Buffalo Sabres v New York Islanders

After 31 straight starts, Buffalo’s Ryan Miller will finally rest; Enroth gets start over Lalime

It’s been a long time since Ryan Miller hasn’t started a game for the Buffalo Sabres. Miller has started every game since November 26th and the last time a goalie not named Ryan Miller started was November 24th when rookie Jhonas Enroth started and lost a 1-0 game to Pittsburgh.

Tonight when the Sabres face the Canadiens in Montreal, Ryan Miller will be wearing the baseball cap on the bench rather than starting on the ice but it won’t be his backup Patrick Lalime that gets the call to start. Instead, Enroth will be back up from the AHL to get the start. (Update: Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News reports that Miller will not even suit up, Lalime will back up Enroth)

If you’re wondering why Patrick Lalime is even playing in Buffalo if he’s not trusted enough to even get a start when it’s finally time you’re not alone as Buffalo News columnist Jerry Sullivan says that if Lalime is getting skipped now after working Miller like a dog, perhaps Enroth should just stay for good.

I’d go with Enroth for the rest of the season. Enroth played better than Lalime early in the year. Early in November, he won back-to-back games in shootouts when the Sabres were 3-9-2 and there was speculation about Ruff’s job. Enroth lost, 1-0, to the Penguins.

If the Sabres are serious about making a playoff push, they need a reliable backup. They can’t keep pretending Miller is a superstar, capable of carrying a team by himself. They need to find out about Enroth. Either that, or trade for a proven backup before the deadline.

The Sabres are about to enter a brutal stretch of games in which they’ll play 16 in the next 29 days. Giving Miller a night off here before likely playing again on Wednesday against Toronto makes sense, but if the Sabres plan on riding Miller as hard as they’ve been, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised if he has a few more off-nights like he had on Sunday afternoon against the Islanders when he surrendered seven goals in a 7-6 overtime loss.

That said, it seems silly that Lalime is even hanging around in the NHL still if he’s going to get passed over for starts when it’s obviously his time to get one. Coach Lindy Ruff’s confidence in Lalime is clearly very poor as he hasn’t had the guts to go with Lalime at all for a span of over two months to spell Miller for even a game here and there.

Miller’s opinion of Lalime is sky high and he’s been thankful for having Lalime as a teammate to provide veteran guidance as he said after winning the Vezina last season. But when it comes down to it, having a competent teammate might be more important than having a good friend to be the guy to help you out when you need a break. Lalime hasn’t been that guy, nor has he been given much of a chance to show it. If the Sabres are serious about getting to the playoffs ensuring that Miller can carry you is the team’s top priority and if Lalime isn’t the guy to get it done, then it’s time for him to go.

Raanta rewards Rangers for starts over Lundqvist by blanking Blackhawks

VANCOUVER, BC - NOVEMBER 15: Goalie Henrik Lundqvist #30 of the New York Rangers shares a laugh with teammate Antti Raanta #32 after defeating the Vancouver Canucks 7-2 in NHL action on November 15, 2016 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.  (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
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If someone told you that the New York Rangers started a goalie on back-to-back nights, and that goalie wasn’t Henrik Lundqvist, you’d probably wonder if he was hurt or retired.

Nope. It just so happens that Antti Raanta is playing at an incredibly high level, Alain Vigneault noticed, and that decision paid dividends on Friday night. Raanta won both nights of a back-to-back, allowing a single goal (with the Rangers protecting him, being that he only needed to stop 43 of 44 shots during that span).

Raanta and the Rangers blanked the Chicago Blackhawks with a 1-0 overtime win, at least briefly climbing to first place in the massively competitive Metro Division:

1. Rangers – 39 points in 29 games played
2. Penguins- 37 points in 27 GP
3. Blue Jackets – 36 points in 25 GP
4. Capitals – 35 points in 26 GP
5. Flyers – 35 points in 29 GP

Nick Holden ended up scoring the only goal of the game:

Meanwhile, the Blackhawks lost but at least salvaged a standings point and it seems like Patrick Kane is OK after this injury scare:

Raanta improved to 7-1-0 on the season, allowing two goals or less in all but one of his appearances so far this season. That’s the kind of work you’d expect to see if you’re going sit a guy who’s, you know, a living legend.

Blue Jackets remain in thick of things in Metro on tough night for Red Wings

DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 01:  Boone Jenner #38 of the Columbus Blue Jackets is congratulated by his teammates after scoring the go ahead goal against the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center on December 1, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
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As the Columbus Blue Jackets keep rolling, the Detroit Red Wings are probably just happy to get Friday behind them.

For the second straight game, the Blue Jackets beat their opponent 4-1.

They’re now on a five-game winning streak, and like the climbing St. Louis Blues, things look great if you go back a little further. They’re 10-1-2 in their last 13 games and 13-2-3 since November began.

Columbus is now at 16-5-4, giving them 36 standings points. They’re once again in breathing distance of leading the Metro Division when you consider games in hand.

Update: Here’s how the standings look after the Rangers beat the Blackhawks 1-0 in overtime:

1. Rangers – 39 points in 29 games played
2. Penguins- 37 points in 27 GP
3. Blue Jackets – 36 points in 25 GP
4. Capitals – 35 points in 26 GP
5. Flyers – 35 points in 29 GP

That’s a stout division, and the Blue Jackets remain shockingly effective. Then again, with results like these over and over again, it might be time to merely expect such impressive work.

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For Detroit, it was a rough night. Jonathan Ericsson couldn’t play, Mike Green was a little banged up and Petr Mrazek was pulled for Jimmy Howard. This goal summarized some of their struggles:

Blues blaze through Devils, even in New Jersey

NEWARK, NJ - DECEMBER 09: (L-R) Brad Hunt #77, Robby Fabbri #15 and Vladimir Tarasenko #91 of the St. Louis Blues celebrate Fabri's first period goal against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on December 9, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The New Jersey Devils have been incredibly difficult to beat at home. Lately, the St. Louis Blues have been on a roll just about anywhere.

On Friday night, the Blues were the hotter team, handing the Devils their first home loss in regulation in 2016-17. And it wasn’t particularly close, with St. Louis winning 4-1.

It’s a convenient time to note that the Blues rank among the hottest teams in the NHL. Most recently, they’re 5-1-1 in their last seven games, but they’ve been especially impressive since they flirted with .500 at 7-6-3. Beginning with a 4-1 win against the Buffalo Sabres on Nov. 15, the Blues are on a 8-2-1 tear.

This leaves them second in the Central with a 16-8-4 record.

That’s impressive stuff.

This 4-1 win was quite the showcase for Robby Fabbri and Vladimir Tarasenko, in particular. Tarasenko collected three assists while Fabbri scored two goals on Friday night. His second goal was particularly slick:

The Blues are right in saying that this was a pretty fitting opportunity to drop a “Holy Jumpin.”

Oh yeah, don’t forget about Jake Allen, either.

Leon Draisaitl continues hot streak with silky smooth goal (Video)

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Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk has been the most difficult goalies to score against this season. Leave it to a high-level player like Leon Draisaitl to make it look this, well, “easy.”

Draisaitl scored his 13th goal of 2016-17 by capping this pretty give-and-go play with Benoit Pouliot. You can see the frustration from Dubnyk at the end of the tally, as if he was saying “How was I supposed to stop that?” (though probably with more colorful language).

Draisaitl came into Friday with five goals and three assists in his last five games, so he’s been almost unstoppable lately.

Read more about his rise here.

Update: The Wild were able to shake off that goal, ultimately beating the Oilers 3-2 via a shootout.