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Around the rink – March 1; New faces in new places

7:00 p.m.

Buffalo @ NY Rangers

Brad Boyes should be making his Sabres debut against the Rangers as they’ll play on without having obtained Brad Richards and without injured Martin Biron. If Henrik Lundqvist gets into trouble, former University of Alabama-Huntsville goalie Cam Talbot waits in the wings as his backup. The Sabres desperately need a win and if Boyes can help bring the offense they’re hoping for, they’re capable of making a run.

NY Islanders @ Washington

The Caps will break out all three of Dennis Wideman, Jason Arnott, and Marco Sturm tonight. Mike Green will be out and may be out for the next couple of weeks so Wideman’s arrival is more than helpful. The Caps have won four of their last six and just beat the Isles in New York on Saturday.

Florida @ Carolina

Well this should be an awkward first date. Former Panther Bryan Allen should be suited up for his first game with the Hurricanes tonight. Another former Panther Cory Stillman will at least be there on the same bench with him to make feel a little more comfortable. Former Hurricane Sergei Samsonov will suit up for Florida as well in his first game. With the Panthers in full on mail-it-in mode, the pressure is on the Hurricanes to come away with the win to hold on to the eighth spot in the East.

Montreal @ Atlanta

Speaking of desperate teams, the Thrashers new additions hope to bring them something they’ve found hard to do of late: wins. The Thrashers misery has dropped them to a tie for 10th in the East with Toronto and four points behind Carolina for eighth. They’re not out of it but unless they start getting hot, it’s just not going to happen. With Ondrej Pavelec still out, the pressure is on Chris Mason to get it done for them in goal. Montreal, meanwhile, sits in sixth place three points behind Washington and three ahead of the Rangers. With Boston ahead of them by six points in the Northeast and seemingly ready to pull away, getting ground on the Rangers and catching the Caps becomes their main priority.

7:30 p.m.

Boston @ Ottawa

Boston looks to wrap up their six game road trip undefeated. After getting big wins already against Vancouver and Calgary, the B’s hope to beat Ottawa one more time on their ice on this trip. Ottawa, meanwhile, is in injury shambles and rolling with a lineup that’s essentially Jason Spezza, Chris Phillips, and the Binghamton Senators. Their saving grace might be Craig Anderson in goal who’s accustomed to seeing a ton of shots and playing well under fire. How’s he doing in Ottawa so far? 3-1-0 with a 1.23 goals against and .963 save percentage.

8:00 p.m.

Calgary @ St. Louis

After beating the Blues 1-0 on Sunday in Calgary, they head to St. Louis to try and replicate their fortune to not get lost in the Western playoff shuffle. The Blues would like to defend their home turf and gigantic goalie Ben Bishop will hope to keep his good run of play going getting the nod again tonight. You won’t see new Flames Brett Carson and Fredrik Modin tonight, but you probably won’t see a lot of them anyhow.

9:00 p.m.

Dallas @ Phoenix

Dallas made their commitment to Brad Richards which means they’d better make the playoffs this year. Dealing with a Coyotes team that’s been a bit iffy of late dropping three in a row. Dallas is coming off  big wins over Detroit and Nashville but consistency is what they’ll need. Can they do it? Taking on a bumbling Phoenix team might be the cure they need.

9:30 p.m.

Nashville @ Edmonton

These two were rumored to be working on something at the trade deadline but nothing came from it. Instead, Nashville will look to improve their standing in the race for the playoffs and snap out of their funk completely. They’ve lost four of their last five, but their win over Columbus on Sunday may have helped snap them out of it. Beating the downtrodden and now Dustin Penner-less Oilers would make for a good streak starter.

10:00 p.m.

Columbus @ Vancouver

What’s the worst thing for a team fighting to get in the playoffs to see when they’re just points out of the lead? You guessed it, going on the road to face the best team in the NHL. Both teams have new acquisitions to work in and Scottie Upshall and Sami Lepisto will be of the utmost importance to Columbus’ playoff hopes. Vancouver hopes to quit the stumbling they’ve been doing of late as the Detroit Red Wings are starting to catch up to them points-wise in the race for the top spot out West.

