Joni Pitkanen, Mike Santorelli, Cam Ward

Early Ride on the Zamboni – Tuesday, March 1st


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.

Report: Kings, Richards nearing settlement

Mike Richards
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The Los Angeles Kings and Mike Richards may be nearing a settlement in their dispute over Richards’ terminated contract, TSN’s Bob McKenzie is reporting.

You can read the report for all the details, but we’re sure curious about this part:

If a settlement is reached, there’s no word yet on what salary cap penalties the Kings would still face. There’s bound to be something, but not likely as onerous as the full value of Richards’ contract, which carries with it a cap hit of $5.75 million. If there’s a settlement, Richards would undoubtedly become a free agent though there’s no telling at this point what monies he would be entitled to from the Kings in a settlement.

The issue here is precedent, and what this case could set. The NHL and NHLPA can’t allow teams to escape onerous contracts through a back door, and many are adamant that that’s what the Kings were attempting to do in Richards’ case.

Bettman to players: Don’t screw up ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’ with drugs

Gary Bettman
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The NHL wants to take an educational approach — not a punitive one — to deter its players from using illicit drugs like cocaine.

“My interest is not to go around punishing people,” Bettman told Sportsnet today.

“My interest is getting players to understand the consequences of doing something that could jeopardize this great, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that they’ve been given, to play in the NHL.”

While some players have expressed surprise at hearing that cocaine use is growing, the anecdotal evidence of substance abuse has been very much in the news, from Jarret Stoll‘s arrest to Mike Richards’ arrest to, more recently, Zack Kassian‘s placement in the NHL/NHLPA’s treatment program.

“We don’t have the unilateral right to do things here. We need the consent of the Players’ Association,” Bettman said. “It’s not about punishment. It’s about making sure we get it to stop.”

Related: Cocaine in the NHL: A concern, but not a crisis?