Around the rink – Thursday, February 3

7:00 p.m.

Carolina @ Toronto

Is revenge on the minds of the Toronto Maple Leafs players? Perhaps. Carolina’s Tim Gleason caught the ire of Clarke MacArthur for his manhandling of Nikolai Kulemin in a fight during their last game. One guy that won’t be condoning retribution will be Leafs coach Ron Wilson who thought Gleason did nothing wrong. Carolina is trying to catch Atlanta in the race for the eighth spot in the East and trading losses with the Thrashers won’t get it done. Carolina’s going to have to treat games like this as must-win affairs. Toronto, meanwhile, looks to improve on their shootout win over Florida on Tuesday.

Dallas @ Boston

Dallas heads to Boston in a bit of a funk. They’ve lost three of their last four games and are looking terrible in goal in those losses having given up 18 goals in those three games. Will they get a reprieve from the offensive onslaught against the Bruins? You can never be too sure but after Nathan Horton snapped his goalless streak against Carolina, the Bruins offensive worries of late could be on the mend. Dallas might want to get back to winning though as the Sharks have caught fire in the Pacific and are now tied with Anaheim five points behind in second place.

New Jersey @ NY Rangers

Vinny Prospal makes his return to the Rangers lineup and he’ll get to play on a line with Derek Stepan and Marian Gaborik. Not a bad way to welcome a guy back. The Rangers got off to a rough start after the All-Star break with a shootout loss to the Penguins. The rough and tumble Pens are a good way to warm up for the more difficult to play against Devils. After dropping two in a row, the Rangers would like to turn things around against the NHL’s worst team. New Jersey, though, are winners of five of their last six games and are coming off a 2-1 win over Ottawa on Tuesday.

Nashville @ Philadelphia

The Flyers get a bit of a break in that they don’t have to face Pekka Rinne tonight. Instead, they’ll have to deal with 6’5″ Swedish rookie Anders Lindback. Don’t expect things to be any easier for the Flyers in facing Lindback though. The lanky rookie is more than capable as Rinne’s backup. The Flyers are hoping to have a bit better luck than they did against Tampa Bay on Tuesday where they were shutout 4-0. The Flyers are also hoping to keep putting a little distance between themselves and the Penguins who just keep finding ways to win behind them.

Calgary @ Atlanta

Two teams headed in opposite directions. The Flames are hot and winners of five in a row and just one point behind Minnesota for second place in the Northwest Division. Everyone there is playing for second behind Vancouver but just the fact that Calgary has launched themselves into the playoff race after being so bad for most of the season is stunning.

Atlanta, meanwhile, hangs on to a playoff spot by a thread after playing woefully poor lately. They’ve lost eight of their last ten games going 2-5-3 in that time and holding a slim lead over Carolina for the last spot in the East playoff race. In that time, the  Thrashers offense and goaltending has disappeared scoring just 18 goals in their last ten games and allowing 41. Panic hasn’t set in there yet, but frustrations are high and GM Rick Dudley is looking to shake things up with a deal.

9:00 p.m.

Minnesota @ Colorado

Another case of teams going in opposite directions. The Wild are playing solid lately and have gotten themselves heavily into the mix for the playoffs. After how poorly the team started this season some wondered if coach Todd Richards would end up losing his job over it. Instead, patience is paying off for the Wild and goalie Niklas Backstrom is rounding into the form Wild fans are more accustomed to from him. Colorado has gone mediocre of late going 5-4-1 in their last ten games. It’s decent but not as good as they’d like to be and considering they were able to keep pace with Vancouver for a short time, things certainly aren’t as good as they once were. The main issue is goaltending as both Peter Budaj and Craig Anderson have been fighting bouts on inconsistency all season long. The Wild give the Avalanche fits all the time so keep an eye out to see if the frustration continues once again in Denver.

The Maple Leafs fell apart late (again)

OTTAWA, ON - FEBRUARY 6: Head coach Mike Babcock of the Toronto Maple Leafs looks on from the bench during an NHL game against the Ottawa Senators at Canadian Tire Centre on February 6, 2016 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)

No matter how much young talent the Toronto Maple Leafs have on their roster (and they have a lot) this was still always going to be another long season. The organization is on the right track, but it’s not where it needs to be just quite yet.

There will be flashes of brilliance and potential, but there are still going to be some pretty significant growing pains and a lot of frustration along the way.

Just five games into the season, they have already experienced plenty of the latter.

First there was rookie sensation Auston Matthews scoring four goals in his NHL debut and the team still finding a way to lose the game.

