Niklas Backstrom’s perfect night in relief of Josh Harding powered the Minnesota Wild to a 3-2 shootout win against the Blackhawks on Wednesday, handing Chicago its first loss of the 2013 season.
Backstrom, 34, stopped all 28 of the shots he saw following Wild coach Mike Yeo’s decision to give Harding, 28, the quick hook early in the game after he allowed two questionable goals.
The Finnish netminder improved his record to 3-1-1 on the season. Andrew Shaw and Jonathan Toews scored for Chicago while Cal Clutterbuck and Matt Cullen found the net for Minnesota.
This win places the Wild atop the Northwest Division, although both the Vancouver Canucks and Edmonton Oilers are active tonight and trail Minnesota by one standings point.
The Blackhawks must be disappointed to see their historic run end, yet gaining a charity point places them on top of the NHL with 13 standings points. They’re also an impressive 4-0-1 on the road so far, which is heartening because Chicago began a six-game road trip tonight.
Depth is a strength for the Los Angeles Kings, but that can be bad news for younger players trying to advance their careers.
Forward Andrei Loktionov has requested a trade with the team’s logjam at center in mind; meanwhile, Jonathan Bernier has backed off his own demands to an extent, according to John Hoven of Mayor’s Manor.
Bernier admits he wants to steal more starts from Jonathan Quick. That’s pretty reasonable since the 24-year-old is in the last year of his current deal, even if accomplishing that task is a tall order.
“I can’t really do anything about it,” Bernier said. “It has been two years since I’ve been in (this) situation. I just want to play. With the (compressed) schedule now, things can change a lot. Hopefully Suttsy can squeeze me in for a few.”
(Suttsy is the hockey-stereotypical nickname for Darryl Sutter, in case you were wondering.)
While Bernier contends with the prominent 27-year-old netminder, Loktionov finds himself buried in the AHL and stuck behind centers Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards and Jarret Stoll for the foreseeable future. The team tried to shift the 22-year-old to the wing, but that just didn’t work out for the small scorer.
So with his career stalled, Loktionov wants out.
Could he work out for another team? Jettisoned young Kings have worked out (Teddy Purcell) and had mixed results (Alex Frolov) in the past few years, so it’s anyone’s guess.
(H/T to Jewels from the Crown)
If there was any doubt that Craig Anderson is the Ottawa Senators’ top goalie, he might have already erased it.
The 31-year-old netminder improved his 2013 record to 5-0-1 as Ottawa beat Montreal 5-1 on Wednesday despite missing key players Jason Spezza and Sergei Gonchar. Anderson stopped 31 out of 32 shots.
It’s not as if Anderson has enjoyed a cushy start, either. As well as the Senators have been playing, he’s faced a little more than 30 shots per game on his way to some outstanding stats:
Anderson: 5-0-1, 0.99 GAA (six goals allowed in six games) and a .967 save percentage.
Also impressive: Anderson didn’t show the ill effects from back-to-back games; he made 31 out of 33 saves in a 3-2 win over the Washington Capitals last night.
For more on Anderson’s strong start, see this video:
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Big backup Ben Bishop, 26, was in net for the team’s lone regulation loss as the Senators dropped a 6-4 decision to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Jan. 25. Perhaps Bishop (and 21-year-old prospect Robin Lehner) will eventually challenge Anderson in the future, but the veteran goalie has a strong hold over the No. 1 job right now.