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Riding the Zamboni – Saturday, February 5th

If you’d like a rundown of the shutout-packed early games, click here. To read about the Hurricanes’ key win over the Thrashers, check out this post.

Columbus 4, Edmonton 3

R.J. Umberger factored into all four Blue Jackets goals (two goals and two assists) while Kristian Huselius avenged a healthy scratch with two of those tallies as Columbus squeaked by the Oilers in this action-packed game. Magnus Paajarvi scored two goals in a losing cause for a pesky Edmonton team that had a 3-2 lead before the Jackets stormed back.

NY Islanders 5, Ottawa 3

Robin Lehner made a bonehead move by elbowing Islanders goalie Kevin Poulin as the two netminders passed each other at the end of the second period and the Isles made him pay to begin the third. Rob Schremp scored his second goal of the game on that ensuing power play, continuing the misery that is the Senators’ free-fall from playoff hopefuls to cellar dwellers.

Philadelphia 3, Dallas 1

Brian Boucher made 30 saves while three different Flyers scored goals to help Philly best the Stars. Kari Lehtonen was very strong for Dallas in his own right, making 29 out of 32 saves in a losing effort.

Buffalo 6, Toronto 2

The Sabres (along with the Florida Panthers) are a rung below the Canes and Thrashers in the race for the last playoff spot, but they’re picking up steam with five wins in their last seven games. Drew Stafford scored two goals and one assist as Buffalo out-shot Toronto 43-25 in a dominating home win.

Nashville 3, Detroit 0

The super-talented Red Wings have had a rough weekend. Detroit has been shut out in consecutive games, as division foes from Nashville and Columbus beat them 3-0 each. Pekka Rinne was the main reason the Wings had so much trouble Saturday night, as he made 35 saves to blank Detroit.

Phoenix 1, Minnesota 0

The Coyotes went back to the basics with this game, grinding out a 1-0 win on the strength of a Taylor Pyatt goal, 41 shots and Ilya Bryzgalov’s fourth shutout of the season.

Los Angeles 4, Calgary 3

Justin Williams had a goal, two assists and the shootout winner to help the Kings win a match between two of the hotter teams in the league. Alex Tanguay scored two goals to help Calgary get to overtime, but the Flames’ six-game winning streak dissolved after Los Angeles won the skills contest. The Kings now find themselves in eighth place in the West with 60 points while the Flames aren’t far behind in 10th with 59.

Hurricanes extend contract of head coach Bill Peters

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The Carolina Hurricanes may have missed the playoffs in each of Bill Peters’ two seasons behind the bench, but GM Ron Francis is clearly pleased with the job his head coach has done.

Today, the ‘Canes announced that Peters has been signed to a contract extension through the 2018-19 season.

“Bill is a talented, young coach in the National Hockey League,” said Francis in a release. “We are happy that he has made a commitment to the Hurricanes, and that he will be a major part of the team continuing to grow.”

The ‘Canes still won’t be a popular pick to make the playoffs in 2016-17, but with all the young talent that the organization has amassed, Peters will certainly be expected to get them there before his contract expires. (The ‘Canes were actually a pretty solid possession team last season, but were let down by their goaltending and inability to convert scoring chances.)

Carolina last made the playoffs in 2009.

Related: ‘Canes enjoying stronger ticket sales, but ‘fence-sitters’ still need convincing

Report: Caps draftee DiPauli heading to free agency

PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 23:  Thomas Dipauli, 100th overall pick, walks on the draft floor during day two of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft at Consol Energy Center on June 23, 2012 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Just like Jimmy Vesey, Thomas DiPauli appears ready to test the open market.

DiPauli, a Notre Dame forward taken 100th overall by Washington at the 2012 draft, will reportedly hold out past the Aug. 15 deadline to sign with the Caps and head to unrestricted free agency, per ESPN.

A 22-year-old that’s spent the last four years playing for the Fighting Irish, DiPauli scored 14 goals and 32 points in 37 games last year, finishing as the team’s offensive MVP while earning honorable mention Hockey East All-Star honors.

