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NHL Rink Wrap: No relief for Islanders; Pacioretty’s back

NHL Rink Wrap: No relief for Islanders; Pacioretty's back

ELMONT, NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 24: Chris Kreider #20 of the New York Rangers celebrates a third period goal against the New York Islanders at the UBS Arena on November 24, 2021 in Elmont, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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Top player from Wednesday in the NHL

Elvis Merzlikins, Blue Jackets

You know, the Blue Jackets might just have something in Elvis Merzlikins.

During Wednesday’s NHL action, Merzlikins pitched a 36-save shutout to help the Blue Jackets spite Pierre-Luc Dubois. With that shutout, Merzlikins improved to 8-3-0 on the season, including a strong .926 save percentage.

If Merzlikins maintains that save percentage, it would represent a career-high. But he’s been solid so far in his NHL career. In 2019-20, Merzlikins went 13-9-8 with a promising .923 save percentage. While his save percentage dipped to .916 last season, that’s actually not so bad, considering that the Blue Jackets were basically imploding.

At 11-6-0, the Blue Jackets are much stronger than most expected. Deep down, there might be some in the organization (and some fans) who’d prefer a full-on tank. Merzlikins may be an anti-tanking missile/goalie, however.

Good and bad NHL injury news

  • After missing 17 games, Max Pacioretty returned for the Golden Knights. That’s good news for the Golden Knights, aside from maybe their capologist. (Confession: I wondered if Pacioretty or Mark Stone might be out longer term after the Golden Knights yolo-traded for Jack Eichel. Apparently not?)
  • The bad news: Charlie McAvoy left the Bruins’ eventual win over the Sabres after this hit by Zemgus Girgensons:

Highlights from the NHL on Wednesday

At 5-14-2, the bounces aren’t going the Canadiens’ way. No, like, literally:

Amid a four-game losing streak, things remain awfully angsty in Philadelphia. With that in mind, people might miss something: Martin Jones has actually been quite good. Maybe a save like this will bring more attention to that?

Aaron Ekblad scored the overtime game-winner for the Panthers, spoiling Jones’ night. You may have seen Ekblad get a strong mention in a recent Norris Trophy-related article ...

Wednesday’s NHL takeaways

No break for New York Islanders

Between positive COVID tests and a seven-game losing streak, times are tough for the New York Islanders. Judging by Brock Nelson’s injury, the Islanders are just getting hit with all sorts of bad luck.

Understandably, plenty of people wonder if the NHL should’ve postponed an Islanders game or two amid these COVID headaches. That didn’t happen, and the Rangers won handily as part of Wednesday’s NHL action. It all feels a touch harsh.

After struggling toward the end of a 13-game road trip, the Islanders have now lost all three games at their new home arena. In particular, the Islanders aren’t having much luck scoring in their new barn. Those struggles only increase the snark.

Now, it’s worth noting that it’s early in the season, and especially for the Islanders. They’re 16 games in, while other Metro teams have played as many as 20. Still, they need to hope that the brief holiday break and other factors help them settle this down. If this slump goes longer, it could be a lost season for a team that finished very close to a Stanley Cup Final appearance in each of the last two postseasons.

Another day, another poorly received hockey Olympic uniform

On the verge of Thanksgiving, some recent jersey reveals made this week feel more like Griefsgiving. Or maybe the “Airing of Grievances” portion of Festivus.

As a colorblind person, I mostly defer to others for the hottest of jersey takes. (Generally, I likely still fall in the consensus -- enjoying the Flames’ latest look, finding the especially shiny Kings/Golden Knights helmets a bit too much. But, you know, grain of salt.)

You don’t need to look far to see criticisms of USA Hockey’s new jerseys/sweaters for the 2022 Winter Olympics.

At this point, most of us are more out of material than mad, though.

Blue Jackets blank Jets in Pierre-Luc Dubois’ return to Columbus

Frankly, it seems like we may never get a great (public) answer for why Pierre-Luc Dubois asked to be traded from the Columbus Blue Jackets. It sure felt like it was Torts-driven. Then again, others viewed it as Dubois wanting to play in a different market.

Perhaps that latter feeling prevails for Blue Jackets fans. Either way, they booed Pierre-Luc Dubois during his return, an eventual win for the Blue Jackets.

Dubois rolled with the punches pretty well there.

That said, the Blue Jackets got the better of Dubois and the Jets. Columbus won 3-0, and Dubois was a -2 for the night.

Friday’s big story

Panthers - Capitals figures to be an intriguing Black Friday battle

There’s no big story for Thursday, other than (motions at family drama in larger portions than even the most bountiful leftovers).

So, let’s skip to Black Friday, which features a slate intriguing enough that some hockey fans may skip the mall. (How many people still go to the mall? Good for you if you aren’t lazy, though, seriously.)

As intriguing as an afternoon Bruins - Rangers game could be, Panthers vs. Capitals is the highlight. The “Tickle Me Elmo,” if you will?

Anyway, the Panthers come in with an outstanding 14-2-3 record, while the Capitals just keep hanging around as a contender at 12-3-5. It should be a great test for a team on the rise, and a team trying to keep its championship window open. In their last meeting on Nov. 4, the Panthers beat the Capitals 5-4 in OT.

Wednesday’s NHL scores

Rangers 4, Islanders 1 Red Wings 4, Blues 2 Blue Jackets 3, Jets 0 Capitals 6, Canadiens 3 Penguins 4, Canucks 1 Wild 3, Devils 2 (SO) Panthers 2, Flyers 1 Bruins 5, Sabres 1 Golden Knights 5, Predators 2 Avalanche 5, Ducks 2 Kraken 2, Hurricanes 1 Oilers 5, Coyotes 3 Maple Leafs 6, Kings 2 Sharks 6, Senators 3

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