Atlantic Watch: 12/21-12/27

For the first time since the middle of November, the Flyers went a week where they only earned two points as they went 1-2-0 in three road games. Although the Flyers had the help of Claude Giroux and Brayden Schenn returning to the line-up, they managed to end the week with a pair of losses as they fell out of the top position in the division. The highlight of the Flyers’ upcoming schedule is The Winter Classic on Monday against the New York Rangers.

After missing the previous four games, Giroux returned to the line-up last Wednesday to lead the Flyers to a 4-1 road victory over the Stars. Scoring the Flyers’ first goal, Giroux had a four-point night as he had an assist on the last three goals for the Orange and Black. Wayne Simmonds had the game-winner on a power play just halfway through the first period, while both Kimmo Timonen and Scott Hartnell had two-assist games as the Flyers ended a two-game losing streak. Michael Ryder scored in the game’s first minute, but Sergei Bobrovsky denied the other 30 shots from the Stars for the win. Jaromir Jagr potted his 11th of the season in the second period, while Andrej Meszaros culminated the scoring with his fourth of the season early in the third period. The win marked the Flyers’ first multi-goal victory since their 5-1 win over the Capitals in Washington on December 13th.

Two days later, the Flyers traveled to New York and dropped The Winter Classic Preview to the Rangers by a score of 4-2. Marian Gaborik capitalized on a breakaway early in the third period for the winner and his 21st of the season as Michael Del Zotto and Stu Bickel both had two-assist games for the Blueshirts. Marc-Andre Bourdon fought Brandon Prust in the first period, while Tom Sestito fought Brian Boyle in the second period of an intense match-up where Henrik Lundqvist made 28 saves for his second win of the season against the Flyers. Meszaros scored for a second straight game and James van Riemsdyk scored his ninth goal of the season late in the third period to produce the only goals for the Flyers on the night. Not a single Flyer finished with a plus-rating as Philly’s record in December dropped to 8-2-1.

To conclude their week, the Flyers dropped a 5-1 decision to the Tampa Bay Lightning last night in Florida. Steven Stamkos had a pair of goals on the night, one of which was the game-winner 7:25 into the second period. Steve Downie had a goal and an assist, while Martin St. Louis had two assists in a game where the Flyers out shot the Lightning 32-16. Mathieu Garon earned the win with 31 saves, while Ilya Brzygalov allowed five goals on 16 shots for the loss. Hartnell had the lone goal for the Flyers as he scored his 17th of the season late in the first period, while the highlight of the game for the Flyers may have been Simmonds knocking Eric Brewer out in a second period fight. The loss was the Flyers fourth in their last five games.

The Flyers had three players return to play this week after missing time due to injuries.

Missing four games earlier this month, Giroux returned last Wednesday night producing one goal and 4 assists in the Flyers’ three games this week.

Also returning on Wednesday was defenseman Andreas Lilja, who missed 10 games with an ankle injury. Taking part in all three games this week, Lilja was minus-3 with four shots on net.

After missing the last nine games, Schenn returned to the Flyers roster last night against the Lightning. He was minus-2 in 8:48 TOI.

As for roster moves this week, Philly returned both Ben Holmstrom and Sestito to the Adirondack Phantoms of the AHL. The Phantoms haven’t played since last Wednesday.

The Orange and Black start the week by finishing their road trip with a visit across Pennsylvania to take on the Pittsburgh Penguins Thursday night. The week concludes for the Flyers with The Winter Classic against the Rangers on Monday at Citizens Bank Park.

New York Rangers:  3-0-0. Winning all three of their games this week, the Rangers extended their winning streak to five games and are now first in the division with 48 points. Restricting the opposition to just four goals this week, the Rangers dominated in their three victories. The Rangers start a three-game road trip tonight that concludes with The Winter Classic.

In their first game against the New York Islanders this week, the Rangers won 4-2 at home on Thursday night. Del Zotto registered his fourth goal of the season with 4:35 left in the second period to grab the game-winner for the Rangers as the defenseman finished plus-3 on the night. Brandon Dubinsky scored his second goal of the season late in the first period and assisted on John Mitchell’s empty-net goal for a two-point night, while Anton Stralman had two assists on the night to be the only Rangers with two points in the game. Gaborik scored his 20th of the season as Martin Biron saved 24 shots to earn the win. The win marked the Rangers’ first home win since their 6-1 drubbing of the Florida Panthers on December 11th.