DiPauli was a notable absence at Washington’s recent prospect development camp. More on that, per CSN Mid Atlantic:

[DiPauli] has attended previous Caps development camps, so the club decided not to invite him this summer.

According to a team spokesman the Caps remain interested in signing DiPauli by the NHL’s Aug. 15 deadline.   

ESPN corroborated DiPauli’s interest in signing with the Caps, but it’s not surprising to hear he’s looking for opportunities with another organization.

Washington is fairly loaded at forward, and still has a handful of young prospects in the system — including ’14 first-rounder Jakub Vrana, recent Boston College signee Zach Sanford and 24-year-old Russian winger Stanislav Galiev, who was stuck in healthy scratch limbo for long stretches this season as the club didn’t want to lose him on waivers.

As mentioned above, DiPauli could play the open market like Vesey plans to later next month.

Though Buffalo traded to acquire his rights from Nashville, the reigning Hobey Baker winner has a shortlist of other teams he’s interested in signing with.

Bolts avoid arbitration with Namestnikov — two years, $3.875M

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Tampa Bay has avoided Friday’s scheduled arbitration hearing with forward Vladislav Namestnikov, agreeing to a two-year, $3.875M deal on Tuesday evening, per ESPN.

Namestnikov, 23, had a breakout campaign last year, scoring 14 goals and 35 points in 80 games — all career highs. The former first-round pick also appeared in 17 playoff games for the Bolts, scoring a goal and three points while helping the club to the Eastern Conference Final.

Coming off a one-year deal in which he made $874,125, the diminutive Russian gets a nice pay bump with this latest contract, and a bit of security with the two-year term. He should play a fairly integral role next season, coming off a year in which he finished tied for fourth on the team in goals, with Tyler Johnson.

But while tonight may be about Namestnikov, it’s another Russian forward in Tampa Bay that everybody now has their eyes on — Nikita Kucherov, the playoff scoring sensation that declined to file for arbitration, but still requires a new deal.

Given some of the big-money contracts GM Steve Yzerman has handed out this summer — namely those to Steve Stamkos, Victor Hedman and Alex Killorn — the Kucherov negotiations are definitely ones to keep an eye on.

Talks ongoing between Wild and Dumba, meeting expected soon

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There’s just one piece of business left for Minnesota this summer — a new contract for RFA defenseman Matt Dumba.

And it sounds like that piece of business will soon be attended to.

From the Star-Tribune:

There have been ongoing talks between Wild assistant GM Brent Flahr and [Dumba’s] agent Craig Oster.

The two are expected to meet face to face in Calgary at the Hockey Canada camp.

Dumba, the former No. 7 overall pick, just wrapped his entry-level deal, coming off a campaign in which he set career highs in games played (81), goals (10) and points (26).

He also notched a pair of assists in the Wild’s six-game loss to Dallas in the playoffs.

Dumba, 22, did see his name surface in trade talks this season. There was a report in late January that he was the return piece in a potential swap for Tampa Bay’s Jonathan Drouin, and he’s been tied to teams looking for a blueline upgrade.

A good puck mover with offensive skills — and a right-handed shot — Dumba is definitely a commodity. What’s more, logic suggests the Wild could opt to move him, given the long-term financial commitments to fellow defensemen Ryan Suter (signed through 2025 at $7.53 million), Jonas Brodin (2021 at $4.16M), Jared Spurgeon (2020, $5.18M) and Marco Scandella (2020, $4M).

Minnesota has some other young defensive prospects in the system, too.

There’s former Gophers standout Mike Reilly, Miami of Ohio product Louis Belpedio and Gustav Olofsson, the 46th overall pick in ’13 that’s been honing his game in AHL Iowa (and made his NHL debut last season).

The Wild are in control of the Dumba situation and can slow play negotiations, possibly while re-exploring trade scenarios. Don’t forget the Bruins are still in search of the “transitional” defenseman they desperately want.

But should things go the expected way and Dumba re-signs in Minnesota, the Star-Tribune said a bridge deal is the “likeliest” outcome.