Looking to make the leap: John Gibson

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Anaheim Ducks goaltender John Gibson has just three regular-season NHL games under his belt, but with the offseason departure of Jonas Hiller, the 21-year-old is set to make the leap as a potential starter in Orange County.

Gibson was recalled by the Ducks from its AHL affiliate in Norfolk on Apr. 6 due to an upper-body injury to Frederik Anderson.  The following night he made his NHL debut, making 18 saves and shutting out the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena for his first career win.

The Pittsburgh native went on to pick up wins at home against San Jose (April 9) and Colorado (April 13), before making his playoff debut on May 10, making 28 saves in a shutout victory over the Los Angeles Kings in Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals.

The Ducks’ 2011 second-round pick went 2-2 in four playoff appearances.

Gibson made seven appearances in all during the 2013-14 season, posting a 1.33 goals-against average and a .954 save percentage.

On July 1, Hiller, an unrestricted free agent, signed with the Calgary Flames, paving the way for Gibson and Andersen, who have a combined 31 career regular season games under their belt, to battle it out for the starting job this season.

Speaking with the Ducks’ website last month, Gibson isn’t taking anything for granted heading into camp.

“We’ve had some good conversations, but obviously nothing is ever set in stone,” said Gibson of the vacant starting position. “I just want to come into training camp and play my game and hopefully have a good season.”

The 6-foot-3, 212-pounder says he plans on using his playoff experience against the Kings as motivation heading into what will be his rookie season.

“I think we’ll all use it for motivation for next year,” he said. “I don’t think we have to worry about in a negative way, but I think we’ll use it as a positive. “Obviously (the season) ended a little earlier than I would have liked, but I think I learned a lot. I’ll be ready to go next year, take what I learned, be better and hopefully go further in the playoffs.”

Pushing the two young goaltenders will be veteran Jason Labarbera, who signed a one-year, $750,000 contract on July 1. However, during his state of the franchise address in June, general manager Bob Murray seemed satisfied entering the 2014-15 season with his oldest goaltender, Andersen, being just 24 years of age.

“I like our two young goaltenders a lot, I’ll tell you that. I’m very pleased with the progress they made this year,” he said. “They both feel they can get better, and so do I. But they’re two real good kids. I think they both have a chance to be NHL No. 1 goalies, yes.”

With Andersen ($1.15 million) and Gibson ($722,000) making under $2 million combined this season, it gives Murray, who according to CapGeek has just over $11 million to play with, the freedom to add to an already veteran-laden lineup.

What has to be exciting for Ducks’ fans is, if Gibson manages to earn the starting role out of camp and maintain his albeit-brief NHL success, Anaheim still has one more year to give the goaltender a thorough look in 2015-16 at a bargain price of $721,667.

Related: Under Pressure: Bruce Boudreau

Video: Patrick Marleau scored a beauty in his Leafs debut

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It didn’t take Patrick Marleau long to score a goal for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Yea, it’s the preseason, but it’s still nice to see him adapt to his new surroundings.

Going into Tuesday’s game, the veteran admitted that a new beginning in a new city was exciting, but he didn’t seem stressed by it.

“I wouldn’t say nervous, but definitely some excitement,” Marleau told TSN.ca before the game.

“There’s that energy of something new … you’re not sure how everything’s going to go so you try to stay within yourself.”

He did a pretty good job staying within himself.

With the Leafs trailing 1-0 in the first period of their game against the Ottawa Senators, Marleau entered the Sens zone on the right side and roofed a wrist shot past Mike Condon.

 

“He scored a goal,” Leafs head coach Mike Babcock said, per Sportsnet. “He made a real nice play – he backchecked all the way, he slowed the guy down, he gave our D time, he pushed the pace, he wired it under the bar – I mean Patty was fine.”

Hockey world supports Brian Boyle in his battle against cancer

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On Tuesday, Brian Boyle announced that he had been diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia.

As scary as the news must have been for him to hear, Boyle showed the hockey world that he’s going to have a positive outlook on this situation.

“I feel very fortunate and very blessed,” Boyle said, per NHL.com. “We’ve had a tremendous outpouring of prayers, and if there’s anything I can ask it’s that that continues. That is something that I’ve seen firsthand heal cancers and heal situations that are said to be untreatable. For us, we’re in a good spot. We think we have a good plan of attack here and I’m looking forward to getting on the ice and playing.

