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.

Holtby ‘wasn’t as sharp as he can be,’ says Trotz

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Presidents’ Trophy winners once again in the regular season, the Capitals once again face an uphill climb if they are to advance beyond the rival Penguins and the second round of the playoffs.

What began with a strong first period for the Capitals in Game 2, albeit without a reward on the score board, faded into a frustrating 6-2 rout, as the Penguins took a commanding 2-0 series lead as it shifts back to Pittsburgh for a pivotal Game 3 on Monday.

Braden Holtby was pulled after the second period. He gave up three goals on 14 shots, while his opponent at the other end, Marc-Andre Fleury was brilliant with 34 saves.

“He’ll tell you that he can be better. He’s a straight up guy and he will be. I was just trying to change the mojo,” said Capitals coach Barry Trotz of his decision to sit Holtby.

“I thought some of the goals, he wasn’t as sharp as he can be for us. He’s a game-changer for us. So when he didn’t change the game, I just looked to change the mojo a little bit there. That’s all. Braden’s our backbone. He has been all year. We’ve got to find some goals for him, too. We can’t just put it on Braden Holtby.”

Now in a deep but not insurmountable hole against the defending Stanley Cup champs, the Capitals reportedly held a players’ only meeting following this latest defeat.

After failing to open the scoring in an otherwise dominant first period, Washington surrendered three goals in the second, as the Penguins broke it wide open with their transition game, led by two great plays from Sidney Crosby.

“We can’t get frustrated. I think that would be our biggest mistake is to get frustrated right now,” said T.J. Oshie, before expanding on the meeting between the players.

“It was things that people need to say and things that some people need to hear. We were very together with what we said. I don’t need to go into details. Sometimes in our game … you need to hear from your teammates more than your coach. And tonight was one of those nights.

“It was the players in here and what was said is what needed to be said.”

We’ll find out Monday if what was said actually has any impact on the ice.

Penguins rout Capitals to take commanding series lead

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The Washington Capitals are in trouble. Against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Again.

Despite a dominant first period, at least in terms of shots on Marc-Andre Fleury and puck possession, the Capitals saw this game go sideways in a hurry during the second period, on the way to a 6-2 loss to the Penguins in Game 2.

Washington is now in quite a hole, trailing its nemesis 2-0 in this second-round series.

Last year, Matt Murray stymied the Capitals. Though it’s only been two games this year, Fleury has stepped up in the absence of the injured Murray and given the Penguins solid goaltending and frustrated a dangerous Capitals lineup.

After withstanding the storm of pressure from the Capitals in the first period, the Penguins broke this game open with a trio of second-period goals. It started with a shorthanded goal from Matt Cullen, and later continued with a beautiful goal from Phil Kessel and then Jake Guentzel‘s sixth goal of these playoffs.

That led Barry Trotz to take Braden Holtby out of the game, after he gave up three goals on 14 shots, putting in Phillip Grubauer to begin the third period. The Penguins continued the onslaught.

For the Penguins, there are some injury concerns to keep an eye on.

Patric Hornqvist left the game in the first period after blocking a shot around his foot or ankle. He didn’t return. Ron Hainsey had to go to the locker room late in the third period after taking an Alex Ovechkin shot up around the head.

Game 3 goes Monday in Pittsburgh.

‘I wasn’t good enough,’ says Lundqvist after double OT loss to Senators

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The task wasn’t impossible, but certainly daunting.

The Ottawa Senators needed five goals on Henrik Lundqvist just to send Game 2 into overtime.

The Rangers goalie had been spectacular for most of this post-season entering Saturday’s contest, but the Senators, led by a sensational four-goal performance from Jean-Gabriel Pageau, found a way to break through for a 6-5 double overtime win to take a 2-0 series lead against New York.

They did so on just 34 shots through almost 83 minutes against Lundqvist.

“I wasn’t good enough,” said Lundqvist, per the New York Daily News. “Coming up with the extra save there in the end, that’s my job. Even though it’s tough plays on deflections, I’ve got to find a way.”

On three occasions, the Rangers held a two-goal lead. That includes with under five minutes remaining in regulation. They even had a pair of shorthanded goals. But they couldn’t hang on, as Pageau scored twice in the final 3:19 of regulation to record his hat trick.

That set the stage for the eventual winner, as he beat Lundqvist over the left shoulder with a shot from his off-wing on a two-on-one rush.

With the Senators in control, the series returns to New York for Game 3 on Tuesday and Game 4 on Thursday.

“We played well enough to win this game, there’s no question about it,” said Lundqvist. “It’s really tough to lose this one. Clearly they’ve gotten the bounces here in the first two games.”

Capitals’ Holtby begins third period on the bench, Grubauer takes over in net

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Braden Holtby began the third period of Saturday’s Game 2 on the bench, giving way to Philipp Grubauer.

The Washington Capitals fell behind the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 after two periods, with Holtby allowing three goals on just 14 shots. It will be interesting to hear the reason for this decision from coach Barry Trotz following the game.

The Capitals had dominated on the shot clock, but gave up a pair of quick goals to fall further behind Pittsburgh in this game, while trailing in the series 1-0.

Phil Kessel — on a great play from Sidney Crosby — and Jake Guentzel scored 3:10 apart to give Pittsburgh a two-goal lead.