Montreal Canadiens v New Jersey Devils

Is this Martin Brodeur’s final season?

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Asking the question “is this Marty Brodeur’s final year?” isn’t something most Devils fans want to even think about. But that doesn’t mean the netminder hasn’t been thinking about it himself. The truth is that Brodeur has been saying for a while that he was going to play out his current contract and make a decision on his future after the deal expired. Newsflash: that six-year deal that he signed before the 2006-07 deal only has a single year on it. It’s time for the Devils faithful to face that uncomfortable reality—the Brodeur era in New Jersey is eventually going to end.

By no means has Brodeur announced anything specifically about his future plans. He has, however, publically acknowledged that retirement is something he considers nowadays. On the first day of training camp for the Devils, Brodeur spoke to Tom Gulitti of the Fire and Ice blog about his future:

“It’s been a few years that I know it’s going to happen eventually. Now, it’s the last year of the contract, so we’ll see. But it doesn’t change my approach at all mentally about anything. You just go through it and you have different feelings about different things and I’m looking forward to playing and having fun this year and we’ll see.”

(snip)

“Whenever I’m going to be ready to make a decision, I’ll make a decision,” he said. “It doesn’t mean it’s going to be now. It doesn’t mean it’s going to be in the middle of the season. It doesn’t mean it’s going to be at the end. I’ll listen to everything, but it’s going to be what I’m at peace with when the time comes. I could be the one asking them. Who knows? I’ll see how the season is going to go and how I’m going to feel and how everything pans out.”

Apparently, Brodeur has already started doing his due diligence on the retirement front. Over and over, we hear about guys who voluntarily step away from the game—only to miss the competition and camaraderie once they’re on the outside looking in. Brodeur revealed that he’s asking around make sure he isn’t in the same boat when he finally retires.

“I’ve talked to a lot of guys that retired just to see how it feels because I know I’m coming close to it, so I want to make sure I make the right decision and won’t regret it either,” he explained. “I don’t want to jump the gun too quick then regret it a year [later].”

It’s no secret that last season was a struggle for the New Jersey Devils and the legendary netminder was no exception. His 2.45 goals against average as 14th in the league; but his mediocre .903 save percentage was 35th in the NHL. Those aren’t the type of numbers that people have come to expect in Newark and it’s certainly not what people expect from a goaltender that is playing on a $31.5 million contract.

Here’s the part of the situation that has the potential to get messy. What if Brodeur decides that he wants to come back for another year even though his game continues to slip this season? There’s no way his numbers last season warranted a $5.3 million cap hit. But after all Brodeur has given to the organization, would they be obligated to keep him around as long as he wants to play? After all, it’s not like the Devils have a budding superstar waiting for his chance.

That’s a question Lou Lamoriello and the Devils won’t have to worry about for at least seven more months. Who knows? Maybe Brodeur will make the decision for them.

Flames get Johnny Gaudreau back way ahead of schedule

CALGARY, AB - APRIL 5: Johnny Gaudreau #13 of the Calgary Flames in action against the Los Angeles Kings during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on April 5, 2016 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
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Some good news if you’re a fan of the Calgary Flames.

Johnny Gaudreau, who missed 10 games with a finger injury, will be back in their lineup for Sunday’s game against the Anaheim Ducks.

The Flames forward was injured in a game against Minnesota on Nov. 15 (he was slashed by Eric Staal), and after he underwent surgery, the team announced that he’d be out six weeks.

In the end, he missed less than three weeks of action.

“I’m ready to play,” Gaudreau said, per NHL.com. “I think the finger’s healed up pretty well there. I’m just excited to get things going here.

“I think they did a great job with my finger and we did a great job rehabbing it. They keep tell me it’s going to be harder to break the nine other fingers than to re-hurt this one. It feels good. It feels good when I shoot. I’m excited to finally get out of there.”

He’ll be playing with some added protection, as Calgary’s equipment manager made this glove for him:

Before Gaudreau got hurt, the Flames had a 6-10-1 record. But thanks to improved team play and some strong performances from goalie Chad Johnson, they managed to go 6-3-1 in, while Gaudreau was out.

The 23-year-old has five goals and six assists in 17 games, but he had scored three goals in three games before getting hurt.

