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Goalie nods: Leafs give Bibeau second career start

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Antoine Bibeau is hoping his second-ever NHL start will go better than the first.

Not that he played badly against the Avalanche on Dec. 11 — Bibeau stopped 26 of 28 shots, good for a .929 save percentage. But the Leafs lost that night, and Bibeau’s counterpart, Colorado netminder Seymon Varlamov, put forth a brilliant 51-save effort in the win.

Tonight, Bibeau will have a shot at his first career win in Tampa Bay, facing a Bolts team that rallied for a comeback OT win over Montreal last night. He should have a reasonable crack at the W — Toronto is surging right now, having won four of its last five, and currently boasts the NHL’s seventh-best offense.

For the Bolts, Andrei Vasilevskiy gets his second nod in as many nights, after stopping 22 shots in Wednesday’s win over the Habs.

Elsewhere…

— After making 40 saves in a win over Detroit on Tuesday, Robin Lehner is back in for Buffalo. No word yet on a Boston starter.

Keith Kinkaid gives the struggling Cory Schneider a night off in Washington. The Caps will go with Braden Holtby, who has played well of late despite losing three of his last four starts.

— Speaking of nights off, Carey Price and Roberto Luongo each get one in Florida. The Panthers are going with James Reimer, and the Habs are going with Al Montoya.

— The Wings will give Jared Coreau his third career start when they take on the Sens in Ottawa. Mike Condon is in the other net.

Sergei Bobrovsky and the red-hot Jackets are in Winnipeg tonight. Bobrovsky is looking for his 11th straight win and the Jackets are looking for their 13th in a row. For the Jets, Michael Hutchinson starts.

— Coming off a win against Washington on Tuesday, Jaroslav Halak is back in goal for the Isles, who visit Minnesota. No surprises from the Wild, who will continue to ride Devan Dubynk. Dubnyk is looking for his 10th win in a row.

Corey Crawford has played well in both of his games since returning from an appendectomy, but failed to register a win. He’ll look to change that in Nashville this evening. Looks as though the Preds are going with Pekka Rinne.

— Colorado is still without the services of Semyon Varlamov (groin), so Calvin Pickard starts again. He allowed six goals on 31 shots in his last outing against Calgary on Tuesday. Pickard will face Kari Lehtonen, who is playing well of late, allowing just four goals on his last 68 shots faced.

Chad Johnson is back in goal for the Flames, who had started Brian Elliott in three of the last four. He’ll be up against John Gibson.

— The Kings are on the second of a back-to-back, and played Peter Budaj in Vancouver last night. They’ve yet to announce a starter. Edmonton will start Cam Talbot for the 33rd time this year.

— Henrik Lunqvist is still out with illness, so Antti Raanta makes a second consecutive start for the Rangers. The Coyotes, as per usual, are going with veteran Mike Smith.

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.