Hockey Today - Jan. 1

Hockey Today - Jan. 1

Hockey Today - Tuesday, January 1
ASSOCIATED PRESS

SCOREBOARD

Pittsburgh at Buffalo (1 p.m. EST). The Penguins and Sabres face off in the Winter Classic at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

STARS

-Rick Nash, Blue Jackets, scored three times to lift Columbus over Edmonton, 4-2.

-Manny Legace, Blues, made 31 saves for his 20th career shutout to help St. Louis get past NHL-leading Detroit, 2-0.

-Radim Vrbata, Coyotes, scored two power-play goals and scored in the shootout to help Phoenix squeak by Colorado, 4-3.

-Dan Ellis, Predators, stopped 22 shots for his third career shutout and Nashville edged Dallas, 1-0.

-Marc-Andre Bergeron, Islanders, had two goals and an assist in New York's 4-1 victory over Carolina.

ON THE ROAD

Joe Thornton and Milan Michalek each had a pair of assists to lead San Jose over Minnesota 3-2 on Monday for its 10th consecutive road win. The Sharks, who last lost a road game on Nov. 9, are now tied with four other teams for second on the NHL's list for consecutive road wins. Detroit won 12 straight on the road in March and April of 2006. San Jose will have a chance to tie the Red Wings' record when they visit Anaheim and Phoenix in the middle of January.

NEW YEAR'S EVE LUCK

Daymond Langkow had two assists to help Calgary edge Vancouver 2-1 on Monday. Since first hosting a New Year's Eve game in 1987, the Flames have won nine times, lost five and tied three against opposing teams. It's the first time they have matched up against the Canucks on New Year's Eve.

MILESTONE

Boston ended a six-game skid (0-5-1) with a 5-2 win over Atlanta on Monday. The Bruins' first goal of the game - a power-play score by Dennis Wideman - was the team's 18,000th, making Boston the second NHL team to reach that mark. Montreal has 18,886. The win snapped the Bruins' worst stretch since they ended last season 0-6-0.

FIRSTS

St. Louis beat Detroit 2-0 on Monday to snap a four-game slide and hold the Red Wings scoreless for the first time this season. Detroit had won 14 of 16 coming in. ... Ethan Moreau scored his first goal since Oct. 21. 2006, a span of 113 games, in Edmonton's 4-2 loss to Columbus. Moreau was sitting out with a shoulder injury.

STRUGGLING

The New York Islanders upended Carolina 4-1 on Monday to hand the Hurricanes second straight loss and fourth in six games. The Islanders won in Raleigh for the first time since April 2, 2004.

SNAPPED

Rick Nash scored three times to break out of a goal-scoring slump and Columbus downed Edmonton 4-2 on Monday for its third straight home win. Nash hadn't scored a goal in eight games dating back to a two-goal performance on Dec. 5. The loss dropped the Oilers to 0-4-2 in their last six games. ... J.P. Dumont scored the only goal to help Nashville Predators ended a seven-game losing streak in Dallas with a 1-0 victory over the Stars.

SPEAKING

''Once your face gets a little numb you feel fine. The ears were cold a little bit, maybe a little frostbite on them, but that's all right.'' - Buffalo defenseman Brian Campbell, after the Sabres practiced at Ralph Wilson Stadium in advance of Tuesday's Winter Classic against Pittsburgh.

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Tuesday's NHL matchup notes
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Pittsburgh at Buffalo

The Sabres come in on a three-game skid (0-2-1), including a 2-0 loss at Pittsburgh on Saturday in the first half of this most unusual home-and-home series.

Ottawa at Washington

The Capitals, the only team to boast two wins this season over the Senators, have won five of the last seven meetings after losing seven of the previous eight.

Tampa Bay at Toronto

The Lightning lost at Toronto 6-1 on Dec. 10, and have been outscored 24-11 during its losing streak at the Air Canada Centre. The Leafs, who lost at Tampa Bay 2-1 on Dec. 20, have won 10 of their last 11 home games over the Lightning.

Chicago at Los Angeles

Chicago lost 3-2 in overtime to the Kings on Sunday and will be looking to earn a split of their home-and home series. Los Angeles lost both home games against Chicago last season, one in overtime and the other in a shootout. The Kings had won three consecutive home matchups and five of seven against the Blackhawks prior to 2006-07.

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Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Buffalo Sabres

- The fans at HSBC Arena will be treated to a game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Buffalo Sabres when they take their seats on Tuesday.

Ty Conklin stopped 26 shots to earn the shutout as the Penguins defeated the Buffalo Sabres 2-0 on Saturday night.

The Pens cashed as -134 home favorites as the teams played under the 6-goal total listed by oddsmakers.

Ryan Miller stopped 23 shots for the Sabres in their 2-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night.

The Pens cashed as -134 home favorites as the teams played under the 6-goal total listed by oddsmakers.

Current streak:
Pittsburgh has won 3 straight games.
Buffalo has lost 3 straight games.

Team records:
Pittsburgh: 20-16-2
Buffalo: 19-16-2

Pittsburgh most recently:
When playing on Tuesday are 4-6
Before playing Ottawa are 4-6
After playing Buffalo are 3-3-1
After a win are 6-4

Buffalo most recently:
When playing on Tuesday are 4-6
Before playing Colorado are 6-4
After playing Pittsburgh are 8-8-1
After a loss are 5-5

A few trends to consider:
The total has gone OVER in 4 of Pittsburgh's last 5 games
Pittsburgh is 4-1 SU in its last 5 games
The total has gone UNDER in 4 of Pittsburgh's last 5 games when playing Buffalo
The total has gone UNDER in 8 of Pittsburgh's last 10 games when playing on the road against Buffalo
The total has gone UNDER in 4 of Buffalo's last 5 games when playing Pittsburgh
Buffalo is 4-1 SU in its last 5 games when playing at home against Pittsburgh
The total has gone UNDER in 8 of Buffalo's last 10 games when playing at home against Pittsburgh
The total has gone UNDER in 5 of Buffalo's last 7 games

Next up:
Pittsburgh home to Toronto, Thursday, January 3
Buffalo home to Ottawa, Friday, January 4

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Ottawa Senators vs. Washington Capitals

- The Ottawa Senators and the Washington Capitals will both be trying to pick up a win on Tuesday when they battle at Verizon Center.

Mike Fisher recorded a hat trick for the Senators in their 8-6 loss to the Washington Capitals on Saturday night.

The Caps upset the Sens as +225 road underdogs as the teams played well over the 6-goal total set by sportsbooks.

Alexander Ovechkin scored four goals and added an assist to lift the Capitals to a 8-6 win over the Ottawa Senators on Saturday night.

The Caps upset the Sens as +225 road underdogs as the teams played well over the 6-goal total set by sportsbooks.

Team records:
Ottawa: 25-9-4
Washington: 15-19-5

Ottawa most recently:
When playing on Tuesday are 4-5-1
Before playing Boston are 8-2
After playing Washington are 4-6
After a loss are 3-7

Washington most recently:
When playing on Tuesday are 2-6-2
Before playing Calgary are 5-5
After playing Ottawa are 1-9
After a win are 3-7

A few trends to consider:
Ottawa is 7-1 SU in its last 8 games on the road
The total has gone UNDER in 4 of Ottawa's last 5 games on the road
The total has gone OVER in 4 of Ottawa's last 5 games
Ottawa is 9-3 SU in its last 12 games
Washington is 5-2 SU in its last 7 games when playing Ottawa
The total has gone OVER in 4 of Washington's last 6 games at home
Washington is 4-2 SU in its last 6 games at home
The total has gone OVER in 4 of Washington's last 6 games

Next up:
Ottawa at Buffalo, Friday, January 4
Washington at Boston, Thursday, January 3

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Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Toronto Maple Leafs

- The fans at Air Canada Centre will be treated to a game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Toronto Maple Leafs when they take their seats on Tuesday.

Tampa Bay outshot Philadelphia 33-22 in Saturday's 4-2 loss, falling as 110 home underdogs. The six goals scored were a PUSH with the posted total of 6.

Vincent Lecavalier scored his 26th goal of the season, while Karri Ramo made 18 saves for the Lightning.

Darcy Tucker marked the lone goal for the Leafs in their 6-1 loss to the New York Rangers on Saturday night.

The Rangers won as -107 road favorites as the teams played over the 5.5-goal total set by oddsmakers.

Current streak:
Tampa Bay has lost 4 straight games.
Toronto has lost 3 straight games.

Team records:
Tampa Bay: 15-21-3
Toronto: 15-16-8

Tampa Bay most recently:
When playing on Tuesday are 6-4
Before playing St. Louis are 3-7
After playing Philadelphia are 5-5
After a loss are 3-7

Toronto most recently:
When playing on Tuesday are 7-3
Before playing San Jose are 3-3-2
After playing NY Rangers are 3-7
After a loss are 3-7

A few trends to consider:
The total has gone OVER in 7 of Tampa Bay's last 9 games on the road
The total has gone OVER in 7 of Tampa Bay's last 10 games when playing on the road against Toronto
Tampa Bay is 1-6 SU in its last 7 games when playing Toronto
Tampa Bay is 1-7 SU in its last 8 games on the road
Toronto is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games when playing at home against Tampa Bay
Toronto is 6-1 SU in its last 7 games when playing Tampa Bay
The total has gone UNDER in 6 of Toronto's last 8 games
The total has gone OVER in 7 of Toronto's last 10 games when playing at home against Tampa Bay

Next up:
Tampa Bay at Montreal, Thursday, January 3
Toronto at Pittsburgh, Thursday, January 3

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Chicago Blackhawks vs. Los Angeles Kings

- The Chicago Blackhawks and the Los Angeles Kings will both be trying to pick up a win on Tuesday when they battle at STAPLES Center.

The Blackhawks lost to Los Angeles 3-2 in overtime as a -200 favorite last time out. The five goals scored fell UNDER the posted over/under total (6).

Jacob Dowell and Jonathan Toews each scored for Chicago in the loss.

The Kings defeated Chicago 3-2 in overtime as a +170 underdog last time out. The five goals scored fell UNDER the posted over/under total (6).

Dustin Brown scored a pair of goals, including the game-winner in overtime for Los Angeles, while Ladislav Nagy and Tom Preissing each had two assists in the win.

Current streak:
Los Angeles has won 2 straight games.

Team records:
Chicago: 19-15-3
Los Angeles: 14-24-2

Chicago most recently:
When playing on Tuesday are 4-5-1
Before playing Edmonton are 6-4
After playing Los Angeles are 2-8
After a loss are 4-6

Los Angeles most recently:
When playing on Tuesday are 5-5
Before playing Dallas are 3-7
After playing Chicago are 5-5
After a win are 3-7

A few trends to consider:
The total has gone UNDER in 5 of Chicago's last 6 games on the road
Chicago is 4-1 SU in its last 5 games
The total has gone UNDER in 9 of Chicago's last 12 games when playing Los Angeles
Chicago is 4-2 SU in its last 6 games when playing Los Angeles
The total has gone UNDER in 4 of Los Angeles's last 5 games
The total has gone UNDER in 9 of Los Angeles's last 12 games when playing Chicago
Los Angeles is 2-4 SU in its last 6 games when playing Chicago
Los Angeles is 1-4 SU in its last 5 games at home

Next up:
Chicago at Phoenix, Thursday, January 3
Los Angeles home to Columbus, Thursday, January 3

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Betting the NHL Winter Classic: Penguins at Sabres
Covers.com

Take it outside

A record crowd of 73,000 will watch the Buffalo Sabres and the Pittsburgh Penguins play on New Year’s day in the first ever NHL game to be played outdoors at a U.S venue.

It’s being called the Winter Classic and its main goal is to deflect the attention of sports fans away from the college football bowl games and onto the NHL. So far it has worked. Tickets sold out in less than an hour and the game will be aired live on NBC.

