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Around the rink – March 1; New faces in new places

7:00 p.m.

Buffalo @ NY Rangers

Brad Boyes should be making his Sabres debut against the Rangers as they’ll play on without having obtained Brad Richards and without injured Martin Biron. If Henrik Lundqvist gets into trouble, former University of Alabama-Huntsville goalie Cam Talbot waits in the wings as his backup. The Sabres desperately need a win and if Boyes can help bring the offense they’re hoping for, they’re capable of making a run.

NY Islanders @ Washington

The Caps will break out all three of Dennis Wideman, Jason Arnott, and Marco Sturm tonight. Mike Green will be out and may be out for the next couple of weeks so Wideman’s arrival is more than helpful. The Caps have won four of their last six and just beat the Isles in New York on Saturday.

Florida @ Carolina

Well this should be an awkward first date. Former Panther Bryan Allen should be suited up for his first game with the Hurricanes tonight. Another former Panther Cory Stillman will at least be there on the same bench with him to make feel a little more comfortable. Former Hurricane Sergei Samsonov will suit up for Florida as well in his first game. With the Panthers in full on mail-it-in mode, the pressure is on the Hurricanes to come away with the win to hold on to the eighth spot in the East.

Montreal @ Atlanta

Speaking of desperate teams, the Thrashers new additions hope to bring them something they’ve found hard to do of late: wins. The Thrashers misery has dropped them to a tie for 10th in the East with Toronto and four points behind Carolina for eighth. They’re not out of it but unless they start getting hot, it’s just not going to happen. With Ondrej Pavelec still out, the pressure is on Chris Mason to get it done for them in goal. Montreal, meanwhile, sits in sixth place three points behind Washington and three ahead of the Rangers. With Boston ahead of them by six points in the Northeast and seemingly ready to pull away, getting ground on the Rangers and catching the Caps becomes their main priority.

7:30 p.m.

Boston @ Ottawa

Boston looks to wrap up their six game road trip undefeated. After getting big wins already against Vancouver and Calgary, the B’s hope to beat Ottawa one more time on their ice on this trip. Ottawa, meanwhile, is in injury shambles and rolling with a lineup that’s essentially Jason Spezza, Chris Phillips, and the Binghamton Senators. Their saving grace might be Craig Anderson in goal who’s accustomed to seeing a ton of shots and playing well under fire. How’s he doing in Ottawa so far? 3-1-0 with a 1.23 goals against and .963 save percentage.

8:00 p.m.

Calgary @ St. Louis

After beating the Blues 1-0 on Sunday in Calgary, they head to St. Louis to try and replicate their fortune to not get lost in the Western playoff shuffle. The Blues would like to defend their home turf and gigantic goalie Ben Bishop will hope to keep his good run of play going getting the nod again tonight. You won’t see new Flames Brett Carson and Fredrik Modin tonight, but you probably won’t see a lot of them anyhow.

9:00 p.m.

Dallas @ Phoenix

Dallas made their commitment to Brad Richards which means they’d better make the playoffs this year. Dealing with a Coyotes team that’s been a bit iffy of late dropping three in a row. Dallas is coming off  big wins over Detroit and Nashville but consistency is what they’ll need. Can they do it? Taking on a bumbling Phoenix team might be the cure they need.

9:30 p.m.

Nashville @ Edmonton

These two were rumored to be working on something at the trade deadline but nothing came from it. Instead, Nashville will look to improve their standing in the race for the playoffs and snap out of their funk completely. They’ve lost four of their last five, but their win over Columbus on Sunday may have helped snap them out of it. Beating the downtrodden and now Dustin Penner-less Oilers would make for a good streak starter.

10:00 p.m.

Columbus @ Vancouver

What’s the worst thing for a team fighting to get in the playoffs to see when they’re just points out of the lead? You guessed it, going on the road to face the best team in the NHL. Both teams have new acquisitions to work in and Scottie Upshall and Sami Lepisto will be of the utmost importance to Columbus’ playoff hopes. Vancouver hopes to quit the stumbling they’ve been doing of late as the Detroit Red Wings are starting to catch up to them points-wise in the race for the top spot out West.

10:30 p.m.

Colorado @ San Jose

It’s never a dull moment with these two teams but with Colorado being really down of late, you can’t help but think that the Sharks are going to be out to roll. Antti Niemi emboldened with his new contract has been on fire and the Colorado offense has cooled off immeasurably lately. Making life harder for the Avs, the Sharks have to keep winning to keep the rest of the Pacific Division off their heels.

Gudbranson-Hutton pairing will be key for Canucks

Vancouver Canucks' defenseman Erik Gudbranson, who was acquired from the Florida Panthers in the off-season, answers questions during a news conference ahead of the NHL hockey team's training camp in Vancouver, British Columbia, Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)
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There’s a long list of things that have to go right for the Vancouver Canucks if their playoff hopes are to be realized.

One of the biggest is for new addition Erik Gudbranson to form a cohesive second pairing with sophomore Ben Hutton. If that happens, and if Alex Edler and Chris Tanev can stay healthy, the Canucks should have a reliable top-four defense, and that’s something they rarely, if ever, had last season.

Gudbranson, a big stay-at-home type, and Hutton, a puck-mover, have been skating together at training camp. The Canucks believe the pairing has great potential, with each defenseman’s strengths complementing the other’s.

