With the injury list for Pittsburgh starting to cool down in the New Year, the Penguins looked to regain their top form.
Unfortunately for the Penguins, an injury to top six forward Pascal Dupuis has left a major void in the roster. His top end speed and defensively responsible style made him a very good compliment to the offensive powers that are Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz.
In his absence, Pittsburgh was able to go 9-2-1 in January. Crosby had his production dip slightly into the range of 1.3 points per game, just below his 1.45 ppg career average. Since his departure Crosby has had a revolving door of wingers including the following: Tanner Glass, Jayson Megna, Brandon S...
When things are going right offensively for the Flyers, their depth in the front nine really shows.
Matt Read, Sean Couturier and Steve Downie - The Checking Line - provided some much needed fire power at the end of the second period to give the Flyers a boost en route to a 4-1 win over the Sabres on Thursday.
Read scored two goals in the span of 1 minute, 40 seconds, and Steve Downie and Sean Couturier had the primary and secondary assists respectively on both goals. The goals came in the final six minutes of the second, erasing a 1-0 Buffalo lead.
(Photo: Matt Read [middle celebrates with [left to right] Steve Downie, Sean Couturier, Braydon Coburn and Kimmo Timonen after Read's second goal late in the second period. Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
The New York Islanders returned home after a disappointing road trip, losing back-to-back games to the Chicago Blackhawks and Nashville Predators. But their losing ways would follow them back home as they fell 4-3 to the Buffalo Sabres after being defeated in the shootout.
The first period opened with the Isles controlling the play for the entire period. Although both teams had plenty of shots, the Isles led the way with a 16-11 advantage. Evgeni Nabokov had to make some key saves, but the fore-check that the Isles put on in the offensive zone eventually led to a goal from Frans Nielsen.
The Danish center-man toe dragged the puck in the high slot and let go of a wicked wrister that beat Ryan Miller just over his glove and inside the far post. The assists went to Pierre-Marc Bouchard, his first as an Islanders forward, and Josh Bailey.
The Flyers head to Buffalo where they face another team in a similar position. Both teams have some decent ground to make up in the standings with such little time left. Whoever wins this game could give themselves good momentum or a false sense of hope.
Heading into Sunday night, the Flyers had allowed seven straight goals, blowing a 4-1 lead to Pittsburgh to lose 5-4 on Thursday and then getting shut-out 3-0 to the Bruins on Saturday.
Speed and an inability to have a physical presence in front of the net cost the Flyers the game on Thursday. Saturday's loss was three minutes of embarrassing hockey in which they were again out-worked.
Compound those two losses with the 4-2 loss to New York on Tuesday in which the Rangers scored three unanswered to win and the Flyers found themselves on a three-game losing streak and three games under .500.
Hosting the last-place Buffalo Sabres on Sunday, the Flyers needed to drastically change something.
(Pictured: Wayne Simmonds fights with Mike Weber in the first period after Simmonds' hit on Tyler Ennis. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Something had to have been said before the game because a different Flyers team was out on the ice.
The Flyers controlled the tempo early, kept Buffalo mentally out of the game, and gave a much better team effort that didn't resemble last week's edition of the Flyers.
They had to battle with Buffalo though, who was throwing the body around and trying to draw the Flyers into making mental mistakes with the physical game. In the end, the Flyers overcame it, winning a nail-biting 3-2 game in which head coach Peter Laviolette saw some positives.
(Pictured: The puck gets passed Ilya Bryzgalov, but was then saved by Brayden Schenn before it crossed the goal line. Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)
Over the past few years the New York Islanders may have found consistency on the top line due largely in part to the chemistry between John Tavares and Matt Moulson. But the same cannot be said for much of the depth on offense.
That is until Casey Cizikas began centering Matt Martin and Colin McDonald.
The trio have been playing together as a fourth line, or as head coach Jack Capuano has liked calling them, "the energy line."
It took a dramatic finish, but the New York Islanders finally won a game on home ice during a Sunday matinee game, defeating the Ottawa Senators 3-2 in the shootout.
The Islanders got on the board early in the game when Brad Boyes scored his fifth of the year, beating Robin Lehner glove side under the crossbar. The play started when Matt Moulson received a pass from Mark Streit at the Senators blue line and fed Boyes the puck as he was flying up the slot.
Not long after Boyes' goal, Matt Martin was found banging bodies all over the ice. In fact Martin had 6 hits in just over 3 minutes of play during the first period. Senators enforcer Chris Neil took exception to Martin's physical play and challenged him to a fight, but Martin ignored his request and continued to take out Senators along the wall.
He finished with 11 hits on the night. Coming into the game, Martin was just one shy of tying Buffalo Sabres forward Steve Ott for the league lead of 94 hits.
There are many key factors in building a successful team in the NHL; from players and coaching staff to scouts and management. This allows a franchise to build a foundation that will allow your team to be competitive for years at a time.
The Sabres have done just that.
The oldest players on the Sabres’ roster are a mere 32 years old. One of them is goalie Ryan Miller, the other two are defensemen Jordan Leopold and Robyn Regehr.
In NHL years, these players are in their prime and in this case as these three players are invaluable to a successful Sabres’ team.
Even veterans Christian Ehrhoff and Steve Ott are only 30 and 29 years old respecti...