Yzerman: ‘We’ve got to sort out our goaltending’

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Next year promises to be an interesting one in goal for Tampa Bay.

The Lightning will go into 2014-15 with Vezina finalist Ben Bishop as the unquestioned No. 1 — assuming he sufficiently recovers from wrist surgery, of course — but with some questions about who’ll play behind Bishop, and with their AHL affiliate in Syracuse.

“We’ve got to sort out our goaltending,” GM Steve Yzerman said this week, per the Tampa Tribune.

Right now, the mix includes backup Anders Lindback (a pending RFA), Latvian Olympic hero Kristers Gudlevskis (signed through 2016), ’12 first-rounder Andrei Vasilevskiy (who just inked his entry-level deal) and University of Minnesota’s Adam Wilcox (a Mike Richter Award nominee this year as the NCAA’s top netminder).

The only two under contract for next year are Gudlevskis and Vasilevskiy; Lindback might’ve played his way out of town with a sub-par effort against Montreal in the playoffs and Wilcox, who just wrapped his sophomore campaign with the Gophers, could return for his junior year.

Here’s more, from the Tribune:

The Lightning could use either Vasilevskiy or Gudlevskis as Bishop’s backup. Vasilevskiy certainly has been impressive playing against men in the KHL. And Yzerman said that despite the small sample size, Gudleveskis, 21, the first goalie to play in the ECHL, AHL, NHL and Olympics in the same season, showed enough to at least get into the conversation as a possible No. 2.

Don’t discount the possibility of Yzerman using one of his goaltending chips in trade. In fact, Gudlevskis might be trade bait if the team wants Vasilevskiy as Bishop’s backup and Wilcox under contract.

It’ll be interesting to see what Tampa does behind Bishop for the No. 2 gig. While the NHL’s tallest netminder enjoyed a breakthrough campaign this year, there are still some concerns moving forward: 1) Prior to this year, Bishop never played in more than 22 games in a single season; 2) His heavy workload this season seemed to wear him down physically as, in addition to the wrist problem, Bishop also suffered a dislocated elbow that ruled him out for the playoffs.

As such, Yzerman might consider bringing a more veteran presence in to stabilize things should Bishop not produce at a similar clip. The problem there, of course, is it would add another goalie to what’s already a crowded situation in Tampa Bay.

Video: This Kane-to-Panarin goal is all sorts of ridiculous

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When people were arguing against Artemi Panarin‘s Calder case, they often discounted his work because of Patrick Kane‘s brilliance (at least when they weren’t focusing on age questions).

It always felt a little unfair to Panarin.

Do we blame a great wide receiver playing with an adept quarterback? Sure, it’s an interesting discussion to have, but it seems fairly clear that there’s a symbiotic relationship between Panarin and Kane.

One could see that plainly in a 1-0 goal for the Chicago Blackhawks against the Pittsburgh Penguins that … admittedly was driven by Kane’s almost audacious creativity and skill.

But still, Panarin has 26 goals this season because he’s really good, too. This season has been a nice showcase for such thoughts, and a reminder that – like most great combinations – they make each other better.

(Seriously though, Kane was out of his mind there.)

‘Old Time Hockey’ video game takes a bit of an early beating from reviewers

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From the sound of things, “Old Time Hockey” is a video game with a lot of heart, but maybe not the skills to make it to the big time.

While “NHL 17” is pumped out by publishing giant EA Sports, this title is very much an independent labor of love by a company called V7 Entertainment. Puck Daddy’s Sean Leahy provided a great interview with the developers here. It’s worth noting that the game reminds one of 8-bit titles in another way: lacking an NHL license, these teams are instead fictional. This isn’t necessarily a drawback as much as it provides the title with its own unique “flavor.”

It’s hard not to get behind a scrappy development, especially in an age where sports video game options are so scarce. Some leagues barely see any licensed games any longer (see: the MLB, which feels woefully misrepresented these days), and the arcade-style that “Blades of Steel” and other old-school games popularized is even tougher to come by.

Combine these factors with an aesthetic inspired by “Slap Shot” and “Old Time Hockey” seems like it could really scratch an itch … except, it sounds like the puck missed the net.

So far, reviews are pretty mixed for the title, which is currently on PC and Playstation 4 (with planned releases on Xbox One and Nintendo Switch).

While there are a few good reviews here and there, the general reception is of disappointment.

A Sporting News review states that “the promising premise falls apart quickly.” Game Informer slams a “slew-footed story mode.” PC Gamer notes that, with EA not releasing an NHL game on that platform since 2008, there was a need here … but it wasn’t met.

Does that mean there’s no fun to be had? Not necessarily, but it’s a bummer that the game might be off the mark, especially since V7 Entertainment seems to have its heart in the right place.

Then again, maybe those who want that “NHL 94” fix merely need to dig a little. As this Vice article points out, there’s still an active community playing the sort of game that scratches the itch that “Old Time Hockey” – perhaps – can’t quite reach.

WATCH LIVE: Blackhawks at Penguins – Wednesday Night Rivalry

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The latest edition of NBCSN’s Wednesday Night Rivalry presents quite the treat: the Chicago Blackhawks at the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Both teams are at 103 standings points and each squad already punched a ticket to the playoffs. Even so, they’re dealing with mini-slumps that they’d like to work out tonight.

For all we know, this could be a preview of what would be one extremely fun, high-profile 2017 Stanley Cup Final. Either way, it’s a showcase of two premiere franchises brimming with star power.

You can watch on NBCSN, online and via NBC Sports App. Click here for the livestream.

Yes, NHL will share protected, available player lists for expansion draft

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We can debate all day how much the NHL, Vegas Golden Knights and others involved really want to do this, but they’re making the right choice with the expansion draft nonetheless. The league will make protected and available players lists available at the same time they’re shared with teams, according to NHL.com’s Nick Cotsonika.

(The NHL tweeted out as much, too.)

Could this lead to feelings being hurt or perhaps even certain sneaky deals being scuttled? Perhaps, but those are headaches that management should be expected to absorb.

The bottom line is that an expansion draft is a dream come true for armchair GMs, rumor enthusiasts, fantasy sports fans and … really, just about anyone interested in hockey. It would be a bewildering decision to try to keep all of this information locked down, even for a league that frequently garners a reputation for choosing comfort over entertainment value.

Cotsonika reports that such lists will probably be made available on June 18, though that isn’t set in stone. NHL.com’s Dan Rosen also backs this up as a possible date.

(If you’re the type to take off work if a trade deadline was exciting, you might want to start drumming up excuses/putting aside vacation time/practicing your best “I’m sick” voice just in case …)

Cap Friendly provides a handy timeline for the expansion draft process: