Around the Rink – Sunday, March 6th

Naturally, we’ll have all the bases covered for today’s NBC Game of the Week between the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers at 12:30pm ET. Yet this Sunday boasts five other games, including a host of weekend afternoon contests. Let’s get the lowdown on those matches, with start times according to Eastern Standard Time (ET) as usual.

3:00 pm

New Jersey @ NY Islanders

Is it sobering or kind of funny that with all the hype the Devils’ impressive run to relevance is getting, they’re still only three points ahead of the Islanders? To be fair, the Isles have played in two more games and are looking fairly stout lately in their own right, but it’s still indicative of the Hoffa-sized hole New Jersey dug for itself.

Then again, the narrowing gap between the Devils and the eighth-place Carolina Hurricanes also indicates that the rest of the lower seed East team’s haven’t exactly been elite all season, either.

5:00 pm

Washington @ Florida

Despite the Lightning having a lead going into their 12-game homestand last month, the Capitals kept with the Southeast Division’s top team, as they’re only one point behind Tampa Bay as of this moment. Beating up on the fading Florida Panthers would allow the Caps to take a temporary lead in the division that seemed like it wouldn’t be in doubt for several more years for the team. The Panthers are behind the Devils and only one point ahead of the Islanders right now, so maybe they can finally tank to get a top draft pick?

(Though, in true Panthers purgatorial fashion, they might get a lottery pick in a roundly panned draft. Even when they finally lose, Florida just cannot win.)

6:00 pm

Buffalo @ Minnesota

These teams seem oddly similar, almost like opposite conference cousins. Both teams are hovering around their conference’s playoff bubble. Each squad lost their top center to injury, as Derek Roy is missing for the Sabres while Mikko Koivu is on the shelf for the Wild. They also lean heavily on highly paid and skilled goalies, as Ryan Miller and Niklas Backstrom play key roles in their teams’ playoff hopes (although the gap between Wild backup Jose Theodore and untrusted Sabres No. 2 Patrick Lalime is substantial). These two scrappy teams need this one badly, so the intensity should be solid even if the familiarity isn’t there.

8:00 pm

Nashville @ Calgary

The Flames are two points (and one win) ahead of the Predators, leaving them in the top eight while Nashville is wedged into a virtual ninth-place tie with the Anaheim Ducks. That Calgary lead is deceptive, however, because they’ve played in two more games than Shea Weber & Co. This is a typically big game in the West bubble.

Vancouver @ Anaheim

Unlike the stumbling Flyers, the Canucks haven’t let a lack of fear for their playoff positioning affect their focus in dispatching desperate teams. For the most part, anyway. While they don’t hold the psychological edge that the Blackhawks must against Vancouver, the Ducks are the kind of talented potential playoff team that would give any top seed the willies, so perhaps the Canucks will want to hurt their chances of slipping into the eighth spot.

Roberto Luongo leaves game with apparent injury, as Panthers fall to Penguins

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The Florida Panthers lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday. Making matters worse was the fact their goalie Roberto Luongo left the game in the third period with an apparent hand injury.

The injury occurred after a collision in the crease with Penguins forward Conor Sheary.

Luongo immediately went down to the ice in pain. A replay from above the net showed Luongo’s right hand getting caught in an awkward position against the post after coming into contact with Sheary as he cut through in front of the crease in pursuit of the puck.

The injury forced James Reimer off the bench and into the game with the Panthers trailing by a goal. MacKenzie Weegar tied the game for Florida before Sheary scored the eventual winner about eight minutes later, on a night when the Penguins fired 48 shots on the two Panthers goalies.

Luongo gave up three goals on 36 shots before leaving the game. The Panthers now head out on the road. They’ll visit the Washington Capitals on Saturday.

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Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

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Video: More offside drama had Sabres coach Phil Housley up in arms

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Just hours after the NHL admitted to an offside challenge error, there was another controversy during the Sabres-Canucks game on Friday.

Vancouver appeared to take the lead on a Daniel Sedin goal. However, Buffalo coach Phil Housley challenged the play for offside, after replays showed Jake Virtanen may not have had complete control of the puck as he broke in over the blue line.

The following challenge resulted in a brutally long review. For Buffalo, it was also unsuccessful as, surprisingly, officials deemed Virtanen did have control of the puck as he entered the zone. The goal counted, Vancouver took the lead.

Housley was not happy about it.

Not only was the challenge unsuccessful, but the Sabres were penalized for delay of game as a result.

From the NHL:

After reviewing all available replays and consulting with the Linesman, NHL Hockey Operations staff confirmed that Vancouver’s Jake Virtanen had possession and control of the puck as he entered the attacking zone prior to the goal. According to Rule 83.1, “a player actually controlling the puck who shall cross the line ahead of the puck shall not be considered ‘off-side,’ provided he had possession and control of the puck prior to his skates crossing the blue line.”

Therefore the original call stands – good goal Vancouver Canucks.

It took 4:27 to come to a decision, too.

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Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

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Devils place goalie Cory Schneider on injured reserve

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NEWARK, N.J. (AP) The New Jersey Devils placed goalie Cory Schneider on injured reserve with a lower-body injury suffered Thursday night in a 5-4 overtime victory at Ottawa.

Schneider left after the second period. Keith Kinkaid replaced him and stopped all nine shots he faced to earn the victory.

With Schneider sidelined, Kinkaid was expected to start Friday night at home against San Jose.

The Devils recalled goalie Scott Wedgewood from Binghamton of the American Hockey League.

The Devils catch a scheduling break with a week off until their next game Oct. 27, the first day Schneider is eligible to return.

Schneider is 4-1-0 in six games this season with a 3.30 goals-against average.

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Andreas Athanasiou, Red Wings finally settle on one-year deal

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The contract stalemate between the Detroit Red Wings and Andreas Athanasiou is finally over.

On Friday, TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported that the two sides struck a deal that will see the 23-year-old forward back in the lineup, at least for this season. It’s a one-year deal worth $1.387 million.

Due to Detroit’s tight salary cap situation, the deal has not been officially registered with the NHL because general manager Ken Holland needs to free up space in order to fit Athanasiou’s contract.

Athanasiou, who was a restricted free agent this summer, was seeking a two-year deal worth around $2.5 million per season. The Red Wings, meanwhile, were holding firm on a one- or two-year deal carrying a $1.9 million AAV. As the stalemate dragged on, he began practicing with Swiss side HC Lugano, but did not sign a contract. He had until Dec. 1 to make an NHL return in order to be eligible to play this season. The KHL card was played, but as Torey Krug showed, that move is always a clear bluff.

The one-year pact is essentially a “show-me” deal for Athanasiou, who scored 18 goals and recorded 29 points last season. He finished second on the Red Wings in even strength goals (17) in 2016-17 and tallied a pair of overtime winners. A good year and with some salary off the books next summer, he can cash in with a longer-term contract. He’ll once again be an RFA next summer, so Detroit will control his rights, but he’ll have arbitration rights.

According to MLive.com’s Ansar Khan, along with the contract Athanasiou has been promised a minutes bump from the 13:27 he played last season, as well as regular time on both special teams units.

Detroit is off to a 4-3-0 start and averaging 3.14 goals per game. Once Athanasiou arrives from Switzerland and gets up to speed — possibly with an AHL conditioning stint — his presence will certainly be a boost to the Red Wings’ lineup.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.: