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Around the Rink – Thursday, January 20th

There’s 12 games on the slate tonight, so let’s take a quick look at them. All start times are Eastern Standard Time (ET) as usual.

7:00 pm

Tampa Bay @ Atlanta

Both teams are trying to hold off different Southeast Division rivals with a win tonight; the Lightning hope to maintain their lead over the Capitals for the division lead while the Thrashers are trying to stay ahead of the Hurricanes for a playoff spot.

Ottawa @ Philadelphia

The Senators have been floundering lately (1-6-3 in their last 10). Playing the best team in the East isn’t exactly the best way to fix that problem, either.

NY Rangers @ Carolina

The injury-depleted Rangers take on a  Hurricanes club that was making a move up the standings into playoff contention, but is now on a two game losing streak.

Washington @ NY Islanders

This looks like a mismatch on paper, yet it’s closer when you consider the fact that the Caps are average on the road (9-9-3) while the Isles are moderately competitive at home (8-9-4).

Pittsburgh @ New Jersey

Speaking of tougher matches in context, the Penguins visit Newark without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin tonight. Should make for a more interesting game.

Buffalo @ Boston

While the Sabres hope to scrape their way to a playoff spot, the Bruins have a chance to solidify their Northeast Division lead over the wounded Canadiens.

Anaheim @ Toronto

Pick your goalie-based storyline: it’s either J.S. Giguere vs. his old team or Jonas (Hiller) vs. Jonas (Gustavsson). Unless the Ducks start Curtis McElhinney instead.

8:00 pm

Detroit @ St. Louis

The fact that this game will take place in St. Louis should make this Central Division match more competitive. Both teams are battered and bruised, too, so at least that makes it reasonably fair.

9:00 pm

Nashville @ Colorado

The Predators and Avs are both currently in the top eight in the West (Nashville at 56 points and Colorado at 54), but every game counts right now.

Dallas @ Edmonton

Remember when these two teams used to battle it out in the playoffs during the mid to late ’90s? If the Oilers trajectory continues upward and the Stars hold onto Brad Richards, they might be back there again soon.

10:00 pm

San Jose @ Vancouver

It’s a game between arguably the best team in the NHL (the Canucks) versus one of its most disappointing teams (the Sharks). Chances are solid that it could still be a solid game considering all the talent that will be on the ice.

10:30 pm

Phoenix @ Los Angeles

The Coyotes are slipping a bit, but the Kings are free-falling. Perhaps Los Angeles can get things back together by beating their division rivals at home?

Hitch’s recipe for more goals is a pretty simple one

Ken Hitchcock, David Backes, Dmitrij Jaskin, Paul Stastny, Patrik Berglund
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Ken Hitchcock wants the Blues to spend more time attacking and less time defending.

Because hockey isn’t rocket science, that’s why.

“To score and win games in the National Hockey League…you have to spend as much time in the offensive zone as you can,” Hitchcock told the Post-Dispatch.

“When you’re occupying the offensive zone more, you’re forechecking more. When you’re occupying the offensive zone more, the goalie has to make saves. They’re having to defend more. And the opposing team takes penalties on you. So they’re all connected. … What I want to see from us is staying on the puck for longer stretches.”

According to the stats, the Blues have not been spending as much time in the offensive zone as we’re used to seeing from them. In fact, in their last 20 games, they rank in the bottom third of the league in score-adjusted Corsi. That compares to their first 20 games when they were in the top third.

The result is fewer shots, and more importantly, fewer goals. The Blues have fallen all the way to 25th in offense, averaging just 2.37 goals per game. Last year, they finished fifth (2.91).

Yes, some of that may be due to the absence of Jaden Schwartz, and he should be back soon. But there’s a reason people are watching GM Doug Armstrong as the Feb. 29 trade deadline approaches. This team could probably use another piece up front.

The Blues host Minnesota Saturday.

St. Louis has scored just five goals in its last five games.

Goalie nods: Lindback ‘really excited’ for first start in almost three weeks

Anders Lindback
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Tonight in Anaheim, Anders Lindback will make his first start for the Arizona Coyotes since Jan. 16.

The Coyotes have been riding rookie Louis Domingue since just before Christmas, but Domingue has allowed five goals in each of his last three starts, including last night’s 5-4 loss to Chicago.

Lindback’s last appearance came Tuesday in relief, when he allowed one goal on 10 shots in a 6-2 loss to the Kings.

Lindback was in goal for one of Arizona’s three victories this season over Anaheim, stopping 33 of 36 shots in a 4-3 overtime win on Nov. 9. However, his .896 save percentage ranks among the lowest in the league.

Frederik Andersen is expected to start for the Ducks.

Elsewhere…

— No word yet on a Penguins starter in Tampa, but Ben Bishop will go for the Bolts.

Cam Ward will start for the Hurricanes in Winnipeg, where Connor Hellebuyck is expected for the increasingly desperate Jets.

— Joonas Korpisalo was solid last night in Vancouver, but the Blue Jackets have not announced their starter for tonight’s game in Calgary. Karri Ramo will be in goal for the Flames.

A ‘pretty solid two-way player,’ Sundqvist to make NHL debut for Penguins

Pittsburgh Penguins' Oskar Sundqvist (49) collides with Minnesota Wild's Jason Zucker (16) in the first period of a NHL preseason hockey game in Pittsburgh, Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
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The latest Penguins injuries, these ones to Evgeni Malkin and Eric Fehr, have led to an opportunity for Oskar Sundqvist.

Sundqvist will make his NHL debut for the Penguins tonight in Tampa. The 21-year-old center has five goals and 11 assists in 39 AHL games this season.

“Sunny’s a pretty solid two-way player,” coach Mike Sullivan said, per the Tribune-Review.

“I don’t think he’s going to dazzle you with flashy plays, but I think he’s a guy who plays the game the right way. He’s hard to play against because of his size. He’s got a long reach, and he’s got a good stick.”

Sundqvist was selected 81st overall by the Pens in 2012. He’ll become the fourth player out of that Pittsburgh draft class to make his NHL debut, after Olli Maatta, Derrick Pouliot, and Matt Murray.

Veteran Matt Cullen will replace Malkin on the second line, skating with wingers Carl Hagelin and Phil Kessel.

Related: Nick Bonino out ‘at least a month’ with hand injury

John Scott’s wife gives birth to twin girls

Pacific Division forward John Scott looks into the stands during the NHL hockey All-Star championship game against the Atlantic Division Sunday, Jan. 31, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. The Pacific Division won 1-0 and Scott was named most valuable player. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
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As if John Scott wasn’t already having a great week, now he’s the proud father of twin girls.

The Montreal Canadiens shared the good news via their Twitter account today.

Scott, the unlikely 2016 All-Star Game MVP, is currently back home in Michigan; however, he’s expected to resume his career at some point with Montreal’s AHL affiliate in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

When, exactly, he suits up for the IceCaps remains to be seen, but it won’t be tonight or tomorrow.

Related: Therrien on Canadiens possibly recalling John Scott: ‘You never know’