Jimmy Howard, Niklas Hagman

Niklas Hagman could be odd man out after Flames re-sign Brendan Morrison

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After scoring 20+ goals three different times – twice with the Dallas Stars, once in 55 games with the Toronto Maple Leafs – Niklas Hagman’s career seems to have hit a wall with the Calgary Flames.

Hagman struggled after arriving in Calgary midway through the 2009-10 season, scoring just 11 points in 27 games. Things got worsened in a 2010-11 season in which he mustered 27 points in 71 games while falling out of favor enough to be placed on (and eventually clear) waivers.

After re-signing Brendan Morrison to a one-year, $1.25 million deal, the Flames must deal with a logjam at the forward position. The Calgary Herald’s Vicki Hall points to Hagman as a possible trade target now that the Flames have 13 forwards committed to one-way contracts without even including Mikael Backlund.

The signing of Morrison makes clear that Feaster still has moves to make with 13 forwards on one-way contracts, not including young Mikael Backlund.

Veteran Niklas Hagman ($3 million) is a prime candidate for a change in address should the Flames find a team ready to take a chance on him rediscovering his 20-goal form.

The Flames seemingly have a tendency to overlook the positive side of letting certain players’ contracts might expire. The advantage to such a situation is obvious: the team would enjoy salary cap savings once that player’s salary dissolves.

One of the most stunning examples occurred when they traded Olli Jokinen (and Brandon Prust) to the New York Rangers for Ales Kotalik and Chris Higgins on March 4, 2009. Instead of getting $5.25 million in cap space by letting Jokinen’s expiring contract roll off the books, the Flames gave themselves a new (albeit smaller) cap headache in Kotalik and a player who wouldn’t serve much of a purpose for them in Higgins. Oddly enough, Jokinen returned to the Flames in 2010-11 while Higgins succeeded in Vancouver and Calgary finally got rid of Kotalik this summer.

To be fair, that strange decision regarding Jokinen happened under Darryl Sutter’s watch. I haven’t been on board with every move new GM Jay Feaster has made, but we’ll see what he ends up doing this off-season before getting too critical. Making a smart move to trim down this roster would be a good start.

Eichel makes everyone look silly, Varlamov gets the early hook

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You know, with Connor McDavid hogging so much attention, it’s about time that Jack Eichel provided us with another awesome goal.

That tally came at the Colorado Avalanche’s (and especially Semyon Varlamov‘s) expense as that was the Buffalo Sabres first shot of the game.

Patrick Roy apparently felt like this just wasn’t Varlamov’s afternoon, as Colorado’s head coach decided to pull him after Varly allowed two goals on as many shots. Evander Kane nabbed the other goal for Buffalo.

You can watch the goal in the video above, which reminds us that “Eichel Tower” might not be a unique pun.

Another shot of it:

Check out Kane’s goal, too:

To be fair to Varlamov, Calvin Pickard has already allowed a goal as well. The Sabres are currently off to a 3-0 lead, and maybe a small roll considering how well they played against Montreal on Friday?

NHL on NBC: Red Wings, Bruins fight for Atlantic positioning

Detroit Red Wings center Dylan Larkin (71) keeps Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara (33) from the puck in the second period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2015 in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
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Both the Detroit Red Wings and Boston Bruins are finding new ways to win these days, and while they might not be as obvious contenders as they once were, each team can still be dangerous.

Sunday’s NBC game proves enticing for plenty of reasons, yet the most obvious is that if the postseason began today, these two squads would face off in an intriguing first-round matchup.

The Bruins have taken the first two games between these teams in 2015-16, but they might be forced to face the Red Wings without crucial forward Patrice Bergeron, who may have been injured during an unlikely fight with Blake Wheeler.

Detroit features Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk as usual, although Dylan Larkin is a new, ultra-speedy forward who is worthy of plenty of attention in his own right.

While Jeff Blashill continues to establish himself following up Mike Babcock, Claude Julien recently hit a milestone with his 500th win and earned plaudits from CSNNE.com as one of the best coaches in the league.

(Speaking of milestones, Brad Richards is expected to play in his 1,100th game.)

Boston currently holds the second spot in the Atlantic with 66 points in 55 games played, but Detroit is right behind them with 65 in as many contests. With the Tampa Bay Lightning hovering nearby, each team likely recognizes this as an important game.

Goalie nods: Backups battle as Kinkaid faces Enroth

Los Angeles Kings goalie Jhonas Enroth, of Sweden, deflects a shot off the stick of a Colorado Avalanche player in the first period of an NHL hockey game, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
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The New Jersey Devils and Los Angeles Kings prefer to lean on workhorse goalies Cory Schneider and Jonathan Quick respectively, but Sunday presents a change of pace.

In the Kings’ case, Jhonas Enroth is playing in part because of (what Los Angeles hopes is) a minor injury to Quick.

It’s true that the under-sized goalie sports a mediocre 4-4-1 record, but he’s given the Kings legitimate chances to win games considering his impressive (especially for a backup) save percentage of .925. Perhaps he can earn a few more reps if he plays well in what may be a tight game?

Speaking of earning more reps, Keith Kinkaid must continue to work to prove that he’s able to make the jump from AHL goalie to at least an NHL backup. The Kings aren’t likely to make it easy for him, either.

Elsewhere …

Avalanche at Sabres: Semyon Varlamov vs. Robin Lehner

Bruins at Red Wings: Possibly Tuukka Rask vs. Petr Mrazek

Blues at Lightning: Best guess – Brian Elliott vs. Ben Bishop

Flyers at Rangers: Steve Mason vs. (possibly) Henrik Lundqvist

Fight video: Someone other than Evander Kane beats up Alex Petrovic

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Bummed out on this holiday? Look on the bright side: at least you’re not as sore as Florida Panthers defenseman Alex Petrovic likely is right now.

Not long after suffering three defeats at the hands/fists of Evander Kane, Petrovic likely lost another bout to Nashville Predators tough guy Anthony Bitetto.

(Note: some might consider this more of a draw, for what it’s worth. You can watch that latest fight in the video above.)

Hey, at least Bitetto didn’t taunt Petrovic after their fight …

It was a rough night for the Panthers overall, as they suffered a gruesome injury or two and fell to the Predators by a score of 5-0.