Anaheim 6, Columbus 0

All of a sudden, the Ducks are now ranked in fifth place. Not such a sudden occurrence: the Blue Jackets are still pretty awful. Teemu Selanne and Bobby Ryan each scored two goals while Jonas Hiller earned a 27-save shutout.

Vancouver 6, Edmonton 1

Ryan Kesler scored the second hat trick of his career (and in the last 30 days or so) while Daniel Sedin scored two goals and one assist while Henrik Sedin had three helpers in the Canucks’ dominant beating of the Oilers. Alex Edler scored the other Vancouver goal while Ales Hemsky provided Edmonton’s only tally.

After years of hype, McDavid to play first NHL game

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The hype surrounding Connor McDavid couldn’t be much greater, but finally expectations will start to give way to results.

The NHL career that’s been talked about for years will begin tonight when his Edmonton Oilers face St. Louis.

“It’s something that you dream of for so long,” McDavid told “The draft is one thing, but to finally be in this situation is another, so I’m really excited. It’s been a long road; it’s been a lot of hard work. I think a lot of guys’ stories are different in how they get here, but the one common theme is hard work and my story is not any different that way.”

McDavid has transformed the Oilers with his mere presence. Its breathed fresh optimism into a city that have watched this team struggle in its efforts to dig out of the NHL basement. One also has to wonder if Peter Chiarelli would be the team’s new general manager and Todd McLellan its new head coach if Edmonton hadn’t won the draft lottery.

But where will he lead Edmonton? Will he be just the sixth 70-point rookie of the salary cap era? Will he struggle out of the gate, putting the hype into question? Perhaps he’ll draw comparisons to Steven Stamkos, who had a modest rookie campaign by the standards of a highly regarded top pick, but has nevertheless gone on to become a superstar.

That would surprise Stamkos as the Lightning captain feels McDavid is better than he is currently. Just further proof that those lofty expectations are coming from all sides.

“You don’t want to put too much weight on his shoulders; he’s an 18-year-old kid,” Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli said. “I don’t care how good he is or how good he’ll be, it’s a lot to shoulder if you’re supposed to be the guy and you’re the only guy. Fortunately we have a lot of high-pedigree players that are high picks who have gone through similar situations that he’s going through.”

Edmonton certainly has no shortage of first overall picks, but none as highly regarded as McDavid. But then, few ever are.

Related: There’s ‘a real positive vibe’ in Buffalo, where Eichel will make NHL debut tonight

There’s ‘a real positive vibe’ in Buffalo, where Eichel will make NHL debut tonight

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Jack Eichel didn’t disappoint in the preseason, finishing with six points in four games, including two shorthanded goals.

Tonight in Buffalo, his NHL career will start for real when the Sabres host the Ottawa Senators in regular-season action.

“It’s something I’ve dreamed of my whole life, stepping foot on that ice and making the NHL,” Eichel said, per “It’s kind of been a whirlwind, but you’re finally playing hockey for a living and everything you’ve done your whole life is to get to this point. It’s pretty special.”

The 18-year-old’s debut was front-page news this morning in Buffalo, where the Sabres have been among the NHL’s worst teams since last making the playoffs in 2010-11.

Eichel front page

Granted, even with the additions of Eichel, Ryan O'Reilly, Evander Kane, Robin Lehner and Cody Franson, expectations for 2015-16 remain modest for the new-look Sabres. Certainly, a spot in the playoffs would count as a surprise.

But for the fans of a team that’s barely possessed the puck the past couple of years, it’s night and day.

“People are excited,” GM Tim Murray said earlier this week. “It’s great. They think we’ve improved, and there’s a real positive vibe, I believe.

“That’s what I said to our coaches, ‘I want everybody to be positive. I’m the only guy in the organization allowed to be negative.’ That’s the way I wanted it. If I’m the most negative guy in the city about the team, that’s pretty good.”