Is Ilya Bryzgalov banged up because the Coyotes give him too many starts?

On some level, I’m starting to wonder if a team’s backup goalie ranks as the most underrated asset (or weakness) in the NHL.

Simply put, having a decent rotation brings plenty of benefits. Sure, it’s possible that you might tweak the ego of your franchise guy (or your mediocre goalie in franchise goalie’s pads), but we’re talking about the highest pressure position in hockey. Thick skin is practically a job requirement.

Ultimately, having a good backup pushes your top guy to avoid prolonged spans of mediocrity and also allows teams to reduce the odds that a No.1 goalie will suffer from wear-and-tear injuries, particularly of the groin/leg/”lower body” variety.

Apologies to Jason LaBarbera, but the Phoenix Coyotes seem like they’re paying a little bit for their uneven distribution of labor in net. Counting LaBarbera’s likely start tonight, Ilya Bryzgalov started 26 out of Phoenix’s first 31 games in 2010-11.

After beginning the season with a reasonable three starts for Breezy/ one start for the Barber rotation, the Coyotes leaned heavily on their quirky Russian goalie since mid-November. Just look at the team’s pattern (beginning on November 12):

Eight starts for Bryzgalov (6-2-0); one start for LaBarbera (1-0); five starts for Bryzgalov (2-2-1). For non-math majors like myself, he played in 13 out of Phoenix’s 14 games in that span, including two sets of back-to-back games.

The Coyotes originally said that he was scratched from Thursday’s game against the New York Rangers because of flu symptoms, but Jim Gintonio reports that Bryzgalov is also dealing with “an upper body injury” sustained during Wednesday’s game against the New Jersey Devils.

Goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, who was scratched  Thursday night against the  Rangers  because of the flu, also has an upper body injury and returned to Phoenix for treatment before Saturday’s game against the Islanders.

The injury, which Bryzgalov sustained  Wednesday in New Jersey,  is not believed to be serious.

Gintonio reports that the team expects Bryzgalov to practice with the team on the Tuesday.

Now, it’s quite possible that Bryzgalov is banged up just by chance. Yet when you look at injuries sustained by workhorse goalies such as Martin Brodeur, Ryan Miller and Craig Anderson so far this season, I cannot help but wonder if their teams should be a bit more scrupulous regarding their workloads. It reminds me of the wisdom of a MLB manager limiting an ace’s pitches or an NFL coach being wary of giving a running back receiving too many carries; if they care about the player’s health, they’ll be much more likely to keep them fresh in the long run.

Of course, when you play in the muddled, tiny-margin-of-error West, every LaBarbera start is a big gamble. Then again, sometimes short term pains (a so-so record when “The Barber” starts) trump long-term losses (losing Bryzgalov for extended periods of time).

Dahlin headlines Sweden’s roster for World Junior Summer Showcase

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Defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, potentially the NHL’s first overall draft pick in 2018, will suit up for Sweden at the World Junior Summer Showcase in Plymouth, Michigan.

Dahlin, who doesn’t turn 18 until April, has wowed scouts with his skating and puck-moving ability. At the 2017 World Juniors, he participated as a 16-year-old, garnering tantalizing reviews in the process.

Top-10 picks in the 2017 draft, Elias Pettersson (5th, Vancouver Canucks) and Lias Andersson (7th, New York Rangers), will also be in Plymouth representing Sweden.

Click here for Sweden’s and Finland’s Summer Showcase rosters. The tournament runs from July 29 – Aug. 5 and also features players from the United States and Canada.

Among the draft-eligible Finns to watch is 17-year-old forward Jesse Ylonen, who could be a late first-rounder in 2018.

Related: USA Hockey invites 42 players to World Junior Summer Showcase

All of a sudden, hope for hockey in Houston

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Leslie Alexander’s decision to sell the NBA’s Rockets has revived hope for a hockey team in Houston.

That’s because Alexander is arguably the biggest reason that Houston doesn’t already have a team. The 72-year-old billionaire controls Toyota Center, where the Rockets play. Without getting into all the details, he’s essentially been the only one who could bring an NHL franchise to the city.

From the Houston Press:

But Alexander selling the Rockets (and the lease that goes with it), opens up an NHL-ready hockey arena in Houston. And that’s something that Seattle, which the NHL seemed to favor, can’t offer, and unlike Quebec City, Houston offers up a huge media market with many, many large corporations around to buy up luxury seats.

Houston is certainly a big city. In fact, only four metro areas in the United States — New York, L.A., Chicago and Dallas — have higher populations.

And Houston is growing fast.

Jeremy Jacobs, the influential owner of the Boston Bruins, has not hidden his desire to put an NHL team in Toyota Center. Back in 2015, he told ESPN.com, “I would love to see one in Houston, but we can’t get into that building.”

Perhaps soon the NHL won’t have that impediment.

Predators hire new assistant coach in wake of Housley departure

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The Nashville Predators have hired Dan Muse as an assistant coach.

Muse, who spent the last two years as head coach of the USHL’s Chicago Steel, will be in charge of the Preds’ forwards as well as the penalty kill, while associate head coach Kevin McCarthy  — in the wake of Phil Housley’s departure — will now have responsibility for the defense and the power play.

Muse led the Steel to a championship in May. He also won an NCAA title in 2013 as an assistant coach for Yale.

“Dan comes to us as a successful young coach that brings great energy and passion to the game,” said Preds head coach Peter Laviolette in a statement. “He has worked his way up through the coaching ranks, first winning an NCAA title at Yale in 2013, and then taking a Chicago team that had missed the playoffs eight straight seasons and turned them into the Clark Cup champions in just two seasons. We are excited to welcome him to the organization and look forward to his contributions to the coaching staff.”

Senators avoid arbitration with Ryan Dzingel

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The Ottawa Senators have narrowly avoided arbitration with Ryan Dzingel.

Per Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, Dzingel has signed a two-year deal with a cap hit of $1.8 million.

Dzingel’s hearing was scheduled for today. Last season, the 25-year-old forward had 14 goals and 18 assists in 81 games.

Earlier this week, the Sens also avoided arbitration with Jean-Gabriel Pageau, though that case didn’t go down to the wire like Dzingel’s did.

Pageau and Dzingel were the only Sens with arbitration hearings scheduled.

Related: Sens want to avoid arbitration with Dzingel