James O'Brien

Dan Girardi
AP

Rangers aren’t pushing ‘panic buttons’ despite three straight losses

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In the middle of the season, it’s easier to shake off a losing streak.

People are paying extra attention right now, so just a note: the New York Rangers aren’t losing their minds after losing three straight (0-2-1) counting today’s 2-1 OT loss to the New Jersey Devils.

Dan Girardi made that note most directly, sharing a shocking revelation that there might be panic buttons rather than just one big red panic button.

“We’re not pressing panic buttons…but it needs to be addressed right now,” Girardi said, according to Newsday’s Steve Zipay.

The Rangers won their first three games, but they’ve hit a bump in the road offensively. New York only has two goals in its last three contests. Their power play is especially punch-less with a “success” rate of 1-for-16.

Much like his team, head coach Alain Vigneault isn’t overly concerned.

The Rangers have dealt with a slow start or two under Vigneault, and so far, they’ve managed just fine.

So hang up the big red phone for now, OK?

3-on-3 OT shines again: Stempniak grabs Devils’ win vs. Rangers

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There’s a benefit to 3-on-3 OT that may be more important than putting an exclamation point on an already exciting game.

What about those times where two teams seem to be a little, um, drowsy?

In an 82-game season, you’re bound to get some contests that lack a little passion or “omph” or (insert other descriptions for a bland affair), even when local rivals like the New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers are involved.

That seemed to be the case on Sunday – feel free to disagree in the comments – possibly due in part to the “matinee” timing of the bout.

Business really picked up when it became much tougher to clog up the ice, however.

The Rangers and Devils traded some chances and near-goals (doing the sort of things fans want to see … you know, all game) before Lee Stempniak scored his first tally as a Devil.

You can see the OT GWG and some of the exciting action in the video above. It’s also John Hynes’ first win as Devils head coach.

Circling back, 3-on-3 OT and shootouts aren’t quite the “authentic” hockey we all love. Still, during duller nights, we might just appreciate these avenues for excitement.

It even draws some mainstream appreciation:

To reiterate: it would be better if the sport bumped up excitement in more organic ways (for example: by cracking down on obstruction again). That might not happen for some time, so we’ll take what we can get, and sometimes the fun stuff might not come until regulation ends.

Agreed? Maybe?

Hedman heading back? Bolts demote Koekkoek

AP
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All signs point to Victor Hedman being able to play in the next Tampa Bay Lightning game.

That’s not an official stance, mind you; instead, it’s more a matter of observation and maybe a little math.

With Nikita Nesterov suspended, you’d think the Bolts would keep Slater Koekkoek up, especially if Hedman is a toss-up. Instead, the Lightning sent the young blueliner back to the AHL on Sunday.

Such a move leaves the Lightning with six defensemen … including Hedman, as the Tampa Bay Times’ Joe Smith notes:

The next week stands as a challenge for the 4-2-0 Lightning. They play four games on the road, all against teams from the daunting Central Division.

Having their big Swede back would be ideal, but do note that it isn’t guaranteed.

Goalie nods: Kings, Berra jostle for two straight wins

Reto Berra
AP

The Colorado Avalanche received a response in net on Friday, even if it wasn’t from usual suspect Semyon Varlamov.

Instead, it was Reto Berra doing the job, as he managed 35 saves in a 3-0 upset of the Anaheim Ducks.

It’s no surprise that the Avalanche are going back to Berra, who faces a test in trying to keep the Kings at one measly win in their five-game, season-opening homestand.

The Kings haven’t been scoring a ton of goals, but they’re starting to exert their will on opponents.

While they were very quiet (15 shots on goal) in a loss to Vancouver on Tuesday they generated 41 shots on goal on Oct. 9 and 37 shots in finally breaking through with a win against the Wild.

It’s not for sure, but one would expect Jonathan Quick to be in net for the Kings.

(This post will be updated if there are any major deviations in net.)

Elsewhere …

Kessel isn’t what the Penguins expected

Phil Kessel, Sidney Crosby
AP
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What you see from an athlete during an interview isn’t always an accurate representation of who that person really is.

Sometimes that squeaky clean corporate-friendly athlete has a dark side. Alternatively, someone others believed to be a “cancer” might be anything but.

As Pittsburgh Penguins players told TSN, Phil Kessel has defied expectations about his attitude – in a good way.

“Just that he tells guys that he’ll beat ‘em at whatever sport they pick,” Chris Kunitz said with a laugh. “I think the confidence is obviously high. He’s a guy that likes to compete and be competitive at anything he does so that’s probably why he’s so good at so many things.”

It’s not just a more-fiery-than-expected demeanor, either.

Kunitz is surprised by Kessel’s “good-hearted manner to every part of his day.”

One could see some of his sense of humor when cameras picked up on his interplay with former teammate and roommate Tyler Bozak. Kessel rolled his eyes at Bozak’s video game playing and generally seemed to have a snarky sense of humor.

The rest of article is good stuff, full of more-expected revelations like “hey, Kessel can pass really well, too.”

Considering all the rumors that floated around in Toronto, the great attitude part might be even more important than the creative playmaking.