Colorado Avalanche v San Jose Sharks

Sharks take Pacific Division lead, Flames stay alive

At least one former St. Louis Blues player hopes to the Blues see the San Jose Sharks in the first round, but the odds of that happening dropped considerably Monday. Then again, considering the up-and-down nature of the West’s stretch run, the most important word is “Monday” because things seem to change drastically from night to night.

In March 26’s case, the Sharks took a slim Pacific Division lead, the Calgary Flames stayed in the hunt and everyone else took a step back. To keep things neat, I’ll go in order of where the teams are in the standings as of this writing.

(Which, again, might only hold true for a day or two.)

Sharks contain Avalanche 5-1

It’s silly to call any individual contest the biggest of the night because they’re all huge for the individual teams, so let me temper that by deeming this the most “sweeping.”

The Sharks regulation win places them atop the Pacific and in the third seed – for now – with 88 points and six games remaining. Meanwhile, the Avalanche suffer a crushing blow that’s only a little less debilitating than the one that the Winnipeg Jets received earlier tonight.

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While the Avalanche are technically only a point behind seventh and eighth place at 86 points, they only have four games left this season – the least of all the bubble teams.

It’s hardly any solace, but at least the Avalanche didn’t fall just short in this game. They lost soundly, so there’s little sense staying up all night thinking of a single bad bounce. Instead, they must just move on and hope for bounces in their favor on future nights – but things look pretty shaky.

Flames burn Stars

In fact, I’d argue that Calgary might actually have a better chance than Colorado after Monday’s festivities. Despite allowing Jamie Benn goals 26 seconds into the first period (1-0) and 44 into the second (2-1), the Flames managed to win  5-4 – and in regulation to boot. That places them in 11th overall, but they have five games left and are only two points back of one of the final two seeds. At worst, their odds are similar to Colorado’s all things considered.

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Canucks blank Kings

If the Los Angles Kings miss the playoffs, the sad symbol of their season might just be a goose egg. Los Angeles has been shut out 10 times this season after Roberto Luongo’s perfect night, guaranteeing that more than 12 percent of the Kings’ games were fruitless.

The Canucks have already clinched the lowly Northwest Division – which looks unlikely to produce a second playoff team once again – so their sites are focused on the West’s first seed. That’s far from a pipe dream, either, because the St. Louis Blues only have a two point lead for the No. 1 spot. (Although it must be noted that the Blues currently have 47 wins and 43 regulation/OT victories to 46 and 39 for Vancouver.)

Los Angeles probably wishes that its opponents had less to play for because that 1-0 loss really hurts.

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Instead of taking the Pacific lead or at least essentially tying the Sharks with 88 points, the Kings are instead seated in ninth place with 86 behind the Sharks, Stars and Coyotes.

West update

In fact, here’s a look at how the West races shake out – we’ll focus on the Pacific and final seed battles for now:

3. San Jose – 88 points, 31 regulation/OT wins, six games left

7. Dallas – 87 points, 34 regulation/OT wins, six games left
8. Phoenix – 87 points, 31 regulation/OT wins, five games left

9. Los Angeles – 86 points, 31 regulation/OT wins, six games left
10. Colorado – 86 points, 31 regulation/OT wins, four games left
11. Calgary – 85 points, 32 regulation/OT wins, five games left

As you can see, Monday didn’t really deliver a death blow or open up an easy avenue for anyone, bu the Kings, Stars and Avalanche must really be kicking themselves. The Pacific appears to be fair game, but to use a regrettable media term, San Jose “controls its own destiny.” All six of its final contests take place against Pacific teams, with just one against the irrelevant-beyond-spoilers Anaheim Ducks.

In general, there’s plenty left in play but the Flames and especially the Sharks won the biggest tonight. We’ll find out soon enough how much that matters.

Want a video summary of the night as well? NBC Sports Network has you covered:

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Letang had a ‘good day’ at practice, Penguins hoping he can return soon

PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 09: Kris Letang #58 of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Joonas Donskoi #27 of the San Jose Sharks battle for the puck during the third period in Game Five of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Consol Energy Center on June 9, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Yesterday, they got Sidney Crosby back.

Soon, the Pittsburgh Penguins should have another key player back in the lineup. Kris Letang, their top defenseman, participated in full-contact practice today, taking the same step Crosby took two days ago.

“He had a good day on the ice today, we’ll see where it goes from there,” head coach Mike Sullivan said of Letang, who’s missed three games with an upper-body injury. “We’re encouraged with his progress. We’re hoping to get him back soon.”

The Penguins host the Islanders tomorrow night. Don’t be surprised if Letang plays. He skated with Ian Cole at this morning’s practice.

If Letang isn’t ready to go against the Isles, his next opportunity to return will be Saturday in Philadelphia.

Goalie nods: After Subban’s rough outing, B’s turn to McIntyre

BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 22: Zane McIntyre #50 of the Boston Bruins makes a save against the Washington Capitals during the second period at TD Garden on September 22, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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Crazy start to the year in Boston.

On Wednesday night, the B’s will start their fourth different goalie of the season — a season that’s just six games old, remember — as Zane McIntyre gets the nod at MSG against the Rangers.

McIntyre made his NHL debut in last night’s 5-0 drubbing at the hands of Minnesota, coming on in relief of Malcolm Subban, who was making his second-ever start. Subban allowed three goals on 16 shots before getting hooked midway through the second period, and McIntyre made 15 saves on 17 shots to close things out.