The following day, the Rangers handed a 4-2 road loss to the Flyers. Derek Stepan and Ruslan Fedotenko scored on ridiculous deflections in the second period, while Gaborik and Ryan Callahan netted goals in the third period to provide the four goals for New York. Prust managed to land a punch on Bourdon’s chin in the first period to win the fight as he went pointless with an even rating in his 7:57 spent on the ice. Dubinsky, Stralman, and Dan Girardi also registered points in the game as they all earned an assist. The win was the Rangers’ second win against the Flyers this season and pushed them into the lead for the division. Both of the wins for the Rangers have come at home in dominating performances.

To conclude the week, the Rangers handed the Islanders another loss as they shut out the visitors 3-0 on Monday night. Carl Hagelin recorded his first game-winning goal in the NHL with his fifth goal of the season 5:14 into the second period as the rookie added on his sixth of the season in the third period for a two-goal night. Gaborik earned his 22nd of the season with an empty-net tally late in the third, while five different Islanders finished the night with a minus-2 rating. Lundqvist had 28 saves for his third shutout of the season as both Del Zotto and Stralman finished the game with a plus-3 rating. The win gave the Rangers five straight wins, something they’ve completed three times already in their first 34 games of the season.

The Rangers didn’t have any players return from injuries or recall/assign players to the Connecticut Whale of the AHL.

The Blueshirts start their week by traveling to Washington tonight to take on the Capitals. On Friday, the Florida Panthers host the Rangers. To conclude the week, the Rangers play outside against the Flyers in The Winter Classic.

Pittsburgh Penguins: 2-0-0. Just like the Rangers, the Pens extended their winning streak this week with a pair of wins. Scoring four goals in each of their games this week, the Penguins have scored at least three goals in each of their last five games. The Penguins hope to extend their winning streak to six games with a pair of wins over divisional foes this week.

The Pens started the week with a strong 4-1 win in Winnipeg against the Jets on Friday night. James Neal potted his 20th of the season 22 seconds into the third period for the game-winner as he finished the game plus-1 with five shots on net. Chris Kunitz was the only player with two points as he had a pair of assists and failed to score despite finishing with a game-high seven shots on net. Joe Vitale scored in the first period, while Jordan Staal and Pascal Dupuis scored 40 seconds apart in the third period as Marc-Andre Fleury made 18 saves for the win. The Pens out shot the Jets 39-19 overall, opening with a 14-5 advantage in the first period. The road win was the Penguins first since their 6-3 win on Long Island against the Islanders on December 10th.

Last night, the Penguins returned home and handed the Carolina Hurricanes a 4-2 loss. Dupuis netted his second goal of the week 2:28 into the third period for his fourth game-winner of the season as the forward finished the night plus-2 with four shots on net. Neal had a goal and an assist, while both Tyler Kennedy and Evgeni Malkin had two-assist games for the Penguins. Staal scored in his second straight game and Steve Sullivan scored on a power play early in a third period that saw the Pens put home three goals in the first 8:05. Fleury earned another win despite only making 16 saves as the Pens’ held the Hurricanes to 18 shots total. Pittsburgh out shot the Hurricanes 52-18, including a 21-3 shot advantage in the second period. The win extended the Penguins winning streak to four games, out scoring the opposition 19-8 in the process.

After missing 10 games with a concussion, Zbynek Michalek returned to action this week for Pittsburgh. Taking part in both games, Michalek had an assist with three shots on net.

Unfortunately for the Pens, Paul Martin was moved to injured reserved with a leg injury.

In addition to Martin missing games, Deryk Engelland was suspended three games earlier in the week for a hit to the head of Chicago Blackhawks’ forward Marcus Kruger. Since he missed the Jets’ and Hurricanes’ games, the last game Engelland will miss is the Pens meeting against the Flyers on Thursday.

Sent to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the AHL earlier in the week, Eric Tangradi took part in last night’s 6-0 loss to the Hershey Bears posting a shot and two PIM in a minus-1 performance.

The Penguins start their week playing the Flyers on Thursday night and conclude their week playing the New Jersey Devils on Saturday night. After their game against the Devils, the Pens have five days off before they host the Rangers on January 6th.

New Jersey Devils: 1-1-0. The Devils won one and lost one this week as they took on two Southeast Division opponents. New Jersey is now 8-4-0 against the Southeast Division this season as they won’t play another Southeast Division team until January 6th, when they take on the Florida Panthers. The Devils look forward to a three-game week where they take on two teams currently outside of the playoff-picture as well as the Penguins.

On Friday, the Devils won their third home game in December by hanging on for a 4-3 shootout win against the Washington Capitals. After a three-goal second period, Jersey allowed the Caps to score three of their own in the third period to push the game into overtime. As neither team scored in overtime, the game went to a shootout where both Ilya Kovalchuk and Patrik Elias scored to give New Jersey the additional point. Kovalchuk also had a goal and an assist in the game, while Elias had an assist on Kovalchuk’s power-play goal. Alexander Urbom scored his first goal of the season and Adam Henrique put home his ninth of the season as the Devils registered all three of their goals in a 7:48 span during the middle stanza. Martin Brodeur made 22 saves for the win and denied an Alexander Ovechkin shot in the shootout. The win marked the second time the Devils beat the Caps in a shootout this season, with the first time being a 3-2 win on November 12th.