Related:

Gaudreau injury a reminder as to how star players are treated

Boudreau: Flames made “mountain out of a molehill” over Gaudreau slash

Garret Sparks plays for first time since being suspended by Maple Leafs

TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 30:  Garret Sparks #31 of the Toronto Maple Leafs gets set to face the Edmonton Oilers in an NHL game at Air Canada Centre on November 30, 2015 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Maple Leafs defeated the Oilers 3-0. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
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Garret Sparks made waves for all the wrong reasons last week, as he was suspended by the Maple Leafs for remarks he made on social media.

Sparks officially made his return on Saturday night in the Marlies’ 3-2 loss to the Hartford Wolf Pack. He stopped 27 of 30 shots.

“It’s been a lot to deal with. I understand what I did,” Sparks said, per TSN.ca. “[The incident] wasn’t me. That’s not who I want to be known as, it’s not the image I want my reputation to have.

“I should know the difference between what I can and can’t say. It’s just holding myself to a higher standard of professionalism.”

The 23-year-old actually returned to the team on Tuesday, but didn’t play until yesterday.

With Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen dealing with an illness, the Leafs recalled Antoine Bibeau, which opened the door for Sparks to make his return.

Sparks has been limited to just five AHL games this year, but he was between the pipes for 17 NHL games in 2015-16.

‘We were awful’: Duchene calls out Avs after latest shutout loss

DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 19:  Matt Duchene #9 of the Colorado Avalanche awaits a face off against the Edmonton Oilers at Pepsi Center on December 19, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Avalanche defeated the Oilers 5-1.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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The Colorado Avalanche are one of those teams that’s hard to figure out.

They have plenty of offensive talent on their roster, and going from Patrick Roy to Jared Bednar was supposed to help get the most out of their star players.

But through 23 games, that hasn’t been the case.

Going into Sunday’s action, they find themselves in the basement of the Western Conference with a 9-13-1 record.

It doesn’t help that they’ve had to deal with a number of injuries. They were dealt an even bigger blow on Saturday, when they announced that Erik Johnson (leg) would be out for six-to-eight weeks.

Gabriel Landeskog and Fedor Tyutin are also dealing with lower-body injuries.

“Injuries are no excuse, but it helps to have some of those guys in the lineup,” Bednar said, per the Denver Post. “You’re missing a pair on ‘D.’ I still can’t help but feel we have more to give. .. You still have to stick with it and work through it. That’s the only way you get out of it is to work out of it.”

Colorado had an opportunity to get things on track, but they finished their latest homestand with an 0-4-1 record. Yikes!

One of the biggest problems with this team is that they can’t seem to find the back of the net with any regularity.

No team has scored less times than the Avalanche, who are tied for last with a league-worst 49 goals for. They’ve also been shut out five times already in 2016-17.

Their power play was so bad against Dallas that Bednar decided to start the man-advantage with John Mitchell and Blake Comeau at one point.

“We were awful. I totally get why he did what he did,” forward Matt Duchene said after Saturday’s 3-0 loss to Dallas. “It’s frustrating. We’re just not executing right now. I think we’re overthinking things because we haven’t been winning.

“We’re not playing good hockey right now.”

With Corey Crawford out, ‘Hawks recall goalie Lars Johansson from AHL

CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 17: Corey Crawford #50 of the Chicago Blackhawks follows the action against the Montreal Canadiens at the United Center on January 17, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The Blackhawks defeated the Canadiens 5-2. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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The Chicago Blackhawks were dealt a blow yesterday, when they announced that starting goalie Corey Crawford would miss two-to-three weeks after undergoing an appendectomy on Saturday.

With Crawford unavailable yesterday, Chicago was forced to look for an emergency backup in the Philly area. Ultimately, they settled on former temple goalie Eric Semborski.

On Sunday, they got their goaltending situation in order, as they recalled Lars Johansson from the AHL.

Johansson, 29, is in his first season in North America. He played the previous 10 years over in Sweden with Mora IK, Vasteras IK and Frolunda HC.

In the AHL, he’s posted a 6-7-1 record with a 2.63 goals-against-average and a .911 save percentage in 2016-17.

His numbers in the minors might not look good, but Johansson had the best goals-against-average (1.74) in the top league in Sweden last year.

The Blackhawks also sent forward Nick Schmaltz to the minors.

Schmaltz, who was Chicago’s first-round pick in 2014, made the team out of training camp, but has played limited minutes.

The 20-year-old has just one goal and three assists, while averaging 11:46 of ice time in 2016-17.

Playing a larger role with AHL Rockford should be good for his confidence.