St. Louis Blues v Toronto Maple Leafs

Around the rink – Tuesday, January 11th

With ten games tonight and lots of All-Star Game snubs to discuss for the next week, we’re guessing the NHL wanted to keep people talking about games and putting a lot of them on our plate tonight. Sadly for them there’s not really any particular game that grabs your attention, but lots of eyes will be on New York tonight and not just at Madison Square Garden for Wojtek Wolski’s Rangers debut. All times listed are Eastern.

7:00 p.m.

Montreal @ NY Rangers

All eyes turn here because we’ll get to see if Wojtek Wolski can once again find his motivation to play strong, offensive hockey and give the Rangers the offensive boost they’re dying to have. There’s also the side possibility of having coach John Tortorella crack the whip on Wolski for being lazy on the other side of the puck as well. Montreal comes in winners of three of their last four and will send Alex Auld out to give Carey Price a much needed rest.

Vancouver @ NY Islanders

This games wasn’t really one to take notice of before… That is until we found out this morning that referee Stephane Auger was assigned to it. This marks the first time since last year that Canucks forward Alex Burrows will be on the ice for a game that Auger works. Last season, Burrows alleged that Auger told him he’d be out to get him in the game. Think we’ll see any favorable officiating going the Islanders way in this one? The Isles could use all the help they can get against the powerful Canucks who look to bounce back after losing to Detroit on Saturday snapping an eight game win streak.

Ottawa @ Boston

It’s an important game for the Bruins to prove that their win against Pittsburgh last night wasn’t just a one-off positive night. Building momentum off that win is key for the B’s. Getting to deal with a struggling Ottawa team should help them out, but playing back-to-back nights is rough and the Senators will be doing their part to take advantage of that to snap their five-game losing streak.

Calgary @ Carolina

Riding high off the All-Star announcements today, the Hurricanes will hope to keep the good mojo working and extend their win streak to three games. With Calgary kicking off a four game road trip in Raleigh looking to snap a three game skid, expect things to get feisty. The Hurricanes will hope to put the game out of reach though. Three of their last four games have gone to overtime with the Canes losing two of those.

Phoenix @ Columbus

Phoenix is riding high after beating St. Louis last night and the Blue Jackets are about as low as it can get these days as people are talking about blowing it all up after what’s been over a month of miserable hockey. Sounds like the makings of a trap game for the Coyotes, doesn’t it? Phoenix has won three of their last four while the Jackets have lost four in a row.

7:30 p.m.

Philadelphia @ Buffalo

A pair of teams on a relative roll clash in Buffalo. The Flyers are winners of three in a row and four of their last five while the Sabres have won two in a row. The Sabres are hoping to get back into the thick of the playoff hunt and have to hope Ryan Miller’s great play of late continues to make it happen. The Flyers, meanwhile, want to put some space between themselves and the Penguins in the Atlantic Division. Guy to look out for in this one is former Sabres stud and current Flyers goal leader Daniel Briere. The fans in Buffalo love to hate him.

Washington @ Florida

After playing a tough one with Florida the other night, highlighted by a great goal from Alex Ovechkin, the Caps will look to keep good things going in Sunrise. The Caps have won four of their last five games and have been on a roll since before Christmas winning six of eight. The Panthers, meanwhile, will be looking to snap a three game skid. Getting one over on the Caps would be well received in the Panthers locker room.

8:00 p.m.

Minnesota @ Nashville

Minnesota will be looking to get back to winning while the Preds are hoping to keep a good thing rolling as they’ve been on fire of late. Expect the goalies to take center stage in this one as Pekka Rinne and Jose Theodore have been on fire of late. The Preds are playing great hockey and have lifetime Predator David Legwand to thank for it. Since returning from injury he’s got a goal and three assists in five games. That may not sound like much, but the stability he brings up the middle has been huge for the injury-riddled Preds.

8:30 p.m.

Edmonton @ Dallas

Remember when this rivalry was nasty and these teams went at each others throats? The only guy on the ice that recalls those days is Jamie Langenbrunner so here’s to hoping he starts having flashbacks to those nasty, gnarly days. The Stars will be looking to keep the good times rolling as they’ve gotten points in four straight games (3-0-1). Edmonton has lost eight of their last nine games and have seen their offense dry up and their goaltending go down the toilet. This isn’t shaping up too well for the Oilers tonight.

