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Chris Osgood’s retirement also marks the likely end of his distinct mask

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Ever since Jacques Plante defied the NHL’s He-Man culture by donning a mask, people have taken notice of a netminder’s headgear. From the inventive stitching scheme worn by Gerry Cheevers to Gilles Gratton’s out-there tiger mask, many goalies are remembered for the creative designs that adorned their masks.

Artwork is really the only way to spot much personality in a goalie’s mask anymore, which seems fitting since most netminders share the same butterfly techniques on the ice. You can’t really blame goalies going with the modern framework of masks, however, because the bottom line is that they provide unprecedented (though not perfect) protection from the vulcanized rubber that can travel toward their heads.

Chris Osgood will be remembered for notching 401 wins and being the on-and-off starter for the dynastic Detroit Red Wings, but his retirement could also mean the end of his old school helmet. That’s something that the Toronto Star’s Denis Grignon discussed in this interesting story.

“We’d look at our reflection in the glass and think, ‘yeah, this is cool,’ ” reminisces Osgood about his time playing junior in Medicine Hat, about wearing the helmet and cat’s eye cage combo, which morphed into Bauer and Winwell versions in later years.

(snip)

“I was always laid back,” said Osgood. “(Other goalies) would get their masks painted. I never wanted any attention on myself. And that’s what my helmet represented.”

Former Maple Leaf Glenn Healy, who wore The Helmet for his entire career until he retired in 2001, concurs.

“We weren’t one of those guys who gets his fancy little mask airbrushed with your superheroes on it,” says Healy, now a colour commentator with Hockey Night in Canada. “Dressing yourself up like some kind of rock star . . . you got KISS on your helmet? Give me a break. Just play the game.”

Sometimes it’s a matter of preference, but the article reveals that this particular fashion choice came with some pretty painful disadvantages. Grignon explains that while modern headgear is shaped to make pucks deflect off the head and face, Osgood and Healy’s preferred style absorbs the full impact of a shot. Healy admitted that he dealt with more than a hundred stitches because of that choice, while Dan Cloutier – one of its last proponents – said that Los Angeles Kings management asked him to change his mask for “insurance reasons.” (Cloutier’s career ended soon after anyway, but his problems weren’t related to his choice of headgear.)

Beyond “The Helmet” being a preference that produces extra pain, the nearly-obsolete model follows the path of other things that go out of circulation: replacement parts are hard to find. That created a “constant quest” for Healy and other users, who were forced to “scrounge” for parts at beer leagues and other atypical outlets.

Osgood apparently had a little better luck as he received masks and spare parts for various benefactors, with the Red Wings’ play-by-play guy Mickey Redmond even asking fans to help out. That being said, Osgood’s equipment situation was still a bit unusual.

And when the team masseuse remembered he had two HM30s in his garage back home in Moscow, Boyer promptly had them shipped.

“Yeah,” saids Boyer. “Ozzie finished his career with a helmet from the Red Army.”

While Craig MacTavish is known for being the last NHLer brazen enough to play without a helmet, Osgood might be the final high-level practitioner of “The Helmet.” It’s a bit sad to see something that unique go away, but considering the safety risks involved with wearing that type of mask, it might be better off as a relic of the past.

(H/T to Kukla’s Korner.)

Sabres welcome back oft-injured Kulikov, who has missed 26 games

CALGARY, AB - OCTOBER 18: Dmitry Kulikov #77 of the Buffalo Sabres in action against the Calgary Flames 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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Dmitry Kulikov‘s first year in Buffalo has largely been defined by his lingering back injury, but he’ll set about changing that narrative when he returns to the lineup tonight in Nashville.

Today, Sabres head coach Dan Bylsma confirmed Kulikov would play for the first time since Dec. 27, having missed nearly a month with his lingering ailment.

Kulikov also missed 13 games earlier in the year with the same back problem.

Acquired at last year’s draft in a deal that sent Mark Pysyk to Florida — along with picks being exchanged — Kulikov was expected to play a big role in Buffalo this season, and projected to play on the club’s top defensive pairing with Rasmus Ristolainen.

“You watch Florida when they go on the PK; he was the first guy on the ice, when they needed a goal on the playoffs he was on the ice, when they needed to protect a lead late in the game he was on the ice,” Sabres GM Tim Murray said at the time of the trade, per NHL.com. “So we certainly liked what we saw.”

