Jacques Martin explains P.K. Subban’s absence in the Habs lineup

The trials and tribulations of Montreal’s newest favorite player, P.K. Subban, are causing a bit of a confusing stir for fans in Quebec. Subban is one of Montreal’s most popular players after arriving on the scene during last year’s playoffs. He’s youthful, he plays an exciting brand of hockey, he upsets opposing players so much they feel the need to mouth off to the press about it.

This is what makes head coach Jacques Martin’s decision to make Subban a healthy scratch the last three games tough for some Habs fans. They want to rage at Martin for sitting down their budding superstar but the “problem” they’ve got is that the Habs have won each game he’s sat out. In his place, Yannick Weber is getting a chance to start and he’s playing pretty well himself. Even in spite of that, some fans want to see Subban on the ice and for them, they might need to reflect back on how things broke down with Carey Price and Jaroslav Halak last year to see how Martin handles things with Weber and Subban. Dave Stubbs of The Montreal Gazette tells the story.

Martin loves this in-house battle, just as he enjoyed goalies Jaroslav Halak and Carey Price scrapping for action last season before Halak seized the No. 1 job.

His comparison of Weber-Subban to the goalies might be a little off-kilter; Halak was all-universe from the Olympics onward and not Price nor Ken Dryden nor Patrick Roy would have taken the job from him.

But still…

“It’s healthy to have competition and that’s what we have now,” Martin said. “There’s nothing wrong with that.

“(And) it’s important to keep in perspective that it’s a privilege to play at this level and there are lots of responsibilities attached to it,” he added, addressing Subban’s growth into the NHL.

“There’s nothing wrong when you’re not in the lineup. Last year was a very important year in Carey’s development. There was a process established that really helped him grow and made him a better player.

“With our younger players, whether a Weber or Subban or Lars Eller, they’ll be better for it in the long run.”

You can’t really argue with Martin’s final point as Carey Price has gone from being a potential bust in Montreal to the newest goaltending savior. Whether or not his lost battle with Halak for playing time last year and the lessons learned in taking things seriously to stick in the league played into that is debatable.

For now though, Martin’s cerebral work is being put to the test on Subban. Subban’s got a world of talent and the ability to be like another Dan Boyle on the blue line.  He’s fast, he’s got the offensive skills, he’s not afraid to play physically when needed. Having him compete with another young guy like Weber rather than a been-around-the-block veteran is what he needs to push himself to play better. Whether or not this dance continues all season long or not remains to be seen, but if nothing else, Habs fans are ready for a season-long duel. Team Yannick or Team P.K. anyone?

‘It’s absolutely not true’ — Lemieux denies report of ‘big falling out’ with Crosby

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 5:  Sidney Crosby #87 and Mario Lemieux #66 of the Pittsburgh Penguins share a few words during a break in action against the New Jersey Devils in their NHL opening night game at the Continental Airlines Arena on October 5, 2005 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  The Devils won 5-1. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Well, that didn’t take long.

Just hours after Matthew Barnaby went on the radio and said he’d heard that Sidney Crosby and Mario Lemieux had had a “big falling out,” Lemieux came out and denied it.

“It’s absolutely not true,” said Lemieux, per the club’s Twitter account. “It’s silly.”

Today marked the second time in less than two weeks that the Penguins have been forced do some damage control.

Last week, the Penguins insisted that they weren’t actually “mad at each other,” as Evgeni Malkin had put it after a bad loss to New Jersey.

“He did not mean we are mad at each other,” said Crosby. “He meant we are frustrated.”

Matthew Barnaby has heard that Crosby and Lemieux had a ‘big falling out’

Sidney Crosby, Phil Kessel

Every day there seems to be another “thing” about the Pittsburgh Penguins.

We say “thing,” because we’re not really sure how to categorize it. It’s never anything concrete. It’s smoke, without definitive proof of a fire.

But whether it’s Evgeni Malkin saying the Penguins are “mad at each other”…or Guy Lafleur wondering if Sidney Crosby should try and find a new team…or a prominent NHL reporter like Elliotte Friedman talking about the “very tense environment” in the organization…

The clear insinuation is that all is not well in Pittsburgh.

