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Vokoun signing gives Penguins a viable playoffs alternative

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The Pittsburgh Penguins have a lot of reasons to be happy about inking Tomas Vokoun to a two-year/$4 million contract. Not the least of which is that it gives them an extra option during the postseason.

Marc-Andre Fleury couldn’t get the job done against the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round of the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs. Their loss wasn’t entirely his fault, but the fact that they stuck with as he gave up 17 goals in Games 1 through 3 speaks volumes about how unwilling they were to give backup Brent Johnson a start.

Fleury ended up playing in all six games, posting a 4.63 GAA and .834 save percentage. That’s the third straight year that Fleury has finished the playoffs with a save percentage below .900.

So at this point, the Penguins might need an alternative to Fleury when the going gets tough. Penguins GM Ray Shero was recently asked if Vokoun could be a viable postseason option if Fleury struggles.

“Yeah,” Shero said. “It depends on how Tomas is playing, certainly, but with a guy like Vokoun, the last five or six years his save percentage is amongst the best in the league, and that’s playing lots of games.

“Internal competition is good. I hope it’s going to (bring out) the best in Marc. And the same thing with Tomas. He’s got a guy like Marc who’s going to push him for the net. That’s what we’re looking for.”

Maybe some competition is all Fleury will need to keep him sharp. Maybe playing in fewer games during the regular season will help. Still, if all else fails, the Penguins now have a plan B they can be comfortable with. That’s more than they had a few months ago.

Potential No. 1 overall pick Nolan Patrick to miss World Juniors

KELOWNA, CANADA - OCTOBER 25: Rourke Chartier #14 of Kelowna Rockets faces off against Nolan Patrick #19 of Brandon Wheat Kings during the first period on October 25, 2014 at Prospera Place in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)
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Nolan Patrick will miss the upcoming World Juniors due to an injury that has kept him out of game action since mid-October.

Hockey Canada made the announcement Monday evening.

Patrick is a potential No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft. He was recently named to Canada’s selection camp, however the 18-year-old forward has only played in six games with the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings this season.

He has four goals and nine points, his season reduced because of this upper-body injury. Per Hockey Canada, Patrick hasn’t been medically cleared to attend the camp, so therefor he will miss the entire tournament.

Patrick has already missed the annual series last month between Canada and Russia. He also underwent sports hernia surgery in July.

Related: Pre-game reading: Some advice for Nolan Patrick

Video: Luongo denies Spooner with spectacular glove save

SUNRISE, FL - NOVEMBER 8: Goaltender Roberto Luongo #1 of the Florida Panthers skates prior to the game against the Calgary Flames at the BB&T Center on November 8, 2014 in Sunrise, Florida. The Flames defeated the Panthers 6-4. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
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Roberto Luongo was on his game in the first period versus the Boston Bruins on Monday.

The Florida Panthers goalie was called upon to make 14 saves in the opening 20 minutes, and none better than this glove stop on Ryan Spooner.

Spooner appeared to have the wide open net on a cross-ice pass, but Luongo threw up the glove in spectacular fashion to deny the Bruins forward less than three minutes into the game.

Flyers’ Read out four weeks with reported oblique muscle pull

PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 02:  Matt Read #24 of the Philadelphia Flyers takes the puck in the second period against the Ottawa Senators at the Wells Fargo Center on April 2, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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The Philadelphia Flyers have had their share of good news lately. They’ve won five in a row and goalie Steve Mason has been solid in that span, being named on Monday the NHL’s first star for the week.

But it hasn’t all been positive.

Forward Matt Read is out of the lineup for at least four weeks with an upper-body injury, the Flyers announced Monday. The injury occurred during Sunday’s game against the Nashville Predators.

It’s been reported the injury is an oblique muscle pull.

With Read out, the Flyers have recalled Taylor Leier from the American Hockey League.

Leier has been very productive in the minors. In 22 games this season with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, he has six goals and 20 points.

Ken Holland is all for expanding playoff format to include Wild Card play-in game

Colorado Avalanche v Detroit Red Wings
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The topic of a possible Wild Card play-in game being added to the NHL’s playoff format isn’t new.

General managers around the league have talked about it before. The idea recently seemed to gain traction with at least the small majority, too.

Hockey insider Bob McKenzie once polled all 30 GMs to get a sense of how many would be in favor of such a thing — and 16 of those GMs were. You can count Ken Holland with the Detroit Red Wings as someone who would like to see a Wild Card play-in game.

From TSN:

Holland is also a baseball fan and likes the way MLB has created must-watch play-in games. In baseball, there are three division winners in each league. Those three teams qualify for the division round of the postseason. Two wild-card teams in each league square off in a one-game play-in to decide the fourth divisional qualifier on each side.

“I’m all for an extra team in each conference qualifying for the playoffs and having a wild- card play-in game,” said Holland. “It would add excitement down the stretch for many more teams fighting for the additional wild-card spot and two extra teams would be involved in the playoffs. Those play-in games would be dramatic.” 

Of course, the interesting thing about that is the Red Wings have a streak of 25 consecutive playoff appearances on the line.

But their best days — when Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg led them to a Stanley Cup in 2008 and the final the following year — are long behind them. The organization has undergone substantial change with Zetterberg getting older, the loss of Datsyuk to the KHL and Mike Babcock joining the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Red Wings could be in real danger of missing the post-season under its current format in 2017.

Detroit is two points out of the second Wild Card spot in the East, with New Jersey and Boston still ahead of them, although not currently in a playoff spot.