Steve Mason #35 of the Philadelphia Flyers take a break during the game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Wells Fargo Center on October 2, 2013 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
(October 1, 2013 - Source: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America)

TGIF: Five NHL games to watch this weekend


Saturday: Boston at Philadelphia (1 p.m. ET)

A few Flyers fans disagreed when I brought this up on Twitter, but I still feel like Paul Holmgren could’ve driven a harder bargain with Steve Mason. Really, what leverage did Mason have in his situation? Before signing that three-year, $12.3 million extension, he was a 25-year-old pending restricted free agent with a career .906 save percentage. Yeah, he played great earlier this season. He may have been the Flyers’ MVP actually. But you’ll remember he also played pretty well in his rookie season with Columbus. Goalies get hot sometimes. They also get cold. In eight January games, Mason’s save percentage is a troublesome .885. And that was after 11 December appearances when it was .899.

Saturday: Pittsburgh at Dallas (8 p.m. ET)

When Kris Letang fired home Sidney Crosby’s pass Thursday against the beleaguered Islanders, all I could think was, how in the world did Boston hold these guys to two goals in four games?

(The answer, of course, is “layers.”)

Saturday: Anaheim at Los Angeles (9:30 p.m. ET)

Outdoors at Dodger Stadium, where the temperature at puck drop should be in the mid-60s. So no, for God’s sake, the ice isn’t going to be melting under the players’ skates. “It’s not that big a deal,” said Kings coach Darryl Sutter. “The temperature is the very same as the building temperature. When you come in the building, it’s 65 and above. It actually might be cooler.” That said, it’s been hotter in L.A. than the NHL expected, so the ice surface may not be perfect, even after the sun goes down and the temperature begins to fall.

Saturday: Minnesota at San Jose (10:30 p.m. ET)

I don’t think anyone was shocked that Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau signed contract extensions with the Sharks, but it sure did shed some light on the lack of quality pending unrestricted free agents. Which is to say, Paul Stastny is in a pretty good bargaining position with the Avs, who I figure may have to choose between him and Ryan O’Reilly. Other than Stastny, it’s slim pickings for pending UFA centers. Mikhail Grabovski, Dave Bolland, and David Legwand aren’t bad players, but they’re more in the complementary department. (If they even reach free agency.)

Sunday: NY Rangers at New Jersey (12:30 p.m. ET)

Outdoors at Yankee Stadium, where melting ice probably won’t be a problem. Another thing that hasn’t been a problem lately is Henrik Lundqvist, who boasts a .936 save percentage in January. In December, that number was .888, which caused great concern considering the big extension he’d just signed. King Henrik’s improved play is also good news for Sweden heading into the Olympics, where it could be argued they’ll be the second-deepest team after Canada.

Price paid: Devils come back against Condon, Canadiens

Mike Condon, John Moore,
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If nothing else, the New Jersey Devils seem like they won’t be the sort of team a contender can essentially mark off as a “W” on their calendars.

The Montreal Canadiens may not be in a position to take opponents lightly with Carey Price on the shelf, but whatever the case may be, they saw their four-game winning streak end in frustrating fashion on Saturday.

After falling behind 2-0, the Devils scrapped their way back into it, eventually riding a John Moore overtime goal to a 3-2 OT win.

If Montreal needs an obvious bright side to look on considering this hiccup, Alex Galchenyuk‘s hot weekend may be a good thing to look at.

Tonight’s loss may smart a bit anyway, however.

Metro’s best? Capitals keep winning, pass Rangers for division lead

Jonathan Bernier; Matt Niskanen; Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau
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If you want to summarize the Capitals – Maple Leafs game in one sentence, you could do worse than:

“Washington is hot as Jonathan Bernier is cold.”

The Caps reeled off a 4-2 win against Toronto on Saturday, giving them five straight wins. They also jumped into first place in the Metropolitan Division today, as they keep climbing while the New York Rangers are experiencing some growing pains.

Again, James Reimer can’t get healthy and back in Toronto’s net too soon:

With this win, Washington is now 17-5-1, leading the Metro by one point with 35 standings points. They also hold a game in hand against the Rangers, and no other Metro team even has 30 right now.

Measuring stick stretch begins

Tonight’s game began a “prove-it” month-and-change for Washington.

This contest began a three-game road trip, and they’ll also play six of seven away from Washington.

It’s pretty rough through the start of 2016, really. The Capitals will only enjoy three home games through Jan. 9.

In other words, the Capitals seem like a convincing East contender, but look out if they remain hot through the next 5-6 weeks.

Video: Evgeni Malkin leaves Oilers spinning


Yes, there’s a lot of drama surrounding the Pittsburgh Penguins, whether it’s founded on serious problems or merely speculation.

It’s easy to get swept up in all of that and ignore the fact that, hey, they still have Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby. Those two can really heal wounds with their on-ice play, and in Saturday’s case, Malkin is taking over against the Edmonton Oilers.

His spin-o-rama goal above was a real jaw-dropper. He also scored Pittsburgh’s second tally:

These highlights feel like Malkin’s way of saying “It’s going to be just fine.”

Update: It wasn’t enough for a win, however, as the Oilers beat the Penguins 3-2 via a shootout.

Lightning’s first fight this season: Ryan Callahan vs. Kyle Okposo

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Fighting is down more or less across the board in the NHL, but the Tampa Bay Lightning might be the franchise least interested in dropping the gloves.

Ryan Callahan vs. Kyle Okposo already has some name recognition to it, yet it gets some bonus points for being the Bolts’ first fighting major of 2015-16.

It … probably loses those bonus points in being run-of-the-mill.

Hey, be fair; the Lightning are clearly out of practice.