Brent Johnson

Penguins have faith in struggling backup Johnson


It’s been a season to forget for Brent Johnson.

Pittsburgh’s backup goaltender is in the midst of a shockingly bad statistical campaign — 3-7-0, 3.17 GAA, .882 save percentage — one that didn’t get any better after Sunday’s 6-2 loss to Buffalo. Johnson was yanked from the contest early in the second period after allowing three goals on 12 shots, the second time in five starts he’s failed to make it past the midway point (he also got an early hook in a 5-1 loss to Ottawa.)

Despite the struggles, the Penguins are standing behind the veteran keeper.

Well, head coach Dan Bylsma is anyway.

“I’m confident this guy can win hockey games,” Bylsma told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “He hasn’t played particularly well and hasn’t had a season like last year. He is going to be playing again. He’s going to have to win us some games, and play better.”

Johnson’s struggles this year been exacerbated by his outstanding numbers from last year, when he went 13-5-0 with a sparkling 2.17 GAA and .922 save percentage. That allowed Bylsma to rest No. 1 goalie Marc-Andre Fleury on a number of occasions — something he hasn’t been able to do this season.

Sunday’s game against Buffalo was a prime example. Fleury played the day before in a 6-4 win over Philly and faced 31 shots, then got called in on his day off (which the Sabres took full advantage of, scoring three times on 12 shots.) Forcing Fleury into extended action has been a common theme in Pittsburgh this season — the Pens played 11 games in January and Flower was the goalie of record in 10 of them, a big reason why he’s on pace to set a career high in appearances.

Vigneault: ‘After three losses in a row, I think we’ve got everybody’s attention’

Alain Vigneault
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Alain Vigneault has maintained for much of the season that the New York Rangers needed to play better.

The head coach said it a week ago, after the Blueshirts had beaten the Predators, 3-0, despite getting outshot, 31-19.

He’d said it a couple of weeks before that, after they’d beaten the Hurricanes in very similar fashion. (Final score: 3-0. Shots: 33-23 for Carolina.)

But as long as the Rangers kept winning, it was tough, according to Vigneault, to get the message across.

“Sometimes, the results might be going your way, so when you’re pointing out certain things, it might be a little bit more challenging for them to understand because the results are so positive,” Vigneault said, per the New York Post.

“But after three losses in a row, I think we’ve got everybody’s attention.”

Derek Stepan‘s injury — he’ll miss 4-6 weeks with broken ribs — has no doubt captured their attention as well. (Oscar Lindberg will center Chris Kreider and Jesper Fast tonight at home to Carolina.)

The Rangers also play Wednesday, in Brooklyn against the Islanders (on NBCSN).

Benn, Holtby and Galchenyuk are NHL’s three stars of the week

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Stars winger Jamie Benn, Capitals goalie Braden Holtby and Canadiens center Alex Galchenyuk have been named the NHL’s three stars for the past week.


Benn shared the League lead in goals (4) and points (6) as the Stars (19-5-0, 38 points) won two of three games to continue their best start to a season in the franchise’s 48-year history.

Holtby posted a 4-0-0 record with a 1.75 goals-against average, .945 save percentage and one shutout to backstop the Capitals (17-5-1, 35 points) to the top of the Metropolitan Division standings.

Galchenyuk tied for first in the NHL with four goals and added one assist to help the Canadiens (18-4-3, 39 points) earn five of a possible six points and reclaim first place in the League standings.

As much as the injuries to Carey Price and Brendan Gallagher have been frustrating for the Canadiens, those are short-term issues that should be forgotten soon enough. Galchenyuk’s play, in contrast, is reason for long-term optimism. The 21-year-old is trending towards becoming the elite No. 1 center the Habs have needed so badly. He’s not there yet, but when’s all said and done, he could turn out to be the best forward (or player, period) taken in the 2012 draft.

Stepan to miss 4-6 weeks with broken ribs


Derek Stepan is out 4-6 weeks with broken ribs, the New York Rangers announced today.

Stepan was hurt Friday on a controversial hit by Boston’s Matt Beleskey. The Bruins’ forward did not receive any supplemental discipline for the check, despite admitting it was “maybe…a little bit late.”

At any rate it’s a big loss for the Rangers, who suddenly find themselves on a three-game losing streak. Considering the timeline, New York could be without one of its top centers for 12-18 games, give or take.

The Rangers host Carolina tonight.

Related: Yep, Alain Vigneault went there — ‘I remember Aaron Rome in this building’

Price to miss minimum six weeks, so no Winter Classic for him

Carey Price,
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Carey Price will miss a minimum of six weeks with a lower-body injury, the Montreal Canadiens announced today.

That means Price will miss the Winter Classic against the Bruins on New Year’s Day. The 28-year-old goalie has only appeared in 12 games this season.

On the bright side, the reigning Hart Trophy winner will not require surgery. And considering the Habs have already built up a 13-point playoff cushion in the standings, well, if something like this were going to happen during the season, now is as good a time as any.

Related: The latest on Price’s injury