Dany Heatley, Semyon Varlamov

Wild, Avs go back-to-back starting tonight


The Wild and Avalanche both have 34 points. Tonight, after they meet in Minnesota, that tie in the standings will be broken. But tomorrow, after they play in Colorado, they could be tied again. Or, one team could be four points up on the other. Or, one team could be three points up on the other. Sorry, pulling a bit of a rambling Darryl Sutter here. Here’s what both teams have been up to:

The Wild (15-7-4) have lost two straight, 3-0 at St. Louis and 3-1 to Phoenix. So yeah, scoring goals has been an issue of late. On the bright side, Minnesota could have Zach Parise (foot) back in the lineup tonight, which would help. Parise practiced yesterday on the first line with Mikko Koivu and Charlie Coyle, but we’ll have to wait until later in the day to find out if he’s in for sure. One forward who definitely won’t be in the lineup is Mikael Granlund, who’s out at least a week with an upper-body injury.

The Avs (17-6-0) are a modest 5-5-0 in their last 10. They did, however, earn consecutive victories over Chicago, Phoenix and Los Angeles before losing to St. Louis on Wednesday. Patrick Roy’s troops still have a lot to prove, but they haven’t completely fallen apart like some were expecting them to. The high number of shots they allow (an average of 32.0, the seventh most in the NHL) will only be an issue if their goalie tandem of Semyon Varlamov and Jean-Sebastien Giguere can’t maintain their high level of play.

With 34 points each, both teams are three points clear of ninth-place Vancouver in the Western Conference standings. But both have to be cognizant that the Canucks, despite a 3-4-3 record in their last 10, have in fact been playing quite well. The race for the playoffs is going to be a fascinating one in the West.

Oilers get Kronwall’d – in more ways than one

Niklas Kronwall
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When someone gets clobbered by Niklas Kronwall, they get Kronwall’d.

(His detractors may insist that the definition require the words “dirty” or “illegal,” but that’s a debate for another day.)

It’s easy to get lost in those thunderous hits and forget that the  Swedish defenseman also brings some skill to the table.

He made a big impact – literally and figuratively – in Detroit’s 4-3 overtime win against the Edmonton Oilers on Friday.

First, the Kronwalling:

Next, Kronwall’s overtime-winner:

It hasn’t always been pretty, but the Red Wings are leaning on guys like Kronwall and Dylan Larkin to stick with it.

Tonight’s win extends their point streak to six games (4-0-2), with five of those contests going to overtime.

Dubinsky – Crosby’s nemesis – gets the last laugh on Friday

Sidney Crosby, Brandon Dubinsky

Brandon Dubinsky isn’t a household name like Sidney Crosby is, yet for all the hype that Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin gets, Dubinsky is the sort of guy who truly rankles No. 87.

It’s been getting that spotlight since the Columbus Blue Jackets faced off against the Pittsburgh Penguins in a brisk playoff series, though it wouldn’t be surprising if the bad blood stemmed to Dubinsky’s days with New York.

To some, Dubinsky’s cross-check on Crosby will resonate far more than the end result of this game:

The bottom line is that he’ll get the last laugh, at least for now. (In-game, that moment merely drew a minor penalty.)

That’s because Dubinsky set up the overtime game-winner, and the cherry on the top of that spite sundae came with Crosby being on the ice when it happened:

They’re not just rubbing the Penguins the wrong way.

Even Dubinsky kind of sort of admits that he may have been in the wrong.


More and more, the Blue Jackets are looking like a nuisance … possibly one that will grind their way to an unlikely playoff berth. They improved to 8-4-0 in November after a disastrous 2-10-0 October.

In other words, there’s at least a chance that we may see these increasingly bitter rivals butt heads in another playoff series.

Eichel’s sweet snipe helps Sabres snap six-game skid

Jack Eichel
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The Buffalo Sabres probably deserved better during at least some chunks of their six-game skid, yet Jack Eichel swooped in on Friday to remind fans that there’s a light shining at the end of the tunnel.

You can watch his goal from tonight’s eventual 4-1 win against the Carolina Hurricanes in the video above.

That’s not necessarily the absolute height of his on-ice magic, yet it clearly gave his team a lift:

Call this a healthy reminder that Eichel has the ability to change games, something Buffalo fans hope to get used to.

Report: Likely no suspension for Matt Beleskey’s hit on Derek Stepan


Alain Vigneault went there in comparing Matt Beleskey‘s hit on Derek Stepan to the notorious check Aaron Rome delivered on Nathan Horton many moons ago, but the league seems to disagree.

While Rome sat through that memorable Stanley Cup Final between Boston and Vancouver, it sounds like Beleskey won’t face any further discipline, according to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun.

In the unlikely event that anything changes, PHT will make note.

The next game between the Rangers and Bruins takes place at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 11. Will these bad feelings linger?