Carolina Hurricanes v Atlanta Thrashers

Around the rink – February 13; Sabres look to keep rolling, Pacific Division races heat up

12:30 p.m.

Boston @ Detroit

It’s NBC’s Game of the Week and the Bruins are looking to get one back after being humbled by Detroit on Friday night 6-1. Detroit’s offensive breakout was as much of a surprise as Boston getting lit up as the B’s have been one of the stingiest teams in the league this year. One thing working in Boston’s favor is that Detroit has been inconsistent the last month and a half so getting it back today might happen. Of course, Detroit’s getting healthier and have virtually their entire normal starting forward corps back on the ice.

3:00 p.m.

NY Islanders @ Buffalo

Well, well, well… Looks who’s back in the mix for the playoffs. The Sabres are just three points behind Carolina and Atlanta who are tied for the eighth spot in the East and with a win today their climb back into the mix will be legitimate. They’ve gone 9-2-0 in their last 11 games and when you go on a tear like that in the East, all things are possible. Sadly for the Sabres, they were so down and out of it before that that run only gets them back into the discussion for the playoffs. The Islanders will be looking to save some face after their embarrassing win over Pittsburgh on Friday which saw them collectively lose their minds and saw them have two players receive lengthy suspensions. We’re figuring the fisticuffs will be put away for this one, but the Sabres of late have found ways to get under everyone’s skin.

Pittsburgh @ NY Rangers

The Penguins hellish trip into New York this weekend that’s seen them get jumped by the Islanders to the tune of 346 penalty minutes and then end up in a bus accident yesterday winds up with a game against a Rangers team they haven’t seen eye-to-eye with at all this year. The fun never ends it seems and they’ll deal with a desperate Rangers team that’s seen their losing streak reach six games in a row. Apparently the Rangers were a team better off without all of their starters on offense as the returns of Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan, and Vinny Prospal have netted them nothing. Things will turn around eventually, but after New York’s gutbusting loss on Friday to Atlanta, heads are down and wondering for the Rangers.

Columbus @ Dallas

The Stars are treading water of late and they’re holding on to the slimmest of leads in the Pacific Division. They’ve got the Sharks, Ducks, and Coyotes nipping at their heels and for the Stars, the problems have been on defense. Losing six of their last eight games, they’ve allowed 34 goals in those eight games. Giving up just over four per game isn’t going to win you much in the league aside from the approval of your opponents. Columbus has won three of their last four games, a run that has inched them closer to the pack trying to find a spot in the playoffs. Steve Mason has played better of late and getting consistent goaltending out of him is just what the Jackets need. Their forward groups have played better of late and getting better goaltending serves to be a rallying point.

Los Angeles @ Philadelphia

The Flyers are hot. They’ve gone 13-3-0 in their last 16 games and have won five of their last six games. Dealing with a Kings team coming fresh off a sound 4-1 beating of the Capitals should give them a healthy test as the Kings are loaded with tough players worthy of bringing it at any time. Just ask the Caps what happens when you go into a game ill prepared with L.A. The Kings are in the middle of their 10 game road trip which they’ve gone 3-0-2 on to this point. Earning points in each game on a season-long road swing is quite the accomplishment but continuing that run against the East’s best team won’t be easy.

5:00 p.m.

Carolina @ Atlanta

A huge game in February? You better believe it. These two teams are tied for the eighth spot in the East and for Atlanta they’re looking to keep the good mojo going. Their comeback win over the Rangers on Friday might serve to be the rallying point they’ve been looking for. It’s no coincidence that they pulled out a win in the game they got Tobias Enstrom back in the lineup either as the puck-moving defenseman is key to their success this year. The Hurricanes’ youth has shown its colors of late with the team having lost five of their last six. Bouts of inconsistency are bound to happen, but for Carolina it has come at a bad time as the team could’ve taken control of the eighth spot with Atlanta floundering of late. Of course, without that mutual mess-making we wouldn’t have what sets up to be a great and desperate tilt today.

San Jose @ Florida

The Sharks will be hoping to put their frustrating loss to New Jersey behind them going up against a similarly tough Panthers squad in Sunrise. Florida may not win every game, but they’ve got the nasty habit of making everyone they play against earn it. It’s a yeoman effort for the Panthers to pull this off and their trading of Michal Frolik means that each game will be a bit tougher physically. San Jose though continues to press and put the heat on the Stars to stay ahead of them in the Pacific Division and going 9-1-1 in their last 11 games will do that. Coincidentally enough, the Panthers have lost nine of their last 11 games and their defense and goaltending has been mediocre at the very least.

8:00 p.m.

Anaheim @ Edmonton

We’re not going to say it’ll be an easy game for the Ducks, but considering the Oilers are coming off a disturbing loss to the fellow cellar-dwelling Senators yesterday, the minds of the Oilers are collectively about as low as they can go. When you have four wins in your last 24 games, being down about life will happen. For Anaheim, they’ve won seven of their last nine and are coming off an incredible comeback victory against Calgary on Friday night.

We asked David Poile if he’d trade a defenseman, and you won’t believe what he said…

David Poile

“I’m supposed to tell you the answer to that?”

I was hoping he would. But I guess David Poile didn’t want to tell me all his plans for the Nashville Predators. How disappointing.

The question I’d asked him, in a phone interview Wednesday, was one he’d been asked before, and one he’ll surely be asked again — would he trade one of his star defensemen for help up front?

“We are very happy with our defense corps,” Poile said, like a politician repeating the party line. “It gives us a chance to be competitive and have a chance to win every game, along with our goaltending.”

