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Panthers and Tomas Vokoun discussing contract extension, getting benched won’t help matters

Before the season began, Panthers goalie Tomas Vokoun was being eyed up as a candidate to be a deadline deal trading chip. The Panthers didn’t figure to be in the playoff hunt and Vokoun is on the final year of his contract so from the armchair GM’s view, it seemed like a logical possibility. News this week hit that the Panthers and GM Dale Tallon are reaching out to Vokoun’s agent  to work on a contract extension with the overworked and under-supported 34 year-old Czech netminder.

Of course, something that might help make negotiations more difficult are troubles with the coaching staff. While Vokoun’s never really had issues with them before, he’s got one with them now as he’s being benched for tonight’s game against Nashville in favor of Scott Clemmensen.

After coming off a 4-3 overtime win against the Caps the other night, you’d think coach Pete DeBoer would ride the hot hand against a streaking Predators team. As Harvey Fialkov of the Florida Sun-Sentinel tells us, you’d be wrong to assume that.

When asked if he was surprised by the move, Vokoun said, “Absolutely.”

“I’m very surprised,” he added. “I got an explanation but didn’t agree with it. My job is to play. The coach is there to make the decisions. I’m here to obey them whether I like it or not. It’s not very usual for a goalie after you win a game. I personally didn’t think I played a bad game. It seemed like he had a different assessment.”

DeBoer said it had nothing to do with matchups, but rather that Clemmense had been playing well of late.

To be fair to DeBoer, Vokoun’s been rather average of late allowing three or more goals in six of his last seven starts so there is reason to give Clemmensen a shot to shutdown the Preds. That said, the timing is really awkward considering the Panthers apparent efforts to work out a contract extension with Vokoun.

If Vokoun is having any problems with DeBoer that puts more pressure on Tallon and assistant GM Mike Santos to take a look at the job the coach is doing if they’re sincere in their efforts to keep re-sign him. Of course, it’s more than likely that this is just a small bump in the road over the course of a season and there’s nothing more there. Then again, if there are issues running deeper than what’s apparent all the leverage belongs to Vokoun.

Goalie nods: ‘The losses have gotten to’ Dubnyk, so Wild turn to Kuemper

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Devan Dubnyk has started Minnesota’s last four games — all of them losses — so in an effort to try and right the ship, head coach Mike Yeo is going with Darcy Kuemper against Dallas this evening.

“This has definitely not been Dubnyk’s fault,” Yeo said of the Wild’s losing skid, per the Pioneer Press. “Even watching his game and evaluating it closely afterwards, I’m not going to say he’s playing badly. He’s not. But you can tell he’s grinding right now like everybody. The losses have gotten to him.

“Kuemper has been part of this, but not to that level, so he’s probably got a little bit of a different mindset and a little bit of a fresher mind coming into the game.”

Kuemper has been pretty solid this year, going 5-2-4 with a .928 save percentage and 2.06 GAA. That said, he’s only made four appearances in 2016 and his last was a brief one, playing just over 11 minutes in relief against the Isles.

For Dallas, Kari Lehtonen is likely to get the start.

Elsewhere…

— No definitive announcements out of Boston, but Tuukka Rask is likely for the Bruins, and Jonathan Quick is likely for the Kings.

— It’s Roberto Luongo for the Panthers in Buffalo. Sabres are going with Robin Lehner.

Cory Schneider‘s going back-to-back for the Devils after stopping 35 shots in a loss to the Rangers on Monday. Cam Talbot starts for the Oilers.

John Gibson is not going back-to-back after getting shelled by Pittsburgh last night. Frederik Andersen starts in Philly, Steve Mason for the Flyers.

— Columbus will keep rolling with Joonas Korpisalo as it hosts the Islanders. Jaroslav Halak gets the nod after getting hooked against the Red Wings over the weekend.

Ben Scrivens will look to win his third game in a row when the Habs host the Bolts. Ben Bishop‘s in for Tampa Bay.

— Barry Trotz heads back to Nashville and will continue rolling with Braden Holtby in goal. Trotz’s former workhorse, Pekka Rinne, starts for the Preds.

— It’s Connor Hellebuyck versus Brian Elliott as the Blues host the Jets in St. Louis.

— Good matchup in Chicago tonight, as the in-form Corey Crawford starts for the ‘Hawks. The Sharks will counter with Martin Jones.

— After Ryan Miller started the last four, Jacob Markstrom goes for the Canucks in Colorado. The Avs are starting Semyon Varlamov.

— Fresh off today’s blockbuster Dion Phaneuf trade, the undermanned Leafs are going with James Reimer in goal in Calgary. The Flames will give Jonas Hiller another start after he beat Vancouver on Saturday night.

Here’s what TCF Bank Stadium will look like for Minnesota’s outdoor game

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What you’re looking at is an architectural rendering of TCF Bank Stadium for the upcoming outdoor game between the Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday, Feb. 21.

The current forecast for that day in Minneapolis is a high of 27° F and a low of 19° F, with only a 20 percent possibility of precipitation, i.e. snow.

Which is to say, that guy in the Toews jersey is gonna be cold. At least roll up your sleeves, man. Don’t be a hero. 

The game, scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET, will be broadcast live on NBC as part of Hockey Day in America, while Hockey Night In Canada and TVA Sports will have the action for the folks up north.

50 years ago today, the NHL’s ‘great expansion’ begins

PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 15: The Pittsburgh Penguins and the Philadelphia Flyers fight during the first period in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Wells Fargo Center on April 15, 2012 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Flyers defeated the Penguins 8-4. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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“This is the year of the great expansion. For the first time, the league will be composed of twelve teams.”

Those were the words of former NHL president Clarence Campbell as he ushered in six new franchises to join the Original Six for the 1967-68 season.

We only mention this because it was 50 years ago today, in 1966, that the league awarded conditional teams to Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Minneapolis-St. Paul and St. Louis.

(To read more, click NHL.com’s anniversary piece. The Los Angeles Times also has a story on the birth of the Kings, while CSN Philly remembers the Flyers’ beginnings.)

For all you youngsters out there, San Francisco’s team, originally named the California Seals, ended up playing in Oakland, but not for long due to attendance issues. The franchise would move to Cleveland in 1976, where in 1978 it ceased operations and merged with the North Stars.

The North Stars also eventually relocated, though that didn’t happen until 1993 when they moved to Dallas. The expansion Wild were born a few years later.

Of the five surviving franchises of the “great expansion,” only the Blues have never won the Stanley Cup.

The Flyers were the first expansion team to hoist the Cup. They did it in 1974.

Related: Foley is ‘9.5’ out of 10 confident that NHL will expand to Vegas

Malkin (lower body) to miss rest of week

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Evgeni Malkin has missed Pittsburgh’s last three games, and now he’ll also miss at least the next two.

On Tuesday, head coach Mike Sullivan announced that Malkin will be held out for the remainder of this week to deal with his lower-body injury.

Malkin hasn’t played since registering two assists in a 6-5 win over Ottawa on Feb. 2, missing Friday’s 6-3 loss to the Bolts, Saturday’s 3-2 win over the Panthers and Monday’s big 6-2 whipping of Anaheim.

The Penguins next play on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN), then again on Friday versus the ‘Canes. It stands to reason Malkin could very well miss the Monday, Feb. 15 game against the Panthers as well, as the Pens would be on a mini two-game road swing through Carolina and Florida, returning back to Pittsburgh for a Feb. 18 home date against Detroit.

On the year, Malkin has 49 points in 49 games and had been producing exceptionally well prior to getting hurt, with 15 points in his last 13 games.