Joni Pitkanen, Mike Santorelli, Cam Ward

Early Ride on the Zamboni – Tuesday, March 1st

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There are 10 games on tonight’s busy schedule of hockey, with six of them complete now. Here are summaries of a night that featured some great goaltending performances so far.

Montreal 3, Atlanta 1

Barring a stunning turnaround, the Thrashers’ playoff hopes are starting to look really dismal. It wasn’t for a lack of trying tonight, as they threw 41 shots at Carey Price. Unfortunately for them, Price stopped all but one of those shots as Montreal won the third of their last four games.

Carolina 2, Florida 1

Speaking of great goaltending performances that underscored the opposition’s rapidly declining hopes, Cam Ward did one better than Price (literally) by stopping 41 Panthers shots to keep the Hurricanes ahead of the charging Sabres. Cory Stillman is already paying dividends back with his own team, as he had a hand in both goals (one goal and one assist).

Buffalo 3, NY Rangers 2

The Sabres kept pace with the Hurricanes (they’re only two points behind them with two games in hand) and also pulled the Rangers closer to them thanks to a tough win to begin their seven-game road trip. Three of the game’s five goals were scored on the man advantage, as Ryan Miller (29 saves) guided Buffalo to two more points.

Washington 2, NY Islanders 1 (OT)

Alex Ovechkin continued his resurgence, with two points (one goal and one assist) including the overtime game-winner. Michal Neuvirth made 28 saves to help his team as Semyon Varlamov continues to be on the mend.

Boston 1, Ottawa 0

Remember when Tim Thomas wasn’t living up to his contract and Tuukka Rask stole his job? Last season seems like a long time ago, but the Finnish backup is helping his team, as he beat the Senators and Oilers in two straight potential trap games. Rask stopped all 33 shots for the win to keep Boston six points ahead of Montreal.

Calgary 6, St. Louis 0

Miikka Kiprusoff had a much larger margin of error than his countryman Rask, but he also earned a shutout tonight on 25 saves. This game continued a theme of contending teams beating fading tweeners, although the Flames opted for “soul-crushing victory” over eking out a win. Jarome Iginla scored two goals and two assists, as his red-hot line totaled 10 points. Kipper also shut out St. Louis on Sunday.

Red Wings re-sign Mrazek to two-year, $8 million deal

Detroit Red Wings goalie Petr Mrazek (34) stops a shot by Tampa Bay Lightning center Valtteri Filppula (51) in the first period of Game 3 in a first-round NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoff series, Sunday, April 17, 2016, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
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The Detroit Red Wings didn’t need Petr Mrazek‘s arbitration hearing either.

The day after the Wings avoided the process by locking up defenseman Danny DeKeyser, they agreed on a two-year deal with Mrazek, with a reported cap hit of $4 million.

Mrazek, 24, went 27-16-6 last season with a .921 save percentage. Those numbers compared favorably to Jimmy Howard‘s (14-14-5, .906); however, GM Ken Holland has argued that keeping Howard could be best for Mrazek’s development.

“It could possibly be detrimental if we put Petr in a situation where we’re just going to throw him out and play 70 games and no matter how you play, we’re going to keep putting you out,” said Holland.

Granted, it may be that Howard is simply untradeable. He’s 32 years old, hasn’t put up solid numbers the past three seasons, and has three years remaining on his contract with a cap hit of just under $5.3 million.

If Howard remains, the Wings will have just under $9.3 million in cap space allocated to their goaltenders next season, one of the highest totals in the league.

Mrazek, by the way, will still be a restricted free agent when his new contract expires in the summer of 2018.

Tavares ‘would love’ to spend his entire career with Isles

John Tavares
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With new majority owners and now talk of a new arena, the future of the New York Islanders has been a popular topic lately.

Not surprisingly, it’s led to plenty of discussion about the future of captain John Tavares, who can become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2018.

Ownership has insisted that it won’t get that far, that Tavares will be re-signed. The Isles will have “no financial constraints,” owner Jon Ledecky promised.

But what about Tavares? What does he think?

“I think I’ve always showed my commitment, my appreciation and my desire to play on Long Island,” the 25-year-old told Sportsnet 590 radio on Tuesday, per NHL.com. “I would love for that to continue for the long haul. I think you look at some of the greatest players in the game have been able to spend their entire career somewhere. I hope I’m in that same position.”

As for the speculation he could sign in Toronto?

“I would not count on that,” he said.

So start the countdown to July 1, 2017. That’s when Tavares can officially start negotiating an extension with the Isles.

Perhaps by then we’ll even know where the team will be playing its future games. Will it be Brooklyn or somewhere else?

Sens re-sign Hoffman to four-year, $20.75 million deal

Mike Hoffman
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Only 18 NHLers have scored more goals than Mike Hoffman has over the last two seasons.

Today, the Ottawa Senators signed the 26-year-old sniper to a four-year contract with a reported cap hit of $5.1875 million.

Hoffman had an arbitration hearing scheduled for Aug. 4. The breakdown of his new deal, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman:

His contract done, Hoffman can now focus fully on next season, which he’s excited about.

“New coach coming in, Guy Boucher, I had him in junior when I played in Drummondville of the Quebec League,” Hoffman said recently. “Very good relationship with him, we won a championship together. So definitely looking forward to working with him this year.”

As for Sens GM Pierre Dorion, he’s still got some offseason work to do. Defenseman Cody Cedi is a restricted free agent, and there’s no arbitration date to encourage a settlement in his case. While Dorion is confident that something that will get done with the 22-year-old, what remains to be seen is if it’s a short- or long-term deal.

Hurricanes extend contract of head coach Bill Peters

Bill Peters
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The Carolina Hurricanes may have missed the playoffs in each of Bill Peters’ two seasons behind the bench, but GM Ron Francis is clearly pleased with the job his head coach has done.

Today, the ‘Canes announced that Peters has been signed to a contract extension through the 2018-19 season.

“Bill is a talented, young coach in the National Hockey League,” said Francis in a release. “We are happy that he has made a commitment to the Hurricanes, and that he will be a major part of the team continuing to grow.”

The ‘Canes still won’t be a popular pick to make the playoffs in 2016-17, but with all the young talent that the organization has amassed, Peters will certainly be expected to get them there before his contract expires. (The ‘Canes were actually a pretty solid possession team last season, but were let down by their goaltending and inability to convert scoring chances.)

Carolina last made the playoffs in 2009.

Related: ‘Canes enjoying stronger ticket sales, but ‘fence-sitters’ still need convincing