Having already clinched the second playoff berth in franchise history, Columbus will give No. 1 goalie Sergei Bobrovsky a rest tonight and start backup Curtis McElhinney against Tampa Bay.
McElhinney hasn’t played much lately — his last start was on Mar. 29, when stopped 25 of 27 shots in a win over the Hurricanes — but there is some pressure tonight, as the Jackets could move ahead of Philadelphia for third place in the Metropolitan Division by earning at least one point. The Bolts also have something to play for, as they can overtake first-round opponent Montreal for second in the Atlantic Division, and get a leg up in the battle for home ice advantage.
Tampa Bay will start Anders Lindback in goal.
Lehtonen looks to clinch
Dallas can get into the playoffs for the first time in five years with any sort of victory — regulation, overtime or shootout — against the Blues, and the Stars will try to get there with Kari Lehtonen in goal. The Finnish netminder last played in a win over Nashville on Tuesday (stopping 27 of 29 shots) and was given Wednesday night off as a result (Tim Thomas was in for a loss to Columbus).
Tonight, Lehtonen is back and looking to fare better against the Blues than he has in the past — he’s 1-1-1 vs. St. Louis this season, with a 3.52 GAA and .867 save percentage.
For the Blues, Ryan Miller will be in net.
‘Hawks at Caps: Corey Crawford for Chicago, no word yet on a Washington starter.
Isles at Devils: No word from either team.
Jets at Flames: Karri Ramo likely for Calgary, no word on Winnipeg’s starter.
Avalanche at Sharks: Reto Berra vs. Alex Stalock
Video: Reimer, Allen shut down dangerous one-timers
In an ideal world, goalie equipment wouldn’t be such an issue. Teams would be able to “get goalies moving” with great passing and chances just about no one could stop.
Then again, there are also those saves that a select handful of humans can pull off. A big reason why there’s only been one goal between the Panthers and Blues tonight is the lateral movement shown by both James Reimer and Jake Allen.
First, watch as Reimer robs Jori Lehtera on what’s likely the save of the night:
Allen really hasn’t been that far behind Reimer, right down to making a similar stop:
Considering the two nearly identical one-timer goals scored by Arizona against Anaheim in finding seams for big passes through opposing defenses, tonight’s goalies might want to do some extra stretching during intermissions.
Dvorak, Coyotes put Ducks in early hole with slick goals (Video)
The Arizona Coyotes’ happy thoughts are mostly centered on the future. Christian Dvorak possibly being more than a guy who put up nice junior numbers with Matthew Tkachuk and Mitch Marner could fuel some really nice thoughts.
He’s been red-hot in February, in particular, including a goal already tonight as the Coyotes raced off to an early 2-0 lead against the Anaheim Ducks.
Check out that smooth play for his 10th goal of 2016-17:
Again, he’s been on quite the roll lately.
February: nine points (and counting?) in nine games
Rest of the season: 13 points in 45 games
He only had one assist in 12 January contests, so this outburst is even more unexpected than the Coyotes racing off to this lead.
Interestingly, the Coyotes two goals looked awfully similar, at least in the finish:
Hmm, that … seems a little crazy. Few players see their best days at age 33 and beyond.
But what about his work with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies? Maybe he’s killing it there.
Well, if he is, his contributions aren’t showing in the simple counting stats. In 22 games this season, Laich has one goal and six points. He isn’t even firing a shot on goal per game (just 17 in those 22 contests).
Now, Laich wouldn’t sell you on his scoring skills. Face-offs might not be much of a calling card, either.
The problem for Laich is he has never been a regular 50+% FO guy in the NHL. Playing a 4th line role for Babcock essentially requires that.
So … it’s easier to understand why he’s struggling to get a foothold in his career. Laich isn’t much of a scorer, isn’t dominant on the draw and isn’t someone who’s shown a history of dramatically tilting the ice in his team’s favor.
Does that mean he can’t be a fourth-line center, or failing that, at least a depth forward? Laich could conceivably be helpful to some team, even if it’s difficult to imagine anyone giving up anything but a minor asset for him.
And, yes, it’s crazy to imagine him exceeding anything he did with the Washington Capitals.
Avalanche say ankle injury ends Nikita Zadorov’s season
Zadorov, 21, is a big defenseman with the pedigree that would inspire teams to imagine better things in the future (16th pick in 2013 by Buffalo). So far, that potential hasn’t really manifested itself in production, whether you judge a player by points, plus/minus or possession numbers.
He may be able to put it together at some point – again, he’s young – so perhaps he’ll remember this as a low point before he turns things around.
At the moment, it’s just another grim part of a bleak time for the Avs.