Around the rink: Wednesday, November 3rd

It’s the happiest of hump days when there’s nine games on the docket in the NHL. As always, all times listed are Eastern.

7:00 pm

Boston @ Buffalo

It’s unknown as of yet if Ryan Miller will get the nod in goal for Buffalo, but the Sabres will get Jason Pominville back in the lineup. Meanwhile the Bruins roll into town on fire in goal with Tim Thomas leading the way with his 0.50 goals against average and three shutouts. The Bruins offense hasn’t been all that great, but do they need to be when no one can score against them? It could be a long night for the struggling Sabres.

Toronto @ Washington

The Leafs have remembered how to score after getting two goals in a loss to Ottawa last night, but having to go to Washington to deal with Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals may not be the thing that cures what ails them. Washington, meanwhile, is doing pretty well considering the relative offensive quiet coming from their big guns. Expect the Leafs to be without Dion Phaneuf after he left last night’s game with a cut on his leg that required stitches. Brett Lebda would likely take his spot in the lineup. Yikes.

NY Islanders @ Carolina

Two of the league’s more intriguing teams face off. Each of them have some issues scoring goals and occasionally keeping the puck out of the net, but they both play an intense brand of hockey with plenty of youth to show off. Josh Bailey, John Tavares, Jeff Skinner… What’s not to like? All right, that’s as much as I can do to try to hype up this unassuming game.

7:30 pm

Atlanta @ Florida

Two of the builders of the Chicago Blackhawks Cup-winning team last year have their new teams face off. Thrashers GM Rick Dudley and Panthers GM Dale Tallon have their new crews do battle and right now, Atlanta is looking more like the team further along. Of course, Atlanta traded for half of the Blackhawks team that won it all last year so that makes sense. Which Tomas Vokoun shows up for Florida is the question. He’s been either lights out or getting ripped up. He’ll have to look out for Evander Kane and Dustin Byfuglien as both players have been hot of late.

8:30 pm

New Jersey @ Chicago

Speaking of Chicago, the current Hawks get to deal with the smoldering corpse of what used to be the New Jersey Devils. The Devils begin their three month tour of playing without Zach Parise who’s out of action after getting his torn meniscus operated on. The game is the last one on the Devils road trip and they’d like to end it on a high note. Doing that against a stingy Chicago team doesn’t look good.

Pittsburgh @ Dallas

Zbynek Michalek may suit up for Pittsburgh, meanwhile Evgeni Malkin’s status remains questionable. Will Marc-Andre Fleury get a shot in goal or will Brent Johnson get the nod once again? Lots of questions for the Pens. Meanwhile, Kari Lehtonen and the Stars get a chance to prove themselves against a high-profile team. A curious eye will be turned towards the attendance with Sidney Crosby in town and the World Series over with.

9:30 pm

Detroit @ Calgary

Jimmy Howard figures to get the start for Detroit. If not, look for Joey McDonald to get a surprise start for Detroit with Chris Osgood ailing. The Flames, meanwhile, will try to not give up six or more goals the way they have their last couple of times out. These two teams seem to bring out the best and worst of each other when they meet. Lots of potential here for a crazy game.

10:00 pm

Nashville @ Phoenix

This would’ve figured to be Matthew Lombardi’s first game back in Phoenix after spurning the Coyotes to sign with Nashville. Instead, he’s out of the lineup and the Preds are looking to bounce back after dropping their last two games. Phoenix is looking to bounce back after a bad home loss to Tampa that saw the Coyotes get shutout. Expect goal scoring to be tough for both teams with a pair of the league’s most underrated goalies getting the nod in Pekka Rinne and Ilya Bryzgalov.

Tampa Bay @ Anaheim

The Lightning will do their part to stay off of Ducks coach Randy Carlyle’s bad side. Considering the Red Wings and Sharks are already there, perhaps it’s OK to get there since that means you’re winning and beating the Ducks around the ice. The Ducks, on the other hand, have to learn to both play better and stay out of the box. When Ryan Getzlaf’s line is taking all the heat for the Ducks failings, you know things are rough.

Some big decisions looming for Colorado in goal

Getty
Leave a comment

So, here’s what we know about the Avs’ current netminding situation:

• Veteran goalie coach Francois Allaire was dismissed yesterday, after four years on the job. The 57-year-old is perhaps best remembered in Colorado for his work with Semyon Varlamov in ’13-14, when Varlamov backstopped the Avs to the Central Division title, finishing second in Vezina and fourth in Hart Trophy voting.

• Two names have already been tied to the vacant head coaching gig: Dwayne Roloson (per the Star Tribune) and Finnish goalie guru Jussi Parkilla (per Sportsnet). Roloson, the longtime NHL netminder, spent a few years working as a goalie consultant for the Ducks. Parkilla, 40, has worked in a number of different European leagues, including the KHL and Finland’s SM-liiga.

