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.

As expected, Avalanche recall highly touted prospect Rantanen

DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 21:  Mikko Rantanen #96 of the Colorado Avalanche warms up prior to facing the Carolina Hurricanes at Pepsi Center on October 21, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Hurricanes defeated the Avalanche 1-0 in overtime.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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Last week, it was reported that Colorado Avalanche forward prospect Mikko Rantanen would re-join the team at some point this week.

On Monday, the Avalanche made good on that plan, recalling Rantanen, the 2015 first-round pick, from San Antonio in the American Hockey League.

The move comes after Toronto claimed Colorado forward Ben Smith off waivers, opening a spot up front for Colorado.

Rantanen’s season got off to an unfortunate start. He suffered a sprained ankle in a rookie tournament, and was eventually sent down to the minors to get some playing time after coming back from the injury.

It’s expected that Rantanen, who had an impressive rookie campaign in the minors with the Rampage despite still being a teenager, will be put into a top-six role right away for the Avalanche, which is averaging 3.2 goals a game early on.

He scored 24 goals and 60 points in 52 games in the AHL last season, and had a small taste of the NHL. He began the season with the Avalanche, and was later recalled from the minors in the middle of March when Nathan MacKinnon went out with a knee injury.

Rantanen, who later this week will turn 20 years old, didn’t register a point in nine games with the Avalanche last season. But he still did get that experience, as well as most of an AHL season under his belt, which could serve him well this time around.

Given he is a 10th overall selection, and his numbers in Europe before the draft and in the minors as an NHL prospect, there are high expectations for what Rantanen could potentially do at the big-league level for an Avalanche team that already boasts highly skilled playmakers like MacKinnon, Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog and Tyson Barrie.

The Avalanche are in the midst of a break in their schedule, with five days between games.

They don’t play again until Friday, when they host the Winnipeg Jets, so Rantanen’s season debut in Colorado will have to wait at least until then.

Canucks recall training camp standout Stecher

Vancouver Canucks' Alexander Edler, of Sweden; Joseph Labate; Alexis D'Aoust; James Sheppard; and Troy Stecher, from left, celebrate Labate's goal against the Edmonton Oilers during the second period of an NHL hockey preseason game Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2016, in Vancouver, British Columbia. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)
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Didn’t take Troy Stecher long to get back up to the NHL.

Stecher, the undrafted free agent out of North Dakota that starred for Vancouver in the preseason, has been recalled from AHL Utica along with forward Jayson Megna.

The Canucks needed some fresh bodies from the farm following injuries to Alex Burrows, Derek Dorsett and, most distressingly, defenseman Chris Tanev. Tanev took a bad spill into the boards during Sunday’s loss to Anaheim, and appeared to be in serious discomfort.

If he’s out for any length of time, it could be a problem.

The 26-year-old is one of Vancouver’s top blueliners and a valued defensive defenseman. He’s averaging over 20 minutes per night this year, and is coming off a campaign in which he scored 18 points in 69 games, while averaging a career-best 21:45 TOI per night.

Stecher, 22, could draw into the lineup for Tuesday’s home date against Ottawa as Tanev’s replacement, or the Canucks could give towering Russian rearguard Nikita Tryamkin his season debut.

Tryamkin, who appeared in 13 games for Vancouver last year, has yet to dress but also refused assignment to Utica (he has an out clause allowing him to return to the KHL rather than report to the minors.)

Update: General manager Jim Benning confirmed to Ben Kuzma of The Province that Burrows and Dorsett have been placed on injured reserve, and will be out a minimum of seven days.

Canucks’ Tryamkin refuses AHL assignment, would prefer to be a healthy scratch apparently

EDMONTON, AB - APRIL 6:  Connor McDavid #97 of the Edmonton Oilers battles against Nikita Tryamkin #88 of the Vancouver Canucks on April 6, 2016 at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. The game was the final game the Oilers played at Rexall Place before moving to Rogers Place next season. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)

The Vancouver Canucks have an interesting situation with big Russian defenseman Nikita Tryamkin. Six games into season, the 22-year-old defenseman has yet to get into the lineup, and he’s been brandishing the KHL out-clause in his contract by refusing an assignment to the AHL.

