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Posted On Tuesday, 12.23.2014 / 5:39 PM

By Dan Rosen - Senior Writer / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Capitals at Rangers

NEW YORK -- They didn't want to actually come out and call it the biggest game of the season to date, but it's hard to find a game on the New York Rangers schedule that has been bigger than the one they will play Tuesday at Madison Square Garden against the Washington Capitals.

"It's hard to say, but it is an important game," Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist said. "We're playing a team that is right there with us."

The Capitals should feel the same way considering where each team is in the standings, the hot streak both teams have been on, the rivalry that has blossomed from four meetings in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the past six seasons, and the fact that their three-day holiday break begins after the game is over.

Washington enters the Garden with a two-point lead on the Rangers for third place in the Metropolitan Division. The Rangers have two games in hand, but Washington has one more regulation/overtime victory.

The Capitals have won three consecutive games and have points in nine straight (7-0-2); the Rangers have won six games in a row.

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Posted On Tuesday, 12.23.2014 / 4:54 PM

By John Kreiser - Managing Editor / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Canadiens at Islanders

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The New York Islanders called up goaltender Kevin Poulin from the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the American Hockey League on an emergency basis Tuesday with goalie Jaroslav Halak not dressing for the game against the Montreal Canadiens at Nassau Coliseum.

New York has won four in a row, including a 3-1 home victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday. Halak, a former Canadiens player, was in goal for the four wins, but coach Jack Capuano said backup Chad Johnson will start against Montreal.

"It's a big game for him, and he's excited to get in there and play," Capuano said, adding Halak needed "another maintenance day."

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Posted On Tuesday, 12.23.2014 / 3:42 PM

By Paul Harris - Correspondent / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Sabres at Red Wings

DETROIT -- The Detroit Red Wings are struggling to score goals and win games while the Buffalo Sabres are struggling just to ice a team.

Detroit (17-8-9) and Buffalo (13-18-3) play at Joe Louis Arena on Tuesday.

The Red Wings have lost six straight (0-2-4) and have scored six goals in those games. The Sabres have eight players out with injuries and have been forced to call up five players (left wing Johan Larsson, center Mikhal Grigorenko, defenseman Mark Pysyk, center Tim Schaller and right wing Joel Armia) from the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League since Saturday.

Detroit gets forward Stephen Weiss back from a shoulder injury, which caused him to miss four games.

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Posted On Tuesday, 12.23.2014 / 2:53 PM

By Staff -  / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Blues at Avalanche

DENVER -- Rookie Calvin Pickard has been playing as well as any goalie in the NHL, but Semyon Varlamov will start for the Colorado Avalanche against the St. Louis Blues at Pepsi Center on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN).

A Vezina Trophy finalist last season, Varlamov has missed 17 of the Avalanche's first 33 games because of groin injuries, including the past six. He hasn't played since leaving in the third period of a Dec. 5 game against the Winnipeg Jets.

"He was very excited to play," Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said. "He looked very sharp in the practice this morning and in the other practices and worked hard with [goalie coach] Francois [Allaire]. It's a good situation for us. Calvin's played really well and we hope that [Varlamov] will be sharp tonight."

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Posted On Tuesday, 12.23.2014 / 2:28 PM

By Corey Long - Correspondent / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Penguins at Lightning

TAMPA – Don't expect the Tampa Bay Lightning to have much sympathy for the Pittsburgh Penguins at Amalie Arena on Tuesday.

The Penguins are down 13 players with sickness or injuries. They used a seventh defenseman in place of a fourth-line forward in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Florida Panthers on Monday.

However, the Penguins have managed to remain atop the Eastern Conference with 49 points (22-6-5). The Lightning have struggled to a 3-5-2 record in their past 10 games.

Tampa Bay is also winless in its past 10 regular-season games against Pittsburgh (0-9-1).

"They seem to be getting points regardless of who is in the lineup," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "And they have [Sidney Crosby] playing tonight, which they didn't have last time we played. [Evgeni] Malkin is playing. They are a dangerous team."

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Posted On Tuesday, 12.23.2014 / 2:02 PM

By Brian Hedger - Correspondent / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Jets at Blackhawks

CHICAGO -- Brad Richards will miss a second straight game for the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday, but it's mainly to capitalize on the upcoming break in the schedule.