10:30 p.m.

Colorado @ San Jose

It’s never a dull moment with these two teams but with Colorado being really down of late, you can’t help but think that the Sharks are going to be out to roll. Antti Niemi emboldened with his new contract has been on fire and the Colorado offense has cooled off immeasurably lately. Making life harder for the Avs, the Sharks have to keep winning to keep the rest of the Pacific Division off their heels.

Avalanche’s new head coach Bednar is at least saying the right things

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via Colorado Avalanche
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Look, there are exceptions, but new head coach press conferences feature the same basic terms and buzzwords.

After witnessing the high-octane Pittsburgh Penguins skate opponents ragged on their way to the 2016 Stanley Cup, any reasonable coach would throw “speed” into their phrasing.

Still, the Colorado Avalanche have been so deeply buried by even the most basic of modern measurements that you had to wonder: would they learn from Patrick Roy’s struggles? Can someone come in and at least attempt to keep up with the pack?

We won’t know for sure anytime soon, but hey, at least Jared Bednar seems to be saying the right things as he transitions from the AHL to the Avalanche’s head coaching gig.

When discussing his hire with NHL Network, Bednar seemed confident that his style in the AHL – “Up-tempo, aggressive style in all three zones of the rink” – will translate well in Colorado.

That interview hits the beats you’d expect from job interviews beyond hockey. There’s even a “detail-oriented” bit.

(If you space out, you might just assume there’s a mention of thinking outside the box, like every corporate interview in human history.)

Still, it’s OK to settle for baby steps, especially considering the tough situation Patrick Roy created in abruptly skipping town. For many, it might just be comforting to note that Bednar doesn’t outright dismissive “analytics” or “fancy stats.”

Mile High Hockey brings up a great point: if nothing else, the spotlight will shift from the Avalanche’s flamboyant head coach to the talented core of young players.

So, not only is Colorado bringing in a coach who is as savvy with spreadsheets as he is with the wipe-off board, but he’s going to allow the players to crawl out from under Roy and finally earn their own accomplishments. This is every bit as important as fixing the breakout play or eliminating the Collapse-O-Rama™ defensive system.

(Collapse-O-Rama, huh? Can we stash that term for future use regarding another coach or two?)

Bednar isn’t a retread, so we only know so much about what to expect.

There are positive early signs. Roll your eyes all you want, we have seen more than a few successful transitions from AHL glory (Bednar just won the Calder Cup) to the NHL.

He’s not necessarily anti-information and seems at least interested in implementing modern, attacking systems. Attacking systems that, theoretically, would best suit the talents of a gifted-but-flawed group.

It all feels a little vague, but then again, it’s not even September yet. So far, so good.

One way or another, Al Montoya will be important to Canadiens

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 02:  Goalie Al Montoya #35 of the Florida Panthers looks on in the second period against the Washington Capitals at Verizon Center on February 2, 2016 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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This is part of Canadiens day at PHT …

Here’s an unsolicited opinion: a good backup goalie is often underrated.

Yes, getting a quality Plan B is easier said than done – goalies are an unpredictable lot – but it’s simple to see when it pays off.

(There are plenty of examples, but Matt Murray winning a Stanley Cup for the Pittsburgh Penguins is the shiniest one.)

Even if injuries aren’t a big issue, a No. 2 goalie is a pretty safe bet to play 20 games for a given team. In that regard, Al Montoya could be a significant upgrade over Mike Condon, and that could be important.

Waning workhorses

In 2015-16, no goalie played 70 regular season games. Jonathan Quick was the workhorse of the NHL with 68, while only 10 played at least 60. So, more than two-thirds of last season’s teams needed at least 24 games from their lesser-paid goalies.

Even in Carey Price‘s dominant 2014-15 campaign, he played 66 games while Dustin Tokarski was in net for 17.

Let’s ponder the outlook for a variety of scenarios as Price hopes to rebound from injury:

If Price resumes Vezina-caliber form

As PHT notes, Price seems confident that he’s at 100 percent.

