Riding the Zamboni – Tuesday, March 22

Nashville 3, Edmonton 1

The most impressive part of this game was the Predators did what they were supposed to do: win. Coming off an impressive win against the rival-Red Wings, a game against the NHL’s worst had the potential to be a letdown game. Points are at a premium this time of year and Nashville made sure they didn’t waste the opportunity to pick up the valuable two points. The Preds current four-game winning streak has vaulted the team into a tie for 5th place in the Western Conference with six of their last eight games at Bridgestone Arena. If Pekka Rinne and David Legwand can play like they did against the Oilers, they’ll be able to beat anybody.

Toronto 3, Minnesota 0

The Minnesota Wild are now 0-6-1 in their last 7 and at no point during the game against the Maple Leafs did they look like a team that was going to break through with a win. Michael Russo breaks down exactly how bad it’s been for the Wild as of late:

“Over this 7-game winless streak overall, the Wild’s been outscored 12-2 in the first period, has been outscored 32-9, has trailed by at least three goals in five games, has led for an embarrassing 12:39 of 424:26 and has given up the first goal in every game.”

On the other side of the spectrum, James Reimer continues to capture the imagination of Leafs Nation with his third shutout of the season. The 10th place Leafs are now 14-6-5 since the All-Star break and playing some of their best hockey in two years. They may be a long shot to make the playoffs this year, but the team is starting to show signs they may be competitive next season.

Colorado 5, Columbus 4 (SO)

Who cares if both teams are out of the playoff hunt? Whenever a team scores to take the lead with 3 minutes left and the opponent ties it up on the power play with 3.3 seconds left in the game, it’s an entertaining game. When the contest is settled in a shootout, then yes, the fans that showed up definitely got their money’s worth. Matt Duchene scored a pair of goals in the 3rd period for the home team, but it was Daniel Winnik’s goal with time running out that was the show stopper.

The Blue Jackets did their part to make the game entertaining as well. RJ Umberger and Derek MacKenzie both scored short-handed goals to give Columbus the lead. After blowing the lead in regulation, they threw everything but the kitchen sink at Avs goaltender Brian Elliott, but were unable to put any pucks past him. In the shootout, it was only more of the same.

Phoenix 2, St. Louis 1

In a game where just about every Western Conference fan was rooting for the St. Louis Blues, the Coyotes came from behind to win their 40th game of the season. The Coyotes started off slowly and were even booed by the home crowd in Glendale, but Ilya Bryzgalov was able to keep them in the game. The win pulled Phoenix to within a single point of the division lead (although the Sharks have two games in hand) and further solidified a playoff spot. They’ve ridden their recent 7-2-1 streak to 91 points for the year, which is currently good enough for 4th place in the tight Western Conference. The Coyotes didn’t play a great game, but the only thing that matters at this time of year is the win. They escaped with two points.

Canucks, Kings ‘put on a show’ during first NHL preseason game in China

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SHANGHAI (AP) A golden dragon was held aloft on poles by skaters. Kobe Bryant appeared on video. NHL mascots gave the crowd a primer on what this odd game is all about.

NHL preseason hockey made its debut in China – a 5-2 victory by the Los Angeles Kings over the Vancouver Canucks – in a step by the league to crack an immense market.

The fans in Shanghai got a fast and physical display Thursday – 17 power plays and 57 shots on goal, all met with loud cheers. Each hard check drew a collective “oooh” or “aaah.”

“Obviously, you wanted to put on a show for the fans here and they got to see some goals, too,” said Vancouver forward Sven Baertschi, who scored the Canucks’ first goal.

An announcer came onto the ice to explain the finer points of the game as Fin (Vancouver’s killer whale) and Bailey (Los Angeles’ lion) acted out infractions such as charging, crosschecking, tripping and hooking.

A golden Chinese dragon came out next, hoisted on poles by seven skaters. A group of Chinese kids in hockey uniforms joined the NHL players during China’s national anthem.

With Beijing to host the 2022 Winter Olympics, the NHL is showcasing two preseason games in a country unfamiliar with hockey. The Kings and Canucks play their second game in Beijing on Saturday.

Even if the rules remain somewhat of a mystery, the crowd appreciated the speed and collisions.

