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Goalie nods: Bobrovsky named December’s first star, looks to continue win streak

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First, the award — Columbus netminder Sergei Bobrovsky has been named the NHL’s first star for December:

Bobrovsky went 12-0-0 with a 1.75 goals-against average and .939 save percentage to guide the Blue Jackets (26-5-4, 56 points) to a perfect 14-0-0 December and the top of the League standings.

In doing so, Columbus equaled the second-longest single-season winning streak in NHL history (15) and became just the second team in League history to win every outing in a calendar month of at least 10 games (PIT: 15-0-0 in March 2013).

Bobrovsky allowed two or fewer goals in nine of his 12 December appearances and also made 30-plus saves five times, including a season-high 37 stops Dec. 27 vs. BOS.

Needless to say, it was a pretty good month. Now Bobrovsky will look to continue that form — and Columbus’ 15-game winning streak — when the Jackets host Edmonton at Nationwide. This will be the second time Bob’s faced Connor McDavid and company this season, having previously stopped 33 shots in a 3-1 win in mid-December.

For Edmonton, Cam Talbot gets the nod. He too enjoyed a very good December, going 7-1-4 with a .924 save percentage and 2.26 GAA.

Elsewhere…

Eddie Lack is back on the shelf with a concussion, so Cam Ward starts yet again for the ‘Canes. No word yet on who goes for the visiting Devils.

Anders Nilsson gets the nod for the Sabres, who are in New York this evening. No word yet on a Rangers starter.

— Good matchup in Washington, where Braden Holtby and the Caps will host Frederik Andersen and the Leafs. Holtby is coming off a 23-save win over Ottawa on Sunday, and Andersen is riding a personal four-game winning streak.

— The Lightning will continue to ride Andrei Vasilevskiy, with Ben Bishop sidelined due to injury. The Russian ‘tender has won four of his last six starts, and will try for five in seven when the Bolts host Connor Hellebuyck and the Jets.

— In a much-ballyhooed game in Nashville, Carey Price and the Habs take on Pekka Rinne and the Preds. Price is looking to rebound after losing three consecutive starts, while Rinne is looking over his shoulder at backup Juuse Saros, who has played very well in limited minutes.

— The Sharks and Kings renew their rivalry in San Jose tonight and, unsurprisingly, both teams are going with their No. 1s: Martin Jones for the Sharks, Peter Budaj for the Kings.

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.