Around the rink – March 10; Sabres visit Bruins, Canucks face Sharks in Western showdown

All times Eastern

7:00 p.m.

Buffalo @ Boston

Buffalo looks to improve their standing in the East race and put a little distance between themselves and Carolina. Boston will be playing their first game since getting beaten by Montreal. With the Zdeno Chara side show going on around them, how the Bruins respond tonight will be interesting to see. If they’re distracted, Buffalo will be happy to take advantage. It would also open the door for Montreal to get that much closer to the Bruins in the race for the Northeast Division.

Philadelphia @ Toronto

The Leafs are clinging to playoff hopes and they’ll get to face a Flyers team playing without Chris Pronger as he’s out with a hand injury. Toronto was able to beat the Flyers when they faced off just last week and recreating that success would be huge for them. For Philly, the pressure is on to keep the Capitals and Penguins off their heels in the race for the top spot  in the conference.

7:30 p.m.

Ottawa @ Florida

Ottawa goalie Craig Anderson gets to face off against one of his former teams in this one. It wasn’t that long ago that Anderson was stealing games with the Panthers while Tomas Vokoun battled injuries. I’d say that those were the glory days for the Panthers but that was just a few seasons ago. The Sens will continue to try and submarine their efforts to land the #1 pick in the 2011 Draft while helping Florida get a little bit closer to the bottom of the ledger.

8:00 p.m.

Montreal @ St. Louis

If it weren’t for the mess that erupted on Tuesday night in Montreal against Boston, the attention today would be focused on seeing Montreal’s Carey Price squaring off with St. Louis’ Jaroslav Halak. The fortunes of both goalies have gone in different directions since Halak was dealt to the Blues. St. Louis has struggled and Halak has dealt with some injury woes of late while Price has grown up and played incredible hockey all season long and have the Habs well in hand of a playoff spot in the East. Expect the Blues and Halak to be on top of their game in this one to try and win one for him.

Minnesota @ Nashville

Nashville needs a positive turnaround in the worst way. They’ve fallen back to three points out of the eighth spot and they’re playing unmotivated of late. Minnesota sits just ahead of them in the standings and they’ve got a chance to get even with Los Angeles and Phoenix who are tied for seventh in the West standings. With the Wild being healthier now with Guillaume Latendresse back in the lineup and Mikko Koivu back soon, they’re looking a bit more dangerous.

9:00 p.m.

Calgary @ Phoenix

Phoenix could use a lift. With all the distracting news about their franchise being thrown around and the team now falling behind San Jose for the top spot in the Pacific Division and locked into a tie for seventh in the Western Conference with the Kings, they’d like to get some good news on the ice. Facing Calgary won’t make it easy as the Flames have won three in a row. With Jarome Iginla, Rene Bourque, and Alex Tanguay all playing great right now, the Coyotes will have their hands full.

10:30 p.m.

Vancouver @ San Jose

Easily the marquee match-up of the night comes out west with the Western Conference leading Canucks against the surging, Pacific Division leading Sharks. Making this game a bit more fun is it has Sharks forward Kyle Wellwood going up against his former team. Oddly enough, Vancouver is throwing Cory Schneider out tonight in goal rather than Roberto Luongo. The Sharks have won nine of their last ten games and look to open up their lead in the Pacific more with a win tonight. Despite how well they’ve been doing, the Sharks are still 11 points behind Vancouver for the top spot in the West.

The Buzzer: Thornton moves up all-time scoring list; Kings snap six-game losing skid

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Players of the Night:

Brian Elliott looked solid in Philadelphia’s overtime win over the Capitals, as he turned aside 27 of 28 shots. This was the first time in eight games that the Flyers netminder allowed fewer than three goals in a game, but he’s still been victorious in three of his last four outings.

• How about that goalie duel between Connor Hellebuyck and Anders Nilsson. The Jets won the game, but both goaltenders were fantastic during this all-Canadian matchup.

• Sticking with the goalie theme, Aaron Dell was fantastic between the pipes for in San Jose’s win against Anaheim. Even when starter Martin Jones comes back from a lower-body injury, Dell should continue to be a factor for the Sharks.

• Sharks forward Mikkel Boedker had a solid night at the office, as he racked up two goals and an assist against the Ducks. That’s impressive considering he only had 12 points on the season coming into tonight’s action.

• The Kings’ power play isn’t a player, but it came to play tonight against the Rangers. Los Angeles got three goals on the man-advantage from Jake Muzzin, Michael Amadio and Tanner Pearson. Those three power play markers helped them snap their six-game losing skid.

