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.

Flames keep showing life, Stars stumble once again

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If you think the Dallas Stars are struggling because of defense more than anything else, then you’ll make sure to keep the video above “on file.”

There Kari Lehtonen was, helpless on a 2-on-0 rush for the Calgary Flames, which Johnny Gaudreau finished with calm and ease. For some, that goal is the symbol of the Stars’ season.

Either way, it was a painful goal in the Flames’ 2-1 win against the Stars. Calgary won despite Dallas firing 30 shots on goal versus the Flames’ 20.

One team climbing, the other stumbling

With that, the Flames are now on a four-game winning streak. Since falling to 5-10-1 on Nov. 12, the Flames have gone 9-3-1 in their last 13 games, pushing them to 14-13-2 overall. Gaudreau coming back is the icing on the cake after Chad Johnson really took charge of the Flames’ top job.

During a similar span, the Stars can’t seem to get it together. Dallas stood at 6-6-3 after beating the Oilers 3-2 on Nov. 11. They’re now 10-11-6, essentially standing in place as a .500 team.

Dallas can’t seem to get momentum going, a thought that might have left them envious of the team on the other end of the ice on Tuesday.

Canadiens are facing some turbulence (and mostly passing the test)

ST. LOUIS, MO - DECEMBER 6: Patrik Berglund #21 of the St. Louis Blues checks Tomas Plekanec #14 of the Montreal Canadiens at the Scottrade Center on December 6, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/ Getty Images)
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The Montreal Canadiens aren’t in crisis mode, but as far as this so-far outstanding 2016-17 season goes, they are finally facing some adversity.

Alex Galchenyuk, one of their most promising young players, is out indefinitely. There are murmurs that captain Max Pacioretty isn’t getting along with head coach Michel Therrien.* Tuesday presented a body blow or two to boot.

For one thing, the Canadiens gave up a 2-0 lead to lose 3-2 to the St. Louis Blues in overtime. Jaden Schwartz grabbed an assist and scored the game’s last two goals, including the OT-winner:

Losing to a contender like the Blues, especially while still grabbing a “charity point,” isn’t that big of a deal. A possible David Desharnais injury makes things a little dicey, however:

Really, though, it’s not all that bad for Montreal. They managed a 2-2-1 mark during a five-game road trip heavy on quality opponents.

Also: six of their next seven games come at home, where they’re 12-1-1. So things will look brighter soon enough.

Still, with some injuries and a big road trip to end 2016 and start 2017, there may be some moments where Montreal looks vulnerable.

Ultimately, fighting through stretches like these could very well benefit the Habs later on.

* – Ah, the old standby: “Player X isn’t seeing eye-to-eye with Therrien.”

From the Blues’ side:

Ristolainen, Kane, O’Reilly push Sabres past McDavid and the Oilers

EDMONTON, AB - OCTOBER 16:  Rasmus Ristolainen #55, Matt Moulson #26, Sam Reinhart #23, Kyle Okposo #21 and Ryan OÕReilly #90 of the Buffalo Sabres celebrate a goal against the Edmonton Oilers on October 16, 2016 at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)
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On Tuesday, it wasn’t just about Jack Eichel vs. Connor McDavid. Instead, it was a clash between a fleet of young scorers who were in their prime, with the Buffalo Sabres coming up on top against the Edmonton Oilers.

In particular, high-scoring defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen, power forward Evander Kane and two-way center Ryan O'Reilly made the difference in Buffalo’s 4-3 overtime win.

Ristolainen’s first goal of 2016-17 was a big one, as it clinched the contest in OT:

Evander Kane scored two goals of his own, including one in the dying seconds of regulation to allow Buffalo to get a standings point (and then a second) in the first place.

Kane finished with two goals, O’Reilly generated two assists and Ristolainen managed a one-goal, two-assist performance.

It would be wrong to say that the marquee names didn’t show up at all. McDavid generated two assists and Eichel also nabbed a helper.

You’d be correct in saying that other young players stole the show, though, and the Sabres were the biggest beneficiaries.

Video: Brent Seabrook shaken up after awkward fall

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It wasn’t nearly as scary as the falls suffered by Travis Zajac or Philip Larsen, but the Chicago Blackhawks are still holding their breath when it comes to defenseman Brent Seabrook.

As you can see from the video above, Seabrook was tripped up by Jordan Martinook of the Arizona Coyotes during a simple puck battle. Seabrook was shaken up after falling awkwardly on that play.

At the moment, it’s unclear if this will be an ongoing issue or if the Blackhawks avoided a costly injury.

Martinook was not penalized.

CSN Chicago’s Tracey Myers notes that Seabrook wasn’t out to begin the third period. So far, not so good.

The Blackhawks beat the Arizona Coyotes 4-0, so the silver lining for Chicago is that they won.