Pre-game reading: Who are the top 31 prospects for the 2017 NHL draft?

— Up top, the Washington Capitals are the next contestants on, Who Can Beat the Blue Jackets? 

— Who are the top 31 prospects for the 2017 NHL draft? International Scouting Services has made its latest list, and it’s still topped by Nolan Patrick. “The biggest risers among prospects in the top 10 in ISS’s January draft rankings – compared to December – are Nico Hischier and Casey Mittelstadt. Hischier, a right winger who plays for the QMJHL’s Halifax Mooseheads, turned heads at the WJC with four goals and seven points in five games for his native Switzerland. As a result, Hischier rose from the No. 8-ranked prospect a month ago all the way to No. 3. Mittelstadt, a centre who’s playing high school hockey in Minnesota and has committed to the University of Minnesota next year, went from No. 12 up to No. 6.” (Yahoo Sports)

— An interesting Q&A with Lightning head coach Jon Cooper, who used to be a public defender. “The plus side is you’re helping people. You feel good about that. The sad side is you get de-sensitized to some of the trouble they’re in, over and over. That’s the reality of it. The most sobering place, though, the reality check in becoming a defense attorney, was every time I had to go visit somebody in jail. That’s the eye-opener. It’s bars. It’s chains. It’s fences. It’s locks. It’s confinement. The one thing is, I know I got to leave every time when I left there. Everybody I was visiting wasn’t leaving. That’s pretty tough.” (Sports Illustrated)

— After a tough 2015-16 split between the Hurricanes and Rangers, Eric Staal is having quite the bounce-back season for the Minnesota Wild. “We’re winning a lot of games and I’m having fun. The transition, no question, has gone well for me. We have a long way to go, half a season, but I’m on a good team that has had a good start and is in a great position. It’s fun to come to work.” The 32-year-old really does look like the “Eric Staal he was in the past,” and he’s a big reason the Wild are 23-9-4. (The News & Observer)

— The Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup with a helping hand from a number of players that came up from AHL Wilkes-Barre. The Baby Pens play the same system as the big club, and that really helps smooth the transition, according to defenseman David Warsofsky. “It’s a pretty complicated system. If you don’t know it right away, it can be difficult to play. When you keep the same thing at both levels, it helps out a lot.” (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

— The San Jose Sharks will honor former members of the California Seals on Saturday. The Seals were part of the NHL’s 1967 expansion. Granted, they weren’t a very successful part of it, but they’re the only NHL team in history that Tom Hanks ever sold hotdogs and sodas for, so they had that going for them. (Mercury News)

Enjoy the games!

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    Ducks’ Perry being evaluated at hospital for lower body injury

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    The injury woes for the Anaheim Ducks continued on Monday night.

    On the same night they got Ryan Getzlaf and Jakob Silfverberg back in the lineup, they lost forward Corey Perry to some sort of a lower body injury.

    Perry exited the game after playing just 3:49 in the first period.

    After the game Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said that Perry is being evaluated at a local hospital for the injury and that there was no other update at this time.

    According to Ducks beat writer Eric Stephens of the OC Register Perry did not suffer a skate cut.

    In 31 games this season Perry has scored six goals to go with 16 assists for the Ducks. The Ducks have been absolutely crushed by injuries this season, a development that has no doubt played a major role in their slow start.

    The Ducks were 3-2 winners on Monday against the Carolina Hurricanes.

    The Buzzer: Bernier shines for Avs, Rangers waste Pavelec’s great night

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    Player Of The Night: Jonathan Bernier, Colorado Avalanche

    After losing six out of their past seven games the Colorado Avalanche finally got back into the win column on Saturday night by crushing the Florida Panthers. They followed up that performance by marching into Pittsburgh and stealing two points from the Pittsburgh Penguins in a 2-1 win that was highlighted by a stellar showing from starting goaltender Jonathan Bernier.

    Bernier was the Avalanche’s best player on Monday night, turning aside 39 of the 40 shots he faced.

    It was not until the final 11 seconds, when the Avalanche were already holding a two-goal lead, that he finally surrendered a goal.

    It was probably Bernier’s best performance of the season and just the fifth time in 12 starts that he managed a save percentage higher than .900 in a game.

    Wasted Effort Of The Night: The New York Rangers

    Maybe “wasted” is too strong of a word considering the Rangers did get a point out of the night in a 2-1 shootout loss to the Dallas Stars, but let’s be honest be here. They did not even deserve that.

    The Rangers were thoroughly dominated by the Stars and only managed to get the game to overtime thanks to a stellar performance from goaltender Ondrej Pavelec.

