Let’s take a look at tonight’s nine games. As always, start times are Eastern Standard Time (ET).
Carolina @ NY Islanders
The Hurricanes are just one point out of the eighth spot with two less games played than their division rivals the Thrashers. The Islanders have been reasonably competitive lately, although the results have been just about the same (3-7-1 in their last 11 games).
Washington @ Atlanta
Things are looking shaky for both of these Southeast Division teams: Washington is trying to catch up to the Lightning while the Thrashers are in a tough spot to hold off the Hurricanes for a playoff spot. It’s a big one for both teams.
Florida @ Boston
The Bruins look to sweep their season series against the Panthers in this game while they also try to strengthen their limited lead in the Northeast Division tonight. Florida’s just trying to get back into the fold.
Edmonton @ Dallas
After going 7-0-1 in their last eight games, the Stars have allowed seven goals in each of their last two losses. Dallas has a chance to go into the All-Star Game on a good foot by beating the lowly Oilers.
New Jersey @ Detroit
The Devils are suddenly red-hot going into the All-Star break, but the Red Wings are going to make it tough for New Jersey to earn their fifth win a row.
Phoenix @ Colorado
This is a match between two solid but up-and-down teams who are currently in the West’s top eight but must scratch and claw to remain in that position.
Nashville @ Vancouver
Despite a Monday loss, the Predators are among the league’s hottest teams, with 10 wins in their last 13 games. They’ll need to play their best hockey as they visit the Canucks, the best team in the West.
St. Louis @ Calgary
The Flames are moving up the West standings while the Blues are quickly dropping out of the picture, but they’re both in about the same spot at this moment of time. It should be interesting to watch.
San Jose @ Los Angeles
This battle of California involves two teams that are currently out of the playoff picture, although both are looking better (the Sharks are on a four-game winning streak while the Kings won two in a row). Yet only one of the two can go into the break with a smile on their faces.
As per multiple reports, Aaron Ekblad practiced with his Florida Panthers teammates Thursday.
Good news. That marks another step in the progress he’s made from a neck injury — initially reported to be a concussion — suffered on a hit from Leo Komarov that ultimately ended the defenseman’s experience for Team North America at the World Cup of Hockey.
On Thursday, Ekblad told reporters the injury was actually whiplash.
The 20-year-old Ekblad has had a history of concussions, including one from a Hockey Canada camp in August, 2014 — almost two full months after the Panthers selected him first overall.
He was injured again in January of last season when Matt Hendricks caught him with a dangerous hit against the end boards, resulting in a suspension for Hendricks.
Despite supplemental discipline from the league on that specific incident involving Hendricks, Ekblad, a valuable part of a young Panthers team that has increased expectations surrounding it, put the onus on himself to be more aware on the ice.
“When I think about it in the Edmonton game last year, there were a couple of big hits on their guys. I should have expected to someone was going to come after me,” Ekblad told NHL.com.
“Obviously you don’t think that. You think there’s a little bit more respect among players out there. I turned, I saw him. I didn’t think he was going to drive my head into the glass. The Komarov hit there, he got me on the shoulder, not much on the head or anything like that. It was more of the whiplash effect. Again, I’ve got to be more aware. You train your body, you train your brain to do that kind of thing. I do a lot of eye exercises and stuff like that. We’re working on that right now and just trying to be a better hockey player that way.”
The Panthers have a preseason game with the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight. Ekblad is not in the lineup.
The Dallas Stars have added another defenseman to their group of prospects.
On Thursday, the club signed 18-year-old Czech blue liner Ondrej Vala to a three-year entry-level contract. Vala is currently playing for the Kamloops Blazers in the Western Hockey League. He had four goals and 21 points in 72 games last season — his first with the Blazers.
Having represented the Czech Republic at U-17 and U-18 international events and played for the Stars prospects team at the Traverse City Tournament, Vala is also listed at six-foot-four-inches tall and 209 pounds.
He certainly brings size on the blue line, which is a quality the Stars appear to value in him.
“Ondrej has shown a combination of size and physicality along with the ability to play a defensively responsible game at the junior hockey level,” said Stars GM Jim Nill in a statement.
Another — yes, another — blow for Dallas as Janmark spotted on crutches
The Washington Capitals have sent prospect defenseman Lucas Johansen, selected 28th overall in this year’s NHL Draft, back to the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League.
From the Kelowna Capital News:
The Kelowna Rockets have yet to play a regular season game with a full lineup.
That will change this weekend in Prince George when defenceman Lucas Johansen and forward Calvin Thurkauf rejoin their WHL club for a two-game set against the Cougars.
Johansen, a first-round NHL draft pick this summer, is back from the camp of the Washington Capitals, while Thurkauf returns from the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Capitals confirmed the news via Twitter.
Johansen, the younger brother of NHL center Ryan Johansen, appeared in Monday’s exhibition game for the Capitals, apparently leaving a positive impression on the coaching staff.
Still, Johansen doesn’t turn 19 years old until the middle of November. He also has some growing left to do at six-foot-one-inch tall and just 174 pounds, so sending him back to junior is the logical step.
“For a first game, to have that kind of poise playing defense, you don’t see it very often,” Capitals’ associate coach Todd Reirden told the Washington Post.
“So, it’s fun to watch, how he goes about the game. Certainly, I think it’s helped growing up in the family that he has and being around some of the players he’s practiced with. I think he has some special tools, in terms of his ability to slow down the play and see some things that other players don’t. He’s looking like an outstanding draft pick for us and a real great prospect moving forward.”
The National Hockey League has suspended Montreal Canadiens forward Andrew Shaw for three preseason games for boarding defenseman Connor Hobbs of the Washington Capitals in an exhibition game Tuesday.
The Habs have five more exhibition games remaining before the regular season begins Oct. 13.
Shaw was given a major penalty and a game misconduct on the play, as he slammed Hobbs “through the numbers, with speed” from behind into the end glass, as per Thursday’s video from the NHL outlining the suspension.
From the video: “It is important to note that Hobbs is never eligible to be checked by Shaw on this play. From the moment Shaw arrives at the faceoff dot, he sees nothing but Hobbs’ numbers. Hobbs makes no sudden movement just prior to contact that turns this hit from a legal hit into an illegal one.
“The onus is on Shaw to ensure that he can deliver this hit in a legal fashion, minimize the force, or avoid this hit completely. Instead, he hits forcefully through Hobbs from behind, driving him dangerously into the glass.”
In a bid to land a gritty forward to their lineup, the Habs acquired Shaw from the Blackhawks, who had been dealing with a cap crunch, during the NHL Draft. He later signed a six-year contract extension with Montreal.