Around the rink – Monday, January 17th

It’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in America and that means we’ll get some afternoon hockey to soak in on our day off from work. Here’s today’s rundown of games with all times being Eastern.

1:00 p.m.

Carolina @ Boston

It’s the front end of a home-and-home series between these two and the Hurricanes come in winners of four of their last five. Don’t look now but Carolina is just seven points behind Tampa Bay in the Southeast Division and one point behind Atlanta for the eighth spot in the East. All-Stars Eric Staal and Cam Ward are most responsible for the Hurricanes rise in the standings but dealing with the Bruins won’t be east. The B’s are coming off a tough loss on Saturday to Pittsburgh and will be itchy for redemption.

New Jersey @ NY Islanders

All right, so every game on the schedule isn’t a gem but the Islanders with Rick DiPietro back in goal are a much better team than they are without him. DiPietro is on a four-game win streak that had a five-game injury layoff in there to break things up after beating Buffalo on Saturday. For the Isles winning four in a row at all is outstanding regardless of the stretch of time. The Devils are looking to shake off a disappointing overtime loss to Florida on Saturday. These are the two worst teams in the Eastern Conference and as it is, the Isles are still eight points in front of New Jersey.

4:00 p.m.

San Jose @ Phoenix

San Jose snapped their losing skid on Saturday but beating divisional foe Phoenix would be a heck of a way to get into a groove. The good news for the Sharks is that their big guns all woke up against St. Louis with Dany Heatley getting two goals and Patrick Marleau helping out. Beating Phoenix will be a bit more difficult, however, as they come into the game winners of four in a row and scoring nearly five goals per game during that stretch. If the Sharks goaltending doesn’t tighten it up or the offense doesn’t return again, it could be back to the basement time for San Jose.

7:30 p.m.

Calgary @ Montreal

The Flames head into Montreal winners of two in a row after beating the Leafs in a lackluster shootout 2-1 on Saturday. The good news for Calgary is that both Henrik Karlsson and Miikka Kiprusoff did a good job of keeping opponents off the board in those two wins. The bad news is that their offense wasn’t really clicking and now they’ll have to deal with Carey Price. The Habs have won four of their last five and are fourth in the league in goals allowed. Times might be tough for the Flames tonight.

Atlanta @ Florida

Atlanta could sure use a win in this one. They’ve lost four in a row and nine of their last 12 games. What’s causing the problems? Poor defense and goaltending. Over those 12 games, the Thrashers have given up an average of 4.25 goals per game. It’s tough to keep up with anyone when you’re giving up that many goals per game and the consistent wear Ondrej Pavelec has had to take playing the majority of those games is showing. Sadly for him, Chris Mason is banged up and getting a break now might not be in the cards. Meanwhile, the Panthers are playing tough winning three in a row. The goaltending situation there is a bit different as it’s Scott Clemmensen getting it done of late instead of Tomas Vokoun. The Panthers will take the wins how they can get them as they’re seven points behind Atlanta in the Southeast.

8:30 p.m.

Los Angeles @ Dallas

The Kings will have to do without Wayne Simmonds who’s out with a knee injury suffered against Edmonton on Saturday night and having to deal with a Stars team that plays rugged won’t help matters. The Stars, despite everyone’s predictions, continue to rule the roost in the Pacific Division and they come into this one winners of three in a row and preventing goals all the way giving up just three goals in those three games. If the Kings are serious about getting back into the playoff hunt, knocking off Dallas would be a solid way to send that message that they’re not about to go away anytime soon.

Draft lottery move could be a big turning point for Flyers

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Even though the Philadelphia Flyers did not win the top overall pick in the 2017 NHL draft on Saturday night, they were still probably the biggest winner of the day when they moved up to the No. 2 overall pick after starting at No. 13.

That means they will have an opportunity to come away with one of the top-two prospects in this year’s class, whether it be Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier.

For a team that has missed the playoffs in three of the past five seasons and hasn’t advanced beyond the first-round since 2012, it is a nice change in fortune.

General manager Ron Hextall was feeling pretty good about it on Saturday.

“We had a lot of bad luck this year,” said Hextall, via CSN Philly. “I’m hoping this is a turning point for some of that to be turned around. This is a big point for our franchise. We’re obviously going to get a very good player and hopefully in years, we’ll look back on this as a turning point for us.”

There is every reason to believe that it can be.

First, the Flyers are not your typical team picking at the very top of the draft that is full of holes and is basically starting over from scratch. This is a team that was in the playoffs a year ago and was at least in contention for a spot this year until the final month of the season. They already have established core players in place (Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier) and some promising young talent just starting to break into the league (Shayne Gostisbehere, Ivan Provorov, Travis Konecny). Adding a top-two pick to that is going to be a massive addition.

Keep in mind that other than the 2007-08 Detroit Red Wings, every Stanley Cup winner in the salary cap era has had at least one top-two pick in the NHL draft on its roster.

Those high draft picks are the best way to land impact players in the NHL, and given how rarely they get traded and how they are almost never available in free agency, it is often times the only way to land them.

Now the Flyers have an opportunity to get one when they probably weren’t expecting it.

2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule for Sunday, April 30

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The second-round continues on Sunday afternoon with another doubleheader of games on the NBC Networks.

All of the action starts at 3:00 p.m. ET when the Nashville Predators return home to host the St. Louis Blues in Game 3 of their series and look to rebound from their first loss of the postsesaon.

Then, at 7:00 p.m. ET, the Edmonton Oilers return home to what should be a frenzied crowd as they try to take a commanding 3-0 series lead on the Anaheim Ducks.

Here is all of the information you need for Sunday’s games.

Nashville Predators vs. St. Louis Blues

Time: 3:00 p.m. ET

Network: NBC (Stream Online Here)

Announcers: Kenny Albert, Pierre McGuire

Anaheim Ducks vs. Edmonton Oilers

Time: 7:00 p.m. ET

Network: NBCSN (Stream Online Here)

Announcers: Chris Cuthbert, Joe Micheletti

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.