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.

Stars put Spezza on injured reserve, recall Faksa from AHL Texas

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Sitting three points out of top spot in the Central Division and on the eve of an important divisional clash on home ice with the Chicago Blackhawks, the Dallas Stars have placed center Jason Spezza on injured reserve retroactive to Thursday, the club announced on Friday.

Spezza, 32, was injured during Thursday’s game against the Colorado Avalanche. The Stars can move back to within a point of Chicago for the division lead with a regulation win on Saturday.

In 52 games this season, Spezza has 18 goals and 40 points, which ties him with Patrick Sharp for fourth on the team in total points.

With Spezza out, the Stars recalled 22-year-old forward Radek Faksa from the Texas Stars in the AHL.

Faksa has 15 goals and 26 points in 28 games this season with Texas. In 18 games with the NHL Stars, he has one goal and three points.

Hitch’s recipe for more goals is a pretty simple one

Ken Hitchcock, David Backes, Dmitrij Jaskin, Paul Stastny, Patrik Berglund
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Ken Hitchcock wants the Blues to spend more time attacking and less time defending.

Because hockey isn’t rocket science, that’s why.

“To score and win games in the National Hockey League…you have to spend as much time in the offensive zone as you can,” Hitchcock told the Post-Dispatch.

“When you’re occupying the offensive zone more, you’re forechecking more. When you’re occupying the offensive zone more, the goalie has to make saves. They’re having to defend more. And the opposing team takes penalties on you. So they’re all connected. … What I want to see from us is staying on the puck for longer stretches.”

According to the stats, the Blues have not been spending as much time in the offensive zone as we’re used to seeing from them. In fact, in their last 20 games, they rank in the bottom third of the league in score-adjusted Corsi. That compares to their first 20 games when they were in the top third.

The result is fewer shots, and more importantly, fewer goals. The Blues have fallen all the way to 25th in offense, averaging just 2.37 goals per game. Last year, they finished fifth (2.91).

Yes, some of that may be due to the absence of Jaden Schwartz, and he should be back soon. But there’s a reason people are watching GM Doug Armstrong as the Feb. 29 trade deadline approaches. This team could probably use another piece up front.

The Blues host Minnesota Saturday.

St. Louis has scored just five goals in its last five games.

Goalie nods: Lindback ‘really excited’ for first start in almost three weeks

Anders Lindback
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Tonight in Anaheim, Anders Lindback will make his first start for the Arizona Coyotes since Jan. 16.

The Coyotes have been riding rookie Louis Domingue since just before Christmas, but Domingue has allowed five goals in each of his last three starts, including last night’s 5-4 loss to Chicago.

Lindback’s last appearance came Tuesday in relief, when he allowed one goal on 10 shots in a 6-2 loss to the Kings.

Lindback was in goal for one of Arizona’s three victories this season over Anaheim, stopping 33 of 36 shots in a 4-3 overtime win on Nov. 9. However, his .896 save percentage ranks among the lowest in the league.

Frederik Andersen is expected to start for the Ducks.

Elsewhere…

— No word yet on a Penguins starter in Tampa, but Ben Bishop will go for the Bolts.

Cam Ward will start for the Hurricanes in Winnipeg, where Connor Hellebuyck is expected for the increasingly desperate Jets.

— Joonas Korpisalo was solid last night in Vancouver, but the Blue Jackets have not announced their starter for tonight’s game in Calgary. Karri Ramo will be in goal for the Flames.

A ‘pretty solid two-way player,’ Sundqvist to make NHL debut for Penguins

Pittsburgh Penguins' Oskar Sundqvist (49) collides with Minnesota Wild's Jason Zucker (16) in the first period of a NHL preseason hockey game in Pittsburgh, Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
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The latest Penguins injuries, these ones to Evgeni Malkin and Eric Fehr, have led to an opportunity for Oskar Sundqvist.

Sundqvist will make his NHL debut for the Penguins tonight in Tampa. The 21-year-old center has five goals and 11 assists in 39 AHL games this season.

“Sunny’s a pretty solid two-way player,” coach Mike Sullivan said, per the Tribune-Review.

“I don’t think he’s going to dazzle you with flashy plays, but I think he’s a guy who plays the game the right way. He’s hard to play against because of his size. He’s got a long reach, and he’s got a good stick.”

Sundqvist was selected 81st overall by the Pens in 2012. He’ll become the fourth player out of that Pittsburgh draft class to make his NHL debut, after Olli Maatta, Derrick Pouliot, and Matt Murray.

Veteran Matt Cullen will replace Malkin on the second line, skating with wingers Carl Hagelin and Phil Kessel.

Related: Nick Bonino out ‘at least a month’ with hand injury