Needless to say, these are tough times in Boston’s crease.

The club’s No. 1 netminder, Tuukka Rask, is still sidelined with injury (though head coach Claude Julien said Rask may be available for Saturday’s game against Detroit). Anton Khudobin, the club’s No. 2, is out three weeks with an upper-body ailment.

Unsurprisingly, the Bruins have struggled with all the flip-flopping in goal. They’ve allowed nine goals over their last two games — both losses — and that came after Rask stopped 62 of 64 shots in back-to-back wins over the Jets and Devils.

For the Rangers, Henrik Lundqvist gets the start in goal.


— Battle of the Backups in Brooklyn, as Al Montoya and the Canadiens take on Thomas Greiss and the Isles.

Cam Talbot, fresh off a shutout win over Winnipeg in the Heritage Classic, goes for the Oilers. Braden Holtby is expected to play for Washington.

— Some uncertainty in Anaheim: John Gibson, who came on in relief for the injured Jonathan Bernier in last night’s OT loss to San Jose, would (presumably) be the guy tonight against Nashville. That said, Gibson has played quite a bit lately — three games in the last six nights — and the club did recall Dustin Tokarski from AHL San Diego today. Tokarski has a fair bit of NHL experience, with 33 regular season and five playoff games on his resume.

No word yet on a Preds starter.

Alain Vigneault got an interesting call from Patrick Roy this past summer

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 29:  Nick Holden #22 of the New York Rangers in action against the New Jersey Devils  during their pre season game at Madison Square Garden on September 29, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Patrick Roy quit the Colorado Avalanche due to “philosophical differences” with GM Joe Sakic. That much we know for sure.

And while those differences were never explained in full detail, it sure sounds like one of them — and let’s face it, there were probably a bunch of them — was the assessment of defenseman Nick Holden.

To refresh your memory, Sakic traded Holden to the Rangers in June, and all the Avs got in return was a fourth-round draft pick in 2017.

Rangers coach Alain Vigneault remembers the trade well.

“It was funny, we were coming back from (the draft in) Buffalo, I got a call as I got off the plane in Ottawa from Patrick Roy saying to me, ‘You just got one of my better defensemen,'” Vigneault said, per the New York Post.

“And I don’t know why Pat called me out of the blue.”

Yeah, funny.

For the record, we’re not suggesting that the Holden trade tore the Colorado Avalanche apart. At the end of the day, it was a minor trade. But it may have been illustrative of the philosophical differences between Roy and Sakic. The former was clearly a Holden fan. The latter thought he was worth a fourth-round pick.

According to Vigneault, Holden has been a good early fit with the Rangers (4-2-0). The 29-year-old, whose cap hit is just $1.65 million, has logged over 20 minutes a game while skating mostly on the top pairing with Ryan McDonagh, who’s been excellent to start the season.

It remains to be seen if Holden and McDonagh, both left shots, will remain together all year. McDonagh spent most of last year with right-shooting Dan Girardi or Kevin Klein, but those two are currently paired with Brady Skjei and Marc Staal, respectively. The healthy scratches last game were both rights shots, Adam Clendening and Dylan McIlrath, the latter of whom is reportedly on the trading block.

So a lot could still change with this Rangers defense, which came into the season under a powerful microscope. The early returns have been encouraging, though. (Or, at the very least, not as poor as many had expected.)

Meanwhile, the Avs’ back end remains a work in progress. Sakic said the Holden trade would open up opportunities for youngsters Nikita ZadorovChris Bigras, and Duncan Siemens; however, the latter two didn’t make the team out of camp and Zadorov has averaged just 16:25 of ice time so far.

In Colorado’s first five games, new coach Jared Bednar has leaned heavily on Erik Johnson, Tyson Barrie, and Francois Beauchemin, with support from Zadorov, Eric Gelinas and free-agent additions Fedor Tyutin and Patrick Wiercioch.

Bernier out, Ducks recall Tokarski as rash of goalie injuries continues

GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 01:  Goaltender Jonathan Bernier #1 of the Anaheim Ducks during the preseason NHL game against Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on October 1, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. The Coyotes defeated the Ducks 3-2 in overtime.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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One of the prominent storylines early in this NHL campaign — the health, or lack thereof, of various netminders — has played out again, this time in Anaheim.

Last night, backup Jonathan Bernier exited just his second start of the year with an upper-body injury, forcing John Gibson to come on in relief for an eventual 2-1 OT loss to the Sharks.

Today, the Ducks announced Bernier is day-to-day with his ailment, and recalled Dustin Tokarski from AHL San Diego.

Bernier had been solid for the Ducks in limited action this year, stopping 52 of 56 shots over his two appearances for a .929 save percentage. Tokarski has been less successful with the Gulls, allowing seven goals over two appearances (both wins, mind you) for a .885 save percentage.

The bigger story, obviously, is Bernier joining a laundry list of injured netminders.

A quick rundown:

— Arizona is without Mike Smith
— L.A. is without Jonathan Quick and Jeff Zatkoff
— Boston is without Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin
— Buffalo is without Robin Lehner (illness)

The Ducks are back in action tonight, hosting Nashville, and it’s likely they’ll go with Gibson again, rather than throw Tokarski right into action fresh off a recall.