“There is no possibility that he will play in the American Hockey League,” GM Jim Benning said this weekend, per the Vancouver Sun. “We’ve explored that. We’ve talked to him and his agent and he has said no. In a perfect world, we’d like him to get some games (in the minors). But it is what it is. He is working hard in practice and doing extra work.”

Tryamkin was the 66th overall pick in the 2014 draft, an enticing project with size and strength, one who naturally drew comparisons to Zdeno Chara. He came to North America late last season, after his fourth KHL campaign with Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg had finished, and played 13 games (1G, 1A) for the Canucks down the (meaningless) stretch.

It remains to be seen when he’ll get into a game again. Chris Tanev got banged up Sunday in Anaheim and is questionable for tomorrow’s home date against Ottawa, but Tanev is more likely to be replaced by Alex Biega, who played as a forward against the Ducks.

Tryamkin, meanwhile, will likely have to sit and wait. Unless he gets bored enough to go to Utica, which is where the Canucks would like him anyway.

Per Cap Friendly, Tryamkin’s contract pays him $925,000 in the NHL versus $70,000 in the AHL. He can become a restricted free agent after the season is over, which would allow him to return to the KHL should he choose to do so.

The list of struggling netminders is a long one, as it’s been goals galore to start the season

Winnipeg Jets' Mark Scheifele (55) watches as Patrik Laine's game-tying goal goes past Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen (31) during the third period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016, in Winnipeg, Manitoba. (John Woods/The Canadian Press via AP)

In case you haven’t noticed, NHL goalies are having a real struggle to start the 2016-17 season. After 80 games, the average save percentage sits at just .903, per Hockey Reference.

To put that number in perspective, the last time a season finished with that low an average was 2000-01. The last couple of years, it’s been at .915, the highest save rate in league history. So don’t expect it to stay at .903 for long. Remember, the goalies’ equipment hasn’t really been altered yet.

With that in mind, here are five goalies that need to pull it together:

Brian Elliott: The most obvious candidate. He’s been extremely shaky for his new team in Calgary, going 0-3-0 with an .839 save rate. Another poor performance tonight in Chicago and head coach Glen Gulutzan may need to give Chad Johnson an opportunity to take the ball and run with it, because the Flames are already in a hole.

Frederik Andersen: Another goalie playing for a new team. He’s gone 1-0-3 for Toronto, with an .879 save percentage. The Maple Leafs had better hope this is just a blip, because they’re committed to Andersen through 2020-21 for a cap hit of $5 million.

Corey Crawford: This is an interesting one, because Crawford has mostly been ventilated on the penalty kill. His save percentage is a ridiculously low .615 while the ‘Hawks are shorthanded (10 goals allowed) and an impressive .966 at even strength (three goals). Overall, he’s 1-3-0 with an .886 save percentage, which needs to be higher one way or the other.

Eddie Lack/Cam Ward: Let’s count these two as one, because they both play for Carolina and they’re both having serious issues. After five Hurricanes games, Lack’s save percentage is just .857 (three starts), while Ward’s is somehow worse at .852 (two starts). It was a similar story last year, when Lack and Ward combined for the second-worst team save percentage in the NHL, so don’t feel obligated to act surprised.

Steve Mason/Michal Neuvirth: We’ll also count these guys as one, since they both play for Philadelphia and they’re both having a tough go. This scenario is different than Carolina’s, though, because Mason and Neuvirth were both excellent last season in helping the Flyers to an unexpected playoff berth. This season, Mason is 1-2-1 with an .882 save percentage, while Neuvirth is technically undefeated with a 1-0-0 record, but his save percentage is just .854 in two appearances.

So that’s seven struggling goalies. There are plenty of honorary mentions, including Anton Khudobin, Louis Domingue, Darcy Kuemper, Craig Anderson, John Gibson, Martin Jones, Jake Allen, and even Vezina Trophy finalist Ben Bishop, whose save percentage sits at a lowly .861.

PS — Henrik Lundqvist, Semyon Varlamov, and Marc-Andre Fleury haven’t been great either.