PHT Morning Skate: Islanders leaning on MacDonald even more

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

New York Islanders defenseman Andrew MacDonald is getting more minutes with the man advantage while Lubomir Visnovsky recovers from a concussion. The Islanders were already leaning heavily on MacDonald and he ended up logging 31:26 minutes in the team’s 5-4 overtime defeat to the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday. (Newsday)

Pittsburgh Penguins forward Chris Kunitz talks about the Olympics and playing on a line with Sidney Crosby. (Penguins.nhl.com)

Editor’s Note: Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a $1,500 Fantasy Hockey league that includes Wednesday and Thursday’s NHL games. It’s just $10 to join and first prize is $400. Starts Wednesday at 7:30pm ET. Here’s the link.

Vancouver Canucks coach John Tortorella was asked about the New York Rangers struggles since he was fired, but he wouldn’t take the bait. “I don’t work there anymore and I’m certainly not going to criticize,” Tortorella said. (Newsday)

Newly retired goaltender Martin Biron singled out Edmonton Oilers forward Ryan Smyth as his toughest opponent during his 16-season career. (NHLPA)

The New Jersey Devils are turning to video of retired forward Tomas Holmstrom to help them with their power play. (The Star-Ledger)

Team Canada GM Steve Yzerman took was in attendance for the Toronto Maple Leafs’ game against the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday. Although he went there to evaluate some of the Canadian talent, projected Team USA forward Phil Kessel stole the show with his hat trick. (Toronto Star)

The Penguins didn’t alter their roster much over the summer, but that doesn’t mean that nothing’s changed since their elimination in the Eastern Conference Finals. (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)

Hightlights from Minnesota’s 2-0 win over Nashville:

Zetterberg on pace to play 1,000th game in Joe Louis Arena farewell

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Barring injury, Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg will get the opportunity to make his 1,000th NHL game even more special.

Detroit head coach Jeff Blashill confirmed today that Zetterberg will play tonight and tomorrow in Carolina, putting the 36-year-old on pace to play his 1,000th game on Apr. 9, the date of the final Wings game at Joe Louis Arena.

The Wings, who will miss the playoffs for the first time since 1990, have eight games left in their regular season. They host New Jersey on Apr. 9.

Tonight’s game was originally scheduled for Dec. 19, but had to be postponed due to poor ice conditions at PNC Arena.

Isles sign Northeastern captain Stevens

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John Stevens, who just wrapped a four-year career at Northeastern University, has signed a two-year, entry-level deal with the Islanders, the club announced on Monday.

Stevens, 22, went undrafted but emerged as a valuable player for the Huskies, culminating with a senior season in which he served as captain and averaged better than a point per game (28 in 25 contests).

Stevens is the son of longtime L.A. Kings associate coach John Stevens, who formerly served as the bench boss in Philly.

A third member 0f the Stevens clan, Nolan, also played this season at Northeastern — his junior campaign — and was taken by St. Louis in the fifth round of last year’s draft.

McElhinney to start for Leafs tomorrow

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Curtis McElhinney will start in goal for the Maple Leafs when they host Florida tomorrow.

Which means Toronto’s regular starter, Frederik Andersen, will not.

Andersen, hurt Saturday in Buffalo, only lasted 20 minutes of practice this morning. The Toronto Star, citing a Leafs source, is reporting that Andersen “took a blow to his jaw from a player in Saturday’s 5-2 loss to the Sabres.”

McElhinney is 4-5-0 with a .919 save percentage in 10 appearances for the Leafs this season. He told reporters that tomorrow will be the biggest start of his NHL career.

It remains to be seen who will back up McElhinney against the Panthers. The Leafs have recalled goalie Garret Sparks from the AHL on an emergency basis. All three netminders were on the ice today.

Update:

Expect Sparks to be the back-up tomorrow.

Toronto has a three-point playoff cushion, with eight games remaining.

The Leafs also recalled forward Kasperi Kapanen, the 22nd overall draft pick in 2014. Kapanen, 20, has 18 goals and 25 assists in 43 games for the Marlies this season. He’s expected to replace Ben Smith on the fourth line, alongside Brian Boyle and Matt Martin.

Habs sign d-man Mete, who ‘does everything’ for junior team

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Victor Mete, Montreal’s fourth-round pick at last year’s draft, has signed his three-year, entry-level deal, the club announced on Monday.

Mete, 18, is in his third year with OHL powerhouse London, and finished this season with 15 goals and 44 points in 50 games. He’s developed a reputation as a terrific skater, and often plays alongside fellow Knights d-man Olli Juolevi, who the Canucks took fifth overall at last year’s draft.

London assistant coach Dylan Hunter had high praise for Mete this season.

“When it comes to little nuances of his game, stick on puck, knowing when to make a play and when there isn’t a play to just get it out, he’s one of the best there is right now,” Hunter said, per the London Free Press.

“He does everything for us.”

Mete has one year of junior eligibility remaining, so it’s likely he’ll be back in London next season. At 5-foot-10 and just 180 pounds, he’s undersized and could use another year of development before turning pro.