Another blast from the past: David Aebischer receives training camp tryout with Winnipeg

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There are several former NHL goalies who would provide fodder for a few “where are they now?” features. While I assume he retired by default/because of injuries, I’ll always wonder what happened to Manny Fernandez; he wasn’t a star caliber goalie, but Fernandez was above average as a backup in his final season with the Boston Bruins (16-8-3 with a .910 save percentage and 2.59 GAA behind Tim Thomas during his first Vezina Trophy winning campaign). Fernandez, John Grahame and Cristobal Huet are just a few examples of once-prominent goalies who have fallen off the map once they left the NHL.

One name many of us haven’t discussed in ages is former Colorado Avalanche goalie David Aebischer. The Swiss-born goalie faced the difficult task of inheriting the No. 1 job in Colorado during the 2003-04 season after Patrick Roy retired. Aebischer actually ran with that job for one season, earning 32 wins with a sparkling .924 save percentage and 2.09 GAA in 62 games played. Whether you can blame the lockout or just call him a one-hit wonder, Aebischer’s NHL career quickly plummeted after that season, leading him to take his game to Switzerland.

He’s been there for four years, but the Winnipeg Jets handed him a training camp tryout, much like the Chicago Blackhawks did with Ray Emery. Unfortunately for Aebischer, he doesn’t have Emery’s reasonable chance to earn a job at the NHL level; the Jets are likely set in net with Ondrej Pavelec and Chris Mason (at least for this season). Then again, that goalie duo represents leftovers from the Atlanta Thrashers regime, so you never know how new GM Kevin Cheveldayoff actually feels about Pavelec or Mason.

Ed Tait discusses the long odds that Aebischer faces.

Technically, it’s true – the Jets confirm Aebischer will be in their training camp on a ‘try-out’ contract. Essentially, he is on loan from his club team in the Swiss league, Lugano, but is a real long-shot to unseat either Ondrej Pavelec or Chris Mason or even to be considered for a spot with the St. John’s IceCaps.

The 33-year-old product of Fribourg, Switzerland was drafted by the Avs in 1997 and played for the Swiss at the 1998 World Junior championships when they shocked the international hockey world by grabbing the bronze (the year Canada completely collapsed and finished eighth). Aebischer was named the all-star goaltender in that tournament; Canada had Roberto Luongo and Mathieu Garon between the pipes, just FYI.

In all likelihood Aebischer will be headed back to Lugano. If he was to stick, the Jets would have to come to a financial agreement with the Swiss club to get him signed to an NHL deal.

If nothing else, it will make the Jets’ training camp a bit more interesting to follow.

(H/T to Rotoworld.)

Measure of revenge: Kings delay clinching efforts for Flames, Blues

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Deep down, the Los Angeles Kings probably realize that their season will end on game 82. Still, they kept their slim playoff hopes alive on Wednesday night … and managed to spite a team they’re growing to hate.

OK, maybe the hate is almost totally focused upon Matthew Tkachuk, yet the disdain for that talented-but-tormenting rookie was palpable.

It didn’t feel like the Kings exacted physical revenge on Tkachuk, but beating his team 4-1 ranked as classic scoreboard vengeance. With that, the Calgary Flames (and by extension the St. Louis Blues) will need to wait to clinch a playoff berth.

Now, as much as tonight was about Tkachuk, the focus was also on a pugnacious player who once dazzled for the Flames: Jarome Iginla.

In what might be Iginla’s final visit to Calgary – at least as an active NHL player – he was one of the best players on the ice. His fitting curtain call included a “Gordie Howe hat trick” with a spirited fight, an assist and a goal.

Seriously, that fight with Deryk Engelland:

That goal included a bit of luck, but hey …

Iginla was named the first star of the contest, and cameras captured his big smile in enjoying a special night. For all the nastiness of that game, it was refreshing to see such a heartwarming moment.

For more on the violence, check out this post on the early stuff and this one on Tkachuk’s missed missile launch on Drew Doughty.

Kings and Canucks will square off in first NHL exhibition games in China

graphic via NHL
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It’s official: the NHL will hold preseason games in China before next season.

The league made the announcement on Wednesday night: the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks will play two exhibitions: one on Sept. 21 (Shanghai) and Sept. 23 (Beijing). How cool is that?

“It is a privilege and an honor for the L.A. Kings to represent the National Hockey League in China as part of these two games against the Vancouver Canucks,” Kings president Luc Robitaille said. “Growing the game of hockey is something we take great pride in and it is a big priority for our hockey club and AEG as a whole. This will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our players and our staff, and we are looking forward to the games taking place in two tremendous facilities in two remarkable cities.”

The press conference inspired some jokes tonight.

Some of the best bits came in roping in … Kobe Bryant and David Beckham?

Alrighty then.

Click here for more details.

 

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.