Highlights:

Poor Markus Granlund never saw Hellebuyck coming:

That’s a pretty sweet shot from Kevin Labanc:

Here are two pretty sweet backhand passes leading up to Pierre-Edouard Bellemare‘s goal:

Alex Ovechkin scored a power play from his favorite spot on the ice:

Non-called Penalty of the Night:

That’s a pretty dangerous hit by Dmitry Orlov on Claude Giroux. No boarding call?

Factoids:

That’s a lot of power play goals for Ovechkin:

Joe Thornton keeps movin’ on up:

The Rangers have received some balanced scoring this season:

The Golden Knights simply can’t be stopped. What a season they’re having:

Scores:

Flyers 2, Capitals 1 (OT)

Golden Knights 5, Hurricanes 1

Jets 1, Canucks 0

Sharks 6, Ducks 2

Kings 4, Rangers 2

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Fight Video: Kempe comes to Lewis’ defense by dropping gloves with Smith

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It’s not every day that you see Los Angeles Kings forward Adrian Kempe drop the gloves, but he did so against the Rangers tonight.

Things got chippy at the end of the first period between the Rangers and Kings. As both teams were mixing it up, New York’s Brendan Smith shoved Trevor Lewis from behind. Kempe wasn’t impressed with Smith’s move, so he decided to take matters into his own hands.

Here’s Smith’s shove on Lewis:

And this is the fight between Smith and Kempe:

(h/t: hayyyshayyy on Twitter)

As you can tell from the above video, Smith is the more experienced fighter. Also, Kempe has great hair, but it’s clearly not practical when dropping the gloves.

Thanks to Smith, the Kings got a power play to start the second period. Defenseman Jake Muzzin cashed in on the man-advantage to cut Los Angeles’ deficit to 2-1.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Expansion Golden Knights are officially in first place (Update)

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Just like we all predicted in September, the Vegas Golden Knights are sitting in first place in the NHL.

The Golden Knights’ 5-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes allowed them to collect their 65th and 66th points of the season, which moved them one point ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning for top spot in the league (both teams have played 46 games).

PHT’s Adam Gretz wrote a terrific piece about Golden Knights’ amazing first season to date.

It’s only fitting that Vegas got a good amount of production from some of their most pleasant surprises tonight. Jonathan Marchessault, Colin Miller and James Neal also found the back of the net.

As you’d expect, the Golden Knights’ Twitter account is having fun marking this occasion.

“Maybe a little unexpected, right?,” Marc-Andre Fleury said of his team’s success, per NHL.com. “It’s been a lot of fun. We started this team from scratch and chemistry was built very quick between us. Every night, all the guys bring their best effort. I’m proud of our team to be where we’re at right now.”

We’ve had over three months to come to grips with everything the Golden Knights have done, but it’s still amazing to see how some of the players on their roster have produced during Vegas’ inaugural season.

 

43 points in 43 games for Marchessault? 25 goals at the midway point of the season for William Karlsson? Nobody saw those things coming. What makes this even more impressive is that they’ve had to roll four goalies (Fleury, Oscar Dansk, Malcolm Subban and Maxime Lagace).

“Early on in the year, I think we surprised some teams. Now I think every team will get up to play us. It’s just something that will be another test for this group,” Miller told NHL.com.

Now the question is, how far can this pesky expansion team go?

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Struggling Lightning lose Ondrej Palat for indefinite period of time

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The Tampa Bay Lightning have been going through a difficult stretch lately and things got a lot more difficult on Sunday. The team announced that Ondrej Palat is out indefinitely after taking a spear from Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon on Saturday night.

The Bolts, who are on an eight-game road trip, have confirmed that Palat will head back to Tampa on Monday for further testing. He’s accumulated eight goals and 30 points in 46 games this season.

Although the video isn’t the clearest, this is the play that led to the injury:

The injury couldn’t have come at a worse time, as the Lightning have been slumping badly of late. They’ve dropped three games in a row to Calgary, Vegas and Minnesota.

Their once giant lead atop the Atlantic Division has dwindled to three points over the Boston Bruins, who have a game in hand.

“We’re just out of synch, it’s unreal,” head coach Jon Cooper said, per The Tampa Times. “The guys didn’t forget how to play hockey in the last week and a half. We’re just out of synch. One guy zigs, the other guy zags. It’s crazy that in the last week and a half, we kind of lost our swag.”

The Bolts will continue their road trip in Chicago, Nashville and Philadelphia before the All-Star break. On top of their difficult schedule, they’ll also be without number one defenseman Victor Hedman for the next few weeks.

Their spot in the playoffs isn’t in any danger, but the number one seed in the league (Vegas is coming in a hurry) and top spot in the division is in doubt.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.