Michael Grabner, Paul Gaustad, Rob Niedermayer

Mid-afternoon delight: Rangers snap skid, Kings shutout Flyers, Isles win a wild one

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NY Rangers 5 – Pittsburgh 3

The Rangers snapped their six-game losing streak against the beat up and battered Penguins. Ryan Callahan scored twice and added an assist while Henrik Lundqvist settled down nicely after a rough first period to get the win making 26 saves. Marc Staal had a pair of assists as the Rangers were able to stop their playoff-spot-threatening slide. For the Penguins, their tour of New York ends meekly with their injury-depleted roster, dropping games to the Isles and Rangers and fitting a bus accident in between all of that.

Los Angeles 1 – Philadelphia 0

L.A.’s road trip marches on and their hellish run through Pittsburgh, D.C., and Philadelphia ends with them going 2-0-1 and giving up just three goals as Jon Quick earned his sixth shutout of the season stopping 40 Flyers shots in the win. Drew Doughty’s second period goal was all the Kings would need to win as they shutdown the NHL’s third highest-scoring team. The Kings are now 4-0-2 on their 10-game road trip and head to Columbus to play the Blue Jackets on Wednesday.

NY Islanders 7 – Buffalo 6 (F/OT)

Everyone expected firewagon hockey to make a comeback today, right? Michael Grabner capped off a wild game scoring his hat trick goal in overtime to give the Sabres a defeat they’ll be kicking themselves over. Grabner’s three goals give him 24 on the season and suddenly he’s vaulted into the discussion for the Calder Trophy for the league’s best rookie. Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen each had three assists to help lead the Isles to victory. The Sabres Drew Stafford had a hat trick of his own, his fourth of the season giving him 23 goals of his own on the season. The goalies were a massive letdown in this one as Isles starter Mikko Koskinen was chased after giving up fout goals on 14 shots. Al Montoya took over and earned the win after giving up just two more. Ryan Miller looked bad today giving up all seven Isles goals and stopping just 19 shots. Buffalo with the loss blows a big chance to climb up the standings in the East as they try to get back in the playoff picture.

Columbus 2 – Dallas 1

When a team is rolling and getting solid goaltending, sometimes the captain has to step up and elevate things to another level. Good thing for Columbus they’ve got Rick Nash around to do that. Nash’s second period goal snapped a 1-1 tie and Steve Mason would do his job and shut down the Stars the rest of the way to give Columbus their fifth win in their last six games. Mason saved 29 shots to get the win while Kari Lehtonen was a bit of a hard-luck loser stopping 37 shots in the loss. Matt Calvert also scored for Columbus while Brad Richards scored Dallas’ lone goal.

Hitch’s recipe for more goals is a pretty simple one

Ken Hitchcock, David Backes, Dmitrij Jaskin, Paul Stastny, Patrik Berglund
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Ken Hitchcock wants the Blues to spend more time attacking and less time defending.

Because hockey isn’t rocket science, that’s why.

“To score and win games in the National Hockey League…you have to spend as much time in the offensive zone as you can,” Hitchcock told the Post-Dispatch.

“When you’re occupying the offensive zone more, you’re forechecking more. When you’re occupying the offensive zone more, the goalie has to make saves. They’re having to defend more. And the opposing team takes penalties on you. So they’re all connected. … What I want to see from us is staying on the puck for longer stretches.”

According to the stats, the Blues have not been spending as much time in the offensive zone as we’re used to seeing from them. In fact, in their last 20 games, they rank in the bottom third of the league in score-adjusted Corsi. That compares to their first 20 games when they were in the top third.

The result is fewer shots, and more importantly, fewer goals. The Blues have fallen all the way to 25th in offense, averaging just 2.37 goals per game. Last year, they finished fifth (2.91).

Yes, some of that may be due to the absence of Jaden Schwartz, and he should be back soon. But there’s a reason people are watching GM Doug Armstrong as the Feb. 29 trade deadline approaches. This team could probably use another piece up front.

The Blues host Minnesota Saturday.

St. Louis has scored just five goals in its last five games.

Goalie nods: Lindback ‘really excited’ for first start in almost three weeks

Anders Lindback
AP
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Tonight in Anaheim, Anders Lindback will make his first start for the Arizona Coyotes since Jan. 16.

The Coyotes have been riding rookie Louis Domingue since just before Christmas, but Domingue has allowed five goals in each of his last three starts, including last night’s 5-4 loss to Chicago.

Lindback’s last appearance came Tuesday in relief, when he allowed one goal on 10 shots in a 6-2 loss to the Kings.

Lindback was in goal for one of Arizona’s three victories this season over Anaheim, stopping 33 of 36 shots in a 4-3 overtime win on Nov. 9. However, his .896 save percentage ranks among the lowest in the league.

Frederik Andersen is expected to start for the Ducks.

Elsewhere…

— No word yet on a Penguins starter in Tampa, but Ben Bishop will go for the Bolts.

Cam Ward will start for the Hurricanes in Winnipeg, where Connor Hellebuyck is expected for the increasingly desperate Jets.

— Joonas Korpisalo was solid last night in Vancouver, but the Blue Jackets have not announced their starter for tonight’s game in Calgary. Karri Ramo will be in goal for the Flames.

A ‘pretty solid two-way player,’ Sundqvist to make NHL debut for Penguins

Pittsburgh Penguins' Oskar Sundqvist (49) collides with Minnesota Wild's Jason Zucker (16) in the first period of a NHL preseason hockey game in Pittsburgh, Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
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The latest Penguins injuries, these ones to Evgeni Malkin and Eric Fehr, have led to an opportunity for Oskar Sundqvist.

Sundqvist will make his NHL debut for the Penguins tonight in Tampa. The 21-year-old center has five goals and 11 assists in 39 AHL games this season.

“Sunny’s a pretty solid two-way player,” coach Mike Sullivan said, per the Tribune-Review.

“I don’t think he’s going to dazzle you with flashy plays, but I think he’s a guy who plays the game the right way. He’s hard to play against because of his size. He’s got a long reach, and he’s got a good stick.”

Sundqvist was selected 81st overall by the Pens in 2012. He’ll become the fourth player out of that Pittsburgh draft class to make his NHL debut, after Olli Maatta, Derrick Pouliot, and Matt Murray.

Veteran Matt Cullen will replace Malkin on the second line, skating with wingers Carl Hagelin and Phil Kessel.

Related: Nick Bonino out ‘at least a month’ with hand injury

John Scott’s wife gives birth to twin girls

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As if John Scott wasn’t already having a great week, now he’s the proud father of twin girls.

The Montreal Canadiens shared the good news via their Twitter account today.

Scott, the unlikely 2016 All-Star Game MVP, is currently back home in Michigan; however, he’s expected to resume his career at some point with Montreal’s AHL affiliate in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

When, exactly, he suits up for the IceCaps remains to be seen, but it won’t be tonight or tomorrow.

Related: Therrien on Canadiens possibly recalling John Scott: ‘You never know’