“To be honest, we didn’t know what to expect. We didn’t know the crowd, the noise, the atmosphere,” Los Angeles coach John Stevens said. “I think the whole thing for me is we’re here to grow the game. It’s my hope that the more they see it, the more people like it.”

Tanner Pearson scored twice for the Kings and Alec Martinez and Jeff Carter each had a goal and an assist. Jonathan Quick made 31 saves.

Team allegiances were hard to find in the crowd, the most demonstrative fans being rowdy Canadians waving their country’s flag.

Spectator Inge Zhang was more appropriately attired for an NBA game, wearing a Miami Heat jersey with pink letters. A media manager for the Shanghai Sharks basketball team, she was excited because she heard a certain NBA great might be there.

“So we came here actually for Kobe Bryant,” she said while her friend laughed. “But I love this sport, too.”

Bryant, in fact, did show, although in a video message to support his hometown Kings.

“I see more foreigners here tonight than Chinese, but I think there are still a lot of hockey fans in China,” Zhang added. “I think the NHL should take this opportunity to grow the sport here.”

That’s the plan now that the NHL has signed a contract to bring two preseason games to China for six of the next eight years.

“The effort here really is to build from the grassroots up, to try to grow the appreciation for the sport, the understanding of the sport,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said before the game. “We’ve certainly made the Chinese Ice Hockey Federation and the Chinese government aware that we’re willing to help any way we can as they gear up and prepare for the 2022 Beijing Olympic Games.”

But this is the first step in a long process.

“It’s great for China itself to see the NHL live and in person, see the speed of the game, how good the players are,” Vancouver coach Travis Green said. “But whenever you’re bringing hockey to a new country, it’s going to take time. I think it’s great the NHL is committed to doing that.”

Blackhawks release trio from professional tryouts

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The Chicago Blackhawks made some roster moves Thursday, releasing forwards Drew Miller and John Mitchell, and defenseman Mark Stuart from their professional tryouts.

All three players were added to the training camp roster at the beginning of last week, after Cody Franson was previously brought in to the Blackhawks camp on a PTO.

Chicago is now down to 54 players in camp.

Miller, 33, had spent the last eight seasons with the Detroit Red Wings, although he also spent seven games in the minors last season with their AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids.

Stuart, 33, spent the last six years on the Winnipeg Jets blue line. Mitchell, 32, had played the last five seasons with the Colorado Avalanche.

Blues name Larry Robinson as new senior consultant to hockey operations

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Larry Robinson has joined the St. Louis Blues.

The Blues made the announcement Thursday, revealing that Robinson has joined the organization as a senior consultant to hockey operations.

Based on the comments of Blues general manager Doug Armstrong, it sounds like Robinson will work closely at times with head coach Mike Yeo. It could also further help the development of an already impressive defenseman in Colton Parayko.

“Bringing someone like Larry in, I just think, helps our hockey operations from top to bottom,” said Armstrong, per the Blues website.

“His ability to talk to Mike Yeo about coaching — that’s one area that we don’t have on our staff is a former head coach. You can think you know what Mike’s going through but I don’t know what Mike’s going through. Larry does. So he’s going to be able to relate to him on a lot of the things that he’s going to go through.

“He’s coming in as a consultant. I can learn a lot from him, our assistant coaches can, Parayko can. There’s not an area of our hockey operations he can’t touch to make us a better group.”

Robinson was most recently the director of player development with the San Jose Sharks, however it was reported in May that he would not return to that organization for this season.

Looks like Matt Duchene will make preseason debut tonight vs. Stars

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According to reports, there is substantial interest from other teams in Matt Duchene. That said, he remains with the Colorado Avalanche for now and will, it appears, make his preseason debut Thursday against the Dallas Stars.

Earlier this week, Darren Dreger reported on TSN that as many as eight teams have interest in Duchene, with the Senators aggressively pursuing the 26-year-old forward.

According to Mike Chambers of The Denver Post, Duchene will be in the lineup tonight versus the Stars.

Trade speculation has been swirling around Duchene for months now. He reported to training camp last week, and has since said his status with the Avalanche is a “day-by-day” situation.

“I love playing hockey. I want to win,” Duchene told The Denver Post. “That’s the biggest thing on my mind. I’m trying to get better every time I touch the ice right now.”