Budaj

Goalie nods: Budaj goes for Habs, Mason back in for Philly

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News and notes from around the crease on an unusually busy Friday…

Budaj gets rare start

Montreal will turn to Peter Budaj tonight in Columbus, his first game since allowing three goals on 30 shots in a loss to Colorado on Nov. 2.

Though the Canadiens don’t often start Budaj — Carey Price has been a workhorse this season — the Slovak netminder has established himself as a reliable backup and posted great numbers this year, with a 1.33 GAA and .953 save percentage.

It’s unclear who’ll go for the Blue Jackets on Friday. Sergei Bobrovsky was in goal for Thursday’s 3-2 OT loss to Boston.

Flyers go back to Mason

Philadelphia will give Steve Mason the start tonight in Winnipeg.

The Flyers find themselves with a “good problem to have” in terms of choosing a starter, as both Mason and Ray Emery are on top of their games. Emery was fantastic in a 2-1 win over Pittsburgh on Wednesday, stopping 30 of 31 shots — but Mason has been equally good of late, winning each of his last two starts (including a 5-0 shutout of the Sens in Ottawa on Tuesday).

The Jets will counter with Ondrej Pavelec in goal tonight. Like Mason and Emery, Pavelec has been on fire lately, winning back-to-back games while stopping 41 of 43 shots in a 3-2 shootout victory over Detroit on Tuesday.

Elsewhere…

Jonathan Bernier will get his second straight start for Toronto on Friday as the Leafs play in Buffalo. The Sabres will go with Ryan Miller in Ted Nolan’s coaching debut.

Cory Schneider is the Devils’ starter tonight against the Kings. Los Angeles hasn’t made a goalie announcement yet, but it’s expected Ben Scrivens will start his second straight in place of the injured Jonathan Quick (groin).

— It’s Marek Mazanec vs. Marc-Andre Fleury in the Nashville-Pittsburgh game, and Braden Holtby vs. Jimmy Howard in Washington-Detroit.

— Elsewhere, Tim Thomas will face off against Josh Harding as the Panthers visit the Wild, while Tuukka Rask will go up against Craig Anderson in Ottawa as the Sens host the Bruins.

— No confirmation yet, but Viktor Fasth could make his return from injury tonight for Anaheim. He’s been out since Oct. 16th with a lower-body injury. If Fasth does go, he’ll be up against Justin Peters, who will get the ‘Canes goal tonight in Carolina.

— The Oilers have confirmed that Devan Dubnyk will start tonight at home against the Sharks. San Jose, who beat Vancouver in overtime last night with Antti Niemi in goal, are likely to go to backup Alex Stalock against Edmonton, but that hasn’t been announced yet.

PHT Morning Skate: Jim Craig doesn’t regret selling ‘Miracle on Ice’ memorabilia

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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.

–These parents named their baby girl after Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov. (ABC News)

–The  hockey card that helped inspire a Tragically Hip song. (Puck Junk)

–The fan who promised to get a tattoo of Gary Bettman if LA and Chicago were eliminated in the first round kept his word. (Bardown)

–Watch the highlights from last night’s game between the Sharks and Blues. (Top)

–Jim Craig doesn’t regret auctioning off most of his “Miracle on Ice” memorabilia. (Yahoo)

–A Q & A with former Quebec Nordiques forward Peter Stastny. (ESPN)

–Former Flyers coach Craig Berube breaks down Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final. (NHL)

Hitch: ‘I see the devastation in our locker room’

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Despite a late comeback attempt, the 2015-16 season came to an end for the St. Louis Blues, as they lost the Western Conference Final in six games to the San Jose Sharks.

And with Wednesday’s loss, the off-season will settle upon the Blues. It will be an intriguing one in St. Louis, starting with their head coach Ken Hitchcock. He’s on a one-year deal and he has already outlined that he’s fine with taking short-term contracts. But is an appearance in the conference final enough to solidify his place behind the St. Louis bench for next year?

The Blues have, according to General Fanager, five pending unrestricted free agent forwards, including Scottie Upshall, Kyle Brodziak, Steve Ott, and most notably Troy Brouwer and David Backes.

Backes, 32, is the team’s captain and coming off a 21-goal, 45-point regular season, which is a decline from the numbers — 26 goals and 58 points — he posted the year before. Brouwer, 30, enjoyed the best post-season of his career, with eight goals and 13 points in 20 games, and he could potentially cash in on that this summer.

However, while there are questions ahead for the Blues, the emotional toll this loss took was clear.

“I see the devastation in our locker room right now. Guys aren’t even able to speak. I’m more worried about our guys right now, to be honest with you. We got some guys that are pretty shook up right now,” said Hitchcock to reporters.

“I’m not going to talk to them for a day or two. They need their space with each other. They’ve bonded together here better than any team I’ve coached in the last 10 years. They need their time together. They don’t need me interrupting them right now. We’ll talk at an appropriate time. But right now they need to be with each other.”

 

Video: So, Joe Thornton is pretty stoked about playing in the Stanley Cup Final

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‘Jumbo’ Joe Thornton is off to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in his career. The San Jose Sharks are off to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in franchise history.

And yeah, the 36-year-old Thornton, a veteran of 1,367 regular season games with 1,341 career regular season points, is pretty excited for both himself and his team when it comes to this feat.

It hasn’t been easy in San Jose. It hasn’t been easy for the franchise, for the fans, for the players, for Thornton or for Patrick Marleau, who is also 36 years old and has played his entire career (1,411 regular season games) in San Jose.

There have been playoff failures and a regular season disappointment last year. There has been a coaching change and harsh words exchanged between Thornton and management — more specifically, GM Doug Wilson — and an organizational decision to remove the captaincy from Thornton.

After all that, however, the Sharks are four wins away from hoisting the Stanley Cup.

Did we mention Joe Thornton is excited about the final?

Franchise history: The Sharks are off to the Stanley Cup Final

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For the first time in franchise history, the San Jose Sharks are off to the Stanley Cup Final.

This, after a monumental and historical collapse in the first round to the L.A. Kings two years ago. This, after they failed to make the playoffs a year ago, resulting in a coaching change. There have been other post-season disappointments along the way before that, too.

Those difficult times may never be forgotten. But the Sharks have rebounded, and it culminated with a 5-2 victory over the visiting St. Louis Blues in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final on Wednesday. Fans at SAP Center could feel it, too, especially after Joel Ward scored his second goal of the night, giving San Jose a three-goal lead early in the third period.

The Blues attempted a furious comeback but couldn’t quite complete it.

The Sharks this year have eliminated the Kings, Nashville Predators and now the Blues in that order. They await the winner of the Eastern Conference Final between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins.

 

The Sharks got off to the perfect start in the series clincher versus St. Louis. Joe Pavelski recorded his 13th goal, which leads all players in this post-season, and the Sharks continued to roll from there.

Ward increased the lead in the second period and again in the third. His second of the night proved to be the winner. Joonas Donskoi‘s goal, making it 4-0 San Jose before the midway point of the third period, proved critical as the Blues tried to spark a desperation comeback.

The Blues’ leading scorer Vladimir Tarasenko (40 goals, 74 points in the regular season) was held off the score sheet through the first five games of this series, before finally striking for both St. Louis goals in Game 6.