All told, the 26-year-old Russian’s appeared in just 20 games this year, registering a single point. He has averaged over 22 minutes per, though — meaning head coach Dan Bylsma has used Kulikov quite a bit, when available.

Kulikov didn’t take this morning’s skate, so no clear indication on who he’ll pair with this evening.

Coyotes’ Holland fined for punching Palat

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Arizona’s Peter Holland has been fined $3,611.11, the maximum allowable under CBA, for punching Tampa Bay’s Ondrej Palat during Saturday’s Coyotes-Lightning game in Glendale.

Holland threw the punch halfway through the second period after getting taken out along the boards by Palat. Holland didn’t like the hit, so he got up, dropped his gloves, and leveled the unsuspecting Palat with a bare fist to the face.

Holland received four minutes for roughing, but the Lightning failed to capitalize with the man advantage.

The Coyotes would go on to win, 5-3.

Ladd back for Isles, who are playing well lately

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 26:  Andrew Ladd #16 of the New York Islanders skates against the Montreal Canadiens at the Barclays Center on October 26, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. The Canadiens defeated the Islanders 3-2.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The streaking New York Islanders will get a key piece back on Tuesday, as Andrew Ladd returns from a four-game absence to face the visiting Blue Jackets.

Ladd has been out of the lineup since Jan. 16 with an upper-body injury.

“I just wanted to be a part of the way we’ve been playing the last little bit, last five games and have put ourselves back in the position where we can get into the playoff race,” Ladd said, per the Isles’ website. “You try to inject some energy, some emotion into getting back in the lineup and just want to be a part of winning some hockey games. I’m excited to get back in there.”

As mentioned, the Isles are on a bit of a roll. They’re 4-1-1 in their last six and have points in four straight games, all of which came under interim bench boss Doug Weight. Weight, of course, took over from Jack Capuano after the longtime head coach was fired from his post last week.

Ladd’s largely been a disappointment this season after signing a monster seven-year, $38.5 million deal in free agency. He has just eight goals and 12 points through 41 games, but did have a decent stretch of production prior to getting hurt.

The biggest reason for New York’s improved play lately has been Thomas Greiss. Now firmly locked into the starting gig — after Jaroslav Halak cleared waivers and sent to the minors — Greiss has gone 2-0-1 in his last three starts with a 0.98 GAA, and .971 save percentage.

Unsurprisingly, Greiss will get the nod against Columbus this evening.

If the Isles can get another result tonight, they could draw closer to the idle Flyers in the wild card chase. New York currently sits just five back of Philly for the final spot, but needs to leapfrog five teams — Boston, Florida, Carolina, New Jersey and Detroit — to get there.

 

 

Elliott has cooled off, and so have the Flames

EDMONTON, AB - OCTOBER 12:  Goalie Brian Elliott #1 of the Calgary Flames covers up the puck while playing against the Edmonton Oilers on October 12, 2016 at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)
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It looked for a while like Brian Elliott had regained his form. From Dec. 14 to Jan. 5, he went 5-0-0 with a .922 save percentage.

Alas, things have gone sideways again. From Jan. 6 onward, Elliott has gone 0-3-1 with an .872 save percentage. Last night, he allowed four goals on 28 shots as his Calgary Flames fell, 4-0, in Toronto.

“I think the difference tonight was they capitalized on some chances that they had and we had some really good looks that we didn’t capitalize,” said Flames captain Mark Giordano, per the Calgary Herald. “That’s the end of the story — it’s a 4-0 game. You have to score at least a few goals to win games in this league.”

Indeed, it’s hard to blame the goalie when he doesn’t get a single goal of support. The Leafs’ first goal, the winning goal, certainly wasn’t Elliott’s fault.

But the second goal could’ve been stopped…

…and the third was the back-breaker, coming with his team on the power play.

The Flames didn’t put up much of a fight after that. The loss was their third in a row, and tonight they have to play in Montreal.

Expect Chad Johnson to get the nod against the Canadiens. He hasn’t been too good lately either. In fact, he only lasted 5:58 of his last start, before he was pulled after allowing three goals on four shots in an eventual 7-3 loss to Edmonton.

Read more: ‘It’s embarrassing,’ says Gulutzan after lopsided loss to Oilers

The Flames are still in a playoff spot, thanks in large part to the struggles of the Kings and Jets. But for a team that thought its goaltending problems had been solved by the addition of Elliott, it has to be frustrating that the position remains a weak spot.

Both Elliott and Johnson are pending unrestricted free agents.

Related: An interesting goalie market awaits in the summer