A Day in the NHL: Thursday December 23

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We go from four games last night to 13 tonight, but there’s plenty to talk about with Sidney Crosby, overtime thrillers, and a setback for Pavel Datsyuk and the Detroit Red Wings.

The Night that Was:

We’ll start there with the Wings and their dynamic two-way centre. In the first period, Datsyuk tripped over former teammate Mikael Samuelsson as he was walking out from the corner, and broke his hand as he landed. Despite missing Datsyuk for the rest of the game (and the next four weeks), the Red Wings were able to keep pace with Vancouver in a game where goals weren’t hard to come by. Both teams led twice, with Vancouver’s 4-3 lead being erased on a powerplay with just four minutes remaining in the third period. Then, midway through overtime, Henrik Zetterberg stepped up in a big way by picking off the puck and firing one short-side on Roberto Luongo for the win and the extra point, scoring his second goal of the night and third point of the game.. Although the numbers aren’t impressive, both Luongo (40/45) and Jimmy Howard (35/39) stood on their heads in the game, as Howard made a number of highlight-reel stops. There were two other three-point nights as both Brian Rafalski and Ryan Kessler had three assists.

Not surprisingly, Sidney Crosby continued his 22-game point streak in emphatic fashion. After Stephen Weiss had tied the game for the Panthers, Crosby picked up a pick chipped to him at centre by Chris Kunitz and absolutely blasted one past Thomas Vokoun. Pittsburgh would make it 3-1 by the mid-way point of the first period, and that would spell the end for Vokoun. However, Brent Johnson, who started the night for Pittsburgh, wouldn’t finish it either. Marc-Andre Fleury would come in to play the third after Johnson tweaked something making a save late in the second period. It was Pittsburgh’s second win in a row, and Florida’s first loss after wins over Buffalo and Philadelphia.

John Tavares salvaged what was otherwise a pretty dull game on Long Island with the overtime winner. Ryan Malone opened the scoring in the first on the power play and P.A. Parenteau tied it in the second. After a scoreless third, Tavares had himself stationed perfectly in front of the net to corral the James Wisniewski shot form the sideboards and pump home the rebound. While Dan Ellis was busy and made a couple of highlight-worthy saves, Dwayne Roloson was the star for the Islanders, making 34 of 35 saves with few of them being easy.

The Chicago Blackhawks taught the Nashville Predators a lesson last night, and that’s not to mess with the defending champs. Although the Preds have been a tad problematic for the ‘Hawks, beating them both times this year, Jack Skille took things into his own hands last night, scoring two goals including the winner in a 4-1 game. David Bolland added a goal and an assist as Corey Crawford made 24 stops for his third-straight win. Although he was held scoreless in his previous game, Sergei Kostitsyn scored to give himself four goals and 11 points in his last 10 games.


What’s on Tonight:

If you want to watch hockey, you’ll find something. 13 games in action tonight as we’re only missing out on the Anaheim Ducks, Toronto Maple Leafs, Philadelphia Flyers, and Chicago—the only team to play last night to get today off.


The Injury Bug:

We touched on this earlier, but both Brent Johnson and Pavel Datsyuk were hurt last night. Johnson’s will have to be monitored (he’s not listed on the injury report for tonight’s game according to the Penguins’ website), while Datsyuk is out for four weeks.

In addition to that, Ben Lovejoy took a Bryan McCabe slapshot to the face last night in the same game he scored his first NHL goal and had his first NHL fight. Word is he should be ready to go tonight though.

Pekka Rinne was activated from the IR by Nashville for last night’s game, but Anders Lindback got the start.

Both Michael Del Zotto (flu) and Marian Gaborik (groin) will be out tonight for the New York Rangers.

Cam Ward will also be back in net for the Carolina Hurricanes tonight. He was a late scratch from the last game due to an infection.


News and Rumours Around the League:

Um….if you hadn’t heard, the worst-kept secret in the league became fact: John MacLean has been fired by the New Jersey Devils. It happened this morning.


Overlooked Fantasy Line of the Night:

Dwayne Roloson turned in a big performance for the Islanders last night and was the reason why they won. Very few of the 35 shots he faced were gimmes (especially against the Lightning’s offense), which really buoyed the Isles in light of Rick DiPietro going on IR.


And before signing off, a Merry Christmas to everyone, and thanks for stopping by here on ‘A Day in the NHL’. I’ll be on hiatus for the 24/25/26 for obvious personal reasons, but after that it’ll be time to gear up for the Winter Classic and Crosby vs. Ovechkin. Hopefully Crosby can keep that point streak going all the way through to the ‘Classic. Remember, you can e-mail me at bryanthiel74@hotmail.com, and follow me on Twitter at BryanThiel_88.