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Six years after his last NHL win, Leighton backstops Hurricanes to victory over Panthers

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Welcome back to the NHL, Michael Leighton.

Recalled to the Carolina Hurricanes earlier in the week after goalie Eddie Lack suffered a concussion, Leighton got the start Sunday against the Florida Panthers.

After a tough first period, he was unbeatable the rest of the way, as the Hurricanes came back to beat the Panthers 3-2. That’s his first regular season win in the NHL since Dec. 30, 2010. (That was his first NHL start since 2013.)

And when you have a performance like that — 31 saves for Leighton — you get a special belt.

“It’s good to be back. Good to get a win,” he said in a post-game interview.

That’s an important win for the Hurricanes, after playing last night in Ottawa, as they were able to avoid a third straight loss.

They fell behind by a pair of goals in the opening period, but came alive thanks to a sudden offensive outburst in the second period with three goals — from Viktor Stalberg, Jeff Skinner and Derek Ryan — in the span of 3:28. Suddenly, this game turned in their favor.

That’s the good news.

The bad news: Jordan Staal left the game after the first period and didn’t return due to an upper-body injury. Check back here for an update.

The Coyotes’ dominance over the Oilers continues

GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 07:  Goaltender Mike Smith #41 of the Arizona Coyotes during the preseason NHL game against San Jose Sharks at Gila River Arena on October 7, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. The Coyotes defeated the Sharks 3-1  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Only a few days after an “awful” night against the Vancouver Canucks, Mike Smith redeemed himself Sunday against Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers.

Smith was impressive, stopping 41 of 42 shots faced as the Coyotes were able to leave Edmonton with a 2-1 victory. Jamie McGinn scored the winner late in the third period and the Coyotes continued their dominance over the Oilers.

Arizona now has a point streak of 25 straight games against the Oilers. In that time, they’ve gone 21-0-4. Per Elias Sports, that’s the longest point streak against one team since the Philadelphia Flyers went 32 straight games with at least a point against the L.A. Kings.

That is a streak that dates back from Oct. 22, 1974 to Feb. 5, 1983.

The Coyotes, a team clearly in a rebuild, have now won two in a row, although they remain at the bottom of the Western Conference standings.

“When I look at it, we had plenty of chances to win. Plenty of chances,” said Oilers coach Todd McLellan. “Their goaltender won them the game tonight, in my opinion.”

Jordan Staal suffers upper-body injury, will not return versus Panthers

Jordan Staal

The Carolina Hurricanes fell behind the Florida Panthers by two goals after the first period of Sunday’s game. But the bad news didn’t end there.

Hurricanes forward Jordan Staal left the game with an upper-body injury. The Hurricanes announced he will not return.

In 20 games this season, Staal has five goals and nine points.

The Hurricanes, who played in Ottawa on Saturday, are looking to avoid a third straight loss.

Alex Edler may be the latest victim of the injury bug in Vancouver

Edmonton Oilers v Vancouver Canucks
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Injuries continue to be a concern for the Vancouver Canucks.

It appears Alex Edler could become the latest casualty, following Saturday’s shootout win in Colorado.

The Canucks website on Sunday had Edler listed on injured reserve. He played just 3:59 on Saturday, in the final game of a three-game road trip, after reportedly blocking a shot with his hand.

Iain MacIntyre of the Vancouver Sun reported that Edler will have X-rays in Vancouver, but head coach Willie Desjardins didn’t seem optimistic about the pending status of his defenseman.

Not having Edler in the lineup would be a significant loss for the Canucks, especially with Chris Tanev already out due to injury since Nov. 2.

Without Edler for the bulk of Saturday’s game, Ben Hutton was asked to play just over 26 minutes. Luca Sbisa, Troy Stecher, Erik Gudbranson and Nikita Tryamkin were all asked to each play more than 20 minutes, which is taxing considering Vancouver was playing in the second half of a back-to-back situation on the road.

Stecher continues to impress, despite being considered an undersized defender with rookie status. But Desjardins has shown little trepidation using Stecher in high-pressure situations.

An injury to Edler could mean the return of Philip Larsen to the lineup.

A right-shot defenseman brought in to run the power play from the point, Larsen has struggled defensively while recording only four assists, including only two on the power play.

The Canucks play the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday.

Report: Vatrano (foot) could return to Bruins lineup before Christmas

BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 17:  Frank Vatrano #72 of the Boston Bruins looks on during the third period against the San Jose Sharks at TD Garden on November 17, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Sharks defeat the Bruins 5-4.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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Frank Vatrano has yet to suit up for the Boston Bruins this season, but he took another step this week toward changing that.

He reportedly skated on Tuesday for the first time since undergoing surgery to repair torn ligaments in his foot after he suffered an injury during offseason training.

He was initially expected to miss at least three months as a result of the injury, but there could be a light approaching quicker than anyone thought on the horizon.

From CSNNE:

Given he’s resumed skating, it’s likely that Vatrano is a few weeks away from being able to rejoin practicing with the team and could be looking at a 2 ½ month return to game action from injury rather than the three month timetable initially set out for him. In essence, Vatrano might be able to return prior to Christmas when it was initially assumed he’d be out for the 2016 portion of the 2016-17 regular season.

This is promising news for the Bruins, who are among the bottom third of the league when it comes to scoring, with 2.44 goals-for per game.

Vatrano has been a prolific scorer at the American Hockey League level, with 36 goals in 36 games last season in Providence. That’s a ridiculous rate and he has shown glimpses that his prowess could carry over to the NHL.

The 22-year-old forward had eight goals in 39 games in Boston last season, which included a hat trick in December against the Penguins.

Related: Looking to make the leap: Frank Vatrano