Let’s take a look at Thursday’s five-some of games, with all start times according to Eastern Standard Time (ET).
New Jersey @ Toronto
Call it the Clash of the Dreamers: the Maple Leafs are heating up and remain eight points out of a playoff spot while the Devils are on fire but remain 15 points behind the Hurricanes. Both teams face considerable odds, but whichever crew ends up with two points will dream a little bigger.
Los Angeles @ Pittsburgh
The Penguins are a team the Kings probably look up to – at least from a “we can get there someday” standpoint – but right now Pittsburgh resembles Los Angeles. After all, the Pens’ top players are injured, so they are playing an even tighter style predicated on attacking defensemen and the skills of a center who wears No. 11. Hmm …
Carolina @ Philadelphia
If the 2011 playoffs began today, this would be the first round’s top versus bottom seed series. In fact, the first game would even take place in Philly. We’re a long way from that actually happening (especially considering the competition the Hurricanes face), but it would probably be as good a 1 vs. 8 matchup will get in the East. (For the West, it must be Vancouver vs. Chicago, right?)
Buffalo @ Florida
It’s a game between the 10th-place Sabres and the 11th-place Panthers, with Buffalo looking a little stronger (especially considering the fact that the offensively challenged Panthers traded away former 20-goal scorer Michael Frolik). Not helping matters for Florida is their home struggles: they’ll try to avoid their fifth-straight loss in Sunrise tonight.
NY Islanders @ Montreal
The Canadiens won’t get a chance to lick their wounds from that violent and potentially deflating loss against the Bruins, as they host the lowly Isles tonight. Whichever poor soul plays in New York’s net might have a long night if the Habs release their vengeful anger on Thursday, though.
Sometimes, the Nashville Predators were unlucky in November. Sometimes they were just bad.
Either way, they’re likely glad to step into December, and they’ve already gotten a big bounce. Watch how close this near-goal was into crossing the red line before Pekka Rinne barely stopped it with a well-placed goalie stick.
You can also see it up close via this GIF:
Here’s the NHL Situation Room Blog explanation for it remaining a no-goal:
At 13:06 of the first period in the Coyotes/Predators game, the Situation Room initiated a video review to further examine a play from 11:57. Video review confirmed the call on the ice that the puck did not cross the Nashville goal line. No goal Coyotes.
Alexei Emelin has been in and out of the Montreal Canadiens lineup, but this wasn’t the way they wanted him to keep his legs fresh.
The hard-hitting defenseman received a game misconduct and five-minute major penalty for a late hit on Columbus Blue Jackets forward Matt Calvert on Tuesday.
So far, it sounds like Calvert may be OK.
You can see video of that hit above, as well as a GIF of the infraction via My Regular Face.
Many believe that Emelin should not have been ejected.
Injuries have been a regular problem for Joffrey Lupul for much of his time with the Toronto Maple Leafs, and it doesn’t look like that’s changing in 2015-16.
The team placed him on injured reserve retroactive to Nov. 28, calling up Rich Clune in the process.
This IR stint means that Lupul will miss at least three games for Toronto.
From the sound of things, it’s a nagging issue, as NHL.com notes.
“He’s been having the same problem here for a bit,” Mike Babcock told media members on Sunday. “He doesn’t seem to be getting the power back that they thought, so we’re just trying to monitor it the best we can.”
Leafs Nation points out that Lupul has missed about one-third of Toronto’s contests since suffering a separated shoulder in April 2012.
At 32, there’s still time for Lupul to fight through this, although injuries generally accumulate with age.
Will Ryan Suter say something foolish during tonight’s game? Is Brent Burns‘ beard so long that it’s finally starting to scrape the ice?
We’ll find out the answer to those questions and more during Tuesday’s NBCSN doubleheader.
Need to follow the two games online? Never fear.
Game 1: Minnesota Wild at Chicago Blackhawks
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Game 2: Pittsburgh Penguins at San Jose Sharks
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