Milan Lucic

TGIF: Five NHL games to watch this weekend


Saturday: Pittsburgh at Boston (7 p.m. ET)

Even though he was invited to the summer orientation camp and leads the Bruins with 11 goals, Milan Lucic is probably a long shot to play for Canada at the Olympics. He’s not exactly the best skater in the world, and that could be an issue on the bigger ice. It’s worth wondering, though, if Mike Babcock will be tempted to take a big, physical winger — whether that’s Lucic or someone else, like Winnipeg’s Andrew Ladd — to play the kind of role that Brenden Morrow played so well in Vancouver. “He’s one of those guys that’s got real good hockey sense, but he’s satisfied to be a grinder on this team,” Babcock said of Morrow in 2010. “He’s added energy.”

Saturday: Anaheim at St. Louis (8 p.m. ET)

Big weekend for the struggling Ducks, who play in Chicago tonight before visiting the Blues tomorrow. Anaheim is just 3-4-4 since starting out 15-3-1. On Tuesday, the Ducks were outshot, 51-28, in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Kings. “We never had the puck,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “They had the puck all the time and were doing all the shooting. They shot from everywhere. We got in the lanes and got a lot of blocks and everything else, but it’s just the whole … it’s the work ethic; the work ethic has got get a lot better.” We touched on the Ducks’ puck-possession issues in last week’s TGIF. Obviously there’s still room for improvement.

Sunday: San Jose at Minnesota (6 p.m. ET)

Ever since Zach Parise and Ryan Suter signed their mega-deals with the Wild, it feels like Mikko Koivu has become a bit of a forgotten man. This needs to change, because Koivu has been outstanding this season. No other Minnesota forward plays as much as the 30-year-old center, who’s averaging 21:22 of ice time and has 23 points to show for it. Having said all that, Koivu has just two points in his last six games, a stretch that’s seen the Wild go 2-3-1.

Sunday: Washington at NY Rangers (7 p.m. ET)

If the playoffs started today, the Caps and Rangers — currently second and third, respectively, in the Metropolitan Division — would meet in the first round. Which would be a nice break for each of them given they’re tied for the fewest points of the top eight teams in the Eastern Conference.


The winner of the Caps-Rangers series would then play the winner of the Pittsburgh-Toronto series, with the winner of that series advancing to the conference final.

Sunday: Colorado at Vancouver (8 p.m. ET)

Roberto Luongo made a great save Tuesday in Nashville to keep the game scoreless:

It was the kind of save, on a defensive breakdown, that Canucks coach John Tortorella had been calling on his goalie to make. The kind he failed to make last week versus Los Angeles:

Vancouver went on to beat the Preds, 3-1, finishing its four-game road trip with three wins.

Hellebuyck debuts with victory as Jets best Wild

Connor Hellebuyck
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ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) Dustin Byfuglien had a goal and assist, Connor Hellebuyck made 14 saves to win his NHL debut and the Winnipeg Jets spoiled left winger Zach Parise‘s return from a knee injury by beating the Minnesota Wild 3-1 on Friday.

Mathieu Perreault added his second goal in two games and Nikolaj Ehlers‘ goal late in the third put the game away.

The Jets won on the road for the first time in their last seven tries and for just the third time in their last 11 games.

Ryan Carter scored for Minnesota, finally getting a shot past Hellebuyck that made it 2-1 midway through the third period.

Hellebuyck was college hockey’s top goalie in 2013-14 and the goaltender on the U.S. team that won a bronze medal in the 2015 world championships.

Minnesota finished with a season-low 15 shots, which was also a season low in shots allowed for the Jets.

Wild fans at the Xcel Energy Center let out a roar when it was announced before the game that Parise would start, but not even his return could spark Minnesota.

After Jason Zucker was whistled for an elbowing penalty behind the net, Perreault took a pass from Byfuglien and zipped it past Devan Dubnyk to give Winnipeg a 1-0 lead with 3:34 left in the second period.

Byfuglien made it 2-0 early in the third when his odd-angle shot hit Dubnyk in the back of the skate and went in for his seventh goal.

Carter’s goal bounced off of Winnipeg defenseman Mark Stuart and past Hellebuyck to give Minnesota some momentum.

The rookie didn’t get rattled, however, stopping a big shot from Jason Pominville with 3:11 to play.

Just 11 seconds later, Ehlers got loose on a breakaway and put the game away.

Winnipeg’s defense came into the game ranked 29th in goals allowed, but had little problem preventing Minnesota from generating quality scoring chances.

The Wild have just one win in their last six games. Parise was Minnesota’s leading scorer when he sprained a knee ligament on Nov. 5.

NOTES: Wild F Justin Fontaine missed his 11th game with a sprained MCL, but has a chance to return for Saturday’s game against Dallas according to coach Mike Yeo. … The Wild went 4-3-1 without Parise. … Jets RW Blake Wheeler had an assist and now has points in 18 of 24 games.

Blackhawks baffle Ducks with late magic; Kane’s streak at 18 games

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The Chicago Blackhawks may not be at peak-level right now, but they’re still a tough team to finish off.

For most of Friday’s game, it seemed like the story would be about John Gibson possibly elbowing into the Anaheim Ducks’ No. 1 role, continuing that franchise carousel.

Instead, it was about yet another tremendous comeback for Chicago, as the Blackhawks scored two goals in the final two minutes of the third period to erase a 2-0 deficit. Artem Anisimov than scored the OT GWG.

Stunning stuff … though definitely not unprecedented.

With less than 30 seconds remaining, Patrick Kane grabbed an assist on Duncan Keith‘s 2-2 goal. Kane extended his point streak to 18 games, tying a record for America-born players.

For the Ducks, it’s yet another gut punch, one that makes you wonder how they’d fare in another playoff series against Chicago (if they can even get there … a big if).

Bruce Boudreau is bummed:

Tyler Johnson’s injury: One of several ominous signs for Tampa Bay

Carl Gunnarsson, Tyler Johnson
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The gloom only seems to lift from the Tampa Bay Lightning’s cloudy season in small drizzles.

Sure, they’re on a three-game winning streak, but the Washington Capitals seem to be on the verge of ending that with a thud (they’re currently up 3-0 going into the third period).

Update: Washington managed a 4-2 win, giving the Capitals a four-game winning streak.

That’s the least of the Bolts’ concerns right now, really, as Tyler Johnson left Friday’s game seemingly injured.

The word seemingly comes into play because details are scarce, as reporters note.

/ominous music plays

If you look at Tampa Bay’s upcoming schedule, things could get downright stormy.

They face the Islanders at home, but they do so tomorrow so they won’t be well-rested. It gets worse from there.

Dec. 2 – 6: Three-game road trip against the California teams

Dec. 10 – 12: Two home games (one vs. Ottawa, one vs. Washington)

Dec. 14-18: Another three-game road trip

Long story short, they close up a back-to-back set at home tomorrow and then play six of eight on the road.

/even more ominous music

The end of 2015 looks friendlier, but for a team that seems to be cratering here and there … things look a bit morbid.

We’ll see if they can keep fighting, perhaps with a comeback tonight?

The ghost is here: Another OT-winner from Flyers’ Gostisbehere

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Here’s an easy way to remember how to spell Shayne Gostisbehere’s maddening last name (and even his first name can trip you up).

Ghost-is-be-here, without the h.

Not too bad, right?

If you’re more of the slogan type, it’s getting to be the point where “Tough to spell, tougher to stop” may be a pretty good one-liner.

The Philadelphia Flyers phenom has made a habit of scoring overtime game-winning goals on the power play lately. Friday’s version was the decisive tally in a 3-2 OT win against the Nashville Predators, which you can watch up top.

As you can see in comparing that goal with the one below (which made the difference against the Carolina Hurricanes), opposing coaches may want to make it a point to emphasize stopping this setup, even if it means writing “Don’t let that Ghost kid free.”

All three of his goals are on the power play so far.

Will he breathe life back into the Flyers’ man advantage at this rate?