Quebec Nordiques fans

Former Nordiques owner says NHL is returning to Quebec City soon

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We’ve already seen the Winnipeg Jets rise from the grave this summer and if things go according to how former Quebec Nordiques owner Marcel Aubut sees it, we’ll be seeing the fleur-de-lis around the NHL sooner than later.

Aubut, the man responsible for selling the Nordiques to be moved from Quebec City to Denver to become the Colorado Avalanche, is more than fired up that a new $400 million arena is soon to begin construction in Quebec City. With its construction set to be completed in 2015 the hopes that the NHL will return are higher than ever.

With all of these matters swirling about, Aubut tells Sun Media that he feels confident that the NHL will come back to Quebec City and will even do so sooner than later.

Aubut says his hometown could have had a team sooner had a new arena been ready by this year, but the $400-million facility won’t be completed until 2015.

That means an NHL team that relocates in 2013 would have to play its first two seasons in the Pepsi Colisee, a 61-year-old facility that’s not up to NHL standards.

“If we had (built) earlier, we would have had a team today, not Winnipeg,” he said of the Atlanta Thrashers’ move to Manitoba in May.

“I know that (NHL commissioner Gary) Bettman would have chosen Quebec City way before Winnipeg. I remember when the Nordiques left, he said ‘we just lost a big asset, with the cultural aspect that Quebec represents.’ This was an American talking!”

All right so there’s a lot of excitement here for Aubut since he’s been seen as one of the bad guys for letting the Nordiques get away. Considering that the lack of a new arena was one of the reasons the team left Quebec in the first place, it’s easy to see why a new arena being built would get him fired up.

What makes his excitement palpable is the financial state some teams are in as well as their inability to get a new arena deal done and making life hard for them to make money. The Coyotes, Blue Jackets, Devils, Islanders, Blues, and Stars are all dealing with either ownership problems or financial woes that helping to disrupt operations of their teams.

Obviously the Coyotes and their lack of an owner and an abundance of financial problems put them squarely in focus as a potential relocation candidate. While it would’ve made for dramatic coincidence to see the Coyotes move back to Winnipeg, if Quebec is serious and has someone willing to pony up the money to purchase the team, Quebecor Media’s Karl Peladeau for instance, they could get their shot to do that next year.

The Islanders could certainly be a candidate as well, but that would require there to be zero progress made on getting an arena somewhere on Long Island, Queens or Brooklyn for them to play in. If nothing happens by the time the Isles lease runs out at Nassau Coliseum, the new Quebec arena would be an easy target for Charles Wang to head for if he felt the need.

While Aubut won’t be the guy that plunks down the cash to make that dream possibly happen, he’s the figurehead here playing the part of head cheerleader for the city to bring the NHL back. If the NHL gets to resurrect the Nordiques through the misfortunes of another team, while it would sting for the United States to have another franchise moved, it could prove to be a huge financial boost for the league.

Goalie nods: Budaj set to make Kings debut

during a preseason game at Staples Center on September 22, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.
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Journeyman Peter Budaj looks as though he’ll make his first regular-season NHL appearance since April of 2014, when the Kings take on the Rangers at MSG.

Recalled from AHL Ontario due to an injury to Jonathan Quick, Budaj gets the nod tonight after Quick’s backup, Jhonas Enroth, was beat for four goals on 29 shots in last night’s loss to the Islanders.

Budaj, 33, has certainly earned another crack at the big leagues. After catching on with the Kings through a PTO in training camp, he’s been terrific in Ontario, going 26-9-3 with a 1.58 GAA and .935 save percentage. The Slovakian netminder also has eight shutouts this year.

For the Rangers, Antti Raanta gets the start in goal, giving Henrik Lundqvist a night off.

Elsewhere…

Ben Scrivens, who appears to be the new No. 1 in Montreal, will go for his fourth straight win when the Habs visit Buffalo. Chad Johnson is in goal for the Sabres, who’ve really struggled of late.

Marc-Andre Fleury goes for the Penguins, while it looks like Cam Ward is in for Carolina.

