First Flyers-Lightning game has potential for fireworks

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Circle Wednesday, Nov. 27 on your calendars.

That will mark the first matchup of the season between the Philadelphia Flyers and Tampa Bay Lightning, two teams that — despite not having a great traditional rivalry — could produce one of the most heated battles this year.

A few things to keep an eye on for the 27th, when the two teams meet at Tampa Bay Times forum…

Vinny comes home

Heading in, there’ll be plenty of emotion regarding the return of longtime Bolts captain Vincent Lecavalier.

Bought out of his 11-year, $85 million deal in July, Lecavalier — the Lightning’s all-time leader in games played (1,037), goals (383), power play goals (112) and game-winning goals (60) — quickly signed with Philadelphia, saying he wanted to play in a passionate hockey market and preferred playing the Flyers’ style as opposed to “staying on your heels.”

Those quips aside, Tampa’s response should be overwhelmingly positive.

Lecavalier was a beloved figure in the area and was known for his community involvement — in 2007, he pledged $3 million to a pediatric cancer center (that bears his name) at the All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg.

The Rinaldo thing

Saying the Lightning dislike Zac Rinaldo is putting it lightly.

The Flyers forward was a thorn in the Bolts’ side throughout last season — cold-cocking BJ Crombeen in a fight, taking out both Victor Hedman and Ryan Malone — which led to Tampa players suggesting retribution is in order.

“Obviously, when he’s hurting guys, you want him to be accountable for his actions,” Crombeen told the Tampa Bay Times. “There’s always a time and place, and it will come.

“You just have to wait for it.”

Crombeen’s sentiment was echoed by Lightning winger Pierre-Cedric Labrie.

“Sometimes [Rinaldo] just doesn’t think,” he explained. “At some point he has to pay for his bad behavior.”

In case you’re unaware of Rinaldo’s history with the Lightning, let’s go to the video.

First, here’s the incident with Crombeen from Feb. 5:

Both combatants had distinctly different views on the fight.

“Typically when I’ve gotten into fights with guys in that position, you stop throwing,” Crombeen said after the game. “I mean, guys fight different ways, so I’m not really going to say if it was dirty or not.”

When asked about the scrap, Rinaldo said he finished it properly.

“I hit him until he was down,” he told reporters. “I’m not going to hit nobody no matter who they are or what they done, I’ll never hit someone when they’re down. I hit him until he was down. I made sure he was down and that was it.

“I kind of felt bad in case I didn’t stop myself, but I’m pretty sure I did.”

Then — on Mar. 18, when the Bolts beat the Flyers 4-2 in Tampa — Rinaldo landed big hits on Hedman and Malone, with the latter ending up on injured reserve (shoulder).

Here’s the hit in question:

On Wednesday, Malone addressed the hit in a rather cryptic fashion.

“I don’t need to elaborate on that,” Malone told the Tampa Bay Times. “It all works itself out later.”

Other stuff

— The Flyers and Lightning were engaged in the infamous “trap game” of 2011.

— The Lightning pried Matt Carle away from Philadelphia during last year’s free agent period.

Video: Connor McDavid shows off speed and skill (again)

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Connor McDavid‘s 26th goal of 2016-17 was a lot like many others: an impressive display of skill and speed. He didn’t blaze past the Anaheim Ducks like has against opponents on other occasions, but his rare wheels still came in handy.

Maybe more than sheer speed, this tally is a reminder that McDavid could do impressive things while losing little or no momentum. It’s one thing to have straight-line speed, but he has the hands and hockey IQ to take advantage of his swift skating.

McDavid already has two points in this one, pushing him to 84 points. He also extended his point streak to five games (three goals, six assists if he stays at one of each on Wednesday).

Islanders grab precious points by beating Rangers

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The goal posts might move from time to time – now they’re chasing the Boston Bruins more than the Toronto Maple Leafs – but the bottom line is that the New York Islanders need to get it done to make the playoffs.

They still have some climbing to do, but Wednesday represented a step in the right direction with a tough 3-2 win against the New York Rangers.

The Rangers built 1-0 and 2-1 leads in the second period as John Tavares struggled with a “hat trick” of penalties, but Tavares & Co. wouldn’t give up. They managed two power-play goals in the third (one by Nikolay Kulemin, the winner by Andrew Ladd) to turn things around for a significant win.

Anders Lee was also a big part of the win, grabbing a goal and an assist. The biggest difference-maker may very well have been Thomas Greiss, who stopped 34 of 36 shots (including all 11 in the third) as the Rangers created a lot of offense.

The Islanders now have 80 standings points, placing them two behind the Bruins for the East’s final wild card spot.

The Rangers’ hold over the first wild card seems quite secure, but they do have to worry ever so slightly about their play at home. With this defeat, they’ve now lost seven straight (0-5-2) at Madison Square Garden.

Video: Rick Nash scores 20th goal in sprawling style

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Rick Nash has his critics stemming from his playoff struggles in the past, but for those who support him, moments like these are satisfying.

Why? Because you’d be absurd to discredit how hard he tries when Nash scores goals like he did for the New York Rangers against the New York Islanders on Wednesday.

Nash went all-out for his 20th goal of the season, sprawling after scoring against Thomas Greiss. It’s quite a sight, and Getty Images really was on top of that one.

via Getty Images

The Rangers may need more from him tonight, however, as the Islanders just went up 3-2. Watch the remainder of the contest on NBCSN.

Leafs pass Bruins for third in Atlantic after gutsy win against Columbus

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It wasn’t pretty – especially if you’re disgusted by that Roman Polak hit – but the Toronto Maple Leafs keep generating big wins as a playoff return looks increasingly likely.

Toronto managed a 5-2 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday, passing the Boston Bruins for third place in the Atlantic Division:

Maple Leafs: 83 points in 72 games
Bruins: 82 points in 73 games

This leaves the currently in-action New York Islanders four points behind the Bruins for the final wild card in the East.

The Maple Leafs aren’t just grabbing key points; they’re doing so against some strong opponents who’ve had plenty on the line, too. They beat a Metro contender in Columbus tonight, the Bruins on Monday, grabbed an OT point against Chicago on Saturday and handled the desperate Lightning last Thursday.

This game was all about William Nylander‘s brilliant start:

And also Toronto surviving a long penalty kill after that Polak hit:

Nazem Kadri‘s 30th goal really put the game out of reach, helping Toronto nab a significant victory.

The Blue Jackets can wallow in this defeat and Oliver Bjorkstrand‘s injury, either, as they turn around to face the Washington Capitals in a big one tomorrow.