Immediately, players, teams and fans began sending him messages of support. It’s incredible to see what the hockey community can do when it comes together.

Boyle has already stated that he plans on being in the Devils lineup on opening night.

Jaromir Jagr’s open to many things, but not retirement or a tryout

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Yes, Jaromir Jagr is 45-years-old. He’ll turn 46 in February.

So, yes, even for a fitness freak like Jagr, it’s likely that he’d probably not be the best fit for a team that plays at a frenetic pace. To get the most out of the living legend, a team would have to provide a nurturing environment. There are also questions about what sort of role he’d accept and how much money he’d settle for.

Even with all of those disclaimers under consideration, it’s maddening that we’re in late September and Jagr continues to put out semi-sarcastic cry for help videos.

So, what’s the latest on Jagr, then?

Well, to some extent, it’s useful to consider the process of elimination.

Sports-Express’ Igor Eronko reports that Jagr is open-minded about the KHL, though the NHL is first choice. Jagr acknowledged that participating in the 2018 Winter Olympics would be a draw in the process.

One thing he isn’t open to: a PTO with an NHL team.

While there’s actually some logic to a tryout – teams might want to see how well he can move/what kind of immediate chemistry Jagr could find – it does seem a little … demeaning to a first-ballot Hall of Famer who, frankly, is still producing solid numbers.

Eronko reports that Jagr said he’s talking to three-to-four teams, while Pierre LeBrun reports that two-to-three NHL teams are speaking with Jagr’s reps in the latest edition of TSN’s Insider Trading.

(Hey, both could be correct if Jagr’s including KHL suitors in his estimate.)

LeBrun also notes the idea Jagr is ruling out, beyond a PTO: retirement.

Jagr doesn’t want to hang up his skates, even if it means not playing in the NHL, which would bum out a slew of hockey fans (raises hand).

Naturally, there are creative “have your cake and eat it too” scenarios. Perhaps Jagr could sign a KHL contract with an NHL out clause of some kind, playing in the 2018 Winter Olympics, and then ink a deal with a contender who a) he wants to play for and b) is now convinced he still “has it?”

There are plenty of possibilities, and many of them are fun to think about.

Jagr needing to try out for a team – or worse, retire – is not so fun to think about.

Flyers experiment with Claude Giroux at LW, Sean Couturier as his center

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Last season, Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier were on the ice at the same time during even-strength situations for just a bit more than five minutes. Depending upon how a Philadelphia Flyers’ pre-season experiment goes, they could line up together a whole lot more often.

Of course, if you missed this post’s headline, you might be asking: “But how? They’re both centers.”

Well, under this experiment, Giroux would move to left wing, Couturier would play center, and Jakub Voracek would assume his familiar role at RW.

Giroux came into the NHL primarily as a right-winger before moving to center, so he’s clearly versatile enough to theoretically work out on a wing. It also might allow the Flyers to try to duplicate some of their mad science from the power play to even-strength, as that’s often the role he finds himself in on that locomotive of a man-advantage unit.

As Dave Isaac of the Courier-Post reports, Giroux doesn’t seem against it, really.

“It was actually a lot of fun,” Giroux said. “It’s not like I’m against it or I’m not happy with it. If it makes the team better, we have a lot of centermen and I’m up for it for sure.”

Giroux is right. The Flyers have a glut of pivots, especially if head coach Dave Hakstol views additions Nolan Patrick and Jori Lehtera (or fairly recent addition Valtteri Filppula) as better fits down the middle.

NHL.com’s Bill Meltzer reports that Hakstol is impressed by Giroux’s willingness to move around as need be.

“When your captain is as selfless as ‘G’ is, he [goes] all in,” Hakstol said. “Whatever the role is, he’s going to attack it… It’s early, but he’s had a very high-level camp.”

Giroux’s been, at times, a bit more dependent on the PP to get his numbers. In 2016-17, five of his 14 goals and 26 of his assists (31 of 58 points) came on the power play.

Perhaps Couturier could do the “dirty work” associated with a center while two gifted wingers exploit their chemistry and get to have the fun? It’s the sort of hypothesis that can make sense in a hockey laboratory, and it would be entertaining to see if it works out in reality.

Assuming such a scientific method even makes it to October.