Richards, who participated in Chicago's morning skate prior to the game against the Winnipeg Jets at United Center, missed his first game Sunday with an undisclosed upper-body injury. The Blackhawks put forward Kris Versteeg at Richards' spot centering the second line, bumped forward Patrick Sharp to left wing of that unit and cruised to a 4-0 home victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The reconfigured line helped generate the Blackhawks' first two goals against Toronto, including Versteeg's goal with less than a second left in the first period. They will line up that way again Tuesday, which gives Richards more time to recover with the Christmas break starting Wednesday.

"With three days off, rushing into a game tonight, why not just get a few more days and come back after the break and know I'm ready to go?'" said Richards who has 18 points (six goals) in 33 games. "That's kind of the plan. Maybe if we didn't have the three-day break it would be different, but why not take advantage of it?"

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Posted On Tuesday, 12.23.2014 / 1:52 PM

By Derek Van Diest - Correspondent / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Coyotes at Oilers

EDMONTON -- The Edmonton Oilers are looking to avoid a regular-season sweep against the Arizona Coyotes at Rexall Place on Tuesday.

The Coyotes (11-18-4) have won all four games against the Oilers (7-20-7) going into the finale of the season series. Arizona has earned at least a point against Edmonton in their past 17 games (14-0-3).

"I think they just kind of wait for us to make mistakes and we've kind of killed ourselves in a lot of the games," Oilers right wing Jordan Eberle said. "Tonight will hopefully be a different story. I like to think we're playing a bit of a smarter game right now. We've addressed the way we need to play with our new coach, with a little bit of energy. I'm excited tonight. The last game before Christmas, where you get a few days off, you really want to try and get a win and feel good about yourself."

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Posted On Tuesday, 12.23.2014 / 1:39 PM

By Steve Hunt - Correspondent / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Maple Leafs at Stars

DALLAS -- The Toronto Maple Leafs head into American Airlines Center on Tuesday to play the Dallas Stars on a three-game losing streak, but coach Randy Carlyle isn't calling his team desperate in its final game before the Christmas break.

"Desperation can take people out of their confidence, take confidence away," Carlyle said. "We don't want to go into the break with four losses. Who does? Who does in pro sports? We don't want to lose any games, simple as that."

Toronto lost 4-0 at the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday and Dallas overcame a three-goal deficit in the second period before winning 6-5 at the Edmonton Oilers to cap a perfect road trip through Western Canada at 3-0-0. Even though the Stars have won four straight, coach Lindy Ruff is always alert for signs of a letdown, especially against the struggling Maple Leafs, who remain a potent offensive team.

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Posted On Tuesday, 12.23.2014 / 1:22 PM

By Dan Rosen - Senior Writer / - Over the Boards blog

Rangers' Boyle hopes holiday break revives game

NEW YORK -- Defenseman Dan Boyle is hoping the three-day holiday break helps revive his immune system so his energy returns to a normal level because he's admittedly been scuffling and hasn't delivered to the New York Rangers the type of offensive game he's capable of providing.

Boyle has two goals and no assists in 15 games this season. He has no points in the past seven games since returning from a two-game absence because he was sick.

"The last couple weeks, and I don't want to sound like it's making excuses, but I don't know what I have, if it's a cold or a New York flu," Boyle told Tuesday. "I've been fighting it a little bit energy wise. I guess I'm fine, but since I missed those two games definitely energy-wise I'm not where I need to be or want to be so it's been a little bit of a battle."

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Posted On Tuesday, 12.23.2014 / 1:10 PM

By Dan Myers - Correspondent / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Flyers at Wild

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Minnesota Wild center Mikael Granlund is expected to play Tuesday against the Philadelphia Flyers after missing one game with an illness. He missed the Wild's game Saturday against the Nashville Predators, as well as the past two days of practice, with a stomach ailment that has gone through the Wild dressing room.

Coach Mike Yeo said he expects Granlund to assume his duties on Minnesota's top line despite a solid game Saturday by Charlie Coyle, who skated between Zach Parise and Thomas Vanek after Granlund was scratched following pre-game warm-ups.

Minnesota aims to snap a three-game losing streak and head into the NHL's three-day holiday break with some momentum. To do that, Yeo hopes significant changes to Minnesota's bottom-six group will make things more difficult on the Flyers. Erik Haula and Justin Fontaine will be scratched and Stu Bickel will be in the lineup at right wing on the fourth line.

"Teams have been too comfortable coming in here lately," Yeo said.

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Quote of the Day

We've got a team filled with captains, that's what I think. With these first two games we got in, we're really dominating and moving the puck really fast, and it's worked out really good.

— U.S. goalie Brandon Halverson after a 6-0 win against Germany in the World Junior Championship on Sunday