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Shane Doan leads Coyotes through adversity, ready to show his “DoanFace” again

Riding the roller coaster of success and failure in Phoenix has been trying at times, but through it all one thing has been constant and that’s the stoic leadership of Shane Doan. With the Coyotes sitting in fourth place in the Western Conference and locked in a battle with the Sharks for the top spot in the Pacific Division, they’re poised to make the playoffs for a second straight year and a threat to go deep in the playoffs. With attention being turned towards the postseason, Doan says staying locked in on getting there isn’t a problem.

“Right now it’s pretty easy (to stay focused) with the playoffs being as close as they are and everything that’s going on and every team seems to be right in the battle. It’s pretty easy to keep your mind focused on what you have to do. I’ve talked about how we can take care of ourselves and if we keep winning we don’t have to worry about anyone else.”

As things go in Phoenix lately, staying focused with what’s going on on the ice can be a bit trying. The continuing off-ice distractions surrounding the possibility of the team being sold either to Matthew Hulsizer or being relocated to Winnipeg if that bid fails are there and if nothing else it seems to have emboldened the team. That said, it’s a distraction nonetheless even for a veteran like Doan.

“It’s difficult when you’re not on the ice. As a dad or a friend or a husband it’s something that comes up in conversation regardless of how you block it out when you get to the dressing room,” Doan says. How does it work in the dressing room though? The strategy is simple to keep the off-ice business out of sight and out of mind.

“The guys here have been phenomenal. From five o’clock on game day to ten o’clock on game day it’s not an issue. It’s not something we choose to discuss and if there is something that goes on regarding it you pretty much ignore it. You have selective hearing and you hear the things you want to hear and you don’t hear the other things.”

Of course with the playoffs on the way and the impression Doan and the Coyotes left on fans last year, most in particular the now famous “DoanFace” (seen above and virtually everywhere else across the Internet), the thought of an encore production makes us wonder just what could possibly top the grand euphoria of the DoanFace.

For the Coyotes captain, he wasn’t even totally aware of the Internet frenzy he created with his goal celebration from Game 2 against Detroit.

“I didn’t know (it was a big deal). Biz, Paul Bissonnette said something to me but I never really… I’m not an overly techie guy. My phone works and that’s the extent of it,” Doan says.

All right so how about an encore performance?

“Nothing would make me happier than having the ability to get that excited about a goal again. Obviously you’ve gotta find ways to get there then once you get there find ways to contribute and help out. We need to find ways to win as a team and we need to find ways get out of the first round. Everybody wants to get to the playoffs and after you get there you want to make some noise.”

Playoff success would be a huge thing for the Coyotes. After going so long without making the playoffs and then going to seven games with the Red Wings before bowing out, getting back to the postseason and winning there would be a big deal for more than the obvious reasons. Doan keeps the focus straight though.

“Right now our focus is the playoffs and getting there. Once we get there I think that everyone thinks that the experience from last year of what happened after game seven and going seven games and not finding ways to win. It’s disappointing and I think people want to answer that.”

The Coyotes marketing slogan this year has been “Don’t Blink” and judging by how Doan controls the room in Phoenix, you might think he’s the mastermind behind that as well. If it translates into playoff success and ultimately a Stanley Cup in the desert, they might not need to worry about moving anywhere ever again.

Khudobin delivered an encouraging performance for the Bruins

Boston Bruins right wing David Pastrnak (88) and left wing Brad Marchand (63) celebrate with goalie Anton Khudobin after he blocked a shot by Carolina Hurricanes left wing Jeff Skinner to win the game, 2-1, in a shootout during an NHL hockey game, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016, in Boston. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
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Anton Khudobin gave the Boston Bruins a much-needed win last night.

He also gave Tuukka Rask a much-welcomed night off.

The Bruins beat the Hurricanes, 2-1, in a shootout at TD Garden. Khudobin made 29 saves, plus two more in the shootout, including the game-decider on Jeff Skinner.

It was an encouraging performance by Khudobin, who returned to the Bruins net for the second time since a conditioning stint in the AHL. It was the first time this season that a Boston goalie other than Rask was credited with a win.

“Very good,” head coach Claude Julien said of Khudobin’s play. “He deserves a lot of accolades tonight, for the way he played, the way he responded after being out such a long time. I think the fact that he went to Providence and played some games there really helped him get back on track. Tonight, he showed that he was ready to play.”

Julien added, “No doubt, there’s a lot of confidence that grew in that dressing room by watching his play and knowing that we’ve got two goaltenders that can play extremely well for us.”

The Bruins did not feel they had good enough backup goaltending the past two seasons, both of which ended outside the playoff picture. And so they bid adieu to Niklas Svedberg and Jonas Gustavsson, bringing Khudobin back into the fold on a two-year contract.

Granted, one win isn’t enough to conclude that Khudobin will be fine. He’s now 1-3-0 with a .902 save percentage, and those numbers could still be much better.

But he’ll be back in there soon enough. The Bruins have 15 more games in December, and Rask isn’t going to play them all.

Blues ‘need more’ from Lehtera, who could be healthy scratched

Jori Lehtera
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Jori Lehtera received one of his lowest ice times of the season in Thursday’s win over Tampa Bay — just 11:21 — and was demoted to the fourth line at Friday’s practice.

If that didn’t send a message, Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock delivered it shortly thereafter.

“We’re going to need more from him,” Hitchcock said, per NHL.com’s Lou Korac. “The position we have him in, we need more from that position.”

Lehtera was signed to a three-year, $14.1 million extension after a solid ’14-15 campaign, in which he scored 14 goals and 44 points in 75 games. His offensive production sagged a bit last year (nine goals, 34 points in 79 games) and he’s gone through some difficult stretches this year.

The 28-year-old Finn had just three points through his first 15 games of the year, but did look as though he’d turned the corner recently. Prior to the Bolts game he had four points in four contests, including his first multi-goal effort of the season (potting a pair in a 4-2 win over Boston).

Clearly, though, Hitchcock thinks there’s more to give.

Per the Post-Dispatch, Hitch said he’s unsure if Lehtera will play on Saturday, when the Blues host the Jets. Nail Yakupov and Ty Rattie both sat out against Tampa Bay, and either one could draw into the lineup.

The Lehtera development comes with the Blues playing some of their best hockey of the year. They’ve won seven of their last eight, and are just four points back of Chicago for top spot in the Western Conference.

Pre-game reading: Some advice for Nolan Patrick

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— Up top, Mike Milbury and Keith Jones discuss the Penguins’ two-goalie situation, which GM Jim Rutherford recently admitted was not working as well as he’d hoped.

Nolan Patrick, the likely first overall pick in the 2017 NHL draft, is currently out with an injury. Tyler Benson, a top draft prospect last year who battled injuries, has some advice for Patrick: “I don’t think he should be worrying about the draft. People know what kind of player he can be. He’s played two years in this league already and he’s dominated. I think he should worry about making sure he’s 100 per cent when he comes back.” Benson was eventually selected 32nd overall by the Oilers. (The Province)

— A couple of weeks ago, Senators owner Eugene Melnyk got mad at the Ottawa Citizen newspaper after an editorial called on him to push for an outdoor game at TD Place. Yada, yada, yada, Melynk is now pushing for an outdoor game at TD Place. (Ottawa Sun)

Hampus Lindholm has been good defensively in his return to the Anaheim Ducks, but with only two assists in his first 11 games, you have to think he’ll want to start contributing more to the offense soon. Lindholm is now the highest-paid defenseman on his team, with a cap hit just over $5 million. And if the Ducks have to trade Cam Fowler at any point, they’ll need Lindholm’s offense even more. That’s just the pressure that comes with a big contract. We’ll see how he fares. (OC Register)

— In 2015-16, no Canadian teams made the NHL playoffs for the first time since 1969-70. So, how are things looking this season? Long story short, quite a bit better. Three of the seven Canadian teams are currently in a playoff spot, and the other four aren’t out of it yet. (TSN)

— What a surprise, the Winnipeg Jets hurt themselves with too many penalties last night against Edmonton. “Those early penalties and how much time we spent in the box early on killed us,” said Bryan Little. “Our PK couldn’t get it done.” This has been a problem for way too long now. Over the last three seasons combined, the Jets have gone shorthanded 686 times, the most in the NHL. Clearly, they aren’t good enough to play with such poor discipline, so perhaps they should figure it out. (Winnipeg Sun)

Enjoy the games!

Goalie nods: It’s Chad Johnson’s net in Calgary

CALGARY, AB - OCTOBER 18: Chad Johnson #31 of the Calgary Flames in action against the Buffalo Sabres during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on October 18, 2016 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
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Chad Johnson, the Flames’ goalie of record in eight of their last 10 games, will once again be in goal when Calgary hosts Minnesota on Friday night.

Johnson, as we’ve written about on numerous occasions, was terrific for the Flames in November, going 7-3-0 with a 1.80 GAA and .939 save percentage. He essentially wrestled the No. 1 gig away from Brian Elliott, and closed out the month in style by posting a 39-save shutout against Toronto on Wednesday.

As a result, Calgary has clawed back from a disappointing start to draw within one point of Nashville for the final wild card spot in the Western Conference (granted, the Flames have played four more games than the Preds).

For the Wild, Devan Dubnyk‘s in goal.

Elsewhere…

— Just one other game this evening, as Montreal takes on the Sharks in San Jose. It promises to be a quality matchup as both teams are rolling with their No. 1s: Carey Price for the Habs, Martin Jones for the Sharks.