Then there was the game in Winnipeg where they jumped out to a 4-0 lead and then ended up losing in overtime. Earlier this week they let another third period lead slip away against Minnesota.

On Saturday, they added another one to the list in a 5-4 shootout loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.

For 57 minutes it looked as if the young Maple Leafs were going to add to the Blackhawks’ early season woes as they held a 4-2 lead and seemed to be in control of the game. The young players were scoring goals, they were the latest team to beat the Blackhawks’ shoddy penalty killing unit, and they seemed on their way to a big early season win on the road against a top team.

Then everything fell apart. Again.

Chicago’s Artem Anisimov scored with less than three minutes to play to cut the deficit to one.

Then just one minute later Richard Panik (former Toronto Maple Leaf Richard Panik) continued his early season goal scoring surge by netting his league leading sixth goal of the year to tie the game and send it to overtime.

After the two teams failed to score in the 3-on-3, it went to a shootout where Jonathan Toews and Artemi Panarin scored goals to help the Blackhawks get back into the win column and sent the Maple Leafs home with another tough loss.

If you’re an optimist in Toronto you have to look at the fact that this young, talented Maple Leafs team has at least earned a point in all but one of its first five games.

They are competing, they are showing signs of being an entertaining team with a strong foundation in place.

They have actually had the lead going into the third period of every game they have played.

Yet here they are, five games into the season, still sitting with only one win.

The Jimmy Vesey show leads Rangers over Capitals

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 06: Jimmy Vesey #26 of the New York Rangers waits for the faceoff against the Philadelphia Flyers at Madison Square Garden on October 6, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin had the big highlight early in the game on Saturday night, but it was New York Rangers rookie Jimmy Vesey that ended up stealing the show.

Vesey scored a pair of goals for the Rangers — the first multi-goal game of his career —  to help lead his team to a 4-2 win in Washington.

Even though he had never played a game in the NHL before this season, Vesey was still one of the most sought after free agents this summer after he completed his college career at Harvard. He eventually signed an entry level deal with the Rangers, and given how much attention his free agency saga generated it seemed hard to believe that he could ever match the hype. Especially given the track record of players signed as free agents coming out of college (it’s not a great one).

It’s obviously still very early in his career, but so far Vesey has not disappointed in New York.

Saturday was by far his best performance of the season, scoring both of his goals just three minutes apart in the second period. The first goal tied the game at two to help erase a two-goal deficit, and then his second goal proved to be the game winner.

It was also a heck of a play.

Rick Nash would add an empty net goal late in the third period to put the game away for the Rangers while Henrik Lundqvist stopped 26 of the 28 shots he faced.

For Washington, the loss is its first regulation loss of the season and snaps what had been a three-game winning streak.

Video: Marc Staal was no match for Alex Ovechkin on this goal

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 15: Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals looks on against New York Islanders during the second period at Verizon Center on October 15, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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After being held without a point in his first two games of the season, Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin has now scored a goal in three consecutive games.

That includes his goal on Saturday night in the first period against the New York Rangers.

It’s one that will probably make the personal highlight reel for Ovechkin, but it certainly won’t make the highlight reel for Rangers defenseman Marc Staal.

To say that this head-to-head matchup turned out to be a mismatch would be … well … a bit of an understatement.

As Ovechkin crossed the blue line into the Rangers zone he started to toe-drag around Staal, only to stop midway through and just rip it from outside the circle, using Staal as a screen and beating Henrik Lundqvist for the goal.

It is probably not a good sign when the defenseman has his back to the shooter when the puck is released.

That goal gave the Capitals a 2-0 lead.

Red Wings’ Abdelkader out with lower body injury

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MARCH 15: Justin Abdelkader #8 of the Detroit Red Wings skates against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center on March 15, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Flyers defeated the Red Wings 4-3.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The Detroit Red Wings will be without veteran forward Justin Abdelkader on Saturday night when they host the San Jose Sharks.

The official word from the team is that he is sidelined with a lower body injury.

He will be replaced in the lineup by Andreas Athanasiou. Athanasiou has appeared in three games this season and yet to record a point.

He was not only in the lineup on Friday in the Red Wings in their 5-3 win over the Nashville Predators, but also scored his first goal of the season and played a season-high 17:55.

After scoring 19 goals and recording 23 assists in 82 games in 2015-16 the Red Wings signed a seven-year $29.7 million contract extension.

According to general manager Ken Holland (via Helene St. James) he is expected to be back in the lineup on Tuesday.