Riding the Zamboni – January 26th; Flames roll on, Kings win in shootout

Los Angeles 3 – San Jose 2 (F/SO)

In what was an important showdown between Pacific teams looking to get back in the playoff race and out of a collective funk, it was the Kings coming out on top in the skills competition. Jarret Stoll’s shootout goal gave the Kings the win, but it was Alexei Ponikarovsky who tied the game in the third for L.A. The Sharks rallied to take the lead in the second period after Ryan Smyth’s goal kicked off the scoring. Ryane Clowe and Devin Setoguchi put the Sharks up 2-1 with goals 39 seconds apart in the second. The Sharks kept that lead until halfway through the third when Ponikarovsky leveled it. Jon Quick played shaky but strong stopping 22 shots and everything he saw in the shootout. Antti Niemi saved just 18 on the night.

Calgary 4 – St. Louis 1

David Moss scored twice to give Calgary their fourth straight win. The all-star break might be coming at the worst time possible for the resurgent Flames as they’ve gotten themselves back in the mix in the playoff race in the West. Miikka Kiprusoff was huge tonight stopping 28 shots to preserve the win. Phillip McRae scored his first NHL goal for the Blues.

Phoenix 5 – Colorado 2

The fans in Colorado went home about 12 shades of angry after seeing the Coyotes seemingly get the benefit of most calls in Denver en route to the win. Eric Belanger scored twice and Keith Yandle had a goal and an assist to get Phoenix the victory. Ilya Bryzgalov stopped 29 in the win. Peter Budaj was chased from the start after giving up two goals in his first nine shots. Craig Anderson replaced him and allowed two more goals while stopping 25 shots. Matt Duchene and Ryan Stoa had the goals for Colorado as they continue to play inconsistently while the Canucks pull away in the Northwest.

Dallas 3 – Edmonton 1

The Stars have to be happy to see the Oilers these days. Dallas was able to rebound from their sound beating on Monday night to take out Edmonton thanks to Brenden Morrow’s two goals. Adam Burish added a third and Kari Lehtonen stopped 34 shots to earn the win. Dallas was able to solidify their lead in the Pacific Division with the win as they lead Anaheim by five points at the break. Edmonton, meanwhile, is the one team in the West that is distantly removed from the playoff race. Maybe they can ask to be moved to the East to fit in better there.

Detroit 3 – New Jersey 1

Detroit got the go-ahead goal from Valtteri Filppula early in the third while Johan Franzen scored his 21st of the season to give Detroit an important win heading into break. New Jersey thought they tied the game late in the third, but Ilya Kovalchuk’s rebound goal was disallowed seemingly because of the “intent to blow” rule. Jimmy Howard played strong all game saving 23 shots. Martin Brodeur stopped 26 in the loss.

Atlanta 1 – Washington 0

Boston 2 – Florida 1

It might not have been pretty but a win is a win for the Bruins. Brad Marchand and Milan Lucic scored, his 20th of the year, to lead the Bruins to victory over Florida. Bryan Allen was the only guy for Florida to beat Tim Thomas for a goal as Thomas saved 34 in the victory. Tomas Vokoun was no slouch himself stopping 33 shots. The Bruins go into the break with a four point lead on Montreal for the Northeast lead.

Vancouver 2 – Nashville 1

Carolina 4 – NY Islanders 2

With another snowstorm wrecking Long Island, a small crowd got to see Eric Staal score twice and lead the Hurricanes to victory over the Islanders. 4,976 fans braved the poor weather and saw Staal’s three point night show that he’s ready to captain his team in the All-Star Game on Sunday while potential All-Star draft pick Cam Ward stopped 23 shots to get the win. Michael Grabner scored his 15th goal of the year for the Isles while Rick DiPietro saved 27 shots in the loss.

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    Ducks’ Urho Vaakanainen crashes into boards, leaves on stretcher

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    ANAHEIM, Calif. — Ducks defenseman Urho Vaakanainen was taken off the Honda Center ice on a stretcher after he crashed into the end boards in the first period of Anaheim’s preseason game against the San Jose Sharks.

    The Finnish defenseman was conscious and alert with full movement in his extremities at UCI Medical Center, the Ducks said.

    The frightening incident occurred midway through the opening period when Vaakanainen smashed into the boards at a dangerous speed behind the Sharks’ net. Vaakanainen appeared to be concentrating on the pass he had just made to Derek Grant, who scored the Ducks’ opening goal on the assist.

    Vaakanainen’s teammates came onto the ice and gathered around him as he was taken away on the stretcher.

    The Ducks acquired the 23-year-old Vaakanainen from Boston last March in the deal that sent longtime Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm to the Bruins. After recording two assists in 14 games for the Ducks last season, Vaakanainen is attempting to win a top-six role on Anaheim’s defense this fall.

    Lightning donate $2 million to Hurricane Ian relief efforts

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    TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Lightning and team owner Jeff Vinik are donating $2 million toward Hurricane Ian relief efforts.

    The NHL team announced that $1 million each will be donated by the Tampa Bay Lightning Foundation and the Vinik Family Foundation.

    “This is a tragic situation for many families and communities across the state of Florida, but especially so in the southwest region of the state,” Vinik said in a statement released by the team. “In times like these the most important thing we can do is support one another, and we hope this donation will help families recover and rebuild in the months to come.”