But that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t consider it.

“You’re always trying to improve your team. That’s what a manager’s job is,” said Poile.

“When the right time is there, when the deal is there. Whether it’s today, tomorrow, the trade deadline, whether it’s in the summer, trade or free agency situation, we’ll do whatever we can to improve our team.”

Start the trade rumors! Seth Jones for Ryan Johansen? Now you come up with one.

I mean, who hasn’t looked at the Preds’ roster and not wondered? All those defensemen. No young, elite center. Teams that win the Stanley Cup always have an elite center. Right now, Nashville’s top center is 35-year-old Mike Ribeiro. Its second-line center is another 35-year-old, Mike Fisher.

And what’s worth remembering about Jones is that the Preds never expected to get him.

“In the draft three years ago, there were four outstanding players, three of which were forwards,” said Poile. “We had the fourth pick. I think everyone thought Seth Jones was going to go either one, two, or three. And we were very comfortable taking one of those three forwards, because that’s what we needed.”

But then Colorado took Nathan MacKinnon, Florida went with Aleksander Barkov, and Tampa Bay called Jonathan Drouin‘s name.

“There’s no regrets with that,” said Poile. “That just made a good defense even stronger.”

The Preds did manage to get some promising forwards in the next two drafts, including 19-year-old Vladislav Kamenev, currently with Nashville’s farm team in Milwaukee. Perhaps he’s a future number-one center.

“In our system, we have three or four pretty good potential forwards coming,” said Poile. “I think before you look outside the organization, you always want to look inside the organization.”

OK, fine, fair enough.

P.S. — Shea Weber to the Oilers?

Related: Nobody’s got a better blue line than Nashville

Calgary waives second goalie of the year — this time, it’s Ortio

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Many people — your author included — thought it was a bad idea when Flames GM Brad Treliving entered this season with three goalies on the roster.

Now we’re starting to see why.

On Tuesday, Calgary exposed another goalie to waivers — Joni Ortio has been placed on the wire, per TSN.

The move comes just over a month after the Flames put Karri Ramo on waivers, with no takers — and since being recalled from AHL Stockton, Ramo inherited the No. 1 gig from Jonas Hiller and ran with it, starting each of Calgary’s last 11 games while playing every minute.

Ortio, meanwhile, hasn’t seen any action since allowing six goals to Montreal on Oct. 30.

Today’s transaction likely means that Hiller is ready to return from the hip injury that’s kept him out since late last month. He skated with the club on Monday and could soon reconnect with Ramo to form the combo that backstopped Calgary to a surprising playoff appearance a year ago.

Of course, many wonder if that duo will still work.

The numbers on both goalies are pretty bad this year. Ramo’s 6-8-2 with a 3.12 GAA and .898 save percentage, while Hiller is 2-3-0 with a 3.67 and .861.

Things also don’t promise to get any easier for the Flames in the near future. They have back-to-back road games in Arizona and San Jose this weekend, then return home for three games against three of the NHL’s highest-scoring clubs: Dallas (most goals for in the league), Boston (fourth-most) and the Sharks (11th-most).

As for Ortio, it’ll be interesting to see if anybody takes a flier. He’s young (24), cheap ($600,000) and has shown very well at the American League level, earning a spot on the All-Rookie team in ’13-14.

Missing McDavid: Yakupov’s goalless drought now at 15 games

Cononor McDavid, Nail Yakupov
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When Connor McDavid went down with a broken collarbone, many expected his linemates — Benoit Pouliot and Nail Yakupov — to be adversely affected.

But probably not this affected.

Yakupov — who, prior to McDavid getting hurt on Nov. 3, had 10 points in 12 games — has gone in the tank offensively since losing his running mate.

The Russian’s goalless drought (which, to be fair, began while McDavid was still playing) is now at 15 games, and he’s failed to score a point in seven straight — all of which is a cause for concern for head coach Todd McLellan.

From the Edmonton Journal:

When does [McLellan] say “he’s got to score a goal.”

“We’re at that point now,” the coach said.

“He’s had some great looks,” said McLellan.

There are a few issues at play here.

Chief among them is that Yakupov’s gone from skating with Pouliot and McDavid to Mark Letestu and Matt Hendricks — and no offense to Letestu and Hendricks, but that’s a significant downgrade in offensive talent.

So when Yakupov does get time with the likes of Taylor Hall and Leon Draisaitl, it’s usually on the power play — which only ratchets up the pressure to score (because who knows when the next power play will come?)

McLellan acknowledged the team needs to set up Yakupov more — “we’ll work with his linemates to help him, we’ll get him out on the power play where his strengths are,” he said — but, like any coach, stressed that the player needs to help himself out, too.

Video: Gaudreau, Ryan, Orlov star in Goals of the Week

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Three stellar individual efforts in our latest offering.

First up, it’s red-hot Ottawa forward Bobby Ryan, with his third-period goal in an eventual OT loss to Detroit. Ryan now has 20 points in 21 games this season, and six in his last five.

Next, it’s Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau, who walked off what was arguably the Flames’ best win of the year — a 2-1 OT victory over the defending champion Blackhawks.

Finally, it’s Caps blueliner Dmitry Orlov, with one of the weirdest-looking goals in recent memory.

From the Washington Post:

“No one knew where the puck was,” defenseman Nate Schmidt said.

“Houdini,” goaltender Braden Holtby said.

“I had no clue,” Coach Barry Trotz said. “I thought it was in the stands. I had no idea.”

The goal was also Orlov’s second of the season, meaning he’s just one shy of matching his career best.