Alex Ovechkin, Henrik Lundqvist

What’s been lost: Five best early December games you won’t see


Unfortunately, labor discord has cost the NHL and its fans another two weeks worth of games through December 14 as well as the All-Star Game.

Now it’s time for us to ponder what could’ve been (much like we’ve done before) and taking a look at the five games we’ll miss the most between December 1-14.

December 1: Washington vs. Carolina

Alex Semin’s not-so triumphant return to Verizon Center in Washington would’ve been a fun way to kick off the month. After wearing out his welcome with the Caps and teasing going to the KHL, Semin signed a monster one-year deal with Carolina to presumably torture Alex Ovechkin and his former teammates in the Southeast Division. You can’t help but wonder how loud the boos would be for this game.

December 5: Washington vs. NY Rangers

Who doesn’t love a playoff rematch? The Caps and Rangers played one of the tightest seven-game series in recent memory last spring and seeing new head coach Adam Oates send Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom into attack against Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers would make for a fascinating game… If it happened.

December 8: Toronto vs. Boston

All right, you’re probably tired of the Phil Kessel trade needling by now, but there was a good chance a fully armed and operational Bruins team with all pieces from that hotly debated deal would be on the ice. Sure there’s Kessel against Tyler Seguin, but Dougie Hamilton too against a potentially poor Leafs team? It would’ve been a good night for lots of boos from the Leafs faithful.

source: Getty ImagesDecember 8: Los Angeles vs. Minnesota

Ric Flair always said, “To be the man, you gotta beat the man” and seeing the new look Wild against the defending Stanley Cup champions would’ve made for a fun one. After all, it’d be Zach Parise lining up against Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty, and Jonathan Quick just like they did in June. Add in Ryan Suter, Mikael Granlund, and Charlie Coyle for the Wild and you would’ve had a heck of a showcase for young talent.

December 10: Detroit vs. Boston

So just how would the slightly new-look Red Wings fare against a potentially beastly Bruins team? Sure, the Wings would have Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg to dazzle and line up against Zdeno Chara, but how would a Nick Lidstrom-free Wings blue line be able to handle Seguin, Patrice Bergeron, and a healthy Nathan Horton? Niklas Kronwall and Carlo Colaiacovo would have their hands full handling them and Milan Lucic. Yikes. Maybe the Wings are better off missing out on this one.

Kesler believes Ducks are ‘too good to not be in the playoffs’

Shane Doan, Ryan Kesler
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It’s been 24 games for the Anaheim Ducks, more than a quarter of the season, and still they’re having trouble winning.

Friday against Chicago, they surrendered two goals in the last two minutes of regulation and lost in overtime.

Currently, the Ducks sit five points out of a playoff spot with a record of 8-11-5.

Still, forward Ryan Kesler is confident they’ll find a way into the postseason.

“If we keep playing like we are, we’re going to get into the playoffs — this team is too good to not be in the playoffs,” Kesler told The Province ahead of tonight’s home game versus Vancouver.

“We had a bad start and, to be honest, some guys weren’t ready to start the season. There’s a lot of hockey to be played and we’re ready for the challenge.”

To match the 45-30-7 record the Flames squeaked into the playoffs with last year, the Ducks would need to go 37-19-2 over their next 58 games.




Depends who you ask.

Anaheim’s playoff chances will depend a lot on how Pacific Division teams like San Jose, Arizona, and Vancouver finish. The Ducks may need to leapfrog two of those three to get in.

Yes, there’s always the chance four teams from the Pacific qualify, because it’s not like Colorado, Winnipeg, and Minnesota don’t have their problems. Even Nashville you have to wonder about lately. Heck, even Chicago isn’t assured of anything yet.

Bottom line, though, the Ducks have dug themselves a hole, and it’s starting to look a lot like the one the Kings dug last year.

In the NHL, even good teams don’t always climb out.

Related: Boudreau does the playoff math, and it’s no ‘easy task’ for Ducks

Video: Ryan Suter doesn’t seem very happy with his coach


As you can see in the video, apparently Ryan Suter doesn’t like being paired with fellow lefty Jonas Brodin.

The Wild defenseman rather openly questioned the coaching staff’s decision-making today after practice.

“Yeah, I don’t know what they’re thinking,” said Suter. “I need to play with a right-handed defenseman. To give me more options. Neutral zone. Offensively. And even coming out of the D zone, it’s not fair to put a guy on his off side.”

Suter didn’t know if the pairings were just for practice or not. The Wild play tomorrow in Chicago. Minnesota has just one win in its last seven games.

Suter also had something to say about that.

“It does no good to pout and get pissed off at each other,” said Suter. “You’ve got to come together and dig out of this. Now’s when you need leadership more than ever. It’s easy to be a coach and a leader when things are going good.”

Yeo, by the way, has not been very happy with the Wild lately.  In fact, one could go so far as to say he’s been acting pretty “pissed off.”

For example, at today’s practice:

The Star Tribune has more on what went down today.

Yeo, you may recall, went a little “nuts” during a Wild practice last season.

Goalie nods: Sparks to make NHL debut for Leafs

Garett Sparks

We already knew this yesterday, but in case you missed it, Garret Sparks will make his NHL debut in goal for the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight against Edmonton.

Sparks, 22, has been excellent in the AHL this season, going 8-2-1 with a .938 save percentage. He spent most of last season in the ECHL, where he also posted good numbers.

Sparks is getting the nod tonight because James Reimer is hurt and Jonathan Bernier has been struggling badly.

“He’s got an opportunity like lots of kids have had before him and it’s up to him to grab it,” Leafs coach Mike Babcock said, per “He’s got the [second-best] save percentage in the AHL and he’s winning all the time down there. Obviously we’re in need of some saves and we’ll have to play well in front of him for sure. But it’s an opportunity for him.”

Bernier, meanwhile, will have to sit and watch. The 27-year-old has allowed at least four goals in four of his last five starts. His save percentage has fallen all the way to .888.

Anders Nilsson will be in net for the Oilers.


Cam Ward for the Hurricanes. Henrik Lundqvist for the Rangers, who will try not to rely on him so much.

Semyon Varlamov for the Avs. Thomas Greiss for the Isles.

— The Canucks aren’t saying if it’ll be Ryan Miller of Jacob Markstrom. For the Ducks, it’ll be John Gibson.

Vigneault: ‘After three losses in a row, I think we’ve got everybody’s attention’

Alain Vigneault

Alain Vigneault has maintained for much of the season that the New York Rangers needed to play better.

The head coach said it a week ago, after the Blueshirts had beaten the Predators, 3-0, despite getting outshot, 31-19.

He’d said it a couple of weeks before that, after they’d beaten the Hurricanes in very similar fashion. (Final score: 3-0. Shots: 33-23 for Carolina.)

But as long as the Rangers kept winning, it was tough, according to Vigneault, to get the message across.

“Sometimes, the results might be going your way, so when you’re pointing out certain things, it might be a little bit more challenging for them to understand because the results are so positive,” Vigneault said, per the New York Post.

“But after three losses in a row, I think we’ve got everybody’s attention.”

Derek Stepan‘s injury — he’ll miss 4-6 weeks with broken ribs — has no doubt captured their attention as well. (Oscar Lindberg will center Chris Kreider and Jesper Fast tonight at home to Carolina.)

The Rangers also play Wednesday, in Brooklyn against the Islanders (on NBCSN).