Around the rink – March 5; Key battles in Philly, Boston, and Phoenix highlight busy day

All times Eastern

1:00 p.m.

Buffalo @ Philadelphia

Two teams in need of a win to get off the schneid and two teams with a long history of disliking each other immensely. I’m not sure it gets better than that for an afternoon game. Philly’s lost four of their last six and two in a row and their grip on the top spot in the East is slipping away. The Sabres are in the midst of a seven game road trip which they’re 1-0-1 on so far after beating the Rangers and losing in overtime to Carolina. Buffalo is three back of Carolina for the eighth spot in the East.

St. Louis @ NY Islanders

Two teams on the wrong side of the ledger when it comes to the playoffs. The Blues have all but slipped away completely out west while the Isles have never really been in it at all in the East. The Isles are playing better hockey of late though, something that should worry the Ben Bishop-led Blues. The Blues are losers of six of their last seven and three in a row and they’ve scored just two goals in their last three games. Not fun. The Isles are hoping to capitalize on their 4-1 win over Minnesota in their last game and get a winning streak going.

4:00 p.m.

Vancouver @ Los Angeles

Not a bad game for a matinée matchup out west. The West leading Canucks pay a visit to old friend Willie Mitchell and the Kings. L.A. are winners of four of their last five games and a win today gets them back up into a tie for fourth with Chicago. The Canucks have been kind of pedestrian lately alternating wins and losses since early February. Not going on the consistent tear they were on earlier in the season is proving to be a bit annoying for them and it’s allowed Detroit to creep up on them for the top spot in the West. If they want to get home ice throughout the playoffs, it wouldn’t hurt to snap out of it.

7:00 p.m.

Pittsburgh @ Boston

As happens all the time when these two get together, fans keep an eye on Matt Cooke but that shouldn’t even be a story in this one so much as it is Pittsburgh stumbling of late and the Bruins rolling looking to extend their winning streak to eight. During the Bruins’ run scoring on them has been very difficult. Unfortunately for the Pens scoring has been an issue for them of late too. Unlike their 2-1 OT loss to New Jersey last night, if the Penguins aren’t careful, Boston can blow them out.

Chicago @ Toronto

A few weeks ago, this would’ve been Kris Versteeg and Viktor Stalberg getting to play against each other and their former teams. Instead, only Stalberg will get a chance to stick it to the Maple Leafs as the red hot Blackhawks take on the shockingly improved Leafs. Chicago’s won seven in a row and they’ve done it by scoring heaps of goals. They’re averaging four goals per game during their win streak and Jonathan Toews has been lights out during that stretch scoring seven goals and adding five assists. That’s how you end up a captain. For Toronto, they’ll be hoping James Reimer can continue his outstanding play in goal to shut down the Hawks. Toronto is just four points behind Carolina for a playoff spot in the East.

Florida @ Atlanta

This is the game of sadness tonight. Florida’s mailed in their season already while Atlanta is in such a tailspin they’re now just one point ahead of the surging Devils for 11th place in the East. After so much hope early on for the Thrashers they’re buried in the East and essentially out of it unless they can start winning now and not stop the rest of the way. Beating a lowly Florida team would be a smart way to start that.

Montreal @ Tampa Bay

A huge game for both teams as Montreal looks to move up towards the fourth spot in the East as they’re five behind Pittsburgh for that. Tampa Bay is just one point ahead of Washington for the lead in the Southeast. For Lightning coach Guy Boucher it’s yet another great opportunity for him to show the Habs organization what they ended up losing out on. Tampa’s lost two in row, however, and their last four games have been decided by 2-1 scores (2-2-0). If you twisted our arm, we’d say we’ll see the same thing again tonight.

8:00 p.m.

Detroit @ Phoenix

Last year’s playoff rivals square off in Glendale and for Phoenix they need a win badly. The Coyotes have dropped five in a row and with a Wings team that’s playing some really good hockey of late, tonight figures to be a struggle again. The Wings are coming off a frustrating loss to Anaheim the other night in which they lost thanks to a Bobby Ryan penalty shot goal in overtime. If the Wings want to avoid frustration tonight, doing better than 1-9 on the power play the way they did against the Ducks would be a good way to do it.

10:00 p.m.

Edmonton @ Colorado

No Taylor Hall to dazzle us in this game as he’s done for the year with a high ankle sprain. So what is there to watch for in this battle between the two bottom teams in the West? Uh, well… How about Matt Duchene for Colorado and Jordan Eberle for Edmonton. These young centers are at least well worth watching to see what they’ll do next. If the game goes to a shootout then you’ll have Linus Omark to thrill you there. That’s about the best we can do for you to keep you interested in this one.

10:30 p.m.

Dallas @ San Jose

After a heartbreaking loss to the Ducks last night, the Stars are rewarded with facing off against the scorching hot Sharks. San Jose is hoping to extend their win streak to nine in a row while helping keep the Stars down just the same. How the Stars respond tonight will be important to see how they bounce back psychologically as well as physically. After all, playing on back-to-back nights hurts as it is but doing so after a gut-punch of a loss provides its own test. Meanwhile, the Sharks have opened up a six point lead in the Pacific Division.

Kings’ AHL affiliate gives Emery PTO

Ray Emery
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Ray Emery has agreed to join the Ontario Reign on a professional tryout, according to a team release.

The Reign are the minor league affiliate of the Los Angeles Kings.

Emery attended Tampa Bay’s training camp on a PTO, but he was released after the team claimed Kevin Poulin on waivers from the Islanders.

The 33-year-old had a 10-11-7 record with a 3.06 goals-against-average and a .894 save percentage in 31 games with the Flyers last season.

Even with starter Jonathan Quick struggling, it’s hard to envision this move leading to a return to the NHL for Emery.

The Kings have Quick and Jhonas Enroth with the big club, while veteran Peter Budaj was signed to a two-way contract on Friday.

Goalie nods: Reimer makes first start of the season

James Reimer
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James Reimer will get his first start of the 2015-16 season on Saturday night against Ottawa.

Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock made it clear from the beginning that Jonathan Bernier was going to start on Wednesday against Montreal and Friday in Detroit, while Reimer would get in against the Sens.

“I’ve known this for a long time that (Bernier is) starting and he’s starting on Wednesday and he’s starting on Friday. Reims is starting on Saturday,” Babcock said before the season began.

Things haven’t gone according to plan for Toronto through two games.

Not only have they lost both contests, but Bernier was pulled in yesterday’s 4-0 loss to the Red Wings, and the team has scored only one goal this season.

Reimer, who stopped 12 of 13 shots in just under 40 minutes of action against Detroit, will go up against Craig Anderson.


Cam Talbot will try to get his first win as an Oiler as they travel to Nashville to take on the Predators. Pekka Rinne will start for the Predators.

Carey Price and Tuukka Rask will face-off when the Canadiens and Bruins renew hostilities at the TD Garden in Boston.

Petr Mrazek will be between the pipes when the Red Wings take on the ‘Canes in Carolina. Cam Ward gets the nod for the Hurricanes.

Keith Kinkaid for the Devils. Braden Holtby makes his first start of the year in the Capitals’ season opener.

Steve Mason for the Flyers. Roberto Luongo for the Panthers in their opener.

-Columbus hasn’t confirmed who their starter will be in the back half of their home-and-home with the Rangers. Henrik Lundqvist will start for New York.

Jake Allen makes his first start of the regular season for St. Louis. Devan Dubnyk for the Wild.

-The Islanders have yet to confirm their starter for tonight’s game in Chicago. Scott Darling for the ‘Hawks after Corey Crawford helped spoil the party in Brooklyn yesterday.

Antti Niemi gets the call for Dallas after he blanked the Penguins in his first start. Semyon Varlamov for Colorado.

Jonas Hiller for Calgary. Ryan Miller for the Canucks.

-The Penguins haven’t confirmed who their starter will be in Arizona tonight. Mike Smith will likely play in back-to-back games after beating the Kings on Friday.

-The Ducks have yet to confirm their starter. Martin Jones will start for San Jose.