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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.

Video: Jets’ Stafford suspended one game for ‘forceful, reckless’ high-stick

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The NHL has dinged Winnipeg forward Drew Stafford one game for his ugly high stick on Colorado’s Nick Holden over the weekend.

“While we accept Stafford’s assertion that he did not intentionally strike Holden in the face, he is responsible for the consequences of swinging his stick in such a forceful and reckless fashion,” the Department of Player Safety explained.

Stafford, who wasn’t penalized on the play, will now miss Winnipeg’s next game — tonight, in St. Louis — and will be eligible to return on Thursday when the Jets host the Bruins.

Stafford will also forfeit $23,387.10 in salary to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.

Big Buff, Big Bucks: Jets ink Byfuglien to five-year, $38 million extension

Dustin Byfuglien
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One of the most prized trade deadline targets is no longer.

On Monday, Winnipeg locked in pending UFA d-man Dustin Byfuglien to a five-year, $38 million extension, one that carries a $7.6M cap hit and makes him the highest-paid player on the team.

Byfuglien, 30, was in the last of a five-year, $26 million deal with a $5.2M average annual cap hit. One of the league’s most unique players — a 6-foot-5, 265 pounder that’s played forward and defense, and participated in this year’s fastest skater All-Star skills competition — his bio from the Jets’ release pretty much sums up how much he means to the club:

[Byfuglien] has recorded 32 points (15G, 17A) so far this season while appearing in all 52 games and sits in a tie for second amongst all NHL defencemen with his 15 goals.

Byfuglien leads the Jets so far this season in shots (163), penalty minutes (78) and ice time (24:14 per game).

The native of Roseau, MN, was named to the 2016 NHL All-Star Game in Nashville, TN where he recorded a goal and an assist for the Central Division team.

Byfuglien has been named to the All-Star Game in each of the last four seasons that the game has taken place (2011, 2012, 2015, 2016).

The deal keeps Byfuglien in Winnipeg through 2022 and is the latest long-term deal on the blueline: Tobias Enstrom is at $5.75M per through 2018, and Tyler Myers is at $5.5M per through ’19.

With this move done, Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff can now turn his attention to another prized pending UFA: Andrew Ladd, the club’s captain and another player that’s believed to have high interest around the league as a trade deadline rental.

Slumping Wild want ‘a little home cooking’ from ‘restless’ fan base

Minnesota Wild head coach Mike Yeo argues a call in the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Nashville Predators Tuesday, March 17, 2015, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
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The Minnesota Wild are in a funk right now.

They’re 3-10-3 in their last 16 games, three points back of the final wild card spot in the Western Conference and just put key blueliner Jonas Brodin on IR with a broken foot.

So, clearly, the team and head coach Mike Yeo are hoping for better times ahead, and Yeo hopes they begin tonight when the Wild kick off a three-game homestand with a date against Central Division rivals Dallas.

It’s interesting that Yeo’s addressing the Xcel faithful, while also acknowledging fans are irked by the team’s recent play. The timing of these remarks comes with the Wild boasting a good record at home (14-8-3) but having really struggled on the road — Minnesota has just nine away wins this year, the fewest among all Central teams.

Of course, there could be other reasons Yeo’s trying to get fans pumped for the upcoming home swing.

The next three games at Xcel are of the measuring stick variety. Dallas currently sits third overall in the NHL and boasts the league’s highest scoring offense (the Stars have also beat the Wild three out of four times this season already).

After the Dallas game, there’s another big one — the NHL’s top team, Washington, comes to town on Thursday.

After the Caps game, Boston — 7-2-1 in its last 10 — takes on the Wild in a Saturday matinee.

Foley is ‘9.5’ out of 10 confident that NHL will expand to Vegas

LAS VEGAS, NV - FEBRUARY 10:  NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman (L) and Fidelity National Financial Inc. Chairman and President of Hockey Vision Las Vegas Bill Foley pose during a news conference at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino announcing the launch of a season ticket drive to try to gauge if there is enough interest in Las Vegas to support an NHL team on February 10, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. A Las Vegas franchise would play in a USD 375 million, 20,000-seat arena being built on the Strip by MGM Resorts International and AEG that is scheduled to open in the spring of 2016.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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On a scale of 1 to 10, Bill Foley is “9.5” confident that the NHL will grant him an expansion team for Las Vegas.

That was the main takeaway from an interview Foley did with KSNV NBC in Las Vegas.

At the same time, despite his high level of confidence, Foley would appreciate an answer sooner rather than later — especially if the team is to start playing in 2017-18.

” I don’t want to give the league too much time,” he said, smiling. “They’re doing their job, they’re doing their process and so on. We would really like to have the word by June.”

Foley was asked what he believed to be the biggest “concern” the NHL had about expansion. He replied that it was a matter of whether the league expanded by one team or two (Quebec City has also applied for a franchise), but also the expansion draft.

“Who’s available in the draft? Are players with no-trade clauses…are they going to be part of the draft or not part of the draft?” Foley wondered. “So the owners and the league have a lot of things to do and to figure out.”

Full video of the interview can be found here.

Related: Bettman rejects notion that the NHL is waiting for Seattle