Around the rink – Wednesday, February 2

7:00 p.m.

Detroit @ Ottawa

The Wings get a bit of good news for tonight’s game as Dan Cleary will play. There was the outside chance that Pavel Datsyuk might also be back for this game, but it doesn’t appear likely at the moment. That might change though. For Detroit getting healthy is a great thing because they’ve been treading water winning three of their last seven games. In Ottawa, times are miserable. They dropped a bad game to New Jersey last night and they’ve lost seven straight and 13 of their last 14. The last time we saw a team on a run like that, the Islanders fired Scott Gordon. They keep saying changes aren’t coming in Ottawa this season but it’s hard to believe that with such a horrible go of things lately.

7:30 p.m.

Florida @ Montreal

Both teams are coming off tough games last night with different outcomes. Florida stormed back from a 3-1 deficit in the third period to tie Toronto only to lose in the shootout. Montreal was down 2-0 after the first period but Brian Gionta’s two second period goals sent the game to overtime and the shootout where Gionta once again would cast the dagger as the Habs beat Washington. Florida has lost six of their last seven, meanwhile Montreal is busy helping hand out free points by going to overtime in four of their last six games going 2-0-2 in those games. Winning in regulation would be a good idea for the Habs for once.

NY Islanders @ Pittsburgh

The Penguins get some help back tonight as Evgeni Malkin is slated to return tonight after dealing with knee and sinus infection issues. Whether or not Jordan Staal will be joining him is unknown right now as Staal could be serving a one-game suspension for his match penalty for punching Brandon Prust last night. Sidney Crosby won’t be in the lineup yet again but the Penguins are doing OK without him as they’re now 6-4-0 with their captain out with a concussion. The Islanders are coming off an inspiring win over Atlanta last night that saw Kyle Okposo finally break out with two goals and an assist. They’re not a playoff team, but seeing steadier play from the Isles would be the sort of boost the fans could use.

Update: So much for early reports. Evgeni Malkin is retroactively being placed on IR and will not play tonight.

9:30 p.m.

Los Angeles @ Edmonton

The Kings got off to a rough start on their 10-game road trip last night getting a shutout from Jon Quick but still losing the game in the shootout to Minnesota. It’s a fun hockey anomaly to be able to get a shutout but lose the game, it’s like getting a losing no-hitter in baseball. Taking on an Oilers team that’s played some pretty bad hockey of late (2-7-1 in their last ten) might be the slump buster they’re hoping for. Still, the Kings are going to need the offense to start showing up consistently to make that happen.

Vancouver @ Phoenix

Vancouver rolls into the desert high off a 4-1 beating of the Stars in Dallas last night and tonight they’ll have Roberto Luongo looking to stymie the Coyotes. Phoenix is coming off a game they’d rather forget against San Jose that saw them blow a 3-0 lead and lose 5-3 to the Sharks. The Sharks rolled all over Phoenix in the third period of last night’s game and that sort of intensity can be expected out of Vancouver all throughout in tonight’s game.

10:00 p.m.

San Jose @ Anaheim

Can the Sharks capitalize on their monumental comeback win last night? If they can play the way they did in the third period of last night’s game they’re going to be a really tough team to deal with in the second half of the season. Joe Pavelski snapped out of his offensive funk and all four lines played hard for the final 30 minutes. They’ll need that effort to keep up with the Ducks tonight who make life miserable for teams thanks to goalie Jonas Hiller. Hiller’s work this season has been outstanding and on a team that finds defense difficult to play at times, his work in goal is helping to buoy the team in their race for the playoffs.

NCAA standout Foo leaving school, will sign NHL deal this summer

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Spencer Foo, who racked up a whopping 62 points in 38 games this year for Union College, is forgoing his senior season to achieve his “life long dream of playing in the NHL.”

Where that dream takes place remains to be seen.

Foo, 22, won’t be back at Union in the fall, but will complete his spring term at Union and not sign with a pro organization until summer, per the Daily Gazette. The decision comes after a banner three seasons in school, capped off with a junior campaign in which he was nominated for ECAC Hockey Player of the Year and shortlisted for the Hobey Baker.

