Pittsburgh Penguins v New Jersey Devils

Riding the Zamboni – Thursday, January 20th; Brodeur with a shutout, Sabres stun Boston

New Jersey 2 – Pittsburgh 0

We know that the Penguins came into this game a bit beat up. Without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, they looked like just a rather ordinary team and the last place Devils were happy to take advantage of that. Brian Rolston and Nick Palmieri’s first period goals were more than enough for Martin Brodeur. Brodeur made 23 saves on the way to a shutout win over the Penguins.

Philadelphia 6 – Ottawa 2

A blowout win by the Flyers erupted into fight night in Philadelphia  between these old school rivals. Mike Richards led the way with two goals and two assists for Philadelphia while Sergei Bobrovsky had 25 saves to lead the way for the win in goal. Things got ugly in the third period with the Senators well out of the game. Five fights broke out late in the third period and the game resembled a Flyers-Sens game of old. Still, for Ottawa the fights were at the least a moral victory in a game where Sens goalie Brian Elliott was flat out poor stopping just 16 of 22 shots. Mike Brodeur relieved him stopping the one shot he faced in the game. Chris Pronger had two assists and was a +1 in his first game back after a broken foot injury.

Buffalo 4 – Boston 2

After such impressive wins over Carolina in a home-and-home series, the Bruins were flat out outplayed by the Sabres tonight and Thomas Vanek had a big hand in that for Buffalo. Vanek had a goal and an assist to lead the way for Buffalo who are on fire of late and now just six points out of the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference. The one guy who might’ve stole the spotlight away from Vanek was goalie Ryan Miller. Miller saved 38 shots to earn the win for the Sabres who are now 7-2-1 in their last ten games.

Detroit 4 – St. Louis 3 (F/OT)

Detroit had a 3-0 lead at one point in this game with Jimmy Howard back in goal, but the Blues were able to bounce back and send the game to overtime. In the extra session, Darren Helm was able to finish the Blues off with an overtime goal to give the Wings the victory on the road. Howard made 26 saves to earn the win while Jaroslav Halak made 25 saves in the loss. Jiri Hudler was the sneak offensive star for Detroit with three assists while Valtteri Filppula had two helpers. Patrik Berglund continued his hot play of late with a goal and an assist for St. Louis.

Carolina 4 – NY Rangers 1

What a difference a day makes. On Wednesday, the Rangers were solving their offensive woes and whooping up on the Maple Leafs and the following night they’re getting shutdown by the Hurricanes in Raleigh. Cam Ward stopped 37 shots while four different players tallied goals for the win. Chad LaRose and Jeff Skinner each had a goal and an assist for the Hurricanes to lead the offense. Brandon Prust tallied the Rangers lone goal.

Washington 2 – NY Islanders 1

It may not be pretty. but it’s a win for the Caps. Nicklas Backstrom had a goal and an assist while Alex Ovechkin had two assists to give surprise starter Braden Holtby the 24-save victory over the Islanders. Michael Grabner scored the Isles only goal while Rick DiPietro saved 22 shots in the loss.

Nashville 5 – Colorado 1

David Legwand and Cody Franson each had a goal and an assist for the Predators while Pekka Rinne stopped 32 of 33 shots he saw to pace Nashville to victory. Kyle Cumiskey’s first game back from injury for Colorado didn’t go so hot as he finished with a -2 rating while Craig Anderson stopped just 23 shots in the loss. Nashville has won nine of their last 11 games.

Dallas 4 – Edmonton 2

The Stars continue to roll right along in the West. Jamie Benn and Adam Burish each had a goal and an assist to lead the Stars over Edmonton. Kari Lehtonen had 30 saves on the night to earn the victory. Edmonton’s Jeff Petry scored his first NHL goal while Nikolai Khabibulin saved just 20 shots in the loss.

Tampa Bay 3 – Atlanta 2 (F/SO)

A big win for Tampa Bay as they stayed one point ahead of Washington in the Southeast Division. Steve Stamkos ripped two more goals in regulation giving him 37 on the season. Dominic Moore scored the game-winner in the shootout for Tampa Bay. Dwayne Roloson made 27 saves in regulation for the win. Ondrej Pavelec made 29 saves in the skills competition loss. Niclas Bergfors and Anthony Stewart scored for the Thrashers.

