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.

PHT Morning Skate: This season’s top five breakout performers

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Jake Allen wore a special U.S. Navy tribute mask during last night’s game against the Coyotes. It’s really a gorgeous mask. “The blue and yellow complements our colors well, and it’s a great tribute to the Blue Angel pilots who have the honor of flying and performing across the country.” (NHL.com/Blues)

–With every NHL season, there are surprises and disappointments. Rather than focus on the negatives, The Hockey News breaks down the top five breakout seasons in 2016-17. At the top of the list is Panthers forward Jonathan Marchesault, who is shockingly closing in on a 30-goal season. Nashville’s Viktor Arvidsson and Boston’s David Pastrnak have also made names for themselves. (The Hockey News)

–It’s no secret that NHLers are forced to travel a lot, but each team makes the most of their road trips in different ways. For example, Kevin Shattenkirk and the Capitals enjoy fine dining when they’re away from home.  “It’s so easy to go to the top names or the ones that you hear of all the time, but when you go to a lot of these cities, the food scenes everywhere now are really starting to improve. A lot of my friends naturally are foodies. They bring me to some of their places. Even just a simple Google, most of the times, the first two things that come up are Yelp or TripAdvisor, and I usually go a couple down and look at a local newspaper, if they have the best spots to eat in 2017. I like to focus on those.” (Washington Post)

–The Tampa Bay Lightning found themselves down 4-1 in lasts night’s game against Chicago, but they were able to battle back and win in a thrilling overtime period. You can check out the highlights from that game by clicking the video at the top of the page.

–Tonight will mark the first time that Jordie and Jamie Benn play against each other since the trade that saw the older Benn head to Montreal. The Canadiens took the opportunity to ask their Benn some questions about what it was like growing up with his brother. Here’s a sample question: “Of the two of you, which one is Peyton and who is Eli?” (NHL.com/Canadiens)

–This year’s rookie class with Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine, Zach Werenski, Mitch Marner and Matt Murray is one of the best in recent memory, but which other freshmen classes stand out? BarDown takes a look at the top five rookie classes since 2000. (BarDown)

–Capitals forward Justin Williams and Andre Burakovsky had some fun during picture day. The two players showed up to the rink with some pretty poofy hair. There’s no point in me trying to explain it when you can see the pictures for yourself. (NHL.com)

Eddie Lack expects to be released from hospital on Monday night

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As scary as the situation was for Carolina Hurricanes goalie Eddie Lack, the good news continues to pour in.

First, the Hurricanes provided an update that he had “full feeling in his extremities” while under observation at a hospital. This followed the promising sign that he was able to give a “thumbs up” gesture while being taken off the ice on a stretcher after the Hurricanes’ 4-3 overtime loss to the Detroit Red Wings.

The best news came late on Monday night, however, as Lack himself tweeted that he expects to head back home as early as this late evening/early morning:

That’s fantastic news. Video of that scary collision with Andreas Athanasiou can be seen in the video above this post’s headline.

Blues, Flames take care of business (Islanders … do not)

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For a while there, it seemed like the idle Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs would be Monday’s “winners.” That changed when the Carolina Hurricanes salvaged a standings point and the Tampa Bay Lightning stormed back to beat the Blackhawks.

Still, there were some teams who came through (beyond the Lightning) and those who fell flat, so let’s cover some of the results in short.

West teams get it done

Unlike their counterparts out East, West teams jockeying for position avoided “unforced errors” in losing to non-playoff teams.

The St. Louis Blues beat the Arizona Coyotes 4-1 while the Calgary Flames topped the Colorado Avalanche 4-2. Johnny Gaudreau generated his 200th point (and 201st) in Calgary’s win, while Alex Steen generated four assists. (Vladimir Tarasenko also enjoyed a three-point night.)

This keeps the Blues and Flames in position to advance. St. Louis is one point behind the Nashville Predators for third in the Central while the Flames are a point behind both the Sharks and Oilers for second and third in the Pacific (while remaining in shouting distance of the division title).

East teams stumble, some get over it

Again, the Lightning fought through hurdles to win and the Hurricanes managed that “charity point.”

Overall, East teams struggled. The New York Islanders fell to the Predators by a score of 3-1. Your mileage may vary on the Florida Panthers’ chances, especially after they fell 4-2 to the Buffalo Sabres.

Brian Gionta scored in his 1,000th game as Buffalo won, by the way.

Here’s what the race for the final spot in the East looks like after tonight:

Final wild card: Bruins – 84 points in 75 games played

Lightning – 83 points in 75 GP
Islanders – 82 points in 75 GP
Hurricanes – 80 points in 74 GP

Victor Hedman might just force his way into the Norris argument

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For quite some time this season, the Norris Trophy race felt a bit like “Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson and [insert token finalist].” As it turns out, Victor Hedman is making it a pretty interesting three-horse race.

With Burns and Karlsson idle on Monday, Hedman continued to go on the best offensive tear of his already-impressive career, contributing three assists to the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 5-4 overtime win against the Chicago Blackhawks.

As much credit as forwards Nikita Kucherov and Jonathan Drouin deserve in pushing Tampa Bay in Steven Stamkos‘ absence, Hedman has been an all-world blueliner for a Lightning team with a defense that isn’t really surrounding him with great talent.

He’s serving as a workhorse when his team needs him the most:

Now, when you look at the numbers, it’s probably fair to say that Hedman comes in third among the likely finalists in simple categories:

Brent Burns: 27 goals (!), 72 points in 75 games, +16 rating, 24:52 time-on-ice average

Erik Karlsson: 14 goals, 67 points in 74 games, +7, 26:53 minutes per game (fourth highest average in the NHL)

Victor Hedman: 15 goals, 65 points in 72 games, +2 rating, came into Monday with average of 24:15 minutes per game.

Looking at those breakdowns, you might wonder why someone wouldn’t just flippantly hand Hedman the “bronze medal” and a pat on the back … but things get more interesting if you ponder the all-around impact of those three.

Now, traditional-thinkers who slam risky defensemen for their mistakes often overstate such arguments. Both Burns and Karlsson tilt the ice in their teams’ favors, usually to profound degrees.

Still … Hedman locks opponents down to a truly elite degree and scores at a similar rate. Hedman could very well own the “two-way” argument; you could perhaps see his case most clearly when you compare his “HERO” chart to those of Burns and Karlsson, especially from the perspective of conceding shots.

Again, Burns remains the likely winner, and he would be a deserving one. You could make a solid Hart Trophy argument for Burns, in addition to tabbing him as the Norris frontrunner.

Even so, voters would be wise to take Hedman’s case seriously, especially as the Lightning continue their improbable playoff push.