That’s great … but what else is he going to say? Knee injuries can beguile just about any athlete.

He does admit that he’s getting up there in age a bit – relative to the sport, mind you – at 29. Earlier this summer, the Hockey News went over Montreal’s plan to scale Price’s workload a bit, injured or not.

So, even in a dream scenario, Montoya and/or Condon will still see plenty of reps.

If Price falters

The Canadiens are expected to live or die by Price. Let’s not kid ourselves.

The leash might not be very long for Michel Therrien if Price really falls on his face, however. A Condon-led Habs team stumbled terribly, but what might we see from Montoya being thrust into the spotlight for performance reasons?

  • With a .909 career save percentage, Montoya’s experienced his stumbles in the NHL. Montreal has to hope he follows more of the path from strong showings in 2013-14 (13-8-3, .920 save percentage with Winnipeg) and 2015-16 (12-7-3, .919 save percentage with Florida).

Long story short, there were flashes of the brilliance you’d expect from a guy who went sixth overall in 2004.

  • The good news is that he’s accustomed to a fairly heavy backup duty. He set a career-high with 31 games played and 26 starts with the Islanders in 2011-12. Including that season, he’s enjoyed 20+ appearances in five of his last six seasons.
  • The bad news is that he hasn’t ever even carried half of a season’s workload so …

Yes, a Price re-injury would be disastrous

Montoya hasn’t been “the guy” before, certainly not in a pressure-cooker like Montreal. Condon’s opportunity didn’t go especially well.

One can understand ownership giving Therrien and GM Marc Bergevin something of a “Price pass” after 2015-16, but would there be the same level of acceptance if they couldn’t thrive without their star goalie again? You’d have to ask about lessons learned.

***

Long story short, Montoya matters to Montreal. The Canadiens just have to hope that he doesn’t matter too much.

 

Ducks lock up 2016 first-rounder Max Jones

BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 24:  Max Jones poses for a portrait after being selected 24th overall by the Anaheim Ducks in round one during the 2016 NHL Draft on June 24, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Jeffrey T. Barnes/Getty Images)
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The Anaheim Ducks handed their 2016 first-round draft pick Max Jones an entry-level contract on Friday.

Anaheim selected Jones 24th overall. It looks like he’s getting a pretty typical rookie deal, according to reporters including NHL.com’s Curtis Zupke.

In PHT’s “Get to Know a Draft Pick” series, THN’s Ryan Kennedy described Jones as “a power forward who can make you look silly with his offensive moves or simply plow you through the boards.”

Jones was one of three London Knights players who went in the first round in 2016, following Olli Juolevi (fifth overall) and Matthew Tkachuk (sixth overall). He certainly seemed to enjoy the team’s Memorial Cup victory:

You never really know for certain, but one would imagine that Jones may take a season or two to make it to the NHL level with the Ducks. From the sound of things, he’s in the sort of power forward mold that the team’s had a lot of success with.

With Lehner injured, Enroth will be in Sweden’s goalie mix at World Cup

BUFFALO, NY - OCTOBER 04: Jhonas Enroth #1 of the Buffalo Sabres and Robin Lehner #40 of the Ottawa Senators warm up to play at First Niagara Center on October 4, 2013 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Jen Fuller/Getty Images)
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NEW YORK (AP) Sweden has selected Jhonas Enroth to replace injured goaltender Robin Lehner on its World Cup of Hockey roster.

Lehner was bothered by an ankle injury last season while playing for the Buffalo Sabres. Sweden coach Rikard Gronborg said Lehner had not recovered 100 percent.

Enroth, who signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs, joins Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers and Jacob Markstrom of the Vancouver Canucks as the goalies on Sweden’s roster.

The 28-year-old has a 2.80 goals-against average and .911 save percentage in 147 career NHL games. Enroth was on the Swedish team that earned a silver medal at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, though he never appeared in a game.

Enroth started for Sweden at the 2015 world hockey championship.

The World Cup begins Sept. 17 in Toronto.