Goalie nods: Lightning get Ben Bishop back

All the latest from the crease…

Ben Bishop returns

Bishop has missed four straight games with a lower-body injury, but he’s projected to be available for the Tampa Bay Lightning’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes tonight. Although 20-year-old Andrei Vasilevskiy did a great job in his absence, the Lightning will rely on solid goaltending from Bishop to lead them forward.

The Hurricanes will counter with Cam Ward, whose comeback campaign has been one of the lone bright spots in Carolina’s otherwise abysmal season. He has a 2.44 GAA and .911 save percentage in 23 starts and has only allowed three or more goals in one of his last five games.

With a 10-20-4 record, Carolina is the second-worst team in the NHL while Tampa Bay is locked with Montreal and Detroit in a battle for first place in the Atlantic Division.

Elsewhere…

Isles at Sabres: Kevin Poulin vs. Jhonas Enroth

Red Wings at Senators: Jimmy Howard vs. Craig Anderson

Devils at Rangers: Cory Schneider vs. Henrik Lundqvist

Bruins at Blue Jackets: Niklas Svedberg is probable; Columbus will go with Curtis McElhinney because Sergei Bobrovsky is sick.

Jets at Wild: Michael Hutchinson vs. Darcy Kuemper

Capitals at Penguins: Braden Holtby’s in for Washington while Marc-Andre Fleury will probably start for Pittsburgh.

Stars at Blues: Kari Lehtonen vs. Jake Allen

Flyers at Preds: Ray Emery for Philadelphia, but there’s no word on Nashville’s goaltender.

Ducks at Coyotes: It’s not clear who will start for Anaheim, but Devan Dubnyk will get the nod for Arizona.

Hawks at Avs: Chicago hasn’t named its starter, but Calvin Pickard is projected to get the nod for Colorado.

Oilers at Flames: While there’s no word from the Oilers, Calgary will go with Jonas Hiller.

Sharks at Kings: Antti Niemi will start for San Jose; Jonathan Quick is probable for Los Angeles.

Scott suspended four games for punch that was ‘neither predictable, nor acceptable’

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San Jose enforcer John Scott has been suspended four games for punching Anaheim forward Tim Jackman on Monday night, the league announced.

“While we accept Scott’s assertion that he was merely trying to shake off Jackman — and although Jackman’s shove initiates the exchange — it is such a common maneuver executed with so little force that Scott’s response is neither predictable, nor acceptable,” the Department of Player Safety explained. “Similarly, though Scott’s response is more of a flailing reaction than a premeditated or forceful swing, it is illegal and he is responsible for the damage it does.”

Here’s the video:

Jackman, who was knocked out on the play and required medical attention, didn’t return to the game and remains injured. The Department of Player Safety also notes that Scott’s history as a repeat offender was taken into consideration; he was suspended seven games last year for a headshot on Boston’s Loui Eriksson, and two games earlier this season for coming off the bench to fight Jackman (during a Ducks-Sharks game on Oct. 26).

Scott will miss San Jose’s upcoming games against Los Angeles, Vancouver, Anaheim and St. Louis, eligible to return on Monday, Jan. 5 when the Sharks play in Winnipeg. He will also forfeit $34,146.36 in salary to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.

Is Loui Eriksson starting to get it together?

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Boston Bruins forward Loui Eriksson probably has the right attitude about the inevitable Tyler Seguin comparisons: he told CSNNE.com that there’s not much he can do about the rising star’s work in Dallas.

The key, then, is just to play as well as he can. So far, that really hasn’t worked out so well in Boston, but that might be changing.

Bruins head coach Claude Julien seems to notice a difference lately.

“Like all players in this league when they get on a roll, they feel good about themselves,” Julien said. “To me, he’s showing the kind of player we’ve always thought he was. He’s scoring some goals, he’s making some plays and he’s killing penalties. He’s a guy that you can use in all kinds of situations, so right now I think we’re seeing some of his best hockey.”

The 29-year-old’s really been finding his scoring touch lately.

Eriksson scored two goals in Boston’s crucial win against the Nashville Predators on Tuesday. He has four goals and two assists for six points in his last four contests.

While his possession stats were subtly good last season, they remain respectable enough so far in 2014-15, so there’s reason to believe that he can be the two-way player Boston was expecting when they made that pivotal trade.

Will he ever be able to silence those who can only compare him to the superstar the Bruins parted with? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean that the Swede can’t help Boston win games. It seems like he’s finally making that evident in recent games.

Sabres aren’t happy with league’s decision regarding Bartkowski

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The Buffalo Sabres have to move on from the league’s decision not to suspend Matt Bartkowski for his hit on Brian Gionta, but that doesn’t mean they have to like it.

The team vented to the Buffalo News regarding the lack of supplemental discipline for the Boston Bruins defenseman.

“It’s never a good thing to see,” Sabres blueliner Josh Gorges said. “You never want to see anybody get hurt, and hopefully he’s not out too long. I’m not really sure how that’s handled. It was a five-minute penalty, major and a game. I thought it was supposed to be an automatic hearing and review. But they make their decisions and we live with it.”

Sabres head coach Ted Nolan almost seems to wonder if there’s something wrong with the culture of the sport.

“Sometimes, unfortunately, some of your players put themselves in vulnerable positions,” Nolan said. “Does that give you the green light to hit them in that position? Sometimes the sportsmanship should come out but, once in a while, that doesn’t seem to be the fact anymore.”

Here’s video of the hit:

Bartkowski received a game misconduct for his actions. The Sabres told the Buffalo News that Gionta has an upper-body injury, yet they don’t believe that it’s a concussion.

Goalie nods: Varlamov returns after six-game absence

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All the latest from the blue paint…

Varly’s back

Semyon Varlamov will play for the first time since Dec. 5 when the Avs take on the Blues in Colorado tonight.

Varlamov, last year’s Vezina runner up, has been out for the last two weeks with a re-aggravated groin injury. Rookie Calvin Pickard has performed extremely well in Varlamov’s absence — going 3-0-2 over his last five games with a .952 save percentage — and, correspondingly, Colorado has inched up the standings and now sits just nine points back of Los Angeles for the final wild card spot in the Western Conference.

On the year, Varlamov’s 4-6-5 with a 3.21 GAA and .909 save percentage. He’ll be going up against Jake Allen in the Blues net.

Elsewhere…

Preds at Bruins: Tuukka Rask likely for Boston, no word on a Nashville starter.

Leafs at Stars: Jonathan Bernier for Toronto, Kari Lehtonen likely for Dallas.

Flyers at Wild: Ray Emery vs. Niklas Backstrom

Caps at Rangers: Henrik Lundqvist for New York, no word on a Washington starter.

Habs at Isles: Carey Price vs. Chad Johnson

‘Canes at Devils: Anton Khudobin vs. Cory Schneider

Sabres at Red Wings: Michal Neuvirth vs. Petr Mrazek

Pens at Bolts: Andrei Vasilevskiy likely for Tampa Bay, no word on a Pittsburgh starter.

Coyotes at Oilers: Devan Dubnyk vs. Ben Scrivens

Jets at ‘Hawks: Michael Hutchinson vs. Corey Crawford.