Patrick Dwyer, Ryan Miller

Around the Rink – Tuesday, March 15th

The GM meetings might have a longer lasting impact on the way the game is played for the next season or so, but tonight’s games are a pretty big deal in the immediate sense. With 10 games on the docket, there’s no time for meandering. All start times are according to Eastern Standard Time (ET).

7:00 pm

Atlanta @ New Jersey

It’s hard to believe the Thrashers are two points ahead of the Devils right now, as it seems like New Jersey can do nothing but win while Atlanta flounders badly. Edit: it looks like Dustin Byfuglien will play after all.

Washington @ Montreal

I doubt that Bruce Boudreau’s comments directed at a small segment of the Canadiens fan base really counts as “bulletin board material,” but it’s not as if these two teams need extra motivation. The Capitals need to protect their division lead while the Canadiens hope to gain ground on the Northeast-leading Bruins. This should be a good one, especially since Washington must cope with another troublesome injury.

Boston @ Columbus

If the Bruins want to win their division, they need to win games like these. The Blue Jackets are fighting for their playoff lives, but they aren’t exactly landing many hay-makers this season.

NY Islanders @ NY Rangers

There’s actually a pretty decent race for “most unnecessary and possibly self-destructive hot streak” in the NHL, but the Islanders’ pace is one of the most perplexing. Yet you cannot blame them for relishing the chance to spoil their cross-state rival’s playoff run tonight.

7:30 pm

Carolina @ Buffalo

No doubt about it, this is a huge game for both teams. The Hurricanes are fading out of the race with four straight losses, but a regulation win would reduce the gap between themselves and the Sabres by two points. Of course, a Buffalo win would give them a substantial six-point cushion, so both teams have plenty to play for.

Philadelphia @ Florida

The Flyers to place the final straw on the Panthers’ backs, but it’s tough to blame them if they approach this contest with a yawn or two.

Pittsburgh @ Ottawa

Alex Kovalev won’t exactly return to the Senators as a conquering hero, but that might be the best storyline in a game between the wounded Penguins and the broken Sens. Pittsburgh can improve its playoff status while keeping Ottawa in second-to-last in the NHL, which would ultimately be a favor to both squads. By NHL logic, that naturally means it won’t happen. Maybe.

8:00 pm

Los Angeles @ Nashville

As I discussed in the Central Division Watch today, the Predators hold a ton of home games so they can make a big move in their division. The problem is that they face a lot of tough teams, including the rising Kings.

8:30 pm

San Jose @ Dallas

If the Stars beat the sputtering Sharks in regulation – and theoretically, they should, because they are at home and are better rested – then they would only trail San Jose by two points with a game in hand. That makes this game a pretty big one in the Pacific Division race, even if more twists and turns almost seem inevitable.

9:30 pm

Phoenix @ Calgary

Can the Flames fight off yet another injury to scratch and claw their way to the postseason? They won’t get any help from the Coyotes, who have their own playoff worries to consider.

Hitch’s recipe for more goals is a pretty simple one

Ken Hitchcock, David Backes, Dmitrij Jaskin, Paul Stastny, Patrik Berglund
AP
Leave a comment

Ken Hitchcock wants the Blues to spend more time attacking and less time defending.

Because hockey isn’t rocket science, that’s why.

“To score and win games in the National Hockey League…you have to spend as much time in the offensive zone as you can,” Hitchcock told the Post-Dispatch.

“When you’re occupying the offensive zone more, you’re forechecking more. When you’re occupying the offensive zone more, the goalie has to make saves. They’re having to defend more. And the opposing team takes penalties on you. So they’re all connected. … What I want to see from us is staying on the puck for longer stretches.”

According to the stats, the Blues have not been spending as much time in the offensive zone as we’re used to seeing from them. In fact, in their last 20 games, they rank in the bottom third of the league in score-adjusted Corsi. That compares to their first 20 games when they were in the top third.

The result is fewer shots, and more importantly, fewer goals. The Blues have fallen all the way to 25th in offense, averaging just 2.37 goals per game. Last year, they finished fifth (2.91).

Yes, some of that may be due to the absence of Jaden Schwartz, and he should be back soon. But there’s a reason people are watching GM Doug Armstrong as the Feb. 29 trade deadline approaches. This team could probably use another piece up front.

The Blues host Minnesota Saturday.

St. Louis has scored just five goals in its last five games.

Goalie nods: Lindback ‘really excited’ for first start in almost three weeks

Anders Lindback
AP
Leave a comment

Tonight in Anaheim, Anders Lindback will make his first start for the Arizona Coyotes since Jan. 16.

The Coyotes have been riding rookie Louis Domingue since just before Christmas, but Domingue has allowed five goals in each of his last three starts, including last night’s 5-4 loss to Chicago.

Lindback’s last appearance came Tuesday in relief, when he allowed one goal on 10 shots in a 6-2 loss to the Kings.

Lindback was in goal for one of Arizona’s three victories this season over Anaheim, stopping 33 of 36 shots in a 4-3 overtime win on Nov. 9. However, his .896 save percentage ranks among the lowest in the league.

Frederik Andersen is expected to start for the Ducks.

Elsewhere…

— No word yet on a Penguins starter in Tampa, but Ben Bishop will go for the Bolts.

Cam Ward will start for the Hurricanes in Winnipeg, where Connor Hellebuyck is expected for the increasingly desperate Jets.

— Joonas Korpisalo was solid last night in Vancouver, but the Blue Jackets have not announced their starter for tonight’s game in Calgary. Karri Ramo will be in goal for the Flames.

A ‘pretty solid two-way player,’ Sundqvist to make NHL debut for Penguins

Pittsburgh Penguins' Oskar Sundqvist (49) collides with Minnesota Wild's Jason Zucker (16) in the first period of a NHL preseason hockey game in Pittsburgh, Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
AP
Leave a comment

The latest Penguins injuries, these ones to Evgeni Malkin and Eric Fehr, have led to an opportunity for Oskar Sundqvist.

Sundqvist will make his NHL debut for the Penguins tonight in Tampa. The 21-year-old center has five goals and 11 assists in 39 AHL games this season.

“Sunny’s a pretty solid two-way player,” coach Mike Sullivan said, per the Tribune-Review.

“I don’t think he’s going to dazzle you with flashy plays, but I think he’s a guy who plays the game the right way. He’s hard to play against because of his size. He’s got a long reach, and he’s got a good stick.”

Sundqvist was selected 81st overall by the Pens in 2012. He’ll become the fourth player out of that Pittsburgh draft class to make his NHL debut, after Olli Maatta, Derrick Pouliot, and Matt Murray.

Veteran Matt Cullen will replace Malkin on the second line, skating with wingers Carl Hagelin and Phil Kessel.

Related: Nick Bonino out ‘at least a month’ with hand injury

John Scott’s wife gives birth to twin girls

8 Comments

As if John Scott wasn’t already having a great week, now he’s the proud father of twin girls.

The Montreal Canadiens shared the good news via their Twitter account today.

Scott, the unlikely 2016 All-Star Game MVP, is currently back home in Michigan; however, he’s expected to resume his career at some point with Montreal’s AHL affiliate in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

When, exactly, he suits up for the IceCaps remains to be seen, but it won’t be tonight or tomorrow.

Related: Therrien on Canadiens possibly recalling John Scott: ‘You never know’