Around the Rink – Wednesday, March 9th

As tough as it might be to do so, it’s time to at least attempt to move on from the craziness involving Zdeno Chara and Max Pacioretty and focus on today’s seven games. Start times are according to Eastern Standard Time (ET).

7:00 pm

Atlanta @ Carolina

With a few more losses, the Thrashers can focus solely on their ownership situation and the pursuit of tanking in order to acquire another building block in the draft. Then again, beating their bubble brothers in Carolina would be a nice way of keeping their flimsy playoff dreams alive. Technically, they’re still ahead of the Devils, so they’re not totally done. Right? Maybe? Meanwhile, the Hurricanes trail the eighth place Sabres by one point and one win, so they could jump back into the top eight (at least briefly) by beating the Thrashers.

St. Louis @ Columbus

While the Blues are playing the spoiler role in this home-and-home series against the Blue Jackets, Columbus needs to play like a desperate team in this game. You know, because they are desperate. With five losses in a row, the Blue Jackets are fading out of the Western Conference playoff picture. They need a win tonight.

Edmonton @ Washington

Will this be a “trap game” for the emboldened new leaders of the Southeast Division? The Capitals must not take the Oilers lightly or they’ll lose a precious opportunity to expand their two-point lead over the Lightning for the division title. Washington might point back to this game with regret if they don’t snare a victory.

7:30 pm

Chicago @ Tampa Bay

Call this game the “What a difference a superstar draft pick makes” contest. On one side, there’s Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane for the Blackhawks. In the opposing corner, there’s Steven Stamkos and Vincent Lecavalier. Unfortunately, Martin St. Louis will ruin the gag by revealing his Hart Trophy winning, undrafted self. He’s a real scamp in that way.

Los Angeles @ Detroit

The last time these two teams played, the Red Wings ruined the Kings’ post-trade deadline buzz by dismantling them 7-4. While you cannot say that actually having Dustin Penner in a Kings uniform would have made a difference, he will suit up for Los Angeles against the Red Wings tonight. The Kings have a loose grasp on eighth place while Detroit has the added motivation of holding off the San Jose Sharks to maintain their grasp on the West’s second seed.

9:00 pm

Calgary @ Dallas

Barring a setback in warm-ups or from the snack bar, it sounds like Brad Richards will make his first post-trade deadline appearance with the Stars tonight. The team lost their first four games without him before putting up a 5-0-1 mark in their last six, but either way they’ll be glad to have him back. He’ll need to hit the ground running, though, because the two teams are currently in fourth and fifth place in the West. Could this be a preview for a first round playoff series?

10:30 pm

NY Rangers @ Anaheim

The Rangers are hoping they don’t sink out of the Eastern Conference’s top eight while the Ducks are crossing their fingers that they might be able to slip back into the West’s playoff picture. These two teams don’t meet often, but each side needs a win badly, so expect at least a decent amount of intensity in this one.

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    Islanders agree to terms with Mathew Barzal on 8-year extension

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    Mathew Barzal has agreed to terms with the New York Islanders on an eight-year extension, a move that keeps the franchise’s top forward under contract for the balance of his prime.

    The deal is worth $73.2 million with an annual salary cap hit of $9.15 million, according to a person with knowledge of the contract. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team did not announce terms.

    Barzal has led the team in scoring, or been tied for the lead, every season since he became a full-time NHL player in 2017-18. He has 349 points in 411 regular-season and playoff games for the defensively stingy Islanders, who qualified for the postseason three consecutive times before an injury- and virus-altered last year.

    “We feel recharged,” Barzal said recently. “We feel like everybody had good summers and worked hard, and we got that excitement back.”

    Barzal, now 25, is coming off putting up 59 points in 75 games. The offensive star will now be asked to round out his game.

    “I’m a fan because Mat has the ability to raise his game and to be a special player,” general manager Lou Lamoriello told reporters at the team’s practice facility on Long Island. “And now, with this contract and our faith in him, (it) puts that responsibility on him. We’re trusting that. It’s up to him to respond to that.”

    Senators goaltender Cam Talbot out 5-7 weeks with injury

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    OTTAWA, Ontario — Ottawa Senators goaltender Cam Talbot is expected to be out five to seven weeks with what the team called an upper-body injury.

    The Senators initially called Talbot day to day with what they hoped was a minor injury. Instead he’s now expected to miss at least the first month of the NHL season.

    Ottawa claimed goalie Magnus Hellberg off waivers from the Seattle Kraken upon announcing Talbot’s expected absence. Hellberg, who played for Sweden at the Beijing Olympics could split time with countryman Anton Forsberg while Talbot is out.

    The Senators acquired Talbot from Minnesota during the offseason to make him their starter after the Wild opted against bringing him back along with Marc-Andre Fleury. Talbot, 35, had a 2.76 goals-against average and .911 save percentage this season.

    Losing Talbot is a blow to the Senators, who also acquired winger Alex DeBrincat from Chicago and signed longtime Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux as part of a move toward contending and ending their playoff drought.

    Blackhawks’ Boris Katchouk sidelined by ankle sprain

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    CHICAGO — Blackhawks forward Boris Katchouk will be sidelined for four to six weeks with a left ankle sprain, the team announced.

    The 24-year-old Katchouk played almost 12 minutes during a 3-0 preseason loss to Detroit on Saturday night. He was acquired in a multiplayer trade with Tampa Bay in March.

    The Blackhawks open the season on Oct. 12 at Colorado.

    The team also said forward Jujhar Khaira is day to day with a right ankle injury.

    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.