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Riding the Zamboni – March 15; Sharks, Kings, Coyotes win and keep West wild

Los Angeles 4 – Nashville 2

Anze Kopitar celebrated breaking the franchise record for consecutive games played by scoring a goal and adding an assist in helping the Kings climb to fourth in the West. Captain Dustin Brown also had a goal and a helper while Jonathan Bernier stopped 30 shots to earn the win. The Kings didn’t put a lot of shots on goal, but were able to get tough around the net and score. Pekka Rinne stopped just 14 shots in the loss as the Predators failed to gain any ground on the eighth spot in the conference. For the Kings, it wrapped up a four game road trip in which they went 4-0-0 on.

San Jose 6 – Dallas 3

A rough loss for Dallas as they looked to slide up the standings in the West and catch up to the Sharks in the Division. Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley each had a pair of goals (with an empty netter for each of them) while Joe Pavelski had four assists. The Sharks maintain a three point lead on L.A. and Phoenix while Dallas remains in seventh place in the West six points behind San Jose in the division race. Jamie Benn continued to carry the offense for Dallas with a goal and two assists. The goal was his 20th of the season. Antti Niemi made 34 saves in the win.

Phoenix 4 – Calgary 3

The Coyotes are staying hot in the West and delivered a punch to the Flames as they cling to the eighth seed in the West. Lee Stempniak, Keith Yandle, Michal Rozsival, and Eric Belanger each had a goal while Vernon Fiddler had two assists as the Coyotes held off a late flurry by Calgary to win. Ilya Bryzgalov had 24 saves in the win. Calgary leads Nashville by one point and Anaheim by two points for the eighth spot in the West. Phoenix is tied with Los Angeles and in fifth place.

Carolina 1 – Buffalo 0

Cam Ward was out of his mind tonight stopping 40 shots on his way to earning his third shutout of the season and bringing the Hurricanes to within two points of the Sabres for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference. Brandon Sutter had the game’s lone goal late in the first period as the Sabres were unable to put anything by Ward. With the Rangers win, the Sabres were left alone in eighth place and allowed Carolina to sneak a bit closer to them in the standings. A chance for Buffalo to put some distance between themselves and the pack of teams chasing them went by the wayside tonight with the loss.

New Jersey 4 – Atlanta 2

Philadelphia 3 – Florida 2

It was harrowing at times, but the Flyers were able to stay on top of the Eastern Conference by eking out a win thanks to a two goal game from Jeff Carter. Carter’s two second period goals helped them over come a short-lived 2-1 Panthers lead. Brian Boucher stopped 20 shots in the win. Stephen Weiss and Dmitry Kulikov scored for Florida while Tomas Vokoun stopped 28 shots in the loss.

Boston 3 – Columbus 2 (F/SO)

Rich Peverley’s late short-handed goal tied things up for the Bruins as they struggled with Columbus all night long and helped the overcome Scottie Upshall’s third period goal that put the Jackets ahead for just a few minutes. In the shootout, Tyler Seguin would score the deciding goal to give Boston the win that snapped their four game losing skid. Tuukka Rask was outstanding in goal for Boston stopping 34 shots and everything he saw in the shootout. David Krejci had a goal in regulation for the Bruins as did Grant Clitsome for Columbus. Steve Mason stopped 27 shots in the loss. Boston forward Brad Marchand may be facing league discipline for delivering an elbow to the back of R.J. Umberger’s head. No penalty was called on the play.

Washington 4 – Montreal 2

NY Rangers 6 – NY Islanders 3

Marian Gaborik got the monkey off his back scoring two goals in helping the Rangers gain ground on Buffalo in the Eastern Conference race and take sole possession of seventh place. For Gaborik it gives him 20 goals on the season and perhaps hope that he can keep the offense going the rest of the way. Erik Christensen, Ryan Callahan, and Bryan McCabe each had a goal and an assist as the Rangers peppered both Al Montoya and Nathan Lawson in this game with 47 shots on goal. Matt Moulson scored his 30th goal of the year for the Isles while John Tavares added his 26th of the year. Tavares and Moulson each had two assists as well.

Pittsburgh 5 – Ottawa 1

Safe to say that yes, Ottawa is that bad and the Penguins were more than happy to take advantage of that as they look to keep up in jockeying for position in the East playoffs. Jordan Staal and Tyler Kennedy each had a goal and an assist while Chris Kunitz had three assists and Paul Martin and Dustin Jeffrey had two helpers. Zbynek Michalek scored his third goal in the last four games bringing his season total to… Three. Brent Johnson made 21 saves to earn the win.

Pavel Datsyuk will not play for Russia vs. Canada

MOSCOW, RUSSIA - MAY 22:  Pavel Datsyuk #13 of Russia skates against USA at Ice Palace on May 22, 2016 in Moscow, Russia.  (Photo by Anna Sergeeva/Getty Images)
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Pavel Datsyuk will not play for Russia on Saturday night against Canada in their  World Cup semifinal game.

Datsyuk has been bothered by a lower body injury that also kept him out of their first round game against Finland. He had been a game-time decision leading up to the game, but did not take the ice for pre-game warmups.

