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.

Flyers will host Penguins in outdoor game at Lincoln Financial Field in 2019

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The battle of Pennsylvania will take a new twist, as the NHL announced that the Philadelphia Flyers will be hosting the Pittsburgh Penguins at Lincoln Financial Field (home of the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles) on Feb. 23, 2019.

This will be the second time that these two teams play each other in an outdoor game. Last season, the Penguins beat the Flyers, 4-2, at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.

“It’s always a special opportunity to take the game back to its roots and have NHL players skate outdoors,” Penguins president and CEO David Morehouse said in a release. “We competed against the Flyers outdoors at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh 2017 and look forward to completing the in-state ‘home-and-home’ series at Lincoln Financial Field in 2019. It should be a great atmosphere.”

This will be the fifth time that the Penguins are involved in an outdoor door since 2008. They won a shootout decision against Buffalo (2008), they lost a home game to Washington (2011), they lost in Chicago (2014) and they beat the Flyers earlier this year.

It’s the second time the Flyers host an outdoor game (the first one was at Citizens Bank Park baseball stadium). The game at Lincoln Financial Field will be the fourth outdoor game for the Flyers. They lost in Boston in overtime (2010), they dropped home decision to the Rangers (2012), and they had the loss to Pittsburgh last year.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Is it time for the Canadiens to blow up their roster?

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The 2017-18 season isn’t even two months old, and the Montreal Canadiens already find themselves at a crossroads. Is it time for them to start rebuilding?

The Canadiens, who are 8-11-2 after three straight losses to Columbus, Arizona and Toronto, have over $7 million in cap space, but they have nowhere to use it. They already traded a blue-chip prospect in Mikhail Sergachev over the summer, and it’s not like their prospect pipeline is overflowing with quality either.

Clearly, losing Andrei Markov and Alexander Radulov (for nothing) hurt this edition of the Canadiens.

The team just completed a six-game homestand  that they should have used to make up for their incredibly poor start to the year. Instead, they finished the stretch at the Bell Center with a mediocre 2-3-1 record (they barely beat Vegas and Buffalo, who were both playing their second game in two nights when they took on Montreal).

During the six-game home stretch, they managed to find the back of the net just 10 times (four of those goals came in the 5-4 loss to the Coyotes).

Up until this point, general manager Marc Bergevin has been unwilling to trade away his veterans for prospects and/or draft picks. That might be about to change, per Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos.

On Saturday’s “Headlines” segment, Kypreos mentioned that ownership and the front office will have a discussion about the direction of the team.

The one player that was singled out on the broadcast was Max Pacioretty, who has one year remaining (after this season) on his current contract.

Would the Canadiens be willing to move him? Maybe, but would they do so with the idea of a rebuild in mind? That remains to be seen.

You have to believe that Bergevin’s on thin ice. Despite being under contract until 2022, he has to be feeling the pressure right now. Montreal is a demanding hockey market, and although they have plenty of cap space, this team clearly isn’t better than it was last year.

The core is far from terrible. Pacioretty, Shea Weber, Carey Price and Jonathan Drouin are all quality hockey players, but they don’t have much depth up front and their defense might be one of the worst in the league after Weber. Jeff Petry has struggled, the contract they handed out to Karl Alzner appears to be a mistake, Jordie Benn, Joe Morrow and Brandon Davidson are all depth players, and Victor Mete is a promising 19-year-old that’s had his ice time cut lately.

When it comes to the center ice position, the Canadiens are still searching for answers. Drouin has been forced to learn on the job, which is far from ideal for a number one center. Behind him, there’s Phillip Danault and Tomas Plekanec, who are both better suited to be third liners.

In order to become one of the elite teams in the NHL, the Canadiens have to take a step back over the next couple of years. They might not have to rebuild from scratch because they do have key pieces, but the roster definitely needs a lot of work.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Aho keeps rolling; Leddy splits two ‘Canes before scoring a beauty (video)

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After failing to score in the first 15 games of the season, Sebastian Aho has now found the back of the net in back-to-back-to-back-to-back games.

The Finnish forward opened the scoring less than two minutes into tonight’s game against the Isles. As if coming up with the first goal of the game wasn’t enough, Aho also picked up the primary assist  on Teuvo Teravainen‘s tally less than two minutes later, and Teravainen’s second of the game in the second period.

He now has nine points in his last three games and two periods, which is pretty remarkable for a guy that couldn’t buy one earlier on this season.

The start was less than ideal for New York, but they managed to salvage the period with an incredible goal.

You expect Islanders players like John Tavares, Jordan Eberle, or Mathew Barzal to score highlight-reel goals, but it was defenseman Nick Leddy that scored a beauty in the first period of Sunday’s game against Carolina.

With the Isles trailing 2-0 in the opening frame, Leddy grabbed a puck in the neutral zone, skated into Carolina territory, split Jaccob Slavin and Marcus Kruger and finally beat goalie Cam Ward.

It was Leddy’s fifth goal of the season, but probably the most impressive one of the bunch.

The Hurricanes currently lead 4-1 after two periods.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Video: Jeremy Roenick clearly isn’t afraid of snakes

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If you live in the desert, you have to expect the unexpected. It sure doesn’t seem like Jeremy Roenick has an issue with that.

On Sunday, the NHL on NBC hockey analyst posted a video that would be horrifying for some (like me), as he caught a snake in what appears to be his garage.

Not only did Roenick just use two golf clubs to catch it, he also didn’t hesitate to grab it before launching it over a wall.

Clearly, JR is the only one in the room that wasn’t completely terrified of the snake.

Of course, this isn’t the first time Roenick has gone head-to-head with some form of wildlife. He also attempted to go after an alligator on a golf course once (top). Clearly, the gator wanted to no part of him.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.