The latest “thing”?

Ex-Penguin Matthew Barnaby has “looked into it” and what’s he’s heard is that Crosby and co-owner Mario Lemieux have had a “big falling out.”

“Now whether that pushes them to move him at some point? Whether he wants to move? That I don’t know,” Barnaby said today on SiriusXM, via Puck Daddy.

Again, it’s all just scuttlebutt at this point. After Malkin’s “mad at each other” remark, the players insisted that that wasn’t true. Malkin said he didn’t mean it that way.

So choose for yourself what to believe.

But despite the winning record, unless this team starts playing the way it was designed to play — i.e. scoring a lot of goals, not the 26th-most in the NHL — don’t be surprised if you hear more “things.”

The Penguins host St. Louis tonight.

Goalie nods: Marquee matchup as Price faces Lundqvist at MSG

Henrik Lundqvist
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Two of the NHL’s premier netminders will do battle tonight in New York, when Carey Price and the Canadiens visit Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers.

Price, who’s played a pair of games since missing extended time with a lower-body injury, has won both of his starts and is now 9-2-0 on the year with a 2.10 GAA and .933 save percentage.

Great numbers, but nothing compared to the King.

Lundqvist — probably this year’s Vezina front-runner, after Price won last season — is a sparking 12-3-2 with a 1.74 GAA and .946 save percentage, posting shutouts in two of his last six starts.

One of those shutouts came in his last outing, a 31-save blanking of the Preds on Monday.

Now… with all that hype, we should tap the brakes. The last time PHT previewed a “goalie duel” was when Lundqvist and St. Louis’ Jake Allen engaged in a battle of the NHL’s two highest save percentages.

The Blues and Rangers then combined for nine goals, with Allen getting the hook 15 minutes into the contest.


Carter Hutton appears ready to give Pekka Rinne a night off in Buffalo, while the Sabres are going with Linus Ullmark once again.

Ryan Miller takes on Devan Dubnyk as the Canucks play in Minnesota.

Anders Nilsson will keep Cam Talbot bolted to the pine when Edmonton faces the ‘Canes. Cam Ward looks likely to go for Carolina.

Michael Hutchinson, not Connor Hellebuyck, for the Jets in Washington. The Caps will start Braden Holtby.

— Another good matchup in Pittsburgh, as Jake Allen and the Blues take on Marc-Andre Fleury and the Penguins.

Sergei Bobrovsky goes for the Jackets tonight, while the Devils counter with Cory Schneider.

— In Brooklyn, Jaroslav Halak starts for the Islanders. The visiting Flyers will go with their No. 1, Steve Mason.

— Sounds like Jonas Gustavsson will go up against his former team when the Bruins take on the Red Wings in Detroit. He’ll square off against Petr Mrazek.

Mike Smith returns from a lower-body injury to get the nod for Arizona. Hard to say what the Ducks are going to do: Frederik Andersen has the flu, Anton Khudobin got yanked last night against Calgary, and John Gibson came on in relief for the win.

Craig Anderson for Ottawa tonight, Semyon Varlamov for Colorado.

Martin Jones, the NHL’s reigning first star of the week, is in for the Sharks against the visiting Blackhawks. Corey Crawford counters for Chicago.

Stars’ Lehtonen (upper body) day-to-day

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The collision that forced Kari Lehtonen from his relief appearance in last night’s loss to Ottawa could keep him off ice four a couple of days, Stars head coach Lindy Ruff confirmed.

Lehtonen, who entered the contest after Antti Niemi allowed three goals on nine shots, was injured just over a minute into the third period when d-man John Klingberg crashed into the Dallas net.

Ruff suggested a goalie would be recalled from AHL Texas in time for the Stars’ next game, which is on Friday against the Canucks.

While losing Lehtonen would hurt the Stars — he’s 9-1-0 this year with a .921 save percentage and 2.41 GAA — the club can fall back on Niemi who, despite the rough outing against the Sens, has been OK this year.

Niemi has a 8-4-1 record, though his GAA (.264) and save percentage (.907) leave something to be desired.