Claude Noel, Kevin Cheveldayoff

Claude Noel: The official head coach of the unofficial Winnipeg Jets

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While word circulates that True North’s new Winnipeg team will indeed be the Jets, that official announcement will have to wait. There was, however, one official confirmation of well-founded rumors today as the team officially named Claude Noel their new head coach.

This completes a dramatic front office upheaval in which the team added a new general manager (Kevin Cheveldayoff replaces Rick Dudley), a new head coach (Noel for Craig Ramsay) and replaced various staff members from the Atlanta Thrashers days with members of their AHL franchise, the Manitoba Moose.

Noel gave a rather odd quote in reaction to the news that he would be the new head coach while Cheveldayoff described the hiring process as “thorough.”

“I leaned over on a can of tomatoes and thought and took about a minute,” Noel said Friday. “I was both nervous and when I got the news I was extremely excited. There was a lot of emotion. I’ve gone through this process a few times. I can’t wait to get started. I can’t tell you how happy I am. In my world there’s a high level of joy.”

(snip)

True North decided on Noel after what Winnipeg general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff described as a “thorough process.”

“It is very exciting for me to be standing here knowing how strongly we feel that we have found that guy, and that the group of young players that we have moving forward,” Cheveldayoff said. “The young players that we’re going to be drafting here today are going to be coached by a guy that is a tremendous leader, a person who spends a lot of time getting to know each and every individual player.

“A coach that over the course of our due diligence that we talked to many, many players who have played for him, was coached by him, that said the dressing room was a fun place to be. It was a place where we enjoyed coming to the rink, that on the bench we enjoyed playing for him … and that he was a fair, and kept everybody accountable.”

Here is a quick rundown of Noel’s coaching credentials and the challenges he will face in his first season on the job from yesterday’s post.

Noel should be familiar to Winnipeg hockey fans after spending one season as the head coach of the AHL’s Manitoba Moose. He also spent four seasons as the head coach of the Milwaukee Admirals and was an assistant coach for the Columbus Blue Jackets for three years. Noel had a brief stint as interim head coach of the Blue Jackets, coaching 24 games after Ken Hitchcock was fired in 2010.

It could be a challenging first year for Noel and the Winnipeg Whatevers. They’ll remain in the Southeast Division this season, likely putting a great amount of strain on the team during road trips. The former Atlanta Thrashers roster was in a transition, too, so it’s not as if he will enjoy an overwhelming amount of talent. (Unless, of course, Cheveldayoff re-makes the team with some star free agents.)

Goalie nods: Backup extraordinaire Montoya gets the call versus Wings

Florida Panthers goalie Al Montoya watches game action against the New Jersey Devils' during the second period of a NHL hockey game in Sunrise, Fla., Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)
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The Florida Panthers have had no problem giving Roberto Luongo the odd night off this season. That’s because Al Montoya has been one of the best backups in the league.

Montoya (8-2-1, .931) will get the call tonight in Detroit, with Luongo (23-13-5, .930) expected to start tomorrow in Buffalo.

The Panthers have the highest team save percentage in the NHL, at .926 (which includes empty-net goals).

“They both give us a chance to win every night,” Panthers d-man Brian Campbell told the Miami Herald recently. “Both make huge saves for us at times. You need consistent saves every night and they both bring it. Montoya gets put into a tough spot a lot of times and nothing seems to change.”

Beyond Montoya, other NHL backups with particularly good numbers include the Flyers’ Michal Neuvirth (.933), the Kings’ Jhonas Enroth (.931), the Blues’ Brian Elliott (.930), the Islanders’ Thomas Greiss (.929), and the Wild’s Darcy Kuemper (.928).

Petr Mrazek will start for the Red Wings. He used to be Detroit’s backup, but he’s since surpassed Jimmy Howard for the starting job.

Elsewhere…

Cory Schneider for the Devils at MSG, versus Henrik Lundqvist for the Rangers.

John Gibson for the Ducks in Pittsburgh, versus Marc-Andre Fleury for the Penguins.

— Andrei Vasilevskiy for the Lightning in Ottawa, versus Craig Anderson for the Sens.

Blues put Pietrangelo on IR with knee injury

Pietrangelo-Coyle
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Not good news for the St. Louis Blues — the club announced this morning that defenseman Alex Pietrangelo has been placed on injured reserve with a right-knee injury. He’ll be re-evaluated in three weeks.

Pietrangelo suffered the injury Saturday in a knee-on-knee collision with Minnesota’s Charlie Coyle.

Based on the timeline provided, the Blues will be without their leader in average ice time (26:40) until at least the end of the month. St. Louis plays 10 times between now and Feb. 29, which also happens to be the trade deadline.

The big question, of course, is whether Pietrangelo will be ready to go upon re-evaluation.

The first day of the playoffs is April 13.

Update:

Related: Armstrong wants Blues to get healthy before any trades are made

“I wonder if that’s Crosby, what happens?’ — AV upset after McDonagh concussed by Simmonds

Alain Vigneault
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Alain Vigneault took another shot at the NHL’s Department of Player Safety today.

This time, the Rangers head coach was upset about the lack of supplementary discipline for Philadelphia’s Wayne Simmonds in the wake of Saturday’s altercation with New York captain Ryan McDonagh.

“An All-Star player gets sucker-punched, goes down,” Vigneault said, per The Record. “I wonder if that’s (Sidney) Crosby, what happens? What are the consequences? And, on top of that, a player breaks his stick, throws it at the referees. In the rulebook, that’s automatic. It’s three games. Nothing happens. It’s not even on the sheet after the game.”

Simmonds’ punch left McDonagh concussed and unable to play tonight versus New Jersey, with no timetable for his return.

Earlier this season, Vigneault voiced his frustration with the league after Rangers center Derek Stepan suffered broken ribs in Boston on a hit from Bruins forward Matt Beleskey.

Vigneault felt the hit was late.

“I remember Aaron Rome in this building, .6 seconds late, getting suspended four games in the Stanley Cup Final,” the former Vancouver Canucks coach said, recalling the contentious 2011 final.

Beleskey was not suspended.

Crosby, Karlsson and Trocheck are NHL’s three stars of the week

Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby celebrates his goal during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Carolina Hurricanes in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2016. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
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Penguins center Sidney Crosby, Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson, and Panthers center Vincent Trocheck have been named the NHL’s three stars for the past week.

From the NHL:

Crosby led the League in goals and points (5-3-8) in three games as the Penguins (26-18-7, 59 points) earned four of a possible six points to secure the second Wild Card position in the Eastern Conference.

Karlsson led the League in assists and ranked second in points (0-7-7) in three games as the Senators (24-23-6, 54 points) won one of three starts for the week.

Trocheck notched six points (3-3—6) in three games, helping the Panthers (31-15-6, 68 points) widen their lead atop the Atlantic Division to six points.

Related: Red-hot Crosby could make Pens a flawed (but dangerous) dark horse