2010 Stanley Cup Finals: Michael Leighton's long journey back to Chicago

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Michael Leighton’s journey to become a starting goaltender in the
Stanley Cup finals is nothing short of amazing. Since being drafted by
the Chicago Blackhawks, he’s spent time with the Buffalo Sabres, Anaheim
Ducks, Nashville Predators, Montreal Canadiens and the Carolina
Hurricanes. Many times he was claimed off waivers, as he was deemed
expendable by his team.

He was even claimed by the Philadelphia Flyers in 2007 before once
again being put on waivers. The same team that relies on him so much now
couldn’t find a place for him on the team just three years ago.

Michael Leighton may be a relatively new name to some, but at 29 he’s
just now coming into his own as a goaltender. There were good reasons
that he wasn’t able to ever stick with a team, as he never proved on the
ice he deserved to stay.

Yet when the Philadelphia Flyers were facing a goaltender crisis in
the middle of the season, they picked Leighton up and never looked back.
He hit the ice for the Flyers playing the best of his career, not
losing in regulation in his first 10 games and putting up a stellar
16-5-2 record. He led the Flyers away from the brink of destruction
midseason, gave them a chance to compete for the postseason, and then
once again and to sit back and watch after being hurt in March.

The Flyers tried to secure a goaltender at the trade deadline, but
Leighton’s play gave them faith that they needn’t sell the farm for a
goalie as they had a solid one already in net.

He finally had proven himself, had finally given his team a reason to
keep him and he was injured at the most important time of the season.

Yet Leighton would get one more chance, being called upon as soon as
he returned from injury to replace Brian Boucher, himself lost with a
knee injury. He responded by leading the Flyers out the Bruins series
and post three shutouts against the Canadiens.

So here he is, ready to take the ice in Chicago, playing against the
team that drafted him in a battle for the Stanley Cup.

“It’s unbelievable to come where I’ve come from, to be here right
now,” Leighton says of this chance.

Despite the time he’s spent bouncing around the NHL, Leighton is
still a wholly unproven goaltender. He has just 103 NHL games under his
belt and when you look at his career the number he’s put up in
Philadelphia are a bit unexpected. Yet there’s no doubting his ability
in net at this moment, as he gears up for the Stanley Cup finals.

That is, unless you’re Patrick Kane.

“Their defence is the reason he played so well,” he said. “Not taking
anything away from him, he obviously played really good and shut them
out. But there were games I was watching where Philly outshot them 13-2
in periods, 12-1 and different things like that. Hopefully we’re a
better test for him.”

Until the Sharks came around, you could say the exact same thing about
Antti Niemi. The Blackhawks also know a bit about being outshot in a
game, allowing the Sharks to unleash an incredible amount of rubber in
their direction. So while Leighton has been helped by his defense,
perhaps Kane should focus on his own.

The Buzzer: Spezza bounces back after healthy scratch; another injury for Predators

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Player Of The Night: Jason Spezza, Dallas Stars

On Monday night the Dallas Star made veteran forward Jason Spezza a healthy scratch as he was mired in a lengthy goal-scoring drought. The Stars wanted to see more from him, and they knew he could provide more.

When he stepped back into the lineup on Tuesday night against the Detroit Red Wings he did exactly that by scoring a pair of goals in the Stars’ 4-2 win.

Even though Spezza had been struggling to put points on the board he was still doing an excellent job when it came to driving possession and generating shots, as well as the fact the team was outscoring its opponents when he was on the ice. His ice-time has been cut significantly this season, but he was doing enough to suggest that it was only a matter of time until he got back into the goal column.

He snapped out of it in a big way on Tuesday.

Another big injury for Nashville

The Nashville Predators are already playing without two of their top forwards with Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson sidelined.

They lost another one on Tuesday night in their 1-0 win over the Vegas Golden Knights when Ryan Johanson had to leave the game after taking a high hit from William Carrier.

Johanson left the game and did not return. There was no penalty called on the play.

Predators coach Peter Laviolette had no update on Johansen after the game and said they were given an explanation that it was a clean hit.

