Detroit Red Wings officially announce Ty Conklin’s one-year contract

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As we speculated last night, the Detroit Red Wings will indeed roll with a familiar face as Jimmy Howard’s backup during the 2011-12 season. The team confirmed that they signed Ty Conklin to a one-year contract, although they didn’t disclose how much money he will make. Ansar Khan reports that it will be less than $1 million, so it sounds like Conklin will receive a little bit less than what’s been the going rate for experienced backups during this off-season.

Red Wings fans should be familiar with Conklin, who helped save the team’s 2008-09 season. Conklin was supposed to serve as Chris Osgood’s backup, but he played nearly half the campaign by going 25-11-2 with a .909 save percentage, 2.51 GAA and six shutouts in 40 games played.

The Red Wings needed to let Conklin go to make room for Jimmy Howard in 2009. This allowed Conklin to sign a two-year deal with the St. Louis Blues. He was fantastic in 2009-10 (10-10-2 with an outstanding .921 save percentage and 2.48 GAA in 26 games played) but had a dreadful 10-11 (8-8-4 with an abysmal .881 save percentage and 3.22 GAA in 25 GP). Obviously, the Red Wings are hoping they get the “good” Conklin instead of the 10-11 version this season.

Either way, if Howard is healthy, fans probably won’t see a ton of Conklin. Howard played in 63 games for two straight seasons, so it’s possible that Conklin will appear in the least amount of games since he played in just 16 during the 06-07 season.

The good news for Detroit is that they have flexibility because they also Joey MacDonald locked up to a two-way deal. They might need some strong play from whomever gets the nod in net (ideally Howard, of course) because their defense could go through a bit of a transitional period with Nicklas Lidstrom moving toward retirement, Brian Rafalski already there and some new pieces in place.

Video: Drew Doughty (mostly) avoids massive Matthew Tkachuk hit

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Hockey is such a fast sport that it’s probably not so easy to make someone your “target.” Instead, a big hit often comes down to the right combination of circumstance and timing.

Still, there’s no denying that Matthew Tkachuk is gunning for Drew Doughty (and the Kings are gunning for Tkachuk) on Wednesday.

Doughty isn’t oblivious to that notion, either, as you can see him avoid what looked like a pretty terrifying hit above.

We’ve already covered the early violence in this game, and it’s quite possible that there will be more carnage going forward. Stay tuned.

Blackhawks bolster Central lead, shine harsh light on Penguins’ struggles

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Blame it on injuries if you want, or emphasize the Chicago Blackhawks’ overall hot finish to the season. Either way, Chicago scorched the Pittsburgh Penguins by a score of 5-1, a contest that felt more or less over by the time the first period ended 4-0 in the Blackhawks’ favor.

The Blackhawks scored by committee on Wednesday, with Artemi Panarin (goal, assist) and Patrick Kane (two assists) being the headliners. Meanwhile, former Penguin Marian Hossa has quietly climbed to 25 goals on the season.

Meanwhile, the Penguins limped through this one and have now lost four consecutive games.

With this result, the Blackhawks look like close to a lock to win the Central Division title. Meanwhile, the Metro crown is virtually unthinkable for Pittsburgh, and the Penguins might also need to accept the likelihood that they may not enjoy home-ice advantage in the first round.

They’d probably accept that more easily if they can get healthier and get back on track. Wednesday was a little worrisome in those regards.

Video: An early taste of the Tkachuk-inspired violence in Kings vs. Flames

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BREAKING: the Los Angeles Kings really don’t appreciate Calgary Flames rookie-pest-forward Matthew Tkachuk thanks to that elbow on Drew Doughty (and the fallout from all … that).

Tkachuk responded by critiquing Doughty for “complaining to the media,” so there was testiness from the start.

There was jawing before the game. Then Jake Muzzin rebuked Tkachuk’s kind offer for a fight. Finally, Keith’s son dropped the gloves with Brayden McNabb:

It wasn’t the only bout of the opening frame, and there could be more blood to come beyond this Jarome IginlaDeryk Engelland feud:

Players from both teams better keep their heads up (and on a swivel) tonight. The Flames have to hope that this doesn’t result in injuries, judging from what happened to Johnny Gaudreau.

Avalanche sign Toews-like first-rounder Tyson Jost

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Things have been pretty bleak for the Colorado Avalanche this season, but at least they can look to a high pick in the next draft … and maybe dream about how their top pick from 2016 may pan out.

The Avs signed Tyson Jost, the 10th pick of the 2016 NHL Draft, to an entry-level contract on Wednesday. Colorado notes that he’ll jump right into some NHL action to close out this season.

It’s a nice sneak preview, as NHL insider Bob McKenzie noted on an NBCSN appearance (see above) that doing so will not burn the first year of Jost’s entry-level contract. Nice.

Even nicer? McKenzie also compares Jost favorably to … (drum-roll, though the headline spoiled it) Jonathan Toews.

Most obviously, the two both starred at the University of North Dakota. For the sake of fun, here are their numbers in their final years in the NCAA:

Jost: 16 goals, 35 points in 33 games, +17 rating (2016-17)
Toews: 18 goals, 46 points in 34 games (2006-07)

Naturally, Toews enthusiasts in particular will tell you that points aren’t everything … but maybe there are some shades of the two-way Blackhawks center there?

The Hockey News’ Ryan Kennedy raved that Jost has “man-strength already” back around the 2016 NHL Draft, as you can see in this profile.

“Jost oozes confidence and already looks like NHL captain material for the future.”

Hey, that does sound at least somewhat Toews-like, doesn’t it?

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In other signing news, the Buffalo News’ Mike Harrington reports that the Buffalo Sabres signed UMass-Lowell’s CJ Smith. More on that below.