— Really good matchup in Detroit as Semyon Varlamov goes up against Petr Mrazek who, according to Yahoo’s Puck Daddy, has “crashed Braden Holtby’s Vezina party.”

— Battle of All-Star netminders in Tampa Bay, as Ben Bishop goes for the Bolts while Pekka Rinne starts for Nashville.

The red-hot Brian Elliott will continue to roll as St. Louis’ No. 1 in Florida. The Panthers will go with their old reliable, Roberto Luongo.

Now that Karri Ramo’s on IR, it’s Jonas Hiller time for the Flames. He’ll start tonight in Arizona, against Louis Domingue.

Therrien refutes report that Price is likely done for the season

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Contrary to a report by La Presse newspaper, Montreal head coach Michel Therrien says that Canadiens goalie Carey Price could still play again this season.

“We know what’s going on with Carey,” Therrien told reporters today. “It takes more time, obviously, than we were expecting. Like I said, he’s working extremely hard and he’s put in a lot of hours to make sure that he’s going to make that comeback. The fact that he’s working extremely hard is not to make sure that he’s going to look good this summer on the beach; he wants to come back and play for the Montreal Canadiens.”

That being said, Price does not appear close to a return. He’s yet to practice with teammates. He’s yet to even skate in goalie gear.

The Habs have 27 games left to get back into a playoff spot. They close out the regular season on April 9, less than two months from today.

Related: With Price possibly done for the season, Scrivens has Dubnyk-like opportunity

With trade deadline approaching, Canucks announce Edler out 6 weeks, Sutter 6-8 weeks

Washington Capitals v Vancouver Canucks
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The Vancouver Canucks announced today that they’ll be without defenseman Alex Edler (fractured fibula) for six weeks and center Brandon Sutter (broken jaw that required surgery) for six to eight weeks.

So basically those two are gone for the remainder of regular season, save for possibly a few games at the tail end of the schedule.

For a bubble team that doesn’t boast a ton of depth, the injuries are significant. Edler leads the Canucks in ice time, averaging almost 25 minutes per game. Sutter, arguably their best defensive center, already missed a big chunk of games earlier in the season following sports-hernia surgery.

But GM Jim Benning still isn’t giving up on the playoffs. Yesterday, he went on Vancouver radio and suggested the Canucks could actually be buyers at the trade deadline.

Benning only has a couple of weeks to decide what to do with pending unrestricted free agents defenseman Dan Hamhuis and winger Radim Vrbata. The trade deadline is Feb. 29.

The Canucks, currently just two points back of Nashville for the final wild-card spot, have a pair of winnable games coming up. They host Toronto Saturday and Minnesota Monday.

Related: Preds entering key (and tough) stretch before trade deadline

Jets activate Pavelec from IR, send Hellebuyck back to minors

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Winnipeg’s goalie of the future is off to continue his development in the AHL.

On Friday, the Jets activated veteran netminder Ondrej Pavelec from injured reserve and, in a subsequent move, sent rookie netminder Connor Hellebuyck back to their affiliate in Manitoba.

Hellebuyck, 22, arrived in Winnipeg with great fanfare, having starred for Team USA at the 2015 Worlds while being named an AHL All-Star as well.

This was his first-ever stint with the Jets, and it went OK — Hellebuyck posted an 13-11-1 record, .918 save percentage and 2.34 GAA — but he did struggle of late, getting hooked in two of his last three outings.

Now, it’ll be interesting to see what happens with Pavelec.

His numbers prior to getting hurt weren’t any better than Hellebuyck’s — .906 save percentage, 2.82 GAA — and there will be considerable rust to knock off, given he’s been out since late November with a knee issue.

There’s also the long-term implication.

Pavelec, a lightning rod for criticism over the last few seasons, has one year left on his five-year, $19.5 million extension, meaning he’ll be an unrestricted free agent in July of ’17.

It could be his last season in Winnipeg (assuming he’s not bought out of the final year of his deal), which makes one wonder what GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has in store.

It’s also worth noting there’s a third goalie in this equation: Michael Hutchinson, who’s a pending RFA.