NHL Stadium Series Los Angeles

NHL ice crew does final prep for Dodger, Yankee stadium rink builds

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This will be a weekend of firsts for hockey. The first matches of the Stadium Series, the first NHL games hosted in Yankee and Dodgers Stadium, and for that matter, the first time the NHL will host regular season outdoor games on back-to-back days.

That’s created a lot of challenges for NHL senior director of facilities operations Dan Craig and senior manager of facilities operations Mike Craig, but with the Los Angeles Kings set to face the Anaheim Ducks and the New Jersey Devils getting ready to take on the New York Rangers, everything should be ready for their contests.

That’s despite some of the last minute headaches they’ve faced in Yankee Stadium. Their task of painting the ice was delayed by a snowstorm on Tuesday that dumped about a foot of snow onto the rink. Facing a hard deadline, the Yankee Stadium crew teamed up with the NHL event staff to clear the rink so that they could resume their work.

“We paint it white, we build up the sheet a little bit, then put our lines and logos,” Mike Craig told NHL.com. “Then we flood it to the point we’re able to skate over the lines and logos. We’ll be doing that for close to 24 hours a day until Saturday morning when we get ready for the first people who step on the ice.” (See more here.)

Snow obviously hasn’t been an obstacle at Dodger Stadium, but trying to host a game in Southern California presents its own set of challenges.

After the snow was cleared in New York City, their work was furthered postponed because the sun starting beating down on the ice Wednesday afternoon. That caused them to shift their efforts to working on the ice itself. If that’s an issue in New York in January, you can imagine the potential for problems in Los Angeles.

Their solution to that was to take the sun out of the equation entirely. At Dodger Stadium they have been shielding the ice in reflective blankets while the sun’s out. Its meant working nights, but the results have been encouraging.

“I was shocked how level (the ice) was and how good a job Dan (Craig) had already done because usually the first time you step on the ice it’s never really good,” said Kings president Luc Robitaille, according to NHL.com, after testing out the ice on Wednesday.

Dan Craig isn’t quite satisfied yet, but the heavy lifting is done. Now it’s about fine-tuning the surface by careful positioning of an ice-making truck. In Los Angeles, the when counts as much as the where though, because in addition to the sun, the humidity has increasingly become an obstacle. (See more here.)

These cities have presented the NHL with two very different sets of challenges and because the games will be happening on Saturday (Ducks-Kings, 9:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN) and Sunday (Rangers-Devils, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBC), they’ve been forced to divide the rink-builders crew into two teams for the first time.

In just a couple more days, the fruits of their efforts will be enjoyed by four teams and NHL fans from coast-to-coast.

Related:

Q&A: Hockey Hall of Famer Bob Miller talks Mighty Ducks movies, Cheers and Stadium Series

Yankee Stadium rink build delayed by winter storm

Dodgers prez: Conditions ‘should be fine’ for Ducks-Kings outdoor game

Ducks unveil Stadium Series jerseys

Kings unveil Stadium Series jerseys

Raanta rewards Rangers for starts over Lundqvist by blanking Blackhawks

VANCOUVER, BC - NOVEMBER 15: Goalie Henrik Lundqvist #30 of the New York Rangers shares a laugh with teammate Antti Raanta #32 after defeating the Vancouver Canucks 7-2 in NHL action on November 15, 2016 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.  (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
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If someone told you that the New York Rangers started a goalie on back-to-back nights, and that goalie wasn’t Henrik Lundqvist, you’d probably wonder if he was hurt or retired.

Nope. It just so happens that Antti Raanta is playing at an incredibly high level, Alain Vigneault noticed, and that decision paid dividends on Friday night. Raanta won both nights of a back-to-back, allowing a single goal (with the Rangers protecting him, being that he only needed to stop 43 of 44 shots during that span).

