Around the Rink – Tuesday, February 1st

The Avalanche-Blues game was postponed, but don’t worry: there are still 12 other games on the docket tonight. Here are previews of those contests, with start times according to Eastern Standard Time (ET) as always.

7:00 pm

NY Islanders @ Atlanta

If the Thrashers want to maintain their tenuous grasp on a playoff spot, they need to win games like these. They had plenty of rest and host a weak team in the Islanders.

Florida @ Toronto

Two teams that haven’t been in the playoffs in ages – and don’t seem likely to get there again this year – meet in this one.

Chicago @ Columbus

The Blackhawks had plenty of representatives during the All-Star Game, yet they must face the disturbing possibility that they might miss the playoffs this season. They’d be in if the playoffs began today, but they need to improve their chances by winning games like these.

Boston @ Carolina

The Hurricanes knocked the Bruins out of the playoffs in 2009, so perhaps Boston can look back at that and try to get revenge by hurting Carolina’s chances to sneak in this season.

Ottawa @ New Jersey

A game between two teams that have seen much, much better days. One can argue that both would benefit from losing more often than not at this point.

7:30 pm

Philadelphia @ Tampa Bay

The Lightning continue their 12-game homestand against the Flyers in a game between the two top seeds in the East. These two teams combined for a pretty wild game already this season, so this should be an entertaining contest.

Montreal @ Washington

The Capitals need to start winning against playoff caliber teams, as Alex Ovechkin isn’t producing against quality opponents this season. Washington could really benefit from a strong ending to this season, even if they aren’t able to catch up to Tampa Bay for the Southeast Division title.

Pittsburgh @ NY Rangers

Two banged-up but hard working teams square off in this one, as the Penguins cope without Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby while the Rangers are starting to get healthy again.

8:00 pm

Calgary @ Nashville

The Predators stumbled a bit last week after going on quite the hot streak, but a home game against the Flames gives them the opportunity to get back on track. Calgary has been scrappier lately, though, with four wins in a row.

Los Angeles @ Minnesota

Both teams are locked up in the Western Conference bubble at 55 points, with the Kings holding more wins while the Wild got to that point in one less game. This could be a pretty significant game for both teams.

8:30 pm

Vancouver @ Dallas

The Canucks have absolutely dominated the Stars in their first two games, winning each one while outscoring Dallas 11-2. They should feel pretty much at home in Dallas, too, considering the snowy weather in Texas (and most of the U.S. really).

10:00 pm

Phoenix @ San Jose

The Sharks have an identical record (25-19-6 for 56 points) as the Avalanche right now for the eight spot in the West, so perhaps San Jose can win while Colorado is idle? Phoenix has a solid little cushion for a spot themselves, but they need to maintain it by holding off their Pacific Division rivals.

Penguins announce they will accept White House invite

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One day after the NBA champion Golden State Warriors announced that they would use their trip to Washington this season to celebrate equality, diversity and inclusion in lieu of a White House visit, the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins issued a statement announcing they have accepted an invite to visit the White House again this year.

The Statement from the Penguins reads as follows.

“The Pittsburgh Penguins respect the institution of the Office of the President, and the long tradition of championship teams visiting the White House. We attended White House ceremonies after previous championships – touring the historic building and visiting briefly with Presidents George H.W. Bush and Barack Obama – and have accepted an invitation to attend again this year.

Any agreement or disagreement with a president’s politics, policies or agenda can be expressed in other ways. However, we very much respect the rights of other individuals and groups to express themselves as they see fit.”

This comes on the same weekend that players across professional sports, from the NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball, have been speaking out and taking part in unprecedented protests against racial inequality and comments from the President that players that do not stand for the National Anthem should be fired.

During the early Sunday NFL game in London several players from the Baltimore Ravens took a knee during the National Anthem, while Jaguars owner Shad Khan stood and locked arms with his players. Those protests are expected to continue throughout the day.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have chosen to not participate in the National Anthem before their game against the Chicago Bears, instead choosing to remain in the locker room.

Detroit’s new arena hosts Red Wings game for the 1st time

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Detroit Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard crouched in net and gazed up at the largest videoboard in the NHL.

