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Goalie nods: Isles finally give Berube a start

A new chapter in the NHL’s weirdest goalie situation will be written tonight in Buffalo.

The visiting Islanders will give Jean-Francois Berube his first start of the year. This is the same Berube that’s been on the active roster since the opening day of the regular season, and the same Berube that’s played a grand total of five minutes and 37 seconds this year, which came in relief of Jaroslav Halak during Saturday’s 6-2 loss to the Jackets.

After making a name for himself with the Kings’ AHL affiliate — helping them win the Calder Cup in 2015 — Berube was claimed off waivers by the Isles in October of last season. He then proceeded to appear in seven games for New York, going 3-2-1 with a  2.71 GAA and .914 save percentage.

This year, the 25-year-old has been stuck behind Halak and Thomas Greiss. He’s also been stuck in limbo — if the Isles wanted to send him down to the American League to get some playing time, they’d have to expose him to waivers. And apparently there’s a big fear he’d get claimed, because carrying three goalies this year has proven to be a headache.

More: Isles don’t seem to know what to do with Berube

For the Sabres, Robin Lehner gets the call.

Elsewhere…

Matt Murray has been terrific lately, and looks to start again when the Pens host the Kings. No word yet on a L.A. starter.

— Excellent matchup in Montreal, as Martin Jones and the Sharks take on Carey Price at the Habs. These two squared off two weeks ago in San Jose, and Jones bested Price in a 2-1 win.

Braden Holtby gets a night off in Carolina, as the Caps will start Philipp Grubauer. The ‘Canes will go back to Cam Ward, who was yanked from a wild game on Tuesday against the Canucks. Ward surrendered three goals on 18 shots, but Carolina came back to beat Vancouver 8-6.

— It’s expected that James Reimer will give Roberto Luongo a breather, after Luongo was yanked from Tuesday’s loss in Minnesota. Calvin Pickard is in for Colorado, replacing the injured Semyon Varlamov.

As we wrote about earlier, Chad Johnson makes his eighth straight start tonight when Calgary hosts Columbus. The Jackets are expected to go with Sergei Bobrovsky, as per usual.

Andrei Vasilevskiy gets the nod ahead of Ben Bishop, as the Bolts visit Vancouver. Ryan Miller, who was also hooked in that aforementioned Canucks-‘Canes game, goes right back in for the start.

Report: Blue Jackets RFA Anderson in contact with Hockey Canada about 2018 Olympics

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The preseason is well underway and Josh Anderson is still without a contract.

Anderson, who scored 17 goals and 29 points last season for the Columbus Blue Jackets, is one of two remaining restricted free agents without a new deal. The other is Andreas Athanasiou of the Detroit Red Wings.

While there were reports this summer about Athanasiou potentially going to the KHL for this season, John Shannon of Sportsnet reported on Thursday that Anderson’s representatives have reached out to Hockey Canada’s staff about the 2018 Olympics. 

Anderson’s entry-level contract, with an AAV of just over $894,000, expired at the end of last season.

Meanwhile, here is the latest on this ongoing contract situation.

Making an impression: Sergachev has ‘NHL written all over him’

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Mikhail Sergachev has, over the summer, stated his belief he can play in the NHL this season.

He had a small taste of NHL action last season, appearing in four games for Montreal — the team that selected him ninth overall in 2016 — before getting sent back to junior and then being traded in June to Tampa Bay, as part of a blockbuster involving Jonathan Drouin to the Habs.

Well, Sergachev made a statement Wednesday in his preseason debut for the Lightning.

He scored once. He also played more than 22 minutes, which led all Lightning players on the night. That included time on the power play and penalty kill. If he was looking to make a favorable impression, to show that he belongs at the NHL level when the regular season begins, this seems to be another step in that direction.

“You watch this kid skate, shoot, stickhandle, he’s got NHL written all over him,” Tampa Bay’s associate coach Rick Bowness told the Tampa Bay Times. “Now we’ve got to give him experience. How much can he handle?”

There is competition on the blue line, with eight defensemen under contract in Tampa Bay for this season. That includes Sergachev, who is still only 19 years old. After getting sent back to junior last season, he recorded 43 points in 50 games with Windsor and then won the Memorial Cup that spring. That said, he’s made it a point of saying going back to junior “is not an option” for him.

Related:

Looking to make the leap: Mikhail Sergachev

Report: Lupul will have ‘independent medical exam’

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Joffrey Lupul issued a statement Wednesday, saying he wouldn’t seek a second medical opinion after the Maple Leafs announced he didn’t pass his training camp physical.

A day later, reports have surfaced that the 33-year-old forward will, in fact, undergo another, independent medical test.

That is according to James Mirtle of The Athletic:

Earlier this week, Lupul made accusations against the Maple Leafs on Instagram.

“I’m ready … just awaiting the call,” Lupul wrote in the comments section of the Instagram post, per a screen grab. “haha failed physical? They cheat. Everyone lets them.”

Lupul, who didn’t pass his physical for a second year in a row, issued an apology yesterday. But those comments — which have since been deleted — seem to have grabbed the attention of the league.

Darren Dreger of TSN added to that, saying it’s the NHL pursuing a second medical opinion on this matter.

“The National Hockey League has that right to pursue the second opinion. That’s exactly what they’re engaging in right now,” Dreger reported Thursday.

“The reasoning behind it is because of the comment that Lupul made on social media. I’ll go back a year ago. The league didn’t step in a year ago but Lupul stayed quiet at that point. So they want to make sure — ‘They’ being the National Hockey League — that the medical evaluation from the Toronto Maple Leafs is 100 per cent above the board.”

Team USA won’t include NHL draft-eligible prospects at 2018 Olympics

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) General manager Jim Johannson has ruled out the possibility of the U.S. men’s hockey team having NHL draft-eligible prospects competing at the Winter Olympics in February.

Johannson tells The Associated Press he doesn’t view anyone from the 18-and-younger pool of prospects capable of cracking the projected lineup of non-NHL players, many of whom are opening this season playing in Europe.

USA Hockey’s assistant executive director says he’s also targeting a number of established college players, and would not rule out keeping a spot or two open for members of the U.S. team competing at the World Junior Championships this winter.

Johansson spoke in Buffalo, New York, on Thursday, where he is attending USA Hockey’s sixth annual All-American Prospects game. The game features the top 42 U.S.-born players eligible to be selected in the NHL draft in June.