Brandon Pirri

Chicago closes preseason with lots of personnel decisions left to make

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Chicago heads into their final preseason game this afternoon against the Washington Capitals and while most teams will have their lineups figured out for the most part, the Blackhawks have a bit more work to get done.

In goal they’ve got a competition going on between Ray Emery and Alexander Salak to see who ends up being the backup goalie behind Corey Crawford. Emery is the wily veteran with the wonky hip that he’s continuing to come back from while Salak is the youngster with swagger and attitude looking to land his first NHL job.

Salak’s numbers are a little better than Emery’s and while Emery does have a bit of an embarrassing goal allowed in his last game against Pittsburgh, Tracey Myers of CSNChicago.com believes that Emery’s experience gives him the edge.

The Blackhawks will probably still go with Emery, allowing Salak to hone his skills in Rockford. They like Emery’s veteran status and NHL experience. And the game results could still come. But remember, Blackhawks: the last two guys who started the season as backups, Antti Niemi and Corey Crawford, didn’t have so much NHL experience. They didn’t turn out so bad, either.

Elsewhere on the ice, Chicago is taking a look at Patrick Kane playing center on the second line and while he’s coming back from wrist surgery, he’s showing a different level of play up the middle. Kane’s ability to make plays as well as score goals and wheel around defenders gives him a special something else to his game.

Then there’s what they’ll do about their depth forward spots. We talked the other day about how 2011 second round pick Brandon Saad is fighting his way into the opening night lineup thanks to injuries to Ben Smith and Viktor Stalberg, but there’s another young Brandon making a case for himself as well.

2009 second round pick Brandon Pirri is also making noise late into training camp this year and his offensive skills are showing that the slick skating kid out of Rensselaer in the NCAA is growing into a potential offensive threat. Pirri had two goals and an assist against Detroit and Ty Conklin last Sunday and on Friday night against Pittsburgh he added another two goals beating Brent Johnson in a 3-2 loss to the Penguins. While neither Pirri nor Saad are going to get time on the Blackhawks’ top two lines, if they can add that sort of production and be defensively responsible on the third or fourth lines, the Hawks will welcome it with Stalberg and Smith out of action.

Myers finds out from Quenneville that he’s taking notice of both Brandons.

“We didn’t mind (Pirri’s) game. Offensively, he had a couple real nice looks all alone as well as his production there. He’s got some skill, he’s been a producer his whole life and he sees plays. I think he’s patient in his game, and has nice finish around the net. It’s been a nice camp for him.”

Saad, who has played in every preseason game, had a secondary assist on Pirri’s first goal on Friday.

“He does a lot of good things,” Quenneville said of Saad. “He’s played a lot of games here and we still think he does a lot of good things.”

With these decisions all hanging in the balance heading into today’s game, the make up of the Blackhawks will be curious to see when it comes to opening night against Dallas this week.

Things might be turning around for Lundqvist (not so much for the Kings)

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 13:  Marian Gaborik #12 of the Los Angeles Kings shakes hands with Henrik Lundqvist #30 of the New York Rangers after the Kings 3-2 double-overtime victory during Game Five of the 2014 Stanley Cup Final at Staples Center on June 13, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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As you likely know, the 2017 NHL All-Star Game is coming to Los Angeles this weekend. If the Kings don’t get it together, that might be the biggest hockey event for some time, as they’re currently on the outside looking in at the playoffs.

Monday presented what felt like a story of one cold streak continuing to fade away while the other only seems to get icier.

The positive side: Henrik Lundqvist might just be working through that slump.

The New York Rangers beat the Los Angeles Kings 3-2 on Monday, and it wasn’t a walk in the park for Lundqvist. He made 36 out of 38 stops, giving him a personal three-game winning streak in which he’s allowed just four total goals.

Some of those stops were pretty impressive, too:

(He also shut down a Jeff Carter breakaway, which is obviously no easy task.)

While Lundqvist is getting it together, the Kings might just be a little worried after dropping their fourth straight loss.

They’re at 48 points in 47 games, leaving them three points behind the West’s two wild card teams and two behind the Canucks.

The Kings have experience fighting through challenges like these, but they’ve also fallen short of getting into the West’s top eight, and their schedule is awfully road-heavy:

Tuesday: at Devils
Thursday: at Hurricanes
Tuesday, Jan. 31: at Coyotes
Wednesday, Feb. 1: vs. Avalanche
Saturday, Feb. 4: at Flyers
Sunday, Feb. 5: at Capitals
Tuesday, Feb. 7: at Lightning
Thursday, Feb. 9: at Panthers

Some of those opponents are struggling and the All-Star break might allow for a breather, but that could still be a problematic stretch, especially if the Kings are in a fragile state.