10:30 p.m.

Toronto @ San Jose

The red hot Maple Leafs roll into San Jose winners of three in a row. That might not sound like a big deal to you, but for the Leafs it’s their longest win streak since starting the season 4-0-0. Mikhail Grabovsky and James Reimer have been the leaders for them on the ice and getting help from AHL call-ups Darryl Boyce and Joey Crabb has been especially useful. The Sharks are desperate for a win but doing that against a team beaming with confidence might prove difficult. You can’t help but feel the Sharks are on the precipice of a huge offensive breakout soon, the Leafs are hoping they can keep it from happening for one more game.

Capitals pushed by ‘that hurt’ from playoff letdown

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 10:  Nick Bonino #13 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates his game winning overtime goal against the Washington Capitals in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Second Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Consol Energy Center on May 10, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) When Matt Niskanen contemplated skipping a trip to the gym over the summer, he remembered what happened in May.

As the offseason went on, Niskanen thought less and less about the Washington Capitals’ loss to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. Instead, he let the memory of the second-round playoff exit fuel him from time to time.

“That hurt, it lingers, and I think you can use that as motivation,” Niskanen said. “That kind of stuff creeps into your mind and it pushes you.”

Now several months removed from another painful playoff loss, the Capitals came to training camp ready to harness whatever energy they could from that while also preparing to move past it and focus on another run at the Cup this season. Almost the entire roster is back from the Presidents’ Trophy-winning team that ran roughshod over the NHL during the regular season, and with Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and goaltender Braden Holtby in their primes, there isn’t time to waste on reflection and hindsight.

“You need to see where things went awry and try to rectify it,” said veteran winger Justin Williams, one of several players with one year left on his contract. “We set a standard with having successful teams, a team every year fans can look at and say, `You know, we legitimately have a chance to win it again.’ As players we embrace that and we respect it and we know that these opportunities that we have in front of us aren’t forever.”

Along with Williams, winger T.J. Oshie and defenseman Karl Alzner could be unrestricted free agents July 1. Restricted free agent center Evgeny Kuznetsov will get a big raise on a new deal, and Washington’s salary cap picture will get more difficult as the years go on.

Ovechkin also just turned 31, and while he led the league in scoring last season, there’s no certainty as to how long his Hall of Fame-caliber production will keep up. After winning the division by 16 points and losing in the second round – again – general manager Brian MacLellan doesn’t think there’s a bigger burden on winning this year with so many unknowns on the horizon.

“I think there’s pressure every year,” MacLellan said. “Last year we were a contender, there’s pressure. Same pressure this year. We have a goal of winning a championship. We know we’re close and we need to pursue it and we’ll do everything we can to get there.”

Alzner was just starting to get over the early exit when pictures of the Penguins celebrating with the Cup filled up his social media feeds. The ironman whose groin injury forced him out of the deciding Game 6 and led to sports hernia surgery scoffed at the notion that Pittsburgh winning makes the loss easier to take.

“It’s worse, in my opinion, because then you really think, `OK if I could have got past that team then the Cup was ours,”‘ said Alzner, who’s still working his way back to 100 percent. “I think that all of us in the room thought that we were going to win that last year.”

Being great in the regular season and losing in the first or second round has become the Capitals’ reputation over the past decade. The 2015-16 team was perhaps the best on paper, which made the late stumble into summer that much more confounding.

As more top players continue to trickle back into town after playing in the World Cup of Hockey, associate coach Todd Reirden expects the staff to impart lessons about last season on the full group. Early in camp, the mood is light with players eager to make a fresh start and learn from losing to the Penguins.

Asked what the Capitals can do to improve, Williams deadpanned: “We can finish the season with a win. That’s it.”

That’s a challenge that can’t be accomplished until the spring. Players, coaches and fans may want to fast-forward until then, but Washington has to again get there first.

“You’ve got to be patient,” center Jay Beagle said. “The game has to develop. We’ve got new guys, so we want to go into this year making sure we’re playing our best going into the end of the year and in the playoffs.”

Follow Stephen Whyno on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SWhyno .

Plenty of betting options for World Cup final round

BOSTON, MA - JUNE 24:  Patrice Bergeron #37 of the Boston Bruins checks Marian Hossa #81 of the Chicago Blackhawks in Game Six of the 2013 NHL Stanley Cup Final at TD Garden on June 24, 2013 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
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Bovada released a wide array of betting options for the best-of-three final round of the World Cup between Canada and Team Europe on Monday.

Naturally, there are the run of the mill matters like game lines:

Europe vs. Canada (World Cup of Hockey Finals)

Europe +575 (23/4)

Canada -1000 (1/10)

Total Goals Europe vs. Canada (World Cup of Hockey Finals)

Over/Under 6

Interesting over/under, huh?

Things get more fun as the prop bets get stranger/more specific. Personally, the head-to-head player bets rank among the most fascinating:

Who will record more points in the game?

Sidney Crosby (CAN) 2/3

Anze Kopitar (EUR) 11/4

Draw 5/2

Who will record more points in the game?

Patrice Bergeron (CAN) 1/1

Draw 2/1

Marian Hossa (EUR) 9/4

Who will record more points in the game?

Brad Marchand (CAN) 4/5

Draw 9/5

Mats Zuccarello (EUR) 3/1

Hmm, maybe Marchand wouldn’t be the greatest bet. He’s probably feeling pretty fat and happy after signing that $49 million contract extension, after all.

At least one outlet finds Europe to be an enticing gamble thanks to Jaroslav Halak‘s hot play, for what it’s worth.

Jacob Trouba’s agent expands on trade request

UNIONDALE, NY - OCTOBER 28: Jacob Trouba #8 of the Winnipeg Jets skates against the New York Islanders at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on October 28, 2014 in Uniondale, New York.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Jacob Trouba‘s agent Kurt Overhardt repeatedly shot down certain questions as “private” matters regarding a very public trade request from the Winnipeg Jets, yet his interview on TSN’s Hustler & Lawless spoke volumes about the impasse.

From the sound of things, it would be tough for the Jets to get Trouba to change course and sign a deal with the team.

Trouba seeks a spot as a top two defenseman, or at least one of a team’s top two options on the right side, something Overhardt firmly believes cannot happen in Winnipeg. He quickly deflected hypothetical scenarios regarding Dustin Byfuglien moving to the left or Tyler Myers getting bumped down the Jets’ depth chart.

“None of this is happening on a whim,” Overhardt said. ” … This has nothing to do with money.”

This excerpt from the Trouba press release hit a lot of the same points:

There has been no negotiation regarding the terms of a contract between our client and the Jets over the course of the last several months. The situation is not about money; it is solely about our client having the opportunity to realize his potential as a right shot NHL defenseman.

To the Jets credit, the club has two outstanding right shot veteran defensemen and our client simply wants the opportunity to have a greater role. As a consequence of the Jets depth on the right side, we believe it is in both parties’ best interest to facilitate a mutually advantageous trade.

You can read the team’s response in this post. Overhardt made it a point to mention that “several teams” would love to have Trouba’s rights, and would be able to give him the opportunity he craves.

Interestingly, he dodged a question about Trouba possibly sitting out the 2016-17 season, if it came down to it.

The full radio appearance is available here.

Lightning sign their other Nikita (Nesterov)

NEWARK, NEW JERSEY - APRIL 07:  Nikita Nesterov #89 of the Tampa Bay Lightning skates against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center on April 7, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey. Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the New Jersey Devils 4-2.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
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The Tampa Bay Lightning signed their second-most important Nikita on Monday, inking Nikita Nesterov to a one-year, $725K contract.

The 23-year-old defenseman has to appreciate the fact that this is a one-way deal, as the Lightning blueline isn’t the easiest group to crack. (That will be especially true if James Wisniewski makes an impression with his PTO.)

Nesterov has been battling for ice time the past two seasons and was also a member of Russia’s World Cup team. It’s super-important to note that he wears No. 89, which is a little unusual for a defenseman.

(Only the important tidbits here.)

Now, onto the tougher challenge of signing that other Nikita