• Per In Goal Magazine, Roloson’s connection to the Avs gig could be predicated on it being a part-time job. This would be different from Allaire, who worked in a full-time capacity, and may go back to the club’s previous model, when Kirk McLean worked as a “consultant.”

• Last month, BSN Denver reported the Avs had already decided to protect Varlamov over Calvin Pickard for the upcoming expansion draft. But that was before Pickard backstopped Canada to silver at the recently completed World Hockey Championship. Beating out Chad Johnson for the No. 1 gig, Pickard posted a .938 save percentage and 1.49 GAA in the tourney, making 40 saves in the championship game against Sweden.

Pickard, a former second-round pick, carries a $1M cap hit and has shown well in the past, posting a .922 save percentage or better in his freshman and sophomore campaigns. He’s also only 24 years old, and seems like a legitimate candidate for Vegas.

Add it all up, and GM Joe Sakic has much to ponder this summer.

It feels like Sakic’s decision making hinges on Varlamov. The GM has repeatedly said a big reason for Colorado’s awful year was losing the Russian ‘tender to injury, and that improvement will come with Varlamov returning to health, and shouldering the starter’s workload.

That could be risky. Varlamov just turned 29 and has a history of chronic hip and groin problems. He’s also got two years left on a five-year, $29.5 million deal — one that carries a hefty $5.9M average annual cap hit.

Related: ‘There’s going to be a lot of turnover’ in Colorado

It’s ‘reasonable’ to expect Schultz and Hornqvist will play Game 7

Getty
1 Comment

The Pittsburgh Penguins could have a couple of reinforcements for tomorrow’s seventh and deciding game against the Ottawa Senators at PPG Paints Arena.

Pens coach Mike Sullivan said this morning that it would be “reasonable” to expect the returns of defenseman Justin Schultz and forward Patric Hornqvist.

Schultz was injured early in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Final and hasn’t played since. But he traveled with the team to Game 6, suggesting he was getting close to a return.

Hornqvist hasn’t played since Game 1, and he didn’t travel to Game 6. Instead, he stayed back in Pittsburgh to rehab, along with fellow injured teammates Chad Ruhwedel and Tom Kuhnhackl.

The Penguins lost last night by a score of 2-1, but they weren’t particularly upset with how they played.

“I thought we played a real good game,” said Sullivan. “I thought we dominated zone time. We had lots of chances. We didn’t score tonight. The puck didn’t go in the net, but if we continue to play the game that way, then I believe we’ll get the result.”

KHL contracts two teams for upcoming campaign

Getty
1 Comment

Last week, KHL president Dmitry Chernyshenko said the league’s optimal size was 24 teams.

On Wednesday, he got closer to achieving that goal.

The KHL is officially down from 29 to 27 teams, following today’s announcement that Metallurg Novokuznetsk and Medvescak Zagreb have been contracted.

“We have realized that revising the number of member clubs and optimizing their staffing structure will enable us to solve the problem of spending cuts and also stimulate the labor market,” Chernysheko said last week, per the league website. “At the moment, the highly skilled players are spread too thinly among the clubs.

“It follows that the quality of play will improve, and with it the entertainment value and commercial potential of the League.”

Novokuznetsk, located in Siberia, has been in the KHL since 2008-09. The club has never made the postseason and, last year, had just eight wins in 60 games.

Medvescak was the KHL’s lone Croatian-based club, having come over from the Austrian League in 2013. After making the playoffs in its inaugural campaign, Medvescak struggled in the following three and ran into financial crisis this season. From the IIHF:

Medvescak faced some well-documented financial problems and, after a fire sale of players in the closing weeks of the campaign, suited up just 14 players in its last games.

With the team heavily reliant on sponsorship to provide a sustainable budget, the decision to return to a league closer to home.

It’s unclear what the future has in store for Novokuznetsk, though reports suggest the club could move to the VHL, Russia’s second-tier professional league.

Report: Sabres interested in Pens director of amateur scouting Randy Sexton

Getty
Leave a comment

New Sabres GM Jason Botterill has been on the job for less than a month, but with the draft around the corner, he’s got to start filling some holes in his front office.

Botterill, who came over from Pittsburgh, is allowed to bring former Pens colleagues of his over to Buffalo, but only if they’re given promotions by the Sabres (no lateral moves).

According to a report by Chuck Gormley, one person who could move from Pittsburgh to Buffalo is Randy Sexton, who currently serves as the Penguins’ directer of amateur scouting.

Sexton would bring plenty of experience to the Sabres’ front office, as he’s been a general manager with both the Ottawa Senators and Florida Panthers.

Having someone with that kind of experience could be beneficial for a rookie GM like Botterill, so the move would make a lot of sense from that point of view.

Related:

Botterill has “no problem” with Lehner as No. 1

Botterill to use Pens’ NHL-AHL relationship as model for Sabres