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Goalie nods: Flames start Elliott for third time in four games

Just when it looked like Chad Johnson grabbed the No. 1 gig in Calgary, Brian Elliott made his move.

Elliott, who has won each of his last two starts while posting a .927 save percentage, will get his third nod in the last four games as the Flames take on the Avs in Colorado tonight. Elliott’s start comes with Johnson having lost each of his last three starts — allowing 12 goals on just 84 shots, an .857 save percentage.

Interesting times, to say the least.

We’ve been following this goalie battle throughout the season, and for good reason. The Flames acquired Elliott in the hopes he’d solidify their longstanding goalie issues, and came into the campaign as the unquestioned No. 1 (what’s more, he and the club were already in contract extension talks).

The veteran netminder struggled in his first few months with the Flames, though there was always the belief he’d have another crack at the starting gig after Johnson took it over. For as good as Johnson’s been, he’s 30 years old and never had sustained success as a No. 1.

Now could be Elliott’s shot.

Elsewhere…

Marc-Andre Fleury gets another crack at the Devils after a 23-save win against them on Friday. He’ll be up against Cory Schneider, who was on the losing end of the aforementioned tilt.

— The Caps will go right back to Braden Holtby, after he posted a 23-save shutout of the Lightning prior to the break. The Isles will go with Jaroslav Halak.

Antti Raanta gets another start for the Rangers, though this one is due to Henrik Lundqvist falling ill with the flu. Raanta will go up against Mike Condon, who starts for the visiting Sens.

— Great matchup in Columbus, as the Blue Jackets and Sergei Bobrovsky host Tuukka Rask and the Bruins.

— It’s Robin Lehner versus Petr Mrazek as the Sabres take on the Red Wings in Detroit.

— The red-hot Devan Dubnyk, who is 8-0-1 with a 1.41 GAA and .951 save percentage in December, looks to pad those stats with a start in Nashville. The Preds will counter with Pekka Rinne, who hasn’t had as much success this month (.867 save percentage).

Corey Crawford will make his second start since returning from an appendectomy, as the ‘Hawks host the Jets. Winnipeg will go with Connor Hellebuyck.

— No surprises in Arizona, as the Coyotes will continue to ride veteran Mike Smith. For the visiting Stars, Kari Lehtonen looks to make another start after a 29-save win over the Kings last Friday.

— Another good matchup in Anaheim, as Martin Jones and the Sharks take on John Gibson and the Ducks.

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.