Erik Ersberg

Where do third-string NHL goalies go when they’re not needed? Europe

The life of a backup goalie is sometimes an inglorious one since you’re playing sparingly and sometimes having to deal with mop-up duty. What’s it like to be an NHL-caliber goalie that lost their backup job though? If you asked Thomas Greiss or Erik Ersberg, you might find out that the answer is “infuriating” mixed with “planning to move to Europe.”

Recently, Greiss landed a transfer out of Worcester after being sent there by the Sharks when they signed Antti Niemi to split time with Antero Niittymaki in goal. The catch with going to Worcester for Greiss is that he went there and didn’t start a single game. Instead, Greiss is now headed to Sweden to play for Brynas of the Swedish Elite League. The official explanation from the Sharks puts a nice gloss on things.

“We’ve always had a commitment to goaltender development and we feel that Thomas has a great chance to play a lot of games and continue his improvement with Brynas,” stated Wayne Thomas, the assistant general manager of the San Jose Sharks who also works with the team’s goalies.

That’s putting things nicely and it’s good that the Sharks have this sort of friendly arrangement to deal with, but you can’t help but wonder how skunked out Thomas Greiss feels. After all, he started the off-season thinking he’d be backing up and challenging Antero Niittymaki for work and now he’s out of the NHL completely.

If this sort of situation sounds familiar to L.A. Kings fans, it’s because incumbent backup goalie Erik Ersberg landed in the same spot. Ersberg lost his job backing up start Jon Quick to up-and-coming rookie Jonathan Bernier. Ersberg was sent down through waivers and appears to be headed to the KHL according to Rich Hammond of Kings Insider. If that sounds like a massive violation of his agreement with the Kings, that’s because it is.

Technically, in NHL terms Ersberg has violated his contract, and after he clears waivers, the Kings will be able to terminate his contract and cut ties with him.

Remember, the NHL isn’t exactly on friendly terms as far as transfer agreements go with the KHL. Sometimes players can go to Russia and have it be kosher contract-wise with their NHL teams. Nikita Filatov of Columbus and Victor Tikhonov of Phoenix both landed there last year with their team’s blessing, but it appears that the same cannot be said of Ersberg.

This makes Ersberg’s situation similar to that of one-time Hurricanes forward Matt Murley who spurned riding the NHL-AHL shuttle to play for Amur Khabarovsk in the KHL for guaranteed money. Murley hasn’t returned to the NHL since sticking it to Carolina at the last minute. With the glut of available goaltending in North America, it’s possible that Ersberg may be saying his last good-bye to the NHL.

Patrick Kane’s streak hits 19 games, setting a new American record

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When it comes to point streaks for U.S.-born NHL players, Patrick Kane now stands alone.

With a power-play goal early in Saturday’s Blackhawks – Kings game, Kane extended his streak to 19 games, breaking a tie with Phil Kessel and Eddie Olczyk (who finished with at least a point in 18 straight).

As of this writing, Kane has 11 goals and 19 assists during this 19-game streak. He also leads the NHL in scoring.

Bobby Hull’s 21-game point streak stands as the Chicago Blackhawks’ overall team record, by the way.

So, how would you protect a lead against the Stars?

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You know what they say: it’s easy to bash a strategy in hindsight.

Slam that NFL head coach for going for it on fourth down … or settling for the field goal. Bury that MLB manager because he kept a pitcher in too long. And so on.

“Score effects” settle in during almost any lopsided hockey game, yet the Dallas Stars present quite a conundrum: what’s the best way to put a way a team with this much firepower?

Tonight may have presented the greatest evidence that this team won’t go away easy, as it seemed like the Minnesota Wild had the best of a tired Stars team* when they built a 3-0 lead.

Instead, the Stars scored three third-period goals while Tyler Seguin capped the comeback with an overtime-winner.

It was one of those bend-and-then-break moments for Minnesota. Dallas generated a 44-26 shot advantage, including a ridiculous 35-15 edge in the final two periods.

Does that mean that Mike Yeo may have tried to play too conservatively with a healthy lead? It’s a possibility.

On the other hand, would the Wild be wiser to try to run-and-gun with one of the most dangerous offenses in the NHL?

It sure seems like a pick-your-poison situation. Which way would you lean, though?

* – To be fair to Minnesota, each team was on back-to-backs.

Price paid: Devils come back against Condon, Canadiens

Mike Condon, John Moore,
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If nothing else, the New Jersey Devils seem like they won’t be the sort of team a contender can essentially mark off as a “W” on their calendars.

The Montreal Canadiens may not be in a position to take opponents lightly with Carey Price on the shelf, but whatever the case may be, they saw their four-game winning streak end in frustrating fashion on Saturday.

After falling behind 2-0, the Devils scrapped their way back into it, eventually riding a John Moore overtime goal to a 3-2 OT win.

If Montreal needs an obvious bright side to look on considering this hiccup, Alex Galchenyuk‘s hot weekend may be a good thing to look at.

Tonight’s loss may smart a bit anyway, however.

Metro’s best? Capitals keep winning, pass Rangers for division lead

Jonathan Bernier; Matt Niskanen; Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau

If you want to summarize the Capitals – Maple Leafs game in one sentence, you could do worse than:

“Washington is hot as Jonathan Bernier is cold.”

The Caps reeled off a 4-2 win against Toronto on Saturday, giving them five straight wins. They also jumped into first place in the Metropolitan Division today, as they keep climbing while the New York Rangers are experiencing some growing pains.

Again, James Reimer can’t get healthy and back in Toronto’s net too soon:

With this win, Washington is now 17-5-1, leading the Metro by one point with 35 standings points. They also hold a game in hand against the Rangers, and no other Metro team even has 30 right now.

Measuring stick stretch begins

Tonight’s game began a “prove-it” month-and-change for Washington.

This contest began a three-game road trip, and they’ll also play six of seven away from Washington.

It’s pretty rough through the start of 2016, really. The Capitals will only enjoy three home games through Jan. 9.

In other words, the Capitals seem like a convincing East contender, but look out if they remain hot through the next 5-6 weeks.