Avs going with vets over youth on defense; assign Elliott to AHL (Updated)

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The Colorado Avalanche are getting older — and bigger — on defense.

Having already dropped blueline prospects Chris Bigras (18 years old) and Duncan Siemens (20) from training camp, the Avs dispatched 22-year-old Stefan Elliott to AHL Lake Erie on Wednesday.

Elliott, the 49th overall pick at the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, has appeared in 57 games with Colorado over the last two seasons, scoring 13 points in 39 games in 2011-12, and four in 18 games in 2013. Along with Bigras (the 32nd overall pick at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft) and Siemens (11th overall, 2011), Elliott is part of the Avs’ eventual youth movement on defense.

His reassignment leaves Colorado with nine defensemen in camp and, judging by those still in attendance, it’s clear new head coach Patrick Roy is looking for players with more seasoning and experience to play right now.

Nate Guenin, a 30-year-old journeyman, is still in the mix after spending all last year with AHL Norfolk, as is 26-year-old Nick Holden, a longtime Columbus farmhand.

It’s possible Roy is looking for bigger, more physical defensemen after stressing the need to clear the front of the net during training camp. Guenin is 6-foot-3, 207 pounds while Holden is 6-foot-4, 207.

The club also acquired 6-foot-4, 207-pound veteran Cory Sarich in a trade with Calgary this past summer.

UPDATE

Roy has revealed his top-six defense for this season to the Denver Post, adding that he’ll carry eight blueliners to start the season. The top six are Erik Johnson, Andre Benoit, Ryan Wilson, Tyson Barrie, Jan Hejda and Cory Sarich, with Matt Hunwick, Guenin and Holden battling for the final two spots.

Lightning give Vasilevskiy the hook after very rare Jurco goal

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By just about any measure, Monday’s been lousy to Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy.

He was pulled with a few minutes remaining in the first period after Chicago Blackhawks built a 3-1 lead, scoring those three goals on just eight shots on net.

You could summarize Vasilevskiy’s awful start by those numbers, or by how rare the 3-1 goal was for the scorer.

Tomas Jurco failed to score a goal or an assist in 16 games with the Red Wings, then went pointless in nine more games with Chicago before finally scoring his first goal of the season on Monday.

Now, Jon Cooper didn’t pull Vasilevskiy because Jurco scored that tally. Still, it rubs a little extra salt in his wounds all things considered.

Coach Q thinks Anisimov will be back by playoffs for Blackhawks

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The bad news is that Artem Anisimov seems likely to miss all – or at least most – of the regular season for the Chicago Blackhawks with his lower-body injury.

The good? Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville believes that Anisimov will be ready once the playoffs swing into motion, as the Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Lazerus reports.

Anisimov was hurt when he got tangled up with Canadiens forward Alex Radulov on March 14:

The Blackhawks have been filling Anisimov’s typical spot alongside Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin with Ryan Hartman and Nick Schmaltz lately. There have been flashes of brilliance with Schmaltz, but Chicago would probably feel most confident with Anisimov back in his familiar place.

Chicago’s Central lead is pretty secure over the Minnesota Wild at the moment, which likely reduces motivation to rush Anisimov back before he’s truly ready. The Blackhawks close out their regular season on April 8, so there’s still time for him to heal up.

Ducks demote Enroth, so Gibson’s close to a return

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The Anaheim Ducks are flying high – er, waddling with some swagger? – right now thanks to Jonathan Bernier‘s somewhat shocking turnaround, but the pending return of John Gibson is promising.

(Especially since the Ducks will likely want him to shake off some rust before the playoffs begin.)

While it’s not clear if he’s exactly 100 percent healthy just yet, the Ducks sending Jhonas Enroth back to the AHL is a strong sign that Gibson is close.

Enroth actually never got a shot to start for the Ducks, as his last NHL appearance came on Nov. 30, closing off his ill-fated run with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Considering that Enroth was once a fairly hot commodity as at least a promising backup, it will be interesting to see how his 2017-18 season pans out. Will he get more or less of a chance than he received this season?

Bernier, meanwhile, is richly rewarding the Ducks for sticking with him.

He’s provided them with a Vezina-caliber March: 9-1-1, 1.71 GAA and .943 save percentage with one shutout. You almost wonder if there’s at least some potential for a goalie controversy if Gibson stumbles whenever he gets back into action … but hey, having two good goalies to choose from is better than none.

(Which was the scenario that must have scared the Ducks when Gibson got hurt in the first place.)

WATCH LIVE: Chicago Blackhawks at Tampa Bay Lightning

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The Tampa Bay Lightning almost certainly haven’t faced the Chicago Blackhawks in a game this important since the two teams were vying for a Stanley Cup.

While the Blackhawks have already punched their ticket to the postseason and are merely trying to pad their lead in the Central Division, the Bolts are fighting for their playoff lives. At the moment, they rank three points behind the Boston Bruins for the final spot in the East. With a game in hand, they can make up a lot of ground tonight.

With all of that in mind, it should be an entertaining contest. You can check it out on NBCSN, watch online or via the NBC Sports App.

Click here for the livestream.