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.

Kings give another kid a look, recall AHL All-Star Brodzinski

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Last summer, Kings head coach Darryl Sutter stressed that some of the club’s young prospects needed to make an impact at the NHL level.

And now it’s happening.

Following the recalls and NHL debuts of Adrian Kempe and Paul LaDue, the Kings have brought up Jonny Brodzinski from AHL Ontario, the club announced on Thursday.

Brodzinski, 23, made the AHL All-Star team this year and leads the Reign in goals, with 25 through 56 games. The former St. Could State sniper left school early two years ago to join the Kings organization, after L.A. took him in the fifth round of the ’13 draft.

As mentioned above, this recall is in lockstep with what’s developed throughout the year. Kempe, 20, was the club’s first-round pick (29th overall) in ’14 and has fared well since joining the big club, with six points in 16 games.

LaDue, 24, was a sixth-round pick in ’12 that — like Kempe and Brodzinski — fared well in the American League before getting recalled in February. LaDue has appeared in 15 games for the Kings, scoring five points while averaging 16:25 TOI per night.

Los Angeles is still technically in the playoff race, but sits eight points back of Nashville for the final wild card spot in the Western Conference — with just 10 games to play. As such, the focus might now shift to giving some youngsters NHL experience.

Brodzinski will have to wait for his, however. Per LA Kings Insider, it doesn’t look like he’ll play tonight, when the Kings host the Jets at Staples.

 

 

Polak gets two games for boarding Bjorkstrand

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Roman Polak‘s hit on Oliver Bjorkstrand has drawn more than the ire of Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella.

Today, the NHL announced that Polak, a defenseman for the Toronto Maple Leafs, has been suspended two games for boarding Bjorkstrand Wednesday in Columbus.

In making the ruling, the league’s Department of Player Safety determined that Polak sent Bjorkstrand “violently” into the boards from behind, causing an injury. The DoPS also noted that the hit was avoidable, with the onus on Polak to “ensure that he avoids this hit entirely, or at the very least, minimizes the force of the impact.”

You can watch the full ruling below:

Wild prospect Kunin leaves Wisconsin, turns pro

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Minnesota is getting one of its prized youngsters in the mix.

Luke Kunin, the club’s first-round pick (15th overall) at last year’s draft, is leaving the University of Wisconsin following his sophomore campaign, per the Star-Tribune. Kunin will reportedly join Minnesota’s AHL affiliate in Iowa on an amateur tryout.

Kunin, 19, is coming off a pretty successful campaign. He was the first soph to captain the Badgers in over 40 years, and led the team in goals (22) and points (38). That came after he captained the U.S. to gold at the world juniors, scoring four points in seven games.

Per TSN’s Bob McKenzie, Kunin will play out this year in the minors, and his entry-level deal will kick in next season. That means he won’t be with the Wild at all this year — regular season or playoffs.

As mentioned, Kunin is just one of the many talented prospects Minnesota has in the fold. Russian Kirill Kaprizov, Sweden’s Joel Eriksson-Ek and Kunin’s U.S. junior teammate, Jordan Greenway, all showed extremely well at the worlds.

Hurricanes sign Finnish prospect Kuokkanen

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The Carolina Hurricanes have another talented, young Finn under contract.

The ‘Canes announced this morning that they’ve signed forward Janne Kuokkanen to a three-year, entry-level contract.

Kuokkanen was drafted in the second round, 43rd overall, in 2016. The 18-year-old is currently with the OHL’s London Knights. He finished the regular season with 26 goals and 36 assists in 60 games.

“Janne was outstanding in our rookie tournament in Traverse City in September, and stayed in North America to continue his development in the Ontario Hockey League,” said ‘Canes GM Ron Francis in a release. “He’s a smart, skilled forward and we look forward to the start of his professional career.”

The ‘Canes already have two Finnish forwards in Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen.

Aho and Kuokkanen were teammates in the Karpat (Liiga) development system in Finland.