A few thoughts as we get ready for Super Saturday — 30 teams, 15 games, and all the hockey any fan could ask for.
He's a winner — Mike Richards had had enough of losing. He made sure the Philadelphia Flyers would go home with a win.
Richards had a career-high four assists as the Flyers became the last team to win a game this season by beating the Devils 6-3 at New Jersey. He set up four of the Flyers' last five goals as they overcame a sloppy start to end an 0-3-3 drought.
''He was our leader tonight. It was a great effort from our captain,'' Flyers coach John Stevens said after Philadelphia ended a 12-game losing streak at New Jersey.
Richards set up Mike Knuble's first-period goal that put Philadelphia ahead 2-1, Simon Gagne's tying goal and Scott Hartnell's go-ahead tally in the second and Joffrey Lupul's insurance goal midway through the third.
''Mike was all over the place, being the player that we want him to be, and he wants to be," goaltender Martin Biron said. "When a guy like that gets going, it gives everybody confidence.''
The Flyers have a chance to complete a sweep of the Devils when the two teams meet Saturday afternoon — and to get their season back on track after a slow start.
''It's been a frustrating last couple of weeks: We've been putting forth the effort and not getting the results,'' Richards said. ''You try to give it your all every night — and it feels good all the hard work paid off.''
Ducks fly together — Like the Flyers, the Anaheim Ducks got off to a dreadful start. They're a little further along on the road to recovery — but not all the way.
The Ducks made it 2-for-2 on their swing through Eastern Canada by holding off the Ottawa Senators 4-3. Ryan Getzlaf's goal midway through the second period that made it 4-0 looked like window dressing at the time, but it turned out to be the winner when the Senators scored three times in the third.
"I hoped that it wouldn't make the difference, but obviously we let things slip a little bit," Getzlaf said.
Getzlaf missed Anaheim's 3-2 shootout win at Toronto on Tuesday — a game in which Anaheim blew a 2-0 lead before winning the penalty-shot competition.
Despite the third-period troubles, Ducks coach Randy Carlyle was pleased with his team.
"We tried hard — we worked hard," said Carlyle, whose team has won three of four since its 0-4 start. "We stayed with our structure. We got a little bit sloppy into the neutral ice as the game wore on, a little too much stuff on our backhand, but I thought we pretty much stayed with the course and we got it out in the end."
A happy return — Nikolai Zherdev was the bane of a lot of Columbus hockey fans during his time with the Blue Jackets. His talent was undeniable, but there were those who booed him because they thought he was selfish, or lazy — or didn't become a superstar.
On Friday night, he was booed at Nationwide Arena for a different reason — and he didn't mind a bit.
Zherdev heard boos after he scored the goal that capped the New York Rangers' 3-1 victory over the Blue Jackets. He also set up the first two goals for the Rangers, who acquired him during the summer in exchange for defensemen Fedor Tyutin and Christian Backman.
"Yes, that's OK," the franchise's third-leading scorer said with a smile when asked about the booing by the crowd of 14,724.
It was Zherdev's first three-point game with the Rangers.
"It's not easy going back to the team that traded you," New York captain Chris Drury said. "He seemed real focused. He just had a great night."
The Rangers left right after the game for New York and a home game with Pittsburgh on Saturday night. Zherdev said it was a relief to get the Columbus trip out of the way.
"Yes. Because tomorrow is next game and a new game," he said.
On a roll — Back-to-back wins have the Florida Panthers thinking of bigger things.
The Panthers broke their lose-one, win-one pattern with a 4-3 victory over the San Jose Sharks. The victory came two nights after a win at Ottawa and was Florida's first over the Sharks since Feb. 9, 2000.
"It's a big win for us," said center Cory Stillman, who scored twice. "It's the first time all year we've won back-to-back, especially against a really good hockey team. We fell behind early in the game, then we showed a little bit of attitude that we were going to compete."
Stillman broke a 3-3 tie at 18:14 of the second period when he redirected Keith Ballard's wrist shot that was going wide of the net. It came 37 seconds after the Sharks had tied the game on Patrick Marleau's shorthanded goal.
"Stillman's goal at the end of the second was huge for us," Ballard said. "That was a terrible period. It gave us a little life and got us back in the game."
What the Panthers really want is to get back in the playoffs — a place they haven't been since 2000. To do that, they'll have to do better defensively; allowing 50 shots, 16 in the third period, won't cut it. Tomas Vokoun's 47 saves bailed them out against the Sharks, just as Craig Anderson's 41-save effort keyed a 3-1 win at Ottawa.
"Just because we have the lead in the third period doesn’t mean we can give up that many shots," Stillman said.
Hossa's happy — Marian Hossa is a big scorer when Atlanta and Detroit face off, no matter which jersey he's wearing.
Hossa was a Thrasher last January when Atlanta came to Joe Louis Arena and scored four times in a stunning 5-1 win. This time, he was on the other side — and lit up his former team with two goals and an assist in Detroit's 5-3 victory.
"Playing your former team and knowing a lot of guys on the team, you play with a little more jump," he said. "Today, I felt good and we created a lot of chances. We played well until the end."
Hossa went from Atlanta to Pittsburgh at the trade deadline and was one of the Penguins' best players in the Stanley Cup Final, which Detroit won in six games. He signed a one-year deal with the Wings during the summer.
"It seemed every time he got the puck in our zone, he created something toward the goal," Thrashers defenseman Ron Hainsey said of Hossa.
Just what Detroit opponents need — another player to worry about. But his new teammates are glad he's wearing their jersey now.
"We used to see that with him, so it's good to see him doing it for us," said Henrik Zetterberg, who also scored twice. "He's had a lot of games where he's scored more than one goal. We're sure glad to have him with us."
Debuting in front of the folks — The carpet used to allow Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to drop the first puck at Scottrade Center may have helped St. Louis rookie goalie Ben Bishop make his NHL debut Friday night.
Starting goaltender Manny Legace stumbled over the carpet as he came onto the ice before the game. He made 10 saves in the first period, allowing two goals to the Los Angeles Kings, before leaving with a lower-body injury.
Enter Bishop, a St. Louis native who allowed two goals on 17 shots in front of a crowd that included "my parents … my brothers and sisters" as the Kings completed a 4-0 win.
"It helped a little bit," Bishop said when asked if his unexpected opportunity helped calm the nervousness of his NHL debut. "You never want to see a guy like Manny get injured. I just tried to keep my team in the game."
The 6-foot-7 native of Denver also became the tallest goaltender to play an NHL game. He could get to make his first start Saturday night against Florida.
Coach Andy Murray wasn't happy with his team's play, but he had no complaints about Bishop's performance in his NHL debut.
"I thought Ben in the second period made some good saves right away," Murray said. When asked if Legace would be ready, he would say only, "We'll know more tomorrow."
Material from wire services and team online and broadcast media was used in this report.
Contact John Kreiser at email@example.com