It’s a big loss for Russia because Datsyuk is still their top-line center and had been skating on a line with Alex Ovechkin and Vladimir Tarasenko before the injury. He recorded two assists in his two games for Russia.

Washington Capitals forward Evgeny Kuznetsov will center that line instead.

If Russia does not beat Canada on Saturday we could have very likely seen the last of Datsyuk on a North American hockey rink. Datsyuk decided to leave the NHL to return to Russia after spending 14 years with the Detroit Red Wings during a career that saw him win two Stanley Cups and score 314 goals. He was one of the best two-way players in the NHL during his career and one of the best ever

The winner of Saturday’s game will play the winner of Sunday’s Sweden-Team Europe semifinal in a best of three championship series.

Ekblad back on the ice for Panthers after World Cup injury

NASHVILLE, TN - JANUARY 30:  Aaron Ekblad #5 of the Florida Panthers poses for a 2016 NHL All-Star portrait at Bridgestone Arena on January 30, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Sanford Myers/Getty Images)
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The Florida Panthers had a bit of a scare during the 2016 World Cup when defenseman Aaron Ekblad, while playing for Team North America, was injured in a first-round game against Finland that kept him out for the remainder of the tournament.

On Saturday, Ekblad was back on the ice for the Panthers doing some individual workouts following the injury.

“Ekblad is going to be fine,” Panthers coach Gerard Galant said, via Alain Poupart of NHL.com.  “You see him out there skating already. I think it was a little scary, but he feels real good. He’s going to skate and see how he feels, but everything looks good.”

It was initially reported that Ekblad had a concussion, but it was later reported to be a neck injury.

The Panthers haven’t been overly concerned with the injury over the past week.

Ekblad, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 draft, has quickly become one of the franchise building blocks for a Panthers team that is on the rise in the Eastern Conference.

Still only 20 years old, he is already a top-pairing defenseman in the league and has scored 27 goals in his career, a number that is pretty much unheard of for a defenseman that young.

According to the hockey-reference database, the only defenseman that has scored more goals at that age through their first two seasons is Phil Housley.

After winning the Atlantic Division in 2015-16 and having a busy offseason that saw them add Keith Yandle and Jason Demers to their defense, the Panthers look like they could be one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference this season and Ekblad is going to be a major part of that.

Ilya Bryzgalov’s Canada – Russia take is the best take

VANCOUVER, BC - FEBRUARY 24:  Ilya Bryzgalov #30 of Russia comes into the game against Canada during the ice hockey men's quarter final game between Russia and Canada on day 13 of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics at Canada Hockey Place on February 24, 2010 in Vancouver, Canada.  (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
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Admit it: you miss Ilya Bryzgalov.

Saturday presented the latest reminder that hockey’s just a little less fun thanks to the absence of Mr. Universe, as Bryzgalov regaled ESPN’s Craig Custance with his impeccable analysis of the drubbing Russia received from Canada during the 2010 Olympics.

You see, Breezy initially described Canada’s start “like gorillas out of a cage,” but upon further reflection …

… Well:

“Not gorillas,” Bryzgalov said. “More like Orcs from ‘The Hobbit.’ You watch that movie, right? Big. Mean. Scary.”

Fantastic.

Now, it’s possible that Bryzgalov meant “Lord of the Rings” rather than “The Hobbit,” but both series featured “Big. Mean. Scary” orcs, so who knows:

Really though, it paints quite the picture. Imagine, for a moment, Shea Weber or Brent Burns decked out like that one especially big, mean and scary orc. One can only imagine the Photoshop masterpieces that may sprout up thanks to the vivid story Bryzgalov told.

***

Now, there are some great bits leading up to Saturday’s Canada – Russia semifinal. PHT should have more to come tonight.

Sportsnet looked back at a moment in which a seemingly sure-thing Canadian team hit a brick wall in a Russian opponent. NHL.com provided a fascinating look at Mike Babcock and his quest for control. TSN captures a moment of sorts for Steven Stamkos.

There’s a lot of great stuff out there, but Bryzgalov’s takes are truly one of a kind, and they’ve been truly missed.

Bruins’ Vatrano to miss three months with foot injury

BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 17:  Frank Vatrano #72 of the Boston Bruins looks on during the third period against the San Jose Sharks at TD Garden on November 17, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Sharks defeat the Bruins 5-4.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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Frank Vatrano is supposed to be one of the young players the Boston Bruins will be counting on this season to help replace some of the offense they lost when Loui Eriksson signed a free agent contract with the Vancouver Canucks.

Unfortunately for the Bruins they will have to wait a few months before he gets an opportunity to make an impact.

The team announced on Saturday that Vatrano is going to require surgery to repair torn ligaments in his foot and is expected to miss at least three months.

General manager Don Sweeney said that Vatrano was injured in his training in preparation for the team’s training camp.

Vatrano appeared in 39 games for the Bruins in 2015-16 season and scored eight goals, including a hat trick in an early season win against the Pittsburgh Penguins. He spent the rest of his season playing for Providence of the American Hockey League where he scored a league leading 36 goals in only 36 games. Just for some perspective on that goal total, only one other player in the league scored 30 goals for the entire season, and that was Chris Bourque who scored 30 in 72 games.