Finishing the week on Monday night, the Devils dropped a 4-2 decision in Carolina to the Hurricanes. Anthony Stewart recorded the game-winner for Carolina with 2:47 left in the second period as Cam Ward was awarded a goal on an unusual play in the third period. David Clarkson and Henrique registered goals late in the third period to make it a one-goal game, but by the time Henrique registered his goal there was only 2:20 left in the game. Clarkson had an assist on Henrique’s goal to join Anton Volchenkov, who had two assists, as the only Devils with two points on the night. Tim Brent was the only Cane to finish the game with two points as he assisted on Tuomo Ruutu’s goal in the second period as well as Anthony’s game-winner. Ward made 23 saves in the win, while Johan Hedberg made 30 saves in the loss as the Devils lost for the second time in three games.

After missing both the games this week, Adam Larsson is expected to be back in the line-up tonight against the Buffalo Sabres.

After playing the Sabres tonight in Jersey, the Devils next game is home against the Penguins on Saturday. New Jersey finishes the week on the road with a game against the Ottawa Senators on Monday night.

New York Islanders: 0-3-0. After winning two out of their three games last week, the Islanders dropped all three of their games this week failing to grab a single point in the process. The three-game skid is the fifth time this season the Islanders have lost three consecutive games or more. After hosting a pair of Canadian opponents, the Islanders travel to Carolina on Tuesday as they look for their first win since December 20th.

In their first meeting with the Rangers this week, the Islanders lost 4-2 at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night. Matt Moulson scored his 16th of the season on a power play in the third period and added an assist to join Mark Streit, who had a pair of assists, as the only Islanders with two points on the night. Kyle Okposo, Michael Grabner, and John Tavares all finished minus-3 as not a single Islander finished the game with a plus-rating. Evgeni Nabokov was handed his sixth loss of the season as he stopped 21 of the 24 Rangers’ shots on the night. The loss ended the Isles’ brief two-game winning streak.

The following day, the Isles returned to Long Island and suffered a 5-3 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Joey Crabb potted the game-winner shorthanded 8:59 into the middle period. Clarke MacArthur scored his 10th of the season 1:43 into the game and assisted on Carl Gunnarsson’s first of the season for a two-point night, while Tim Connolly assisted on both of those goals for a two-assist night. P.A. Parenteau had two assists on the night to lead all Isles’ in points. Okposo scored his sixth of the season late in the first period and Frans Nielsen scored on the power play 40 seconds into the second period, while Tavares scored his 11th of the season halfway through the third period. Streit finished the game minus-3, while Nabokov earned another loss in a 22-save effort. The loss was the Islanders’ fourth straight loss at home.

On Monday night, the Isles returned to Madison Square Garden to record their second loss of the week against the Rangers with a 3-0 shutout defeat. Nielsen had five of the shots on Lundqvist, while Marty Reasoner and Milan Jurcina each recorded three shots on net. Grabner, Mark Eaton, Mike Mottau, Matt Martin, and Micheal Haley were the only Islanders to finish the game without a shot on net while 11 of the 18 Isles finished the game with a minus-rating. Haley was only on the ice for four seconds, but he racked up 17 PIM for instigating a fight with Bickel and receiving a 10-minute misconduct. Recording his third straight loss, Nabokov made 28 saves, but couldn’t out play Lundqvist for the win.

After missing 13 games with a sprained MCL, Eaton returned to action this week. Playing in all three of the Isles’ games, Eaton was minus-1 with two shots on net.

With the return of Eaton comes the unfortunate news for the Islanders that three key players will miss time due to concussions. Brian Rolston was placed on injured reserve, Al Montoya is sidelined indefinitely, and David Ullstrom is day-to-day as all players are injured with concussions.

Making his presence felt in the Rangers’ game, Haley was recalled from the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the AHL at the start of the week and played in each of the Islanders’ games this week. In addition to the 17 PIM he racked up on Monday, Haley received a minor in each of the other games and put two shots on net total.

Moving from New York to Bridgeport, Dylan Reese was assigned to the Sound Tigers this week. Playing in only one game, Reese had two shots on net against the Connecticut Whale on Monday night.

Starting the week with a pair of home games, the Islanders host the Calgary Flames on Thursday night before hosting the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday afternoon. The Islanders finish the week by traveling to Carolina to take on the Hurricanes Tuesday night.