Then again, if they look at Lundqvist’s upward trend, they can note that fortunes can change pretty quickly in 2016-17.

Nick Jonas, Carly Rae Jepsen add legit star power to 2017 NHL All-Star Game

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 03:  Carly Rae Jepsen performs at the the Human Rights Campaign National Dinner at Walter E. Washington Convention Center on October 3, 2015 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Leigh Vogel/Getty Images)
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If you had to describe the non-hockey celebrities who will be on hand for the weekend’s festivities for the 2017 NHL All-Star Game, you’d probably throw around terms like “young” and “surprisingly famous.”

At least, that’s especially true with the artists who’ve been announced most recently: the league notes that Nick Jonas, Fifth Harmony and Carly Rae Jepsen will be in the mix.

Apparently John Legend Robin Thicke and John Ondrasik (Five fo Fighting) will be involved in the events, which also include The NHL 100 (which is hosted by Jon Hamm). Goodness, most of us have heard of like, all of them.

The league ran down how things will shake up:

Carly Rae Jepsen will open the 2017 Honda NHL® All-Star Game pregame festivities at STAPLES Center on Sunday, Jan. 29 with a performance of the Canadian national anthem followed by Fifth Harmony’s rendition of the U.S. national anthem. Grammy nominated recording artist, Nick Jonas, will command the ice during the second intermission with a live performance. The NHL will honor the 100 Greatest NHL Players in a special pregame ceremony. The 2017 Honda NHL® All-Star Game and the performances will be broadcast live on Sunday, Jan. 29 at 12:30 p.m. PT / 3:30 p.m. ET on NBC in the U.S. and CBC, Sports and TVA Sports in Canada.

As previously announced, Hamm will host THE NHL100™ presented by GEICO, a star-studded event in which the entire collection of the 100 Greatest NHL Players will be unveiled. Set for Friday, Jan. 27 at 6:30 p.m. PT and billed as the largest gathering ever of hockey legends, THE NHL100 presented by GEICO at Microsoft Theater also will feature appearances from 2017 NHL® All-Star players and famous hockey fans. Legend and Ondrasik will perform and Thicke will lead a special In Memoriam that pays tribute to the late members of the 100 Greatest NHL Players. Tickets to THE NHL100™ presented by GEICO are available at AXS.com.

Being that those musicians generally fall under the “pop” category, some in the purest sense that it’s used right now, there were some making fun of that selection. This is the Internet, after all, where everything receives mockery. Is there a mockery-proof musician?

(Radiohead certainly draws Kid Rock ire, for one.)

These are some pretty good gets by the NHL for such an event, maybe aided by it taking place in Los Angeles.

The burning question, really, is if this weekend will break the Twitter follower tie between Jepsen and Jonas:

Maybe they’ll go to a shootout.

Video: Giordano goes after Komarov following big hit on Gaudreau

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Johnny Gaudreau returned very soon after all of this, so at the moment, it seems like the Calgary Flames dodged a big bullet on Monday night.

That bullet came in the form of a big hit by Toronto Maple Leafs winger Leo Komarov, a check that did not prompt a penalty, but is inspiring plenty of debate on social media. The Athletic’s James Mirtle puts it well, at least for those of us on the fence: “as with a lot of Komarov hits, it’s in a grey area.”

Again, the best news is that Gaudreau was able to return (though sometimes issues like these demand a “To be continued”), shocking quite a few.

There’s some debate about the legality of the hit, but most seem perplexed that Mark Giordano‘s response didn’t prompt fighting majors. Instead, they were merely whistled for roughing.

You can watch the full sequence in the video above. Here’s a GIF of the fight roughing specifically:

At the moment, the Leafs hold a commanding 3-0 lead. Maybe the Flames will use that sequence to start a comeback?

Leafs fall down on the job – in a good way – on Kadri’s 100th goal (Video)

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You know how athletes – hockey players in particular – have a tendency to shrug off their own accomplishments and spread the praise to their teammates? Nazem Kadri would be justified in doing that “Aww shucks” routine regarding his 100th goal.

Just bask in the effort exhibited by his teammates in setting up what was a very nice finish by Kadri for that milestone marker, which you can see in the video above.

Leafs Nation’s Jeff Veillette did a nice job describing the efforts of Auston Matthews and William Nylander

Pretty much.

Now get your click’s worth with one other entertaining clip from the game, via Mitch Marner: