Around the Rink – Wednesday, March 9th

As tough as it might be to do so, it’s time to at least attempt to move on from the craziness involving Zdeno Chara and Max Pacioretty and focus on today’s seven games. Start times are according to Eastern Standard Time (ET).

7:00 pm

Atlanta @ Carolina

With a few more losses, the Thrashers can focus solely on their ownership situation and the pursuit of tanking in order to acquire another building block in the draft. Then again, beating their bubble brothers in Carolina would be a nice way of keeping their flimsy playoff dreams alive. Technically, they’re still ahead of the Devils, so they’re not totally done. Right? Maybe? Meanwhile, the Hurricanes trail the eighth place Sabres by one point and one win, so they could jump back into the top eight (at least briefly) by beating the Thrashers.

St. Louis @ Columbus

While the Blues are playing the spoiler role in this home-and-home series against the Blue Jackets, Columbus needs to play like a desperate team in this game. You know, because they are desperate. With five losses in a row, the Blue Jackets are fading out of the Western Conference playoff picture. They need a win tonight.

Edmonton @ Washington

Will this be a “trap game” for the emboldened new leaders of the Southeast Division? The Capitals must not take the Oilers lightly or they’ll lose a precious opportunity to expand their two-point lead over the Lightning for the division title. Washington might point back to this game with regret if they don’t snare a victory.

7:30 pm

Chicago @ Tampa Bay

Call this game the “What a difference a superstar draft pick makes” contest. On one side, there’s Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane for the Blackhawks. In the opposing corner, there’s Steven Stamkos and Vincent Lecavalier. Unfortunately, Martin St. Louis will ruin the gag by revealing his Hart Trophy winning, undrafted self. He’s a real scamp in that way.

Los Angeles @ Detroit

The last time these two teams played, the Red Wings ruined the Kings’ post-trade deadline buzz by dismantling them 7-4. While you cannot say that actually having Dustin Penner in a Kings uniform would have made a difference, he will suit up for Los Angeles against the Red Wings tonight. The Kings have a loose grasp on eighth place while Detroit has the added motivation of holding off the San Jose Sharks to maintain their grasp on the West’s second seed.

9:00 pm

Calgary @ Dallas

Barring a setback in warm-ups or from the snack bar, it sounds like Brad Richards will make his first post-trade deadline appearance with the Stars tonight. The team lost their first four games without him before putting up a 5-0-1 mark in their last six, but either way they’ll be glad to have him back. He’ll need to hit the ground running, though, because the two teams are currently in fourth and fifth place in the West. Could this be a preview for a first round playoff series?

10:30 pm

NY Rangers @ Anaheim

The Rangers are hoping they don’t sink out of the Eastern Conference’s top eight while the Ducks are crossing their fingers that they might be able to slip back into the West’s playoff picture. These two teams don’t meet often, but each side needs a win badly, so expect at least a decent amount of intensity in this one.

Report: Wings, Hawks, Preds in mix to sign ‘strong two-way center’ Ejdsell

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Keep an eye on Swedish forward Victor Ejdsell in the coming days.

Ejdsell, 21, caught the eye of several NHL clubs following a standout year with Bofors of the Swedish first division — including Detroit (where he visited earlier this week, per MLive.) Reports suggest that Chicago and Nashville are also interested in securing Ejdsell’s services.

It’s easy to see why.

He racked up 25 goals and 57 points in 60 games this year, and he’s got terrific size. At 6-foot-5, 220 pounds, the physical presence is there to potentially make the shift to the NHL next season.

“He’s evolved into a strong two-way center,” Detroit assistant GM Ryan Martin told MLive. “His move from wings to center helped his defensive game. He’s got good hands and offensive ability.”

Vlasic joins Canada for Worlds, extending marathon campaign

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Marc-Edouard Vlasic is putting in work this year.

On Friday, Hockey Canada announced that Vlasic — along with Mitch Marner, Brayden Schenn and Chad Johnson — has been added to the 22-player roster for the upcoming World Hockey Championship in France and Germany.

Vlasic’s season started early as a member of Canada’s World Cup of Hockey squad. He appeared in all six games, which included his tournament high TOI (24:04) in final against Team Europe.

From there, the 30-year-old rejoined the Sharks and appeared in 75 contests, averaging 21:14 per evening. He was part of a remarkably durable San Jose defense that saw Brent Burns play all 82 games, while Paul Martin, Brenden Dillon and Justin Braun appeared in 81.

In the playoffs, Vlasic was once again a busy guy. He finished second only to Burns in time on ice (23:16 per) and was often tasked with trying to shut down the Connor McDavid line. The Sharks would eventually bow out to the Oilers in six games.

And Vlasic might have even more to do this summer.

During his end-of-year media availability, Sharks GM Doug Wilson said getting Vlasic signed to an extension prior to September’s training camp was a big priority.

Vlasic’s current deal — a five-year, $21.25 million pact — expires next summer, and carries an average cap hit of $4.25M. Wilson didn’t mince words in describing how good he thinks Vlasic is.

“Vlasic [is] arguably one of the best defensemen in the league,” he said. “Marc-Edouard is still one of the most underrated players in the league in the outside world.”

Stepan: ‘I’ve stunk since the playoffs started’

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Derek Stepan knows he’s not playing very well, and he knows he’ll have to be better if the New York Rangers are going to make it past the Ottawa Senators.

With just one goal (an empty-netter) and one assist in seven playoff games, Stepan’s offensive production has fallen off a cliff after a respectable 55-point regular season, which included 38 assists.

“I’ve stunk since the playoffs started,” Stepan said, per NHL.com’s Dan Rosen. “I’ve been not very good with the puck.”

An all-situations center, Stepan is more than just an offensive type. But he’s produced in previous playoff runs, and the Rangers need him to produce now — especially against a tight-checking Sens team that boasts a 2.00 goals-against average in these playoffs.

Stepan has 45 points (18G, 27A) in 92 career playoff games.

To be fair, he’s not the only Ranger who needs to get going offensively. One of the Blueshirts’ big strengths during the regular season was their balanced scoring, with all four lines contributing — and that’s not happening right now.

No Bieksa for Anaheim tonight, but Vatanen could return

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The Ducks will be without their most veteran skater on Friday as they look to even up their series with Edmonton.

Kevin Bieksa, who exited Game 1 with a lower-body injury following a collision with fellow d-man Shea Theodore, has been ruled out for tonight’s Game 2. It marks the first tilt the 35-year-old will miss this postseason.

Bieksa was enjoying a pretty good playoff prior to getting hurt. He racked up four assists in five games, while averaging just under 17 minutes per night. Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle is holding out hope Bieksa could return later in the series.

While this is a loss for the Ducks, it goes a long way in illustrating how much defensive depth they have.

While Carlyle wouldn’t confirm, all signs point to Sami Vatanen drawing in for Bieksa. Vatanen has been out since Game 1 of the Calgary series with an upper-body injury, but has resumed practicing and sounds like he’s ready to go.

“It’s always nice when a player is closer to coming back and you can potentially put them back in the lineup,” Carlyle said of Vatanen.

Anaheim dressed a blueline of Bieksa, Theodore, Cam Fowler, Josh Manson, Hampus Lindholm and Brandon Montour in Wednesday’s 5-3 defeat. If Vatanen can’t draw in for Bieksa, the club still has Korbinian Holzer in reserve.