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Panthers captain Jovanovski planning to play next season

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Ed Jovanovski doesn’t know what the future holds, but one thing is for certain — he isn’t going to just walk away from the game of hockey.

“I have a year on my contract and I plan on fulfilling it,” the Panthers captain said, per the Miami Herald. “It’s going to be a really important summer to concentrate on an 82-game schedule.”

Jovanovski, 37, made an unprecedented comeback in January, returning to the Florida lineup after undergoing hip resurfacing, a procedure consisting of placing a metal cap over the femur and a matching metal cup in the pelvic socket.

It’s less invasive than a complete hip replacement (because more of the femur is left intact), but still a significant procedure.

According to the Sun-Sentinel, returning from said procedure is uncharted territory:

It’s believed that no athlete from any of the four major professional sports has ever come back successfully after this relatively new procedure.

Former Lightning center Tim Taylor underwent hip resurfacing at 37 after the 2007 season and never played another NHL game. Bo Jackson, an NFL and MLB star, had a hip replacement in 1991 and was forced to retire at 29.

“I don’t think it’s ever happened,” said Dr. Audie Rolnick, a Plantation hip replacement surgeon, who doesn’t do resurfacing.

“Hockey of all sports, has a huge amount of stress on the joint and the hips, so I think it’s going to be pretty rough for him at 37 to come back. His skating will be fine, but it’s the crashing into the boards and other players crashing into him. The crashes will loosen up the prosthesis and cause pain.

“I would never let anyone go back to playing a sport like this.”

(Here’s a piece on Rangers pitcher Colby Lewis trying to come back from the same procedure.)

Jovanovski has returned in fine form, amazingly enough, scoring five points in 32 games while averaging over 16 minutes a night. On Mar. 25, he played a season-high 20:19 against Ottawa, firing three shots on goal while registering one hit and a blocked shot.

So why the questions about coming back next year?

Well, Jovanovski will turn 38 in June, for starters. There’s also the possibility of a compliance buyout which, according to CapGeek, could save the Panthers some cash and cap space — next year will be the last of Jovanovski’s four-year, $16.5 million deal with a $4.125 million cap hit; if he was to retire, Florida would be on the hook for the entire amount as he originally signed the deal as a 35-plus player.

All the financial analysis might be moot, though, as JovoCop certainly sounds like someone that wants to keep playing — and Tallon might find it extremely difficult to stop from happening.

“At the end of the day, do what you love to do,” he explained. “We play a game. It’s hard, a lot of the things that go unnoticed. The travel; yes we do fly on charters, but it’s a grind getting in at 2, 3 in the morning and have to get ready in the morning. It tests you that much more.

“But it killed me not being around the guys and that’s something that bothers me when it’s all going to be over.”

Foley is ‘9.5’ out of 10 confident that NHL will expand to Vegas

LAS VEGAS, NV - FEBRUARY 10:  NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman (L) and Fidelity National Financial Inc. Chairman and President of Hockey Vision Las Vegas Bill Foley pose during a news conference at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino announcing the launch of a season ticket drive to try to gauge if there is enough interest in Las Vegas to support an NHL team on February 10, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. A Las Vegas franchise would play in a USD 375 million, 20,000-seat arena being built on the Strip by MGM Resorts International and AEG that is scheduled to open in the spring of 2016.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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On a scale of 1 to 10, Bill Foley is “9.5” confident that the NHL will grant him an expansion team for Las Vegas.

That was the main takeaway from an interview Foley did with KSNV NBC in Las Vegas.

At the same time, despite his high level of confidence, Foley would appreciate an answer sooner rather than later — especially if the team is to start playing in 2017-18.

” I don’t want to give the league too much time,” he said, smiling. “They’re doing their job, they’re doing their process and so on. We would really like to have the word by June.”

Foley was asked what he believed to be the biggest “concern” the NHL had about expansion. He replied that it was a matter of whether the league expanded by one team or two (Quebec City has also applied for a franchise), but also the expansion draft.

“Who’s available in the draft? Are players with no-trade clauses…are they going to be part of the draft or not part of the draft?” Foley wondered. “So the owners and the league have a lot of things to do and to figure out.”

Full video of the interview can be found here.

Related: Bettman rejects notion that the NHL is waiting for Seattle

Goalie nods: Backup extraordinaire Montoya gets the call versus Wings

Florida Panthers goalie Al Montoya watches game action against the New Jersey Devils' during the second period of a NHL hockey game in Sunrise, Fla., Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)
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The Florida Panthers have had no problem giving Roberto Luongo the odd night off this season. That’s because Al Montoya has been one of the best backups in the league.

Montoya (8-2-1, .931) will get the call tonight in Detroit, with Luongo (23-13-5, .930) expected to start tomorrow in Buffalo.

The Panthers have the highest team save percentage in the NHL, at .926 (which includes empty-net goals).

“They both give us a chance to win every night,” Panthers d-man Brian Campbell told the Miami Herald recently. “Both make huge saves for us at times. You need consistent saves every night and they both bring it. Montoya gets put into a tough spot a lot of times and nothing seems to change.”

Beyond Montoya, other NHL backups with particularly good numbers include the Flyers’ Michal Neuvirth (.933), the Kings’ Jhonas Enroth (.931), the Blues’ Brian Elliott (.930), the Islanders’ Thomas Greiss (.929), and the Wild’s Darcy Kuemper (.928).

Petr Mrazek will start for the Red Wings. He used to be Detroit’s backup, but he’s since surpassed Jimmy Howard for the starting job.

Elsewhere…

Cory Schneider for the Devils at MSG, versus Henrik Lundqvist for the Rangers.

John Gibson for the Ducks in Pittsburgh, versus Marc-Andre Fleury for the Penguins.

— Andrei Vasilevskiy for the Lightning in Ottawa, versus Craig Anderson for the Sens.

Blues put Pietrangelo on IR with knee injury

Pietrangelo-Coyle
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Not good news for the St. Louis Blues — the club announced this morning that defenseman Alex Pietrangelo has been placed on injured reserve with a right-knee injury. He’ll be re-evaluated in three weeks.

Pietrangelo suffered the injury Saturday in a knee-on-knee collision with Minnesota’s Charlie Coyle.

Based on the timeline provided, the Blues will be without their leader in average ice time (26:40) until at least the end of the month. St. Louis plays 10 times between now and Feb. 29, which also happens to be the trade deadline.

The big question, of course, is whether Pietrangelo will be ready to go upon re-evaluation.

The first day of the playoffs is April 13.

Update:

Related: Armstrong wants Blues to get healthy before any trades are made

“I wonder if that’s Crosby, what happens?’ — AV upset after McDonagh concussed by Simmonds

Alain Vigneault
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Alain Vigneault took another shot at the NHL’s Department of Player Safety today.

This time, the Rangers head coach was upset about the lack of supplementary discipline for Philadelphia’s Wayne Simmonds in the wake of Saturday’s altercation with New York captain Ryan McDonagh.

“An All-Star player gets sucker-punched, goes down,” Vigneault said, per The Record. “I wonder if that’s (Sidney) Crosby, what happens? What are the consequences? And, on top of that, a player breaks his stick, throws it at the referees. In the rulebook, that’s automatic. It’s three games. Nothing happens. It’s not even on the sheet after the game.”

Simmonds’ punch left McDonagh concussed and unable to play tonight versus New Jersey, with no timetable for his return.

Earlier this season, Vigneault voiced his frustration with the league after Rangers center Derek Stepan suffered broken ribs in Boston on a hit from Bruins forward Matt Beleskey.

Vigneault felt the hit was late.

“I remember Aaron Rome in this building, .6 seconds late, getting suspended four games in the Stanley Cup Final,” the former Vancouver Canucks coach said, recalling the contentious 2011 final.

Beleskey was not suspended.