Blackhawks keep rolling, shutout Predators 3-0 and rejoin playoff discussion

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Don’t call it a comeback for the defending Stanley Cup champions, but they’re getting their act together finally in the Western Conference. With coach Joel Quenneville back behind the bench after missing a few games with a bleeding ulcer and Corey Crawford once again in goal, the Blackhawks came out motivated and away with a 3-0 win. For Crawford, the shutout is his third of the year and he had to make 31 saves tonight to earn it. Mission accomplished for the rookie netminder as it gives him his 21st win on the season and merits him some discussion in the race for the Calder Trophy.

Patrick Sharp had an empty net goal, his 32nd goal of the year,  and an assist on Tomas Kopecky’s goal that kicked off scoring in the first period. Marian Hossa also added a goal, his 14th of the year. It was Hossa’s first non-empty net goal since January 23rd, a span of nine games.

The loss temporarily knocks the Predators out of the Western Conference’s top eight and vaults Chicago into it. Doing this brand of playoff watch in the West will make fans of any of the eight teams within range of the final four spots in the conference reach for the antacids daily. The key here is to just make sure your team keeps winning. Just last week we were talking about how dire things were looking for Chicago and now they’re back into the mix. Perhaps by mid-March we’ll get a better handle on things.

For now, we can say that the death of the Stanley Cup champions’ playoff hopes were greatly exaggerated. By next week we could be back to burying them. Enjoy it for the time being.

Larkin will start season with Red Wings

Dylan Larkin
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Dylan Larkin — despite being just 19 years old — will begin the season on the Detroit Red Wings, a team not normally accustomed to having teenagers in the lineup.

Coach Jeff Blashill confirmed the news this morning. Larkin could apparently start on a line with Henrik Zetterberg and Justin Abdelkader.

Larkin, the 15th overall pick in the 2014 draft, had three goals and one assist in five preseason games. A natural center, he’s shown the potential to one day step into the kind of “big-time” role that Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk have played for so long in Detroit.

“You have to give our scouts credit,” former coach Mike Babcock told ESPN in May. “We got a great pick where we picked. How high end is he? How soon?”

Related: Coaching change ‘one of the reasons’ Larkin signed with Wings

Preseason stats: Five goalies with good numbers, five goalies with…not

Anders Nilsson
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Yeah, yeah, it’s a small sample size and it’s just the preseason, but here are some goaltending stats anyway.

Five goalies with good numbers

Anders Nilsson, Edmonton — zero goals on 53 shots. His solid play a likely factor in the decision to waive Ben Scrivens, who actually wasn’t that bad in the preseason (4 goals on 56 shots).

Martin Jones, San Jose — three goals on 100 shots. The Sharks are rolling the dice on a couple of cheap goalies. Jones and Alex Stalock have a combined cap hit of just $4.6 million.

Jacob Markstom, Vancouver — three goals on 79 shots. Can he finally get over the NHL hump? If so, he could make it a real competition with Ryan Miller.

Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus — five goals on 122 shots. The Blue Jackets have scored a ton of goals in the preseason, but there remain questions about their blue line. Bobrovsky has the ability to make a so-so defense look good.

Anton Khudobin, Anaheim — two goals on 67 shots. A good early sign for the Ducks, who have Frederik Andersen in the starting role and want to give young John Gibson more time to develop in the AHL.

Five goalies with bad numbers

Thomas Greiss, Islanders — 14 goals on 94 shots. Has to be a bit of concern in Brooklyn. The Isles got below-average backup play last season from Chad Johnson. They wanted to fix that with the Greiss signing.

Robin Lehner, Buffalo — 11 goals on 95 shots. Tim Murray paid a hefty price to get the 24-year-old out of Ottawa. With the aforementioned Johnson in the backup role, the goaltending story is worth watching.

Jeff Zatkoff, Pittsburgh — 11 goals on 74 shots. Granted, Marc-Andre Fleury and Matthew Murray weren’t particularly sharp either. The Penguins conceded 28 goals in eight games.

Kari Lehtonen, Dallas — 15 goals on 84 shots. For a Stars team that desperately needs better goaltending, that has to be worrying. Antti Niemi wasn’t a whole lot better either, allowing eight goals on 65 shots. Fair question to ask — how many of all those goals were attributable to poor defensive play?

Pekka Rinne, Nashville — 12 goals on 91 shots. Has earned the benefit of the doubt, but thought we’d point it out anyway.