Foo has reportedly drawn interest from the Flyers. There have also been rumblings of the Oilers being in the mix — Foo is an Edmonton native — but it appears nearly every team has some level of interest. Consider this, from LA Kings Insider:

The Kings are among the teams involved in [Foo’s] courtship, and asked where the stiffest competition was coming from, I was told, “about 29 other teams.”

Foo is an undrafted free agent, so there’s no real rush for him to make a decision. Sounds like NHL teams are more than willing to wait it out.

Announcing the Hobey Hat Trick: Aston-Reese, Butcher, Vecchione

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Northeastern’s Zach Aston-Reese, Denver’s Will Butcher, and Union’s Mike Vecchione are the three finalists for the Hobey Baker Award.

Aston-Reese, a 22-year-old forward, had 31 goals and 32 assists in 38 games this season. Undrafted, he signed with the Pittsburgh Penguins earlier this month.

Butcher, a 22-year-old defenseman, had seven goals and 29 assists in 41 games for the Frozen Four-headed Pioneers. A fifth-round pick of the Avalanche in 2013, Butcher is still unsigned and is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent Aug. 15. It remains to be seen if the Avs will offer him a contract, though it’s been reported they will.

Vecchione, a 24-year-old forward, had 29 goals and 34 assists in 38 games. Undrafted, he’s expected to sign with an NHL team shortly — possibly the Flyers or Wild.

Jimmy Vesey, Jack Eichel, and Johnny Gaudreau were the Hobey Baker winners in each of the last three years.

After 12-game absence, Boychuk back for Isles

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The New York Islanders, four points back of the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference and having lost their last two games, will get a huge boost tonight on the blueline.

Johnny Boychuk, who’s missed the last 12 games with a lower-body injury, will return to the lineup on Thursday when the Isles take on the Flyers in Philadelphia. It’ll mark the first time the veteran defenseman has played since getting hurt back on Mar. 3.

(Boychuk draws in at the expense of Thomas Hickey, who’ll sit tonight.)

Needless to say, this is a massive addition for the Isles. Boychuk was averaging close to 21 minutes per night and had 21 points through 59 games before his injury, and led all New York defensemen in shots on goal.

The Isles are going to be an interesting team to watch down the stretch. It’s tough sledding, with five of their final seven contests being played on the road, though that’s mitigated by the fact they’re playing a bunch of teams outside of the playoff picture (Philly, New Jersey x2, Buffalo and Carolina).

McAvoy has the talent to improve Bruins right now

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Charlie McAvoy could be in the Providence Bruins’ lineup as soon as Friday against Albany.

Providence also plays Saturday and Sunday, so even if it’s not Friday, the 19-year-old defenseman is expected to get his first taste of pro hockey sometime this weekend.

Of course, the real question is when his Boston Bruins debut may occur.

“He has the attributes to be able to play NHL games right now, absolutely,” said Bruins GM Don Sweeney, per the Providence Journal. 

McAvoy has yet to ink an NHL contract. He’s in Providence on an amateur tryout after making the decision to leave Boston University. If he plays an NHL game this season, the first year of the three-year entry-level contract he’ll sign would be burned.

Hence, Sweeney’s desire to see McAvoy in the AHL before making any decisions.

“This gives an opportunity for him, first and foremost, to get a chance to play professional games, which is another level for him. [We’ll] evaluate from there,” said Sweeney.

It’s certainly possible, given McAvoy’s talent, that he could help the NHL Bruins right now. The bar is essentially Kevan Miller, Boston’s third-pairing defenseman on the right side. (If McAvoy were a left shot, the bar would be slightly lower, with all due respect to John-Michael Liles.)

The NHL Bruins, who’ve yet to book a playoff spot, have six games left in their regular season. They host Dallas tonight, Florida Saturday, and then they’re in Chicago Sunday.

Assuming McAvoy stays with Providence all weekend, his first real chance to get into an NHL game would be Tuesday against Tampa Bay.

Stay tuned.

Read more: Bruins will leave door ajar for McAvoy