    Ian made landfall Wednesday on Florida’s Gulf Coast, south of the Tampa Bay area. The Lightning postponed two home preseason games and moved the club’s training camp to Nashville, Tennessee, during the storm.

    Maple Leafs sign defenseman Rasmus Sandin to 2-year deal

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    TORONTO — Rasmus Sandin has signed a two-year, $2.8 million contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the club announced on Thursday.

    The 22-year-old from Sweden was the 29th overall selection in the 2018 draft. Sandin had 16 points in 51 games with Toronto last season. He’s played in 88 career regular-season games, with six goals and 22 assists, and has one goal in five playoff games.

    “Got a great set of tools,” fellow defenseman Jake Muzzin said. “With experience, I think they’re only going to get better.”

    The signing comes as the Leafs’ blueliners been hit hard by injuries. Muzzin has been dealing with a back issue, and Timothy Liljegren recently had surgery for a hernia.

    Toronto then lost Jamie Benn (groin) and Carl Dahlstrom (shoulder) in Wednesday’s 3-0 preseason victory over the Montreal Canadiens, pressing forwards Calle Jarnkrok and Alexander Kerfoot into defensive roles for two periods.

    Back with Wild, Fleury welcomes big workload as clear No. 1

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    ST. PAUL, Minn. — With his ever-present smile, tireless approach and long list of accomplishments in the net, Marc-Andre Fleury has always embraced a heavy workload.

    The Minnesota Wild sure haven’t shied away from leaning hard on their new – and 37-year-old – goalie. After arriving in a deadline-day trade in March and re-signing with the Wild in July, the guy everyone calls “Flower” is still fully abloom as he begins his 19th season in the NHL.

    “They say, `You play,’ I play, unless maybe I’m hurt or something,” Fleury said. “But other than that, I like playing.”

    Wild general manager Bill Guerin initially planned to bring back both Fleury and Cam Talbot, who made the All-Star team and went 13-0-3 in his last 16 regular season starts before being benched in favor of Fleury for the first-round playoff series against St. Louis. The Wild lost in six games, after Talbot got the cold start in the elimination game and gave up four goals on 26 shots.

    Guerin changed his mind, though, after signing Fleury to a two-year, $7 million contract. Realizing Talbot’s frustration from the lack of postseason action, he didn’t want to risk any tension or discontent. Talbot was traded to Ottawa for Filip Gustavsson, who will be the No. 2 goalie while top prospect Jesper Wallstedt gets more development in the AHL.

    Gustavsson has only 23 career regular-season starts, nearly 200 fewer than Talbot, so it’s a good bet that Fleury will get the majority of the games.

    “I was ready to share the load with him, but things didn’t work out and happy to be having the chance to play maybe a bit more. It’s fun to play. It’s more fun than sitting on the bench,” said Fleury, who went 28-23-5 in 56 combined starts for Chicago and Minnesota last season with a 2.90 goals against average and a .908 save percentage.

    The Wild reconvened for training camp last week, beginning their quest to recapture the mojo they enjoyed last season while setting franchise records for points (113), wins (53) and goals (305). The only team that finished ahead of them in the Western Conference was Colorado, which went on to win the Stanley Cup, but they never met the Avs in the playoffs because the Blues got to them first.

    There’s a strong chemistry in place, at least, to build upon.

    “We still have a lot of guys here who were here last year. We’re just trying to make it even better, just trying to listen to everybody,” center Joel Eriksson Ek said. “We want to set a standard and a way for how hard this team’s going to work.”

    The Wild start the regular season by hosting the New York Rangers on Oct. 13.

    COMINGS AND GOINGS

    The most significant roster move of the summer amongst the skaters was the inevitable salary-cap-driven trade of second-leading scorer Kevin Fiala to Los Angeles. Fiala had a career-high 33 goals and 52 assists last season. Guerin otherwise dabbled mostly in two-way contracts in free agency for depth. Former Anaheim center Sam Steel signed with Minnesota last month, one day after defenseman Dimitry Kulikov was dealt to the Ducks.

    MORE POWER

    The Wild were done in during the playoffs by abysmal special teams. They went just 4 for 24 on the power play against the Blues, and head coach Dean Evason had the team working on that on the first day on the ice. The penalty kill that lagged last season was a focus of the second practice.

    “It has to get better, no question,” Evason said.

    BLUE LINE SHUFFLE

    Captain Jared Spurgeon has been placed with Jonas Brodin on the first pair on defense, and Jake Middleton has joined Matt Dumba on the second unit. Dumba and Brodin are close friends who’ve been paired together for several seasons.

    “Dumbs is a shooter too,” said Middleton, who re-signed for three years and $7.35 million. “It’s pretty exciting. I can get some cookies passing him the puck. That’d be a big plus. I think it’ll work well. He loves hitting guys too. He plays a gritty game as well so I think we’ll be a good combo.”

    UP FRONT

    With Jordan Greenway recovering from offseason surgeries, Tyson Jost will get the first chance to skate with Eriksson Ek and Marcus Foligno. The departure of Fiala has opened at least one spot for a rookie to make the team, with 2020 first-round draft pick Marco Rossi in line for it.

    ON THE SLATE

    This is the first time in eight years the Wild will play their regular-season opener at home. After three more games at Xcel Energy Center, they don’t hit the road until a five-game trip that starts Oct. 22 at Boston. The Wild have a season-long nine-game homestand from Feb. 9-21.