Goalies react after trying shorter pads

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Will we see an increase in scoring in 2013-14? That will be one of the key questions after the NHL and players’ association agreed to reduce the size of goaltender leg pads.

Previously, netminders were allowed goalie pads that could cover 55 percent of the gap from the knee to pelvis. That’s been reduced to 45 percent starting with this season, according to NHL.com. That might be a bit hard to picture, but fortunately the 6-foot-2 Craig Anderson tweeted a nice visual representation of the change. In the picture to the right, his old leg pad is placed next to his new, smaller one.

As you can see, it’s not a drastic change, but it certainly is a noticeable one. Naturally though, the difference is dependent on the goaltender’s size.

A smaller goaltender like the Toronto Maple Leafs’ Jonathan Bernier stands to only lose about an inch, but some guys will have to deal with about a five-inch reduction between their two pads, which in Bernier’s words is “huge.”

While these changes have been talked about for a little bit now, goaltenders are getting a chance to make their first impressions now that they’re getting their 2013-14 pads.

“They feel a little bit shorter, yeah, but it’s not too much of a big change,” Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford said. “I’m sure there will be a bit of an adjustment period, but it’s something I’ve gone through and the other goalies have gone through before.

“I just hope it’s not something that leads to injuries. With a shorter pad, hopefully we’ll have a good limit for knee pads so guys don’t get hurt.”

Pittsburgh Penguins netminder Marc-Andre Fleury largely echoed Crawford’s concerns about what this change might mean when it comes to their protection against potential knee injuries. NHL goaltenders are already allowed to wear knee pads that are nine inches across, but the NHLPA and league are still talking about possible changes.

“We have to find a way to protect the guys that play that way, but make sure the protection just follows the contour of their knee and doesn’t plug the five hole,” NHL senior manager of hockey operations and goaltending equipment Kay Whitmore said.

As for Jean-Sebastien Giguere, he just doesn’t want to see goaltenders get the blame if this adversely impacts their numbers.

“Coaches and GMs, you guys want that, you’ve been asking for more goals [through the] five hole,” Giguere said. “So if your goalie gives up a goal five hole, you need to take a breath and remember that you asked for it.”

Report: Wings, Hawks, Preds in mix to sign ‘strong two-way center’ Ejdsell

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Keep an eye on Swedish forward Victor Ejdsell in the coming days.

Ejdsell, 21, caught the eye of several NHL clubs following a standout year with Bofors of the Swedish first division — including Detroit (where he visited earlier this week, per MLive.) Reports suggest that Chicago and Nashville are also interested in securing Ejdsell’s services.

It’s easy to see why.

He racked up 25 goals and 57 points in 60 games this year, and he’s got terrific size. At 6-foot-5, 220 pounds, the physical presence is there to potentially make the shift to the NHL next season.

“He’s evolved into a strong two-way center,” Detroit assistant GM Ryan Martin told MLive. “His move from wings to center helped his defensive game. He’s got good hands and offensive ability.”

Vlasic joins Canada for Worlds, extending marathon campaign

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Marc-Edouard Vlasic is putting in work this year.

On Friday, Hockey Canada announced that Vlasic — along with Mitch Marner, Brayden Schenn and Chad Johnson — has been added to the 22-player roster for the upcoming World Hockey Championship in France and Germany.

Vlasic’s season started early as a member of Canada’s World Cup of Hockey squad. He appeared in all six games, which included his tournament high TOI (24:04) in final against Team Europe.

From there, the 30-year-old rejoined the Sharks and appeared in 75 contests, averaging 21:14 per evening. He was part of a remarkably durable San Jose defense that saw Brent Burns play all 82 games, while Paul Martin, Brenden Dillon and Justin Braun appeared in 81.

In the playoffs, Vlasic was once again a busy guy. He finished second only to Burns in time on ice (23:16 per) and was often tasked with trying to shut down the Connor McDavid line. The Sharks would eventually bow out to the Oilers in six games.

And Vlasic might have even more to do this summer.

During his end-of-year media availability, Sharks GM Doug Wilson said getting Vlasic signed to an extension prior to September’s training camp was a big priority.

Vlasic’s current deal — a five-year, $21.25 million pact — expires next summer, and carries an average cap hit of $4.25M. Wilson didn’t mince words in describing how good he thinks Vlasic is.

“Vlasic [is] arguably one of the best defensemen in the league,” he said. “Marc-Edouard is still one of the most underrated players in the league in the outside world.”

Stepan: ‘I’ve stunk since the playoffs started’

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Derek Stepan knows he’s not playing very well, and he knows he’ll have to be better if the New York Rangers are going to make it past the Ottawa Senators.

With just one goal (an empty-netter) and one assist in seven playoff games, Stepan’s offensive production has fallen off a cliff after a respectable 55-point regular season, which included 38 assists.

“I’ve stunk since the playoffs started,” Stepan said, per NHL.com’s Dan Rosen. “I’ve been not very good with the puck.”

An all-situations center, Stepan is more than just an offensive type. But he’s produced in previous playoff runs, and the Rangers need him to produce now — especially against a tight-checking Sens team that boasts a 2.00 goals-against average¬†in these playoffs.

Stepan has 45 points (18G, 27A) in 92 career playoff games.

To be fair, he’s not the only Ranger who needs to get going offensively. One of the Blueshirts’ big strengths during the regular season was their balanced scoring, with all four lines contributing — and that’s not happening right now.

No Bieksa for Anaheim tonight, but Vatanen could return

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The Ducks will be without their most veteran skater on Friday as they look to even up their series with Edmonton.

Kevin Bieksa, who exited Game 1 with a lower-body injury following a collision with fellow d-man Shea Theodore, has been ruled out for tonight’s Game 2. It marks the first tilt the 35-year-old will miss this postseason.

Bieksa was enjoying a pretty good playoff prior to getting hurt. He racked up four assists in five games, while averaging just under 17 minutes per night. Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle is holding out hope Bieksa could return later in the series.

While this is a loss for the Ducks, it goes a long way in illustrating how much defensive depth they have.

While Carlyle wouldn’t confirm, all signs point to Sami Vatanen drawing in for Bieksa. Vatanen has been out since Game 1 of the Calgary series with an upper-body injury, but has resumed practicing and sounds like he’s ready to go.

“It’s always nice when a player is closer to coming back and you can potentially put them back in the lineup,” Carlyle said of Vatanen.

Anaheim dressed a blueline of Bieksa, Theodore, Cam Fowler, Josh Manson, Hampus Lindholm and Brandon Montour in Wednesday’s 5-3 defeat. If Vatanen can’t draw in for Bieksa, the club still has Korbinian Holzer in reserve.