“I caught myself a couple of times, especially in the first and halfway through the third, watching on the big screen,” Howard said. “I got to remind myself that there’s actually a game going on in front of me.”

Little Caesars Arena made its debut as a sports venue as the Red Wings beat the Boston Bruins 5-1 Saturday night.

And even the Bruins came away impressed.

“I don’t think there’s another arena that can compare to it,” Boston goaltender Zane McIntyre said.

That was the goal.

Ilitch Holdings president and CEO Chris Ilitch went on a mission to build the world’s finest arena. He traveled all over North America to borrow ideas from other arenas and stadiums. Ilitch also drew on experiences from trips to Europe to create an experience in, around and outside the building that is truly unique.

“To be state of the art, you have to know the state of the industry to truly be innovative,” Ilitch said recently in an interview with The Associated Press. “We want people to come and be amazed.”

So far, so good.

Kelly Mulley, a 25-year-old fan, made the trek from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, to make the first preseason game without missing the birth of his daughter.

“Her due date was too close to the date of the first regular season game in a couple weeks,” Mulley said before pulling up his right sleeve to show the Red Wings’ winged wheel tattooed on the inside of his right biceps. “This place is a definite upgrade from Joe Louis Arena. It reminds me of the Bell Centre in Montreal because of how on top of the ice the fans seem to be and with the organist.”

The Red Wings said goodbye in April their former home, known as The Joe , where they raised four of the franchise’s 11 Stanley Cup banners to the crowded rafters. The team and red-clad fans in the stands will be excited about Little Caesars Arena for a while, but the feel-good vibe will fade if the team doesn’t win.

Detroit failed to make the playoffs last season for the first time since 1990, ending the NHL’s third longest postseason streak in league history.

“One of the guys on the team said there are no excuses not to win,” Olympia Entertainment President Tom Wilson said. “It’s a dream come true for players in terms of facilities.”

Kirk Malty agreed.

The former Red Wings player, who works for the organization as a pro scout, said the size of the dressing room is only one of the many upgrades.

“Not to be rude or mean, but it’s like the players are going from living in the back of a truck to moving into a mansion,” Maltby said.

The Pistons, who are moving downtown from The Palace of Auburn Hills in the suburbs, will take the court in the same space Oct. 4 against Charlotte in an exhibition game. Bob Seger’s concert on Saturday night was the arena’s final scheduled event.

“It was a very bold move for Tom Gores to move his team from his own arena,” Ilitch told The AP during an exclusive tour last month. “He has tremendous vision and knew he could take it up a notch and make a bigger impact on the community. This isn’t just an arena. What we’ve created is very, very special.”

 

Ekman-Larsson suffers lower-body injury vs. Sharks, will be re-evaluated today

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The Arizona Coyotes lost to the San Jose Sharks in preseason action Saturday. What will matter more is the status of defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

According to reports, Ekman-Larsson suffered a lower-body injury during overtime and had to be helped off the ice.

“He will get re-evaluated tomorrow — lower body,” said head coach Rick Tocchet, per Arizona Sports. “See what happens tomorrow. I don’t think he will practice tomorrow.”

At 26 years of age, Ekman-Larsson is a huge piece of a rebuilding Coyotes team and, based on previous comments from general manager John Chayka, is expected to be heavily relied upon on the blue line this season.

It’s also expected that he will be named the new Coyotes captain, taking over the leadership role from Shane Doan.

Rangers’ Desjardins faces hearing for ‘dirty’ hit on Miles Wood

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Just hours after delivering a two-game preseason suspension to Tom Wilson, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety issued a statement on Twitter, this time saying Andrew Desjardins will have a hearing.

That hearing is scheduled to take place Monday. Desjardins received a match penalty for an illegal hit to the head of New Jersey Devils forward Miles Wood during Saturday’s preseason game between the Devils and Rangers.

The incident occurred before the midway point of the first period.

Wood was slow to get back to his feet, but did eventually return to the game. The hit resulted in a melee in front of the Rangers net, with John Moore also getting called for roughing.