Of course, this isn’t the first time a modern NHL game has been played outdoors. In 2003, the Edmonton Oilers hosted the Montréal Canadiens in a game that held the previous record attendance of 57,167.

"It will be different," Pittsburgh goalie Ty Conklin, who played for Edmonton in the 2003 game, told the Agence France Presse. "It certainly was in Edmonton. It will be exciting for both teams."

It will also be a highly competitive game of hockey. The Pens are riding a three-game winning streak, while the Sabres are 19-16 this season and third in the Northeast Division.

The two teams met last Saturday in Pittsburgh, with the Penguins coming out 2-0 winners in a hard-fought contest.

Cold won’t faze Crosby

Forecasts in Buffalo are calling for temperatures around freezing and an 80 percent chance of snow around game time (1 p.m. ET). Don’t expect that to bother Canadian superstar Sydney Crosby, who is well used to playing outdoors.

"I thought my outdoor days were done for sure," he told The Canadian Press on Friday. “There's something about playing outside. It kind of brings you back. There's something special about being outside and playing a game."

The 20-year-old played outdoors several times during his junior days with Rimouski in Canada. He says the biggest issue for players is not how cold it is, but how strong the winds blow.

"The big thing I'm thinking about is probably the wind," he added. "As far as the cold, we've all prepared for that in some way growing up when we were playing outside. But I think the wind could be a factor. You look at football, and coin tosses and things like that, if we're going into the wind for two periods it might be a bit different."

Regardless of the weather, there will be pressure on Crosby to perform. He is considered the marquee talent in the NHL and this will be a big opportunity for him to showcase his skills.

Crosby has not yet found his usual swagger this season but still leads the Pens in points (52), shots (116) and goals (16).

Goalie’s hat trick

Another big star on show will be Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller. He too will have to battle the weather, but has an interesting plan to keep warm on the ice. He will wear a tuque (a winter’s knitted hat) on top of his mask.

The idea is not original. Then-Montreal netminder Jose Theodore did the same in the ’03 game in Edmonton.

“I can't think of a real comfortable way otherwise,” Miller told The Associated Press when asked about wearing the hat outside. “As a goalie, you get used to wearing your helmet a certain way. I don't know what I'm going to wear underneath that would make it feel the same and keep warm.

“That might be a good solution, get some of that carpet tape and tape the tuque to my helmet or something.”

The Sabres will be relying on a strong performance from their goalie if they are to win in front of their home crowd. Miller has 17 wins and a 2.57 goals-against average this season.

Pens find offensive balance

The Penguins had an 8-11-2 record and just 18 points on the board on Nov. 21. They have since gone on a 12-5-0 run that has put them within three points of the lead in the Atlantic division heading into New Year’s Day.

Surprisingly, Pittsburgh’s success has come at a time when its “big three” of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Petr Sykora have been relatively quiet.

"Early in the season a lot of guys struggled, and it is not that they were not playing well, they just were not scoring," right-winger Colby Armstrong told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "The big three carried us. Now we are paying them back."

Crosby, Malkin and Sykora scored 28 of the Penguins’ 46 goals through the first 21 games, a remarkable 61 percent ratio. They have combined for just 13 goals in the last 17 games, but the Pens still won 12 of those contests. Sixteen different players pitched in with goals during that span.

"We need contributions from a lot of players to win games," coach Michel Therrien added. "It is important, and it is a good sign."

Head to head

Pittsburgh has won three of the last four games against Buffalo. The under is 13-3-3 in the last 19 meetings between these teams in Buffalo.

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Penguins and Sabres practice on outdoor rink, all set to play for real Tuesday
ASSOCIATED PRESS

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Brian Campbell gingerly stuck his skate onto the ice like a swimmer dipping his toe into a cold pool.

The Buffalo Sabres defenseman led his teammates onto the makeshift hockey rink for practice Monday and was none the worse for wear. The anticipation and the trepidation seemed to be gone after the team's hourlong spin.

All that remained after months of hype is for the Sabres to play the Pittsburgh Penguins on New Year's Day in the Winter Classic, the NHL's first outdoor game in the United States.

''Once your face gets a little numb you feel fine,'' Campbell said. ''The ears were cold a little bit, maybe a little frostbite on them, but that's all right.''

The Sabres and Penguins tried various methods - such as hand and feet warmers - and pieces of gear to combat the temperatures that hovered around freezing during each club's only practice on a rink built in the middle of Ralph Wilson Stadium, home to the NFL's Buffalo Bills.

Sabres goalies Ryan Miller and Jocelyn Thibault each wore hats fashioned out of hockey socks on top of their masks. Penguins captain Sidney Crosby and several others went for hooded shirts that fit snugly over their ears and heads.

''I am still toying with the idea,'' said Penguins forward Adam Hall, who along with Miller played an outdoor game while at Michigan State. ''I don't know if you ever get used to this stuff. It's such a great event to be part of. There are so many factors, like the weather and the ice surface. You have to take each one as it comes.''

Thibault was happy with what he went out with and will be wearing his sock-hat again when his sits on the heated bench Tuesday, backing up Miller.

''It kept everything warm,'' Thibault said. ''It kept my thoughts warm. I need that.''

Any talk about the ice surface was positive, with many saying it was better than expected. Wind and sun glare also didn't pose much of an issue, and players and NHL officials openly hoped for a bit of snow overnight and something light during the game.

The forecast called for a high temperature of 36 with an 80 percent chance of precipitation, whether it be rain or snow. A weather station inside the stadium showed a window should exist to get the game in once the puck drops shortly after 1 p.m.

The third-period will be split in half to give each team equal time on each side of the rink. Any wind that cropped up Monday seemed to blow toward the south end of the stadium, where the tunnel that leads to the dressing room is located.

Broadcasters for NBC and Canada's CBC plan to take advantage of camera stands on the field, generally used for football games, to call this one from the great outdoors.

As cold as it might be, it doesn't compare to the brutal conditions of four years ago when the Montreal Canadiens beat the host Oilers in the Heritage Classic at Edmonton.

If a postponement is necessary, the game will be shifted to Wednesday and will be played under the lights.

''Once you're out there, you bundle up and go out and play,'' Penguins forward Ryan Malone said. ''There's nothing else to do but go out and play. That's the best part. I can't wait to get going.''

The sun peeked through the clouds at times, and was replaced by spurts of snow flurries. Professional players felt like they were kids again, skating around as their visible breath filled the chilly air.

None seemed too concerned or out of their element as they flew around and shot pucks into the brand new nets that were whiter than the snow that surrounded the outside of the boards.

Steam rose from the head of Penguins goalie Ty Conklin after he shifted from the ice to the warm dressing room.

''As a kid, you don't really realize how cold you really are. You just go out there and play,'' said Buffalo forward Jason Pominville, a Quebec native. ''As you get older, the cold kind of gets to you.

''I'm not soft, I'm just trying to keep myself warm.''

Only a snowball's throw away, Marv Levy stepped down as general manager of the Bills. Inside the stadium where he enjoyed his greatest coaching success, the Sabres and Penguins made sports feel like a game again instead of business.

''We've all played outside at some point and had a great time doing it,'' Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. ''It brings you back a bit when you're out there. It is a big stage. It is a big game. It's a regular-season game, but at the same time, you don't get this chance very often so you want to enjoy it.''

The Sabres come in on a three-game skid (0-2-1), including a 2-0 loss at Pittsburgh on Saturday in the first half of this most unusual home-and-home series. Buffalo, an Eastern Conference finalist each of the past two seasons, is tied with the New York Islanders at the eighth-place playoff cutoff with 40 points through 37 games.

The Penguins have played 38 games and have 42 points, good for seventh in the East and a third-place tie in the Atlantic Division.

''I know there is a lot of attention on this game,'' Penguins coach Michel Therrien said, ''but from our standpoint, we've got to win.''

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