Raanta and the Rangers blanked the Chicago Blackhawks with a 1-0 overtime win, at least briefly climbing to first place in the massively competitive Metro Division:

1. Rangers – 39 points in 29 games played
2. Penguins- 37 points in 27 GP
3. Blue Jackets – 36 points in 25 GP
4. Capitals – 35 points in 26 GP
5. Flyers – 35 points in 29 GP

Nick Holden ended up scoring the only goal of the game:

Meanwhile, the Blackhawks lost but at least salvaged a standings point and it seems like Patrick Kane is OK after this injury scare:

Raanta improved to 7-1-0 on the season, allowing two goals or less in all but one of his appearances so far this season. That’s the kind of work you’d expect to see if you’re going sit a guy who’s, you know, a living legend.

Blue Jackets remain in thick of things in Metro on tough night for Red Wings

DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 01:  Boone Jenner #38 of the Columbus Blue Jackets is congratulated by his teammates after scoring the go ahead goal against the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center on December 1, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
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As the Columbus Blue Jackets keep rolling, the Detroit Red Wings are probably just happy to get Friday behind them.

For the second straight game, the Blue Jackets beat their opponent 4-1.

They’re now on a five-game winning streak, and like the climbing St. Louis Blues, things look great if you go back a little further. They’re 10-1-2 in their last 13 games and 13-2-3 since November began.

Columbus is now at 16-5-4, giving them 36 standings points. They’re once again in breathing distance of leading the Metro Division when you consider games in hand.

Update: Here’s how the standings look after the Rangers beat the Blackhawks 1-0 in overtime:

1. Rangers – 39 points in 29 games played
2. Penguins- 37 points in 27 GP
3. Blue Jackets – 36 points in 25 GP
4. Capitals – 35 points in 26 GP
5. Flyers – 35 points in 29 GP

That’s a stout division, and the Blue Jackets remain shockingly effective. Then again, with results like these over and over again, it might be time to merely expect such impressive work.

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For Detroit, it was a rough night. Jonathan Ericsson couldn’t play, Mike Green was a little banged up and Petr Mrazek was pulled for Jimmy Howard. This goal summarized some of their struggles:

Blues blaze through Devils, even in New Jersey

NEWARK, NJ - DECEMBER 09: (L-R) Brad Hunt #77, Robby Fabbri #15 and Vladimir Tarasenko #91 of the St. Louis Blues celebrate Fabri's first period goal against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on December 9, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The New Jersey Devils have been incredibly difficult to beat at home. Lately, the St. Louis Blues have been on a roll just about anywhere.

On Friday night, the Blues were the hotter team, handing the Devils their first home loss in regulation in 2016-17. And it wasn’t particularly close, with St. Louis winning 4-1.

It’s a convenient time to note that the Blues rank among the hottest teams in the NHL. Most recently, they’re 5-1-1 in their last seven games, but they’ve been especially impressive since they flirted with .500 at 7-6-3. Beginning with a 4-1 win against the Buffalo Sabres on Nov. 15, the Blues are on a 8-2-1 tear.

This leaves them second in the Central with a 16-8-4 record.

That’s impressive stuff.

This 4-1 win was quite the showcase for Robby Fabbri and Vladimir Tarasenko, in particular. Tarasenko collected three assists while Fabbri scored two goals on Friday night. His second goal was particularly slick:

The Blues are right in saying that this was a pretty fitting opportunity to drop a “Holy Jumpin.”

Oh yeah, don’t forget about Jake Allen, either.

Leon Draisaitl continues hot streak with silky smooth goal (Video)

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Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk has been the most difficult goalies to score against this season. Leave it to a high-level player like Leon Draisaitl to make it look this, well, “easy.”

Draisaitl scored his 13th goal of 2016-17 by capping this pretty give-and-go play with Benoit Pouliot. You can see the frustration from Dubnyk at the end of the tally, as if he was saying “How was I supposed to stop that?” (though probably with more colorful language).

Draisaitl came into Friday with five goals and three assists in his last five games, so he’s been almost unstoppable lately.

Read more about his rise here.

Update: The Wild were able to shake off that goal, ultimately beating the Oilers 3-2 via a shootout.