Toronto 5 – Anaheim 2

A night after getting ripped 7-0 by the Rangers, the Leafs were able to put that behind them and earn Jean-Sebastien Giguere the win against his former team. Clarke MacArthur had a goal and two assists and Mikhail Grabovsky scored twice to lead the way for Toronto. Giguere saved 26 to earn the victory against the team that traded him last season. Jonas Hiller stopped 32 shots in the loss for the Ducks.

San Jose 2 – Vancouver 1 (F/SO)

It may have come in a shootout, but for the Sharks a win is a win just the same and just the thing they needed against the West-leading Canucks. Logan Couture had the Sharks lone goal in regulation while Joe Pavelski scored the winner in the shootout. Antti Niemi made 36 saves to get the win. Roberto Luongo was outstanding in the loss making 45 saves. Henrik Sedin had the lone regulation goal for Vancouver. The win is San Jose’s third in a row.

Phoenix 2 – Los Angeles 0

In what turned out to be a tight game, Ilya Bryzgalov was brilliant making 36 saves in earning his third shutout of the year. Martin Hanzal and Lee Stempniak each scored for Phoenix but it was Hanzal’s goal that has the Kings and their GM Dean Lombardi steaming mad as it was scored with an apparent high stick. Replay didn’t disallow it and the officials call on the ice stood. For the Kings their losing ways continue and Jon Quick’s 13-save night looks even uglier on paper because of it. The Kings have lost three in a row and 10 of their last 12 games as they continue to slip down the Western standings.

Keep your head up: Hurricanes reportedly hand Raffi Torres a PTO

VANCOUVER, CANADA - MAY 3:  Raffi Torres #13 of the San Jose Sharks celebrates after scoring the game-winning goal against the Vancouver Canucks for a 3-2 victory in overtime in Game Two of the Western Conference Quarterfinals of the 2013 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs, May 03, 2013 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.  (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
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From opting against fighting the NHL’s 41-game suspension to seeing his season derailed by knee issues, there was the feeling that the league had seen the last of controversial forward Raffi Torres.

Perhaps not.

The Carolina Hurricanes reportedly handed the 34-year-old a PTO, according to former Hurricanes defenseman Aaron Ward.

It’s something the Raleigh News & Observer’s Chip Alexander also mentioned on Monday.

With Bryan Bickell added to the mix during this off-season, the Hurricanes seem interesting in adding some beef. It’s unclear if Torres is really in the sort of condition to make a mark, but Carolina’s going to at least take a look at him.

Beware, pre-season opponents and training camp teammates.

Capitals bump Todd Reirden up to associate coach

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 10:  Assistant coach Todd Reirden of the Washington Capitals talks to the power play unit during a time-out against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Second Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Consol Energy Center on May 10, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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The Washington Capitals announced that Todd Reirden (pictured) was promoted from assistant to associate coach on Monday.

What does that mean, exactly? Well, most directly, the team shared word that he’ll run Capitals training camp while Barry Trotz works with Team Canada at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.

Giving Reirden a promotion makes sense, as he’s been linked to some head coaching searches. The Washington Post compiled some of his opportunities:

In the past two years, Reirden has been a serious candidate for two NHL head-coaching gigs. According to the Calgary Sun, Reirden was a finalist to coach the Flames before they settled on Glen Gulutzan, and he was considered for the New Jersey Devils’ vacancy last summer, too. Lane Lambert, another Capitals assistant, was a finalist for the Colorado Avalanche head-coaching job earlier this month, according to the Denver Post.

The Capitals have a pretty well-regarded coaching group, as many credit goaltending coach Mitch Korn with some of Braden Holtby‘s improvement since Trotz took over.

Maybe we’ll see Reirden and Lambert get head coaching gigs at some point, but for now, Trotz’s “coaching tree” stays intact.

Penguins believe Kessel, others can heal up by start of next season

SAN JOSE, CA - JUNE 12:  Phil Kessel #81 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates with the Stanley Cup after their 3-1 victory to win the Stanley Cup against the San Jose Sharks in Game Six of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final at SAP Center on June 12, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Going deep enough into the playoffs to win the Stanley Cup often comes with the cost of stacking up injuries, and the Pittsburgh Penguins paid the price.

As the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and others report, Phil Kessel (wrist) and others aren’t guaranteed to be healthy to start the 2016-17 regular season.

“All the injured guys are tracking in the right direction,” GM Jim Rutherford said. “Until they all get here, we won’t know 100 percent where they’re at, but it sounds like all the guys should be ready for camp.”

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review runs down a significant list of players who likely accrued bumps and bruises that may carry over:

Defenseman Trevor Daley, for instance, suffered a broken ankle on May 20. Kris Letang (foot), Nick Bonino (elbow infection), Bryan Rust (hand), Patric Hornqvist (hand) and Evgeni Malkin (elbow), among others, dealt with physical problems of varying severity at times.

If recent history is any indication, Kessel will probably fight hard not to miss time.

For all the weird criticisms he receives, he’s been remarkably durable, playing in every game during the past six seasons.

That’s impressive stuff, but the Penguins would be wise to keep an eye on the big picture. If it comes down to making Kessel and others swallow a little pride to limit the odds of aggravating injuries, they need to do it.

Even if it means a bumpy start to their title defense.

Win now, worry later: Why the Lightning should go all-in

CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 08:  Ben Bishop #30 celebrates with Andrei Vasilevskiy #88 of the Tampa Bay Lightning after defeating the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2 in Game Three of the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Final at the United Center on June 8, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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This is part of Lightning day at PHT …

The Chicago Blackhawks employed some great teams in winning three championships so far during the Jonathan ToewsPatrick Kane era, but there was something special about that first group.

For one thing, Toews and Kane were playing out the final years of their entry-level contracts. Those CBA-powered savings gave the Blackhawks a surplus of players who would eventually be too expensive to retain, most notably Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd and Brian Campbell.

That fantastic group never faced elimination during an overpowering run to the 2010 Stanley Cup.

Thanks to deft maneuvering by GM Stan Bowman, the Blackhawks were able to reload and put together other strong supporting casts even after big losses, and that could be a profound lesson for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

It might be tempting for the Bolts to merely keep their window open as long as possible. Instead, they should take a big swing in 2016-17 and then trust management to recover from any fallout.

Bishop’s expiring contract

The safe move would be to trade away some of the expiring contracts on Tampa Bay’s roster instead of risking getting nothing when they leave.

Many believe that Ben Bishop is on his way out. With one year left on a contract that carries about a $6 million cap hit and Andrei Vasilevskiy getting the Jake Allen-style “you’re the man” extension, it seems like a matter of time.

Keeping Bishop around for one more season might just pay off, though.

For one thing, Vasilevskiy’s shown signs of brilliance, yet his current NHL numbers aren’t overwhelmingly strong. Bishop, meanwhile, kept the Bolts afloat during some tough times in 2015-16.

Even if the Lightning feel like Vasy is the guy, what if he gets hurt? They’ve already seen goalies get injured at inopportune times, and the reigning champion Penguins provide another reminder.

(For more on the Bishop situation, click here.)

Win low, worry later

GM Steve Yzerman deserves ample credit for signing Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman to relative bargain deals, but those are still expensive contracts. The squeeze is coming.

That said, the Lightning may want to identify their own Byfugliens and Ladds and go for broke in 2016-17. Let’s not forget how close they were to a second consecutive Stanley Cup Final appearance even with Stamkos on the shelf.

It’s tough to imagine the Bolts managing to keep all of Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Jonathan Drouin. On the other hand, it’s difficult to imagine many opponents managing to contain an attack that features Stamkos, Johnson, Palat, Drouin and other dangerous attackers.

(Plus, another year of evaluation would give Yzerman time to determine who is truly a core member.)

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It’s a challenging situation, but the Lightning easily rank alongside the Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals and maybe a few other select teams as the cream of the East crop.

They’re positioned to jostle with the elites for some time, but why not take their best shot in 2016-17 and then make the best of things later on?

Sometimes the difference between really good and truly great comes down to having the courage to make these tough calls.