Around the rink – Sunday, January 9th

It’s Sunday so that means the schedule is a bit lighter than usual but not without intrigue. Take a look with us around the rink to see what’s in store tonight in the NHL, a schedule that includes the streaking Wild looking to win again. All times Eastern, as per usual.

1:30 p.m.

Atlanta @ Carolina

Atlanta would like to put every bit of their 9-3 loss to the Maple Leafs out of their minds and beating a Carolina team sneaking up on them in the standings would help that out. The Canes are just six points behind Atlanta in the Southeast Division and a win would send the message that they’re as much of a threat as the Thrashers are. The Hurricanes will be banking on Cam Ward and Eric Staal to carry the load for them much in the same way the Thrashers ask Ondrej Pavelec and Dustin Byfuglien to do the same for them. Either way, it’s got the makings of a great early-afternoon tilt.

5:00 p.m.

Tampa Bay @ New Jersey

The Lightning are coming off a lackluster win over Ottawa last night and getting one over on the hapless Devils would go a ways towards helping Tampa Bay get past some woes they’ve had in beating teams they ought to. As for the Devils, you have to think that Martin Brodeur will get a shot to win after he took over for Johan Hedberg yesterday afternoon in the first period. The Devils have lost four straight and their miserable season trudges along regardless of who is in goal.

6:00 p.m.

Dallas @ Minnesota

Don’t look now but the Minnesota Wild are a playoff team. The Wild are seventh in the Western Conference at the moment and have Jose Theodore to thank for that. After Theodore’s efforts against both Boston and Pittsburgh, the Wild have jumped up into playoff position in the West. Getting timely goals from Martin Havlat and Cal Clutterbuck have helped the cause as well. Dallas, meanwhile, wants to shake off a shootout loss to the Rangers and hold strong to their spot atop the Pacific Division. Beating what’s been a tough Wild team would make for a good confidence booster.

7:00 p.m.

NY Islanders @ Chicago

We’re not sure how the Islanders have been doing it, but they’re winning games. They’ll head to Chicago after a tough overtime win over Colorado and winners of four of their last five games. Chicago would like to just start showing the ability to win consistently. The Islanders roll into the game with numerous injuries but with young goalies Nathan Lawson and Kevin Poulin you’d like to think they don’t have much of a shot. Then again, Corey Crawford has come out of obscurity to be the Blackhawks top netminder. All of a sudden, it doesn’t look to be as big of a mismatch after all.

8:00 p.m.

San Jose @ Anaheim

The Sharks could use a win in the worst way. They’ve been ravaged by inconsistent play and are coming off a tough loss to Nashville last night. Meanwhile, Jonas Hiller and the Ducks have been a fly in the ointment to virtually every team they’ve encountered this season. On paper, the Ducks look like a team that shouldn’t win as often as they do, yet there they are near the top of the Pacific Division. The Ducks are winners of four of their last five games going into this intra-California affair.

Rangers punch playoff ticket to wrap up night of clinched spots

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The New York Rangers weren’t ecstatic that Chris Tierney‘s 4-4 goal sent their game to overtime against the San Jose Sharks, but either way, getting beyond regulation punched their ticket to the playoffs on Tuesday night.

For the seventh season in a row, the Rangers are in the NHL’s postseason. They fell to the Sharks 5-4 in overtime, so they haven’t locked down the first wild-card spot in the East … yet. It seems like a matter of time, however.

The Rangers have now made the playoffs in 11 of their last 12 tries, a far cry from the barren stretch where the Rangers failed to make the playoffs from 1997-98 through 2003-04 (with the lockout season punctuating the end of that incompetent era).

New York has pivoted from the John Tortorella days to the Vigneault era, and this season has been especially interesting as they reacted to a 2016 first-round loss to the Penguins by instituting a more attacking style. The Metropolitan Division’s greatness has overshadowed, to some extent, how dramatic the improvement has been.

This result seems like a tidy way to discuss Tuesday’s other events.

The drama ends up being low for the Rangers going forward, and while there might be a shortage of life-or-death playoff struggles, the battles for seeding look to be fierce.

Oilers end NHL’s longest playoff drought; Sharks, Ducks also clinch

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There’s something beautiful about the symmetry on Tuesday … unless you’re a Detroit Red Wings fans, maybe.

On the same night that the longest active NHL playoff streak ended at 25 for Detroit, the longest playoff drought concluded when the Edmonton Oilers clinched a postseason spot by beating the Los Angeles Kings 2-1.

The Oilers haven’t reached the playoffs since 2005-06, when Chris Pronger lifted them to Game 7 of the 2006 Stanley Cup Final.

In doing so, other dominoes fell. Both the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks also punched their tickets to the postseason.

The Sharks, of course, hope to exceed last season’s surprising run to the 2016 Stanley Cup Final.

Meanwhile, the Anaheim Ducks continue their run of strong postseasons, even as their Cup win fades to the background ever so slightly. All three teams are currently vying for the Pacific Division title.

The Western Conference’s eight teams are dangerously close to being locked into place, as the Nashville Predators, Calgary Flames and St. Louis Blues are all close to looking down their spots as well.

Want the East perspective? Check out this summary of Tuesday’s events from the perspective of the other conference.

Craig Anderson took his blunder hard – probably too hard – in Sens loss

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Members of the Ottawa Senators were quick to come to Craig Anderson‘s blunder (see above) in Tuesday’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, and it’s easy to see why.

It’s not just about his personal struggles, either. When Anderson’s managed to play, he’s been flat-out phenomenal, generating a .927 save percentage that ranks near a Vezina-type level (if he managed to play more than 35 games).

Goaltending has been a huge reason why Ottawa has at least a shot of winning the Atlantic or at least grabbing a round of home-ice advantage, so unlike certain instances where teams shield a goalie’s failures, the defenses are absolutely justified.

Anderson, on the other hand, was very hard on himself.

You have to admire Anderson for taking the blame, even if in very much “hockey player” fashion, he’s not exactly demanding the same sort of credit for his great work this season.

It’s official: Red Wings’ playoff streak ends at 25 seasons

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When we look back at the 2016-17 season for the Detroit Red Wings, it will be remembered for some said endings.

It began without Pavel Datsyuk. We knew that their last game at Joe Louis Arena this season would be their last ever. And now we know that Joe Louis Arena won’t be home to another playoff run.

After 25 straight seasons of making the playoffs – quite often managing deep runs – the Red Wings were officially eliminated on Tuesday night. In getting this far, they enjoyed one of the greatest runs of longevity in NHL history:

Tonight revolves largely around East teams winning and teams clinching bids – the Edmonton Oilers could very well end the league’s longest playoff drought this evening – but this story is more solemn.

EA Sports tweeted out a great infographic:

“Right now it’s hard to talk about it, because you’re a big reason why it’s not continuing,” Henrik Zetterberg said in an NHL.com report absolutely worth your time.

Mike “Doc” Emrick narrated a great look back at Joe Louis Arena here: