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NHL Rink Wrap: Struggling Canadiens face returning Kotkaniemi

NHL Rink Wrap: Struggling Canadiens face returning Kotkaniemi

MONTREAL, QC - June 20: Jesperi Kotkaniemi #15 of the Montreal Canadiens stand on the ice during the NHL game against the Vegas Golden Knights in Game Four of the Stanley Cup Semifinals of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Bell Centre on June 20, 2021 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)

NHLI via Getty Images

Top player from Wednesday in the NHL

Cam Atkinson, Flyers

Could Cam Atkinson come alive after years playing in the possibly Tortz-confined city of Columbus?

Pick your favorite explanation, but so far, he’s adding a nice bit of energy to the Flyers’ lineup. Previously, he generated a point per game in his first two Flyers appearances (one goal, one assist). Beyond those two points, Atkinson made his presence felt with a combined nine shots on goal.

Atkinson scored two goals in the Flyers’ win over the Bruins on Wednesday. He also fired four SOG, and earned a +2, so he’s strong in those peripheral stats (13 SOG, +7 in three GP). Scroll for more on his new linemates.

Flyers - Bruins, Blues - Golden Knights highlights

Might as well watch full highlights from Wednesday’s two NHL games. First, watch video from the Flyers beating the Bruins. Considering all of the grief Martin Jones receives, credit to him for 37 saves, making a difference in this win.

Vladimir Tarasenko scored his first of the season and Brandon Saad netted his first as Blue during St. Louis’ 3-1 win over the Golden Knights. Jordan Binnington was on top of his game stopping 42 of 43 shots he faced to help the team improve to 3-0 on the season.

One takeaway Wednesday

Brassard reborn?

Gang, “The FAB Line” could become a thing for the 2021-22 Flyers. At worst, it’s been a feel-good line for about a week of very productive hockey.

To clarify, “The FAB Line” is:

Joel Farabee, Cam Atkinson, and Derick Brassard. It’s unclear if the Flyers coined the line nickname themselves, or just amplified it on Twitter. Either way, three players in quite different circumstances are making great music together.

Most surprisingly, Derick Brassard may indeed be finding new life reunited with Alain Vigneault. After failing to score in his first game with the Flyers, Brassard factored into Philly’s shellacking of Seattle with three points (1G, 2A).

As far as importance to the Flyers go, the other forwards are most likely to maintain impact-player statuses. Farabee is a rising talent whose ceiling hasn’t yet been revealed. Atkinson is a proven scorer who carries the expectations of replacing Jakub Voracek.

Brassard? He’s mainly trying to solidify his place in the NHL. With two assists giving Brassard five points in his past two games, he’s certainly strengthening his case.

Thursday’s big story

Kotkaniemi returns to Montreal against a struggling Canadiens team

Combined with the Canadiens’ 0-4-0 start, Jesperi Kotkaniemi’s return could be seen a couple ways. For a tumbling team, a bad performance against Kotkaniemi and the Hurricanes could rub salt in the Canadiens’ wounds. On the other hand, that group could get a boost from beating a former teammate (and the team that trolled them during the offer sheet process).

Don’t expect Kotkaniemi to just-another-game it, though. He admitted it’s something he cares about.

“For sure, that was one game on my schedule that I looked up,” Kotkaniemi said Tuesday, via’s Tom Gulitti. “It will be fun there to see old teammates, some fans there. I think it will be a blast.”

In the grand scheme of things, Thursday’s Hurricanes - Canadiens game only plays a small role in Kotkaniemi’s future, and how Montreal’s part in the story is perceived. Yet, for a Habs team already pleading with people not to panic ... well, a blowout with Kotkaniemi notching a hat trick wouldn’t be the best.

Wednesday’s NHL scores

Flyers 6, Bruins 3
Blues 3, Golden Knights 1

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.