Jay Pandolfo admits tonight’s game against Devils ‘will definitely be strange’

For 13 seasons, checking forward Jay Pandolfo was a member of the New Jersey Devils organization. He played 819 regular season games, 131 postseason contests and won two Stanley Cups as a defensive-minded winger for the franchise. Pandolfo hasn’t played a regular season game in the NHL in any other uniform, despite the fact that his last game was on April 11, 2010.

If Pandolfo ever wants to register another NHL game, he’ll have to do it in another jersey. He’s hoping to earn a roster spot with the Devils’ regional rivals the New York Islanders, which means that he’ll need to impress during his preseason tryout.

A big part of that effort could come tonight, as Pandolfo will suit up with the Islanders against his long-time allies. (The game should be in progress by the time you’re reading this.)

There are certain mitigating factors that might cut down on the awkwardness a bit. For one thing, it’s a preseason game; even if it’s a big deal for Pandolfo, it won’t be for many of his former teammates. Speaking of former teammates, the number of familiar faces should be lower since it’s been a full season since he interacted with them.

That being said, Pandolfo admitted that it will still be a little weird when discussing the subject with Tom Gulitti.

“I think so,” Pandolfo said of tonight’s game being strange. “It probably would have been a lot weirder last year, but it’s been a year in between. It won’t be as weird. It seems like there’s not as many guys there either that I know. It’s different. But it will definitely be strange. I’ve only played for one team my whole career, so it will be different.”

Pandolfo was teammates at one time with only eight of the 20 players the Devils will dress tonight.

(snip)

He knows that if he doesn’t win a job with the Islanders his playing career is probably over.

“Most likely,” he said. “I don’t know about definitely, but just getting a chance to be in training camp the same time as everyone else is playing that benefits me rather than just waiting again. I’m going to wait and see what happens with this. I’m in shape and playing at the same time everyone else is, so obviously I want it to work out here, but if it doesn’t then we’ll go from there.”

Pandolfo spent a chunk of last season with the Springfield Falcons (the Columbus Blue Jackets’ AHL affiliate), but decided to end his tryout with that team after his surgically repaired shoulder proved to be a continued problem. Pandolfo said that he had some discussions with the Boston Bruins regarding a tryout last summer, but that didn’t pan out. He also spoke “a bunch” with Devils GM Lou Lamoriello about his future, which presumably indicates that he might join their front office once his career is over.

Before he decides to put on a suit as a hockey executive, he’ll get a chance to stay in an NHL sweater for at least one more night. How well he plays against his former team might just determine if he can wear one for a bit longer.

Video: AHL goalie Jonas Gustavsson scores his first career goal

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He didn’t shoot, but Jonas Gustavsson still scored.

The former NHL netminder, now with the Bakersfield Condors in the AHL, scored his first career goal Friday, as part of his team’s victory over the San Diego Gulls.

From the AHL:

With San Diego goaltender Dustin Tokarski on the bench for an extra attacker and the Gulls working on a power play, Gustavsson made a save before an errant San Diego pass slid down the length of the ice and into the vacated net at 16:56 of the third period.

Gustavsson is the fifth AHL goaltender to be credited with a goal without actually shooting the puck into the opposition net. In addition to his goal, Gustavsson stopped 30 of 31 shots in the Condors victory.

Bolts and Islanders both win, which is bad news for Bruins

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The New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning each had to work overtime to decide their separate games, but when they ended, both clubs were victorious.

And that makes things even more interesting in the Eastern Conference wild card race.

With their shootout win in Pittsburgh, the Islanders tie the Bruins in points but take over the final playoff spot for now with fewer games played. The Lightning, despite an abundance of injuries all season, are just a point back of Boston and New York.

Nikita Kucherov scored the winner for Tampa Bay against the Red Wings. He’s up to 38 goals, which is second most in the league behind Sidney Crosby, currently at 42 goals.

Sellers leading up to the trade deadline, and without Steven Stamkos since the middle of November, the Lightning are in the thick of this race, even if others may have counted them out.

“Once again, people counted us out,” defenseman Victor Hedman told the Tampa Bay Times. “But we showed a lot of character. And we’re right back in it.”

The Bolts don’t play again until Monday, when they host the Chicago Blackhawks — only one of the hottest teams in the league.

Meanwhile, Saturday’s busy slate of games includes a showdown between the Bruins and Islanders. For Boston, it’s a chance for redemption after a particularly costly third period against Tampa Bay on Thursday.

What is wrong with the Sharks?

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Not that long ago, the San Jose Sharks appeared well on their way to winning the Pacific Division title.

On March 14, they had a seven-point lead on both Anaheim and Calgary. Gone is that advantage. Not only have the Ducks surged back into the fight for the division, but the Sharks have lost five in a row and are having a terrible time of late creating any offense.

The Ducks defeated the Jets on Friday, moving into a tie with the Sharks at 91 points.

San Jose’s struggles hit a new low Friday with a 6-1 loss to the Dallas Stars, a team with its own flaws and nowhere close to a playoff position.

At one point midway through the second period, the Sharks trailed the Stars by four goals and had only six lousy shots on goal. During this skid, San Jose has scored only five goals.

Earlier this week, members of the Sharks said they weren’t terribly worried about this losing streak. The losses, they had said, were in close games, which is true: San Jose lost three consecutive one-goal games.

“When I look at the losing streak, we dominated some of those games for long periods and found ways to lose. You never like to lose, but I’m not that concerned,” Sharks coach Pete DeBoer told CSN Bay Area. “We’ve got to obviously end it. We’ve got to get healthy. I don’t see a bunch of symptoms of a team that can’t get this fixed pretty quickly.”

This, however, was a blowout. Adam Cracknell recorded the hat trick, pushing his single-season career-high in goals to 10.

The performance at one point forced DeBoer to take a timeout, in which he expressed his displeasure.

Making matters worse for the Sharks: Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic left the game early in the third period and was put under further evaluation. He didn’t return.

The Sharks visit the Nashville Predators on Saturday.

Halak and the Islanders defeat Penguins, move into wild card spot

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Quite a hockey game between the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday.

It offered plenty to enjoy — Phil Kessel‘s dominant but unfruitful shift in overtime, a combined 86 shots on goal between both teams, a showcase of skill from the likes of John Tavares and Sidney Crosby, and two strong goaltending performances from Jaroslav Halak and Marc-Andre Fleury.

Josh Ho-Sang, who wears No. 66, which is just fine in the eyes of Mario Lemieux, set up Brock Nelson‘s goal in the second period.

The Islanders and their fans probably aren’t hung up on style points at this juncture of the season. They just care about wins and points in the standings, and those are exactly what New York accomplished with a 4-3 shootout win in Pittsburgh.

Anthony Beauvillier and Tavares scored for the Islanders in the shootout. Halak made 37 stops, including a game-saver in overtime off Matt Cullen. Halak trapped the puck, which was right on the goal line, between his legs on a chance from in front. The play was reviewed but no goal.

The win gives the Islanders 82 points, which is the same total as the struggling Boston Bruins.

However, the Islanders, with one game in hand on the Bruins, take over the final wild card spot in the East for now.