    Pavelec stopped 44 of the 45 shots he faced and almost single handedly got the Rangers to overtime.

    After the game Rangers coach Alain Vigneault had this to say about the game: “There are two positives, Pavs played unreal and because of his performance we were able to get a point. Other than that….we weren’t good.”

    That was it.

    Ducks Get Some Help Back In The Lineup

    The Anaheim Ducks got some much needed help back in their lineup on Monday night when Ryan Getzlaf and Jakob Silfverberg both returned to the lineup.

    Silfverberg made an immediate impact after missing the past five games. He scored his sixth goal of the season in the Ducks’ 3-2 win.

    Getzlaf did not factor into the scoring, but having him back in the lineup was still a huge lift for the Ducks. He played 20 minutes in the win.

    Highlight Of The Night

    The Winnipeg Jets have an outstanding offense. It was on display here with some nifty tic-tac-toe passing to take the lead against the Vancouver Canucks.

    Factoid Of The Night

    Brock Boeser scored another goal for the Canucks in their loss to the Winnipeg Jets. He is having a tremendous rookie season.

    Scores

    New York Islanders 3, Washington Capitals 1

    Dallas Stars 2, New York Rangers 1

    Colorado Avalanche 2, Pittsburgh Penguins 1

    Florida Panthers 2, Detroit Red Wings 1

    Winnipeg Jets 5, Vancouver Canucks 1

    Anaheim Ducks 3, Carolina Hurricanes 2

    Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

    The Panthers and Red Wings had a fight night (Videos)

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    The Florida Panthers and Detroit Red Wings seemed to be in a fighting mood on Monday night, dropping the gloves three times in the first two periods of their game in the Motor City.

    Things started early in the first period when Red Wings tough-guy Luke Witkowski, playing in his first game back since serving a 10-game suspension, dropped the gloves with Michael Haley of the Panthers.

    Have a look…

    The two would square off once again in the second period.

    Not long after the Witkowski-Haley rematch, Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad and Red Wings forward Luke Glendenning took part in a rather vicious fight that left Glendenning bloodied on his way to the penalty box.

    Given Ekblad’s history of concussions the Panthers can’t exactly be thrilled to see him taking part in a fight like that.

    Ekblad is not much of a fighter, with Monday’s fight being just the third of his NHL career. It is, oddly enough, his second fight of the season with the first one also coming against the Red Wings.

    Back in October he fought Justin Abdelkader.

    Big centers back: Getzlaf in for Ducks, Panthers regain Barkov

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    The Anaheim Ducks would probably qualify as unlucky so far in 2017-18 even beyond an extremely unfortunate bounce of a puck fracturing Ryan Getzlaf‘s cheekbone.

    That loss was especially severe with Ryan Kesler already recovering, as Getzlaf missed 19 games, last appearing in a contest on that painful night of Oct. 29. The Ducks get quite the treat, then, as both Getzlaf and Jakob Silfverberg are slated to return as they host the Carolina Hurricanes.

    Check out how much better everything fits together with the returns of Getzlaf and Silfverberg, not to mention the recent addition of Adam Henrique (line combos via the Ducks website):

    Rakell-Getzlaf-Perry
    Cogliano-Henrique-Silfverberg
    Blandisi-Vermette-Kase
    Wagner-Grant-Shaw

    The Ducks are still without Kesler, and Patrick Eaves is fighting a serious physical battle that puts hockey on the backburner, so there’s still some mystery to how the Ducks might look if they can get anywhere near full-strength this season.

    As is, they look a whole lot better going into Monday’s game, something the Florida Panthers could relate to.

    While Anaheim’s dealt with bad luck, you could chalk up Florida’s troubles to a mix of unforced errors (jettisoning depth, particularly to Vegas) and tough breaks of their own (Roberto Luongo‘s injury issues). Either way, management will look infinitely smarter when Aleksander Barkov is in the lineup than when he’s not, so the Panthers must be happy to welcome him back tonight.

    Interestingly, Left Wing Lock lists Barkov along with Jonathan Huberdeau and Nick Bjugstad, rather than Denis Malgin taking Bjugstad’s spot (Malgin received looks, at least, once Evgenii Dadonov suffered an injury).

    That would be quite the top-heavy approach for Florida, even if Malgin can mesh well with Vincent Trocheck.

    While the Panthers have floundered at times, the Ducks seemed like they were finally starting to crater under the pressure of all those injury losses, as Anaheim only boasts two wins (2-4-4) in its last 10 games.

    It’s true that the return of Barkov and Getzlaf would be important in just about any context for their teams, but each team likely feels especially relieved on Monday, as they can use all the help they can get.

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.