The Predators ended up winning the game 1-0 thanks to a goal from Kevin Fiala and 43 saves from Jusse Saros.

Highlight Of The Night

Not much in the way of highlight reel plays tonight, but here is a big goal from Vince Dunn to give the St. Louis Blues a 2-1 overtime win over the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Factoid Of The Night

A big milestone for New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist as he picks up his 20th win of the season.

Scores

New Jersey Devils 4, New York Islanders 1

New York Rangers 5, Philadelphia Flyers 1

Dallas Stars 4, Detroit Red Wings 2

St. Louis Blues 2, Toronto Maple Leafs 1

Nashville Predators 1, Vegas Golden Knights 0

San Jose Sharks 3, Arizona Coyotes 2

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Report: Blackhawks concerned Crawford could miss remainder of season

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Here is some less than encouraging news for the Chicago Blackhawks.

According to a report from Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun Times on Tuesday night, there is some growing concern within the Blackhawks organization that starting goaltender Corey Crawford could miss the remainder of the season due to experiencing vertigo-like symptoms for the second time in his career.

Crawford has been sidelined since before Christmas due to an upper-body injury, but the team has been quiet on specifics other than to say publicly that they expect him to return this season.

Over the past few years Crawford has become one of the NHL’s top goalies and when he has been on the ice this season has been absolutely stellar for the Blackhawks. Given the current state of their defense and the rate that they give up shots he has become one of the team’s most important players and the one that seems to drive their success more than any other.

[Related: Corey Crawford has become the Blackhawks’ most important player]

In his absence the team has leaned on Anton Forsberg and Jeff Glass. Both have played about as well as could have been expected, but they aren’t Crawford and there is a noticeable drop in play at the position when he is not in there.

In 26 games this season Crawford is 16-9-2 with a .929 save percentage.

As of Tuesday night the Blackhawks are on the outside of the Western Conference playoff picture, sitting three points back of the Minnesota Wild. They also have the San Jose Sharks and Colorado Avalanche sitting between them.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Rick Nash snaps out of slump, powers Rangers to huge win

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The New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers are two of the teams in the middle of the free-for-all that is the Eastern Conference playoff race that had five teams separated by just three points heading into Tuesday night.

Both teams had been rolling in opposite directions over the past week with the Flyers having won four in a row and five of their past six, while the Rangers were riding a three-game losing skid and had lost four out of five.

Their past two losses coming out of the bye week were especially ugly, losing to the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins (two other teams they are competing with) by a combined score of 12-4.

Both the Rangers’ and Flyers’ streaks came to an end in their game on Tuesday with the Rangers picking up a huge 5-1 win.

Rick Nash was the big star for the Rangers on Tuesday with a pair of goals, including a breakaway goal in the first period to tie the game at one after the Rangers gave up an early goal. It was a big performance for Nash because he had been mired in a brutal slump that had seen him go 12 consecutive games without a goal. He also had just one assist during that stretch. That slump has contributed to a down year offensively that has him on track for one of the least productive seasons of his career.

But he came through in a big way on Tuesday to help give the Rangers two huge points and move them three points ahead of the Flyers. The Flyers still have one game in hand while the two teams will still play three more games the rest of the season.

The Rangers’ win on Tuesday, combined with the Islanders’ 4-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils, moves the Rangers back into the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference for the time being.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Predators place forward Viktor Arvidsson on injured reserve

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) The Nashville Predators have placed forward Viktor Arvidsson on injured reserve with a lower-body injury and recalled forward Frederick Gaudreau from the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals.

The Predators made the move Tuesday afternoon.

Arvidsson was helped off the ice Monday during practice, and The Tennessean reports he tested himself during Tuesday morning’s skate.

The forward ranks third on the Predators with 13 goals and fourth with 27 points. The Predators already have Filip Forsberg on injured reserve with an upper-body injury.

Gaudreau has played 18 games with the Predators with three assists. He had 14 points in 21 games with the Admirals this season.

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey