Around the rink – Saturday, January 15th

1:00 p.m.

Pittsburgh @ Boston

No Sidney Crosby for Pittsburgh this afternoon and that might sting a bit more dealing with a Boston team that’s coming off an inspiring win over Philadelphia and winners of three straight as is. Pittsburgh has been playing a tougher brand of hockey this year and a meeting with the bruising Bruins sets up for a rough game. The Bruins got their three game win streak started on Monday by beating the Pens at CONSOL in comeback fashion. No doubt that the Pens would like a bit of payback for that.

7:00 p.m.

Calgary @ Toronto

We know it’s Hockey Night In Canada, but this one’s set up to be a bit of a letdown. The Flames are playing the second of back-to-back road games and the Leafs are coming home after a five-game road trip and a 5-1 loss to Phoenix. The Leafs will get Jean-Sebastian Giguere back to their lineup but that might be the worst news of all as the recently sent down James Reimer has been the guy responsible for the Leafs recent four-game win streak. What might help out the Leafs is facing a slumping Miikka Kiprusoff for Calgary.

NY Rangers @ Montreal

The Rangers are coming off a big win over Vancouver and would like nothing more than to put one over on the Habs, who they lost to earlier this week. Montreal is coming off a bad loss to Pittsburgh but have been playing solid of late. Taking the Rangers down on home ice would be a good way to get back on the horse. Both teams could use a shot in the arm offensively as they’ve been routinely scoring three or fewer goals.

Buffalo @ NY Islanders

If the Sabres are serious about getting back into the playoff hunt, beating the Islanders has to be seen as a must. Getting Thomas Vanek back out on the ice and boosting the offense will help but getting a big night from Ryan Miller would be better. He’s been playing a little better of late, but to say he might be a bit hungover from how busy he was last year with the regular season, Olympics, and playoffs might be true. For the Islanders they’ll be looking to snap a three-game losing skid. This is the first of three meetings between these two teams over the next eight days.

Tampa Bay @ Carolina

For the Lightning’s sake, we’re hoping they’ve put their stink bomb of a game against New Jersey last night out of their mind. Facing off with a tough Carolina team might not make for the best follow up game for Tampa Bay. Carolina’s won three of their last four but are coming off a tough loss to Buffalo on Thursday. Tampa Bay is hanging on to a perilous lead in the Southeast division and getting a win tonight would put some space between themselves and Washington.

New Jersey @ Florida

The Devils have won two in a row with both wins coming against the Lightning. Weird, we know but they’ll hope their good fortune can continue against the other team in Florida. The Panthers are on a two-game win streak with wins coming against the Caps and Predators but with different goalies earning the wins in each. Will Scott Clemmensen get the nod against his former team, and second straight start, to keep the good mojo going? It might happen. The Devils will have to prove they can score goals against teams other than the Lightning for now.

Columbus @ Detroit

We’re hoping the healthy skaters for Detroit were wrapped in newspaper and Styrofoam on the flight from Columbus back to Detroit overnight lest they get anyone else injured before the back end of their home-and-home series with the Blue Jackets. They’ll be without Jimmy Howard tonight for sure meaning that Joey MacDonald or rookie Thomas McCollum will get the nod in goal. The Jackets, meanwhile, want to keep the good times rolling after snapping their five-game losing skid last night. Perhaps playing each night for charity might not be the worst idea.

8:00 p.m.

Chicago @ Nashville

All of a sudden, this game becomes a pretty intriguing one on tonight’s schedule. With both teams playing great of late, Corey Crawford having two straight shutouts, and the Wings being loaded with injury problems, the Central Division battle got way more interesting. If the Predators can solve Crawford, they’ll be in business. Keeping the Hawks off the board might be the perplexing battle for Nashville as it’s been their role players doing the dirty work of late.

Atlanta @ Dallas

It doesn’t get any easier for the Thrashers. After a tough loss to Philly last night, they head to Dallas to take on the first place Stars where former #1 draft pick goalie Kari Lehtonen awaits to show the Thrashers what they gave up on. The Thrashers are having a rough go of late and dealing with a feisty Stars attack won’t help matters any.

Anaheim @ Phoenix

OK raise your hand if you thought this game would be a battle for second place in the Pacific Division in mid January. That’s right, no hands raised at all. It is a battle for second and both teams are playing some pretty tough hockey. The Ducks have the streaking Bobby Ryan leading the way for them along with the disturbingly steady Corey Perry. Both teams are hoping to keep up with the Stars in the division. Our hope for this one is that Twitter superstar Paul Bissonette gets a chance to drop the gloves once again with mustachioed fan favorite George Parros.

10:00 p.m.

Edmonton @ Los Angeles

The Oilers were able to make fans in San Jose push the panic button on Thursday night beating the Sharks. Beating the Kings tonight might cause the same thing to happen in L.A. with the Kings having lost seven of their last eight games and fans getting impatient with both coach Terry Murray and GM Dean Lombardi seemingly not doing much to help the team improve. You feel like a shakeup is coming in L.A. and a loss to the Oilers might put things into motion.

10:30 p.m.

St. Louis @ San Jose

The Blues are coming off a strong win over the Kings while the Sharks are plummeting in the Pacific losers of six in a row and playing ugly hockey on top of it all. For a team that was at the top of the Western Conference last year, this downturn is stunning. For the Blues, they want to keep the positives going as their win over L.A. was their first in six games. If they can kick a Sharks team while it’s down, they’ll be able to go back home with their heads held high while keeping pace in the Central Division.

Kyle Connor expected to be healthy scratch for Jets

WINNIPEG, MANITOBA - OCTOBER 23:  Goalie Cam Talbot #33 of the Edmonton Oilers pushes Kyle Connor #81 of the Winnipeg Jets  during the 2016 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic hockey game on October 23, 2016 at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Photo by Jason Halstead /Getty Images)
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Jets rookie Kyle Connor played just 10:09 in Sunday’s outdoor loss to the Oilers, and tonight in Dallas it appears he’ll be a healthy scratch for the first time in his NHL career.

Connor was not among the 12 Winnipeg forwards taking line rushes this morning. The 19-year-old has just one assist in his first five games as a Jet. He’s a minus-5 and has also struggled in terms of possession, as evidenced by his 38 percent Corsi.

The 17th overall pick in the 2015 draft, Connor spent one year at the University of Michigan before leaving school to turn pro. He’s eligible to be sent to the AHL this season, something the Jets are no doubt considering.

Winnipeg has a number of potential call-ups on its farm club, including Marko Dano, Quinton Howden, Andrew Copp, Nicolas Petan, and Jack Roslovic.

Babcock’s had his fill of goalie questions, thanks

SUNRISE, FL - JUNE 26:  Head coach Mike Babcock of the Toronto Maple Leafs looks on prior to the first round of the 2015 NHL Draft at BB&T Center on June 26, 2015 in Sunrise, Florida.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Mike Babcock is aware Toronto’s goaltending hasn’t been good this season.

He’s also aware that Toronto’s goaltending hasn’t been good the last few seasons.

Thing is, he doesn’t want to talk about it.

“It’s five games in, isn’t it?” Babcock replied on Tuesday, when asked about the Leafs’ shaky netminding so far, specifically the play of Frederik Andersen. “Let’s just take a deep breath here.”

And here’s a transcript of what followed (courtesy Sportsnet)!

Reporter: The guy on Saturday night said the Leafs goaltending has been lousy this year.

Babcock: Who did?

Reporter: The guy on Saturday night — Don Cherry.

Babcock: Oh, OK. Well now that I know where I’m getting my facts from, here we go. Come on. Let’s move on. What’s next here? Holy [expletive].

Reporter: No, but seriously, it’s been an issue for this market probably since Ed Belfour left, and I’m wondering if there’s anything to that.

Babcock: But I’m not dealing with that. This is what I would tell you. We think we have a really good goaltender. At the World Cup I had three outstanding goaltenders, and they all talked about how much time it usually takes to get ready.

Our guy didn’t have that opportunity because of his injury. We’re real comfortable with him. Do we think he’s played as good as he’s capable of playing? No. Do we think he’s going to? Yes.

Babcock’s right to suggest it’s too early to start grading Andersen. First, there’s the adjustment from playing behind a good team in a small market (Anaheim) to playing behind a “growing team” in a massive, pressure-packed market like Toronto.

There’s also the additional pressure that came with Andersen’s acquisition price (a first- and second-round pick) and his subsequent contract extension (five years, $25 million).

The injury suffered playing for Denmark in Olympic qualifying was definitely a setback, as there’s no doubt some games for Team Europe at the World Cup of Hockey would’ve better prepared Andersen for the season.

Still, it’s hard to look at his numbers — 1-0-3, .879 save percentage, 3.63 GAA — and not be at least a little concerned.

Unless you’re Mike Babcock, that is.

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

Elliott gets the start in return to St. Louis

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 24: Matt Stajan #18 and Lance Bouma #17 of the Calgary Flames congratulate Brian Elliott #1 after a shootout win against the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center on October 24, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The Flames defeated the Blachawks 3-2 in a shootout. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Brian Elliott will be in Calgary’s crease against his old team tonight in St. Louis.

Even though Elliott played last night in Chicago, it was an easy decision for Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan. Elliott had easily his best game of the season against the Blackhawks, stopping 31 of 33 shots in a 3-2 shootout victory. The 31-year-old turned away all seven Chicago shooters in the breakaway competition, helping the Flames to just their second win of the young season.

“I definitely wanted that one,” Elliott told reporters afterwards. “We haven’t been playing like we wanted to and the guys came out and had a heck of an effort.”

Elliott started 164 games for the Blues during his five years in St. Louis. Last season, he backstopped them to their first conference final since 2001. He was then traded to Calgary in June, paving the way for Jake Allen to become the full-time starter in St. Louis.

Related: The list of struggling goalies is a long one

Crosby on track to make season debut tonight

NEWARK, NJ - JANUARY 30: Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins waits for a face-off against the 
New Jersey Devils during the third period at the Prudential Center on January 30, 2015 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images)
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Yesterday, Sidney Crosby participated in a full-contact practice.

Today, it appears he’ll make his season debut when the Penguins host the Panthers tonight in Pittsburgh.

“He had a strong practice this morning,” head coach Mike Sullivan said, per the club. “Everything is pointing in the right direction. If he’s comfortable, he could play.”

Crosby has missed just six games due to the concussion he sustained during practice on Oct. 7. Given his history with concussions, if he plays tonight, it has to be considered a best-case scenario. Certainly, there had been fear he could be out much longer.

For the record, Crosby told reporters he’ll be a game-time decision.