PHT readers think Tampa Bay makes the most sense for Evgeni Nabokov

Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman downplayed – but didn’t totally deny – the talk that newly minted free agent goalie Evgeni Nabokov could help the up-and-coming team take a step forward in net.

Simply put, Dan Ellis and Mike Smith are struggling despite the fact that the Lightning are tied with the St. Louis Blues for the league lead in allowing the least amount of shots allowed per game (27.1). Ellis is 8-5-4 with a pitiful 87.6 save percentage and 3.23 goals against average and Smith’s numbers are nearly identical (9-5-0 with an 87.9 save percentage and 3.36 goals against average).

The “Mendoza line” for a starting NHL goalie is around 90 percent and every percentage point is actually a pretty big deal, so it’s obvious that the Lightning are receiving well below average play from their goalies.

Now, there’s also no doubt that Nabokov is having a tough year. While the KHL said that they terminated his contract for “family circumstances,” the goalie clearly wasn’t earning his $6 million pay check. So if an NHL team signs him, it will be with his 10 seasons in San Jose in mind, not his semi-disastrous run in the KHL.

While it might be some time before Nabby returns to pro hockey, we couldn’t help but wonder which team would make the most sense. The Washington Capitals and (his former team) San Jose Sharks earned a lot of votes, but the team that received the most is Tampa Bay.

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Obviously, adding Nabokov would develop a crowded situation in the Lightning net.

That being said, the Lightning boast plenty of cap space ($11.35 million, according to and their other two goalies might not be that tough to move. Smith is in the last year of a contract that nets an annual $2.2 million cap hit while Ellis has an affordable two-year, $3 million deal. Whether it be through a trade or placing those goalies on waivers, the team could lose one (or both) of Smith and Ellis.

Of course, it all comes down to whether or not Yzerman actually wants to do that. We’ll have to wait and see there, but if you ask PHT readers, Nabokov would make a lot of sense in a bolts uniform.

Niemi blanks Pens, notches two assists in Stars debut

Antti Niemi, Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist
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DALLAS (AP) — Antti Niemi recorded his 33rd career shutout and assisted on two goals in his Dallas debut, as the Stars beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-0 on Thursday night in the season opener for both.

Ales Hemsky had a power-play goal and an assist.

Rookie Matthias Janmark scored on his first shot on his first shift in an NHL game to make it 1-0. The Stars acquired Niemi and Janmark in trades earlier this year.

Dallas scored on two of five power plays. Jamie Benn, the NHL’s leading scorer last season, had a power-play goal in the third period.

Niemi made 37 saves to improve his career record against the Penguins to 5-1-1. He withstood a flurry in the final minute after Pittsburgh pulled goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for an extra skater.

Fleury had 21 saves.

The Stars are 4-0-1 in their last five home games against Pittsburgh, and have won three in a row overall.

Janmark skated down the slot, took a pass from Hemsky and shot between Fleury’s legs at 1:39 of the first.

The Penguins dominated the latter half of the period, but couldn’t score. Niemi’s best stop was a reaching glove save of Rod Scuderi’s drive from the blue line with less than 3 minutes remaining. Pittsburgh outshot the Stars 10-4 in the first.

Hemsky scored at 5:42 of the second on Dallas’ first power play. His shot from the top of the right faceoff circle went in over Fleury’s right shoulder.

The Penguins again had an advantage in shots, 13-11. Pittsburgh had chances in close, but Niemi turned those away. Midway through the second, John Klingberg cleared away a loose puck from in front of the net.

Seven seconds into the Stars’ fourth power play of the third period, Jamie Benn tipped in Jason Spezza‘s shot from the right point.

NOTES: Dallas acquired Janmark as part of a March trade that sent Erik Cole to Detroit. The rookie had been playing in the Swedish Hockey League. . San Jose traded Niemi’s rights to the Stars in June for a seventh-round draft pick. Also making their Dallas debuts were LW Patrick Sharp and D Johnny Oduya, teammates with Chicago’s Stanley Cup champions last season. . In his first game for the Penguins, Phil Kessel played in his 447th straight game. . Pittsburgh was 0 for 3 on the power play.

Fabbri’s first spoils McDavid’s debut as Blues down Oilers

Robby Fabbri, Justin Schultz
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ST. LOUIS (AP) — Rookie Robby Fabbri scored the tiebreaking goal midway through the third period to help the St. Louis Blues beat Edmonton 3-1 Thursday night, spoiling Oilers rookie Connor McDavid‘s NHL debut.

Vladimir Tarasenko had the tying goal for the Blues near the midpoint of the second period, and Troy Brouwer added an empty-netter with 18 seconds remaining in the third. Brian Elliott finished with 23 saves.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored in the first period for Edmonton and Cam Talbot had 28 saves.

McDavid, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, took 22 shifts, played 18:07 and was on the ice for Brouwer’s goal. He had two shots on goal, and struggled on faceoffs – winning only three of 13.

Fabbri, a 19-year-old forward — and McDavid’s childhood friend — was also playing in his first NHL game. The Blues’ first-round pick in 2014 was one of three rookies in the St. Louis lineup, joining defensemen Colton Parayko and Joel Edmundson.

Nugent-Hopkins gave the Oilers a 1-0 lead late in the first period with a fluke power-play goal. He lost a face-off but when Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo tried to clear the puck it bounced off Alexander Steen and past Brian Elliott. Nugent-Hopkins was credited with the unassisted power-play goal with 2:38 remaining in the period.

Tarasenko tied it a 9:10 of the second after getting loose on a breakaway with a stretch pass from Alex Pietrangelo and beating Talbot through his legs.

Tarasenko, who signed an eight-year, $60 million extension in the offseason, was the last Blues player to score in his debut.

NOTES: McDavid and F Anton Slepyshev made their NHL debuts for the Oilers. … St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina dropped the ceremonial first puck. … The attendance was announced as standing room-only 19,327.