After a three-day hiatus that felt like an eternity, 20 teams returned to the ice Friday. Some players probably gained some gravy weight over the holidays (looking your direction,
Dustin Byfuglien and
Phil Kessel), but we're quite sure
Patrick Sharp and
John Scott kept the calories in check. Here's a rundown of last night's action.
Essential Water Cooler Patrick Sharp celebrated his 32nd birthday in style. He pushed the pace for the Blackhawks in their 7-2 victory over the Avs on Friday night, polishing off a hat trick in the first minute of the second period before adding an assist. He upped his goal total to 21, sixth best in the league. Naturally, the conversation shifts to Team Canada. Will the former 95th overall pick find himself in Sochi? In addition to scoring at a 43-goal pace, Sharp plays all three forward positions, can slot in on a checking line or a scoring line, kills penalties, and has speed to burn. On Jan. 7, we'll find out what Steve Yzerman thinks.
Elsewhere... John Scott SCORED A GOAL. That's not a metaphor. He scored a literal ice hockey goal. The
much-maligned enforcer scored his second career goal, his first since 2009. That's 165 games ago. The Buffalo Sabres Twitter guy certainly had fun with the occasion.
Primetime Play The beauty of this play is the defensive effort that starts it. Watch as the birthday boy lifts
Matt Duchene's stick for the takeaway before launching a feed up ice to send Jonathan Toews in alone.
Men of the Night -
Jonathan Toews, Chicago: While Sharp is still making his case for Team Canada, the Hawks captain is a shoo-in for the squad and had a four-point night of his own. -
Duncan Keith, Chicago: With his three assists Friday, Keith has 36 points and is one shy of Erik Karlsson for the league lead in points among blueliners. -
James Neal, Pittsburgh: James
KNEE-al scored the OT goal in addition to two helpers, leading the Pens past the Canes 4-3. -
Ryan Smyth, Edmonton: No style points awarded, but Smyth's two tallies propelled the Oilers past the Flames 2-0. He scored one off his chest and another into an empty net off a draw at center ice. Yep, those sound like Ryan Smyth goals. -
Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg: The Jets and Wild went back and forth for 10 goals, including two by Wheeler, who jammed home the game-winner midway through the third. -
Tuukka Rask, Boston: Team Finland's probable starter turned away 33 shots as the B's pummelled the Senators 5-zip. -
Devan Dubnyk, Edmonton: The 6-foot-6 stopper posted his second shutout of the year, making 27 saves as the Oilers won the Battle of Alberta.
Better Luck Next Time The New Jersey Devils lost yet another shootout, dropping to a league-worst 0-6 in that category. Despite a horrid start to the year and bad fortunes in the skills competition, they're tied with Philadelphia for third in the Metropolitan Division. If they have any hope of a post-season berth, they'll have to win a few shootouts in their remaining 43 contests.