“I want to get his feet moving and hit him in stride and get him up the ice with the puck as soon as possible,” Gudbranson said, per The Province. “I think we’re going to be a good partnership. We’re both on the same page. We’re both excited to play with each other and grow as a unit.”

Vancouver’s third pairing remains to be seen. Luca Sbisa with Philip Larsen is the most likely at this point, though Nikita Tryamkin and Andrey Pedan on the left side, and Alex Biega and Troy Stecher on the right, could make things interesting. Jordan Subban is another wild card. Olli Juolevi too, though he’s a long shot and will likely end up back in junior.

The Canucks were decimated by injuries to their best defensemen last season. Edler only played 52 games, Dan Hamhuis 58, and Tanev 69. Other teams with more depth could survive that, but Vancouver floundered.

That’s why health is another big thing that has to go right for the Canucks. Another injury-filled season and it’s hard to picture them staying in the playoff race.

Vancouver opens its preseason schedule tonight in San Jose.

Boedker to make Team Europe debut in World Cup final

DENVER, CO - MARCH 09:  Mikkel Boedker #89 of the Colorado Avalanche controls the puck against the Anaheim Ducks at Pepsi Center on March 9, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. The Avalanche defeated the Ducks 3-0.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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Mikkel Boedker‘s first game for Team Europe will be a big one.

Boedker, a healthy scratch throughout the World Cup, will make his European debut on Tuesday, replacing the injured Marian Gaborik (foot) in the first of the best-of-three final.

Head coach Ralph Kreuger opted for Boedker rather than dressing Luca Sbisa as a seventh defenseman, and lamented losing Gaborik’s presence in the lineup.

“We’re losing some leadership and smarts on the puck that were exemplary,” Krueger said, per the L.A. Times.

What the Europeans will gain, however, is speed. Boedker’s one of the fastest skaters in the league and is coming off a good offensive campaign, tying a career-high with 51 points.

The 26-year-old appeared in two of Europe’s exhibition games, both against Team North America. He received a ton of ice time in the first — 19:46 — but had that cut in half for the rematch, when he had 13 shifts for just 9:22 TOI.

Related: Gaborik (foot) to miss eight weeks

 

Under Bednar, Avs won’t ‘slow the game down’ like they did with Roy

Nathan MacKinnon
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Though it’s hard to pinpoint just one standout from the high-flying North American team at the World Cup, speedy Avs forward Nathan MacKinnon was certainly in the conversation.

Now, MacKinnon wants that tournament success to translate over to the regular season — and he’s confident Colorado’s coaching change will make it happen.

From the Denver Post:

Is [Jared] Bednar’s system different from what the Avalanche did under Patrick Roy?

“Yeah, it is,” MacKinnon said. “Now every puck we get, we want to move it up quickly and use our speed and not wait and go D-to-D, back to D and slow the game down.

“We have very good skaters on our team, and we want to use that.”

One of the blueliners responsible for moving the puck quickly, Tyson Barrie, echoed those sentiments.

“There’s going to be no messing around with the puck, no playing around with it in our end, in the neutral zone,” Barrie said of Bednar’s system, per NHL.com. “We’re going to be pushing the pace, getting it into the forwards’ hands. We’re going to play fast and our defensemen are going to be jumping.

“I’m super impressed.”

Not utilizing Colorado’s speed was considered one of Roy’s major failings as head coach. With the likes of MacKinnon and Matt Duchene in the mix, it seemed like playing an uptempo game was the obvious choice — yet, as stated above, the Colorado blueliners were instructed to play more east-west than north-south.

That figures to change under Bednar.

In his previous stop, Columbus’ AHL affiliate in Lake Erie, Bednar led a high-octane group that had no problem finding the back of the net. The Monsters led the American League in playoff scoring en route to the Calder Cup, and did it with a talented, versatile blueline that delivered pucks to the forwards.

(Bednar also had a glut of good, young talent at his disposal. Zach Werenski, the eight overall pick in 2015, anchored the blueline will the likes of Oliver Bjorkstrand and Sonny Milano were up front.)

Needless to say, Colorado should be a fascinating team to watch this year.

Related: Keep an eye on the goaltending situation in Colorado

Pouliot’s goal is to become ‘full-time player’ for Penguins

PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 27: Derrick Pouliout #51 of the Pittsburgh Penguins skates with the puck against the Washington Capitals at Consol Energy Center on December 27, 2014 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Matt Kincaid/Getty Images)
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The eighth overall pick in the 2012 draft, it’s fair to say that Derrick Pouliot has yet to reach his full potential. He’s only played 56 games for the Pittsburgh Penguins, stretched over two seasons. And compared to the rest of his draft class, that’s not very many NHL games.

Granted, it’s also fair to say that Pouliot’s still only 22, and defenseman are known to take longer to develop. This year, he says he’s come to camp in better shape, with the goal of staying with the Pens all season.

“That’s the goal. I know things can change pretty quick, but I’m confident with the shape I’m in and in my ability to play,” he said, per the Times Leader. “Hopefully I can make myself a full-time player here.”

Pouliot is still waivers-exempt, so he’ll need to earn his spot. The Penguins re-signed Justin Schultz for another year, and that could be his competition.

“We have high expectations for Derrick,” said head coach Mike Sullivan, per the Post-Gazette. “We’ve kept close tabs on him all summer long, and we knew he was coming into camp in the type of shape that he’s in. … He’s a very talented kid, and when he put those two things together, we think he’s going to improve another level.”