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.

Flames re-sign RFA goalies Gillies and Rittich

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The Calgary Flames have re-signed goalies Jon Gillies and David Rittich to one-year, two-way contracts, the club announced Saturday.

Both spent the majority of last season in the American Hockey League, but did get in some game action with the big club in Calgary. The 23-year-old Gillies, the Flames’ third-round pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, played in 39 games with the Stockton Heat, posting a .910 save percentage.

He then made his first career NHL start on April 6 against the L.A. Kings and stopped 27 of 28 shots faced for the win. He then began the playoffs as Calgary’s back-up because of an injury to Chad Johnson.

Rittich made his debut two days later, allowing one goal on 10 shots in 20 minutes of ice time versus San Jose.

The Flames have already taken care of their goaltending situation at the NHL level for next season, bringing in Mike Smith from Arizona and Eddie Lack from Carolina.

Columnist: Potential new Hurricanes owner concerned with ‘revitalizing Raleigh as a hockey market’

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The Carolina Hurricanes may have a potential new owner in Chuck Greenberg, the former CEO of the MLB Texas Rangers who also had interest in the NHL’s Dallas Stars.

A report Friday goes into further details about Greenberg’s motivation in purchasing the Hurricanes from Peter Karmanos, who has been exploring a sale of the team for quite some time now.

Previous reports indicate the agreement between the Hurricanes and Greenberg would keep the club in Raleigh, amid ages of speculation it may be a candidate for possible relocation to markets like Seattle or Quebec City.

From the Raleigh News and Observer:

Interviews with people close to Greenberg and others who have knowledge of the proposed purchase but requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks paint a picture of a front man who would be deeply concerned with the fan experience and revitalizing Raleigh as a hockey market, but lacking the money to fund the purchase himself and reliant on a group of investors to get the deal done.

If the deal goes through, at a reported price of $500 million that likely includes a large amount of assumed debt while valuing the actual franchise closer to $300 million, Greenberg would move to Raleigh with the intention of making the team work here. That’s what Hurricanes fans long afraid of a move to Quebec City or Seattle during these years of ownership uncertainty as Karmanos has had the team on the market have been hoping to hear.

The Hurricanes won the Stanley Cup in 2006 but haven’t made the playoffs since 2009. Despite their postseason drought, Carolina is building quite a depth of young talent, most notably on defense. They could take another positive step forward next season, perhaps contending for a playoff spot. In a bid to bolster their goaltending situation, the Hurricanes also acquired and then signed former Chicago No. 2 netminder Scott Darling.

Predators’ Watson asking for $1.4 million in arbitration

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It could be a busy couple of days for the Nashville Predators with two arbitration hearings scheduled through Monday.

The first of those two was scheduled for Saturday with restricted free agent forward Viktor Arvidsson, while Austin Watson is scheduled to have his on Monday if no deal is struck before then. On Saturday Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported that Watson and the Predators have filed their numbers for that hearing with Watson looking to make $1.4 million, and the Predators countering with an offer of $700,000.

Watson made $575,000 this past season for the Predators when he scored five goals with 12 assists in 77 games while mostly playing in a bottom-six role.

The 25-year-old Watson was a first-round pick by the Predators in 2010 and has played his entire career to this point with the organization. In parts of three seasons with the big club he has scored just nine goals in 140 games.

He played what was perhaps his best hockey with the team during the 2016-17 playoffs when he scored four goals (nearly matching his career regular season high) and added five assists during the Predators’ run to the Stanley Cup Final. All four of those goals came in the Western Conference Finals against the Anaheim Ducks, including two in their series-clinching Game 6 win. He also recorded three assists in the Stanley Cup Final.

Given the relatively small gap here this seems like a classic “meet in the middle” situation when it comes to reaching a deal for this upcoming season.

Ducks prospect Jones seems ready to make the jump to the NHL

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The Anaheim Ducks had a chance to restock their prospect cupboard during the 2016 draft with a pair of first-round picks, selecting Max Jones with the No. 24 overall pick and Sam Steel with the No. 30 pick. Both prospects had strong seasons in 2016-17 with their junior teams — Steel recorded 131 points in 66 games with the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League, while Jones was a point-per-game player for the OHL’s London Knights before getting his first taste of pro hockey with a nine-game look in the American Hockey League playoffs with the San Diego Gulls.

He now seems determined to make the Ducks’ roster this upcoming season.

Here is talking to Eric Stephens of the OC Register following the team’s prospect camp earlier this month.

“I don’t know if it’s about that,” Jones said at the Ducks’ prospect camp earlier this month. “I just think … I won a Memorial Cup. I think it’s time to move on and try to win a Stanley Cup. That’s kind of what my idea is.

“I want to step into the big leagues and I want to … for years and years I’ve been watching teams win that Stanley Cup and that’s all I want to do right now. Start playing and try to win a Stanley Cup.”

The problem Jones and the Ducks will face this season is that he is still not eligible to play in the American Hockey League during the regular season due to the CHL transfer agreement, which means the team has to decide whether or not to give him a look with the big club in Anaheim, or send him back to the Ontario Hockey League for a third consecutive season.

He also missed significant time this past season due to a broken arm and another suspension for crossing the line physically (this time it was 10 games for cross-checking), something he has struggled with during his junior hockey days.

Given his willingness to play the game with a physical edge and his size (6-3, 215 pounds) he certainly seems to fit the Ducks’ “heavy” style of play.

Still, the Ducks’ roster is already pretty deep and there aren’t many spots available, especially after the team just reached the Western Conference Finals this past season. For as big and talented as he is, he has still only played 112 games in the OHL over the past two seasons and hasn’t always dominated offensively. Some additional development time might not be the worst thing for him this season.