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‘There’s lots of hockey left in Brooks Orpik,’ says Pens coach

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In September, pending UFA Brooks Orpik said he’d “rather not talk about” any potential new deal with Pittsburgh.

Several months later, he’s sticking to his guns. From the Post-Gazette:

What place, if any, he has in the Penguins’ plans beyond this season is not clear, and both sides apparently are content to keep it that way.

Asked if his agent, Lewis Gross, has had any discussions with general manager Ray Shero about a new deal, Orpik smiled and said, “That’s something Ray and I agreed we wouldn’t talk about in the media. We’ll just let it play out and see what happens.”

One guy that was willing to speak about Orpik’s playing future, though, was Pens assistant coach Todd Reirden.

“There’s lots of hockey left in Brooks Orpik,” Reirden said. “I can’t say enough about the job he’s done, playing against the other team’s top players every night.

“He’s definitely not at the end of the road, in terms of his career.”

Orpik, 33, is at the end of the road contractually. He’s in the last of a six-year, $22.5 million deal, one that carries an average annual cap hit of $3.75 million.

The big-bodied defenseman has been a tremendous foot soldier for the Pens since debuting in 2002-03. He’s appeared in 701 games (the most by a Pittsburgh defenseman) and played 87 postseason contests, including all 24 en route to the team’s Stanley Cup championship in 2009.

The Pens were also extremely reliant on Orpik during the lockout-shortened 2013 campaign.

He averaged 22:17 TOI per game during the regular season — the second-highest total of his career — then upped his minutes per game to 25:08 in the playoffs, the highest of his career. This year he’s once again been a busy man, especially in the wake of injuries to Rob Scuderi, Kris Letang and Paul Martin, averaging over 21 minutes per game while representing the U.S. at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Despite all that, Orpik’s time as a Penguin might be coming to a close.

Pittsburgh’s dedicated large sums of money to Letang ($7.25 million a season until 2022) and Scuderi, who’ll earn $3.375 annually until 2017. Martin still has one year left at $5 million, and the incoming wave of young blueline prospects — Olli Maatta, Derrick Pouliot, Scott Harrington and Brian Dumoulin — suggests Orpik might not be around past this season.

Because of that, the prospect of an uncertain future is always on Orpik’s mind.

“I’ve thought about it a ton,” he said. “I think that’s just natural. It’s always on your mind. But the only thing you can do about it now is to just try to have the same approach to games.

“I don’t want to say it puts more pressure on you, but you’re definitely aware of what your individual situation is.”

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.