Bob Murray: Big difference between Ducks, Kings is Doughty

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The Anaheim Ducks took the Los Angeles Kings to Game 7 in the second round of the 2014 NHL playoffs, so the gap between these two squads doesn’t appear to be huge. But it nevertheless exists and Ducks GM Bob Murray gave it a name when he asked about the missing pieces to Anaheim’s puzzle.

“You watch the Kings, for example, and you watch how Drew Doughty has emerged as a superstar,” Murray said, per the Ducks’ website. “Do we have a defenseman who can be that way? When we won the Stanley Cup, we had Scotty and Chris [Pronger]. That’s in the back of my mind all the time. Where is that guy, can you find that guy, and can you afford that guy?”

The Kings and former Ducks aren’t the only recent championship teams that have been backed by top-tier defensemen. The Chicago Blackhawks have Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, the Boston Bruins have Zdeno Chara, the 2009 Pittsburgh Penguins had Sergei Gonchar, and the 2008 Detroit Red Wings had Nicklas Lidstrom.

Finding a blueliner that can lead you to glory on the free agent market rarely happens as teams are quick to lock up that caliber of player to a long-term contract and it’s similarly unusual to find one on the trade market.

In 2009, Philadelphia had to give up two first-round picks along with two former first-round selections (Joffrey Lupul and Luca Sbisa) to get Pronger mere months before his 35th birthday and even then, it was a good move for the Flyers. Pronger led them to the Stanley Cup Final and might have taken them that one step further had his career not been cut short due to a concussion.

Since they lost Pronger, the Flyers have tried desperately to fill that void, but even a team run as boldly as Philadelphia was lucky to succeed in getting a guy at that level on the market once in the last five years. Most teams haven’t accomplished that much.

So if the Ducks want their own Doughty, they’ll likely have to look within for answers. They have to hope that Cam Fowler continues to progress after taking a step forward in 2013-14 or perhaps that one of their top prospects like Shea Theodore emerges as a top-tier blueliner over the next five years.

In the meantime, Murray suggested that the team also needs a centerman and unlike Doughty-level defenseman, that is something obtainable on the trade market.

Goalie nods: After blowout loss, ‘Hawks start Darling against desperate Bolts

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It wasn’t a good performance from Corey Crawford in Saturday’s 7-0 loss in Florida — the Chicago starter was hooked after allowing four goals on 25 shots.

Of course, it wasn’t a good night for the guy that replaced Crawford, either.

Scott Darling was torched for three goals on six shots against the Panthers, but now gets the first crack at redemption — Darling will start tonight when Chicago gets back into action in Tampa Bay.

The Lightning are hopeful they’ll have as much success against Darling — and maybe even Crawford — as the Panthers did on the weekend. Tampa Bay is desperate for points, and heads into tonight’s action sitting three points back of Boston for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. The Bruins are idle tonight, but the Isles — who have 82 points, to Tampa Bay’s 81 — are in action, hosting Nashville.

So it’s a big night for Tampa, to say the least. Appropriately, Andrei Vasilevskiy will get the start, after stopping 29 of 30 shots in a big OT win over Detroit on Friday.

Elsewhere…

Eddie Lack is 5-1-1 in March with a .931 save percentage, so he gets the call as the ‘Canes host the Red Wings. Petr Mrazek goes for Detroit.

Roberto Luongo is still out, meaning James Reimer gets yet another start for the Panthers (he scored the shutout against Chicago over the weekend). Robin Lehner is in goal for Buffalo.

— We mentioned the Isles-Preds game above, and it’ll be Thomas Greiss in goal for the host team. It’s his second straight start, having played in Saturday’s loss to Boston, and it comes ahead of the recently recalled Jaroslav Halak. No word yet on a Preds starter.

Jake Allen‘s ridiculous month (7-1-1, .951 save percentage) continues with a start against the Coyotes. Mike Smith will be in goal for the visitors, looking to snap a five-game personal losing streak.

— The Flames will stick with Brian Elliott when they host the Avs tonight. No word yet on a Colorado starter.

Sharks’ Haley suspended one game for Jarnkrok sucker punch

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The NHL’s Department of Player Safety has come down on San Jose tough guy Micheal Haley.

On Monday, Haley was suspended one game for his sucker punch of Preds forward Calle Jarnkrok, near the end of Nashville’s 7-2 over the Sharks on Saturday.

“Haley forcefully punches a player who is off balance, not engaged in the confrontation and not even looking when the punch is thrown,” the DoPS explained, via video. “This is a forceful punch on an opponent who is not able to defend himself at the time.”

The DoPS did acknowledge Jarnkrok’s hit on Haley that preceded the punch — Jarnkrok was given a boarding minor on the play — and also noted that Haley explained he was seeking retribution for said hit.

In addition, the DoPS acknowledged this was Haley’s first offense.

As a result of the suspension, Haley will now miss San Jose’s next game — tomorrow at home against the Rangers — and will be eligible to return on Thursday, when the Sharks take on the Oilers in Edmonton.

Haley will also forfeit $3,472.22 in salary to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.

 

Cassidy says Bruins ‘overused’ Rask early on

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Some interesting comments today from Boston Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy, after goalie Tuukka Rask returned to practice.

Cassidy’s remarks came in the wake of Saturday’s big win in Brooklyn — a game that Rask missed with a lower-body injury.

“He had a good practice today,” Cassidy said of Rask, per CSN New England“He’s a guy that’s played a lot of hockey this year … and he’s not a 240-pound goaltender that can handle all of the games, all of the workload every year. We know that. I’m not going to put limitations on him, but we probably overused him at the start of the year. At this time of year, it gets tougher and tougher with any player that’s been overplayed.”

It remains to be seen which netminder will get the nod tomorrow against Nashville at TD Garden. Anton Khudobin stopped 18 of 19 shots in Saturday’s 2-1 victory over the Islanders. After a 1-5-1 start to the season, the 30-year-old backup has won his last five starts.

But Cassidy insisted today that Rask is the Bruins’ “No. 1 goalie.”

“He’s our No. 1 and his health is very important,” said Cassidy. “When he’s physically ready to go and he tells me that, then we’ll make that decision.”

Couture seeing dentist today, Sharks hoping for the best

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Logan Couture took a puck to the face Saturday in Nashville, forcing him to leave an eventual 7-2 loss to the Predators — and leave it without all his teeth.

Today, the San Jose forward is seeing the dentist. The hope, according to head coach Pete DeBoer, is that Couture’s injury isn’t as serious as initially feared.

“You see him the next day, the swelling wasn’t as bad as we thought,” DeBoer said Monday, per CSN Bay Area. “He’s seeing the dentist today, and going to have some dental work done. But, I think the initial prognosis is that we feel pretty fortunate that with the amount of damage compared to what it could have been.”

The slumping Sharks, losers of six straight, have seven games left in the regular season. They host the Rangers tomorrow.