Getty

Goalie Nods: Matt Murray makes sixth straight start for Penguins

It appears that the starting net in Pittsburgh belongs to Matt Murray.

He will be in the lineup once again on Thursday night when the Penguins visit the Boston Bruins, making his sixth consecutive start (and seventh in the past eight games) since returning to the lineup from a lower body injury.

The distribution of playing time between Murray and Marc-Andre Fleury in Pittsburgh has been a big focus for much of this season, and at times it seemed to be a matter of each goalie simply getting the starts until they lost a game or had a clunker of a performance. That does not seem to be the case lately, especially with Murray getting the start on Thursday following a 3-0 loss to the St. Louis Blues earlier this week and getting a start in Montreal a week ago after giving up seven goals in a wild 8-7 overtime win over the Washington Capitals.

In 25 appearances this season Murray has a .922 save percentage (Fleury is currently at .905) this season. Since making his NHL debut a year ago his .925 career save percentage in the regular season (minimum 35 games played) is the third best mark in the league, behind only Thomas Greiss and Braden Holtby.

No official word yet from the Bruins on their starter, but it would be a surprise if it was not Tuukka Rask.

The Penguins enter the game having won four of their past five games, while the Bruins, whose 4-3 overtime win against Detroit on Tuesday snapped what had been a four-game losing streak, enter the evening on the outside of the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

Murray and the Penguins beat the Bruins on Sunday, 5-1, with Murray making 44 saves on 45 shots.

Elsewhere…

— Braden Holtby looks to get the Washington Capitals back into the win column after their 3-0 loss in Ottawa on Tuesday. He will be opposed by New Jersey’s Keith Kinkaid.

— Thomas Greiss has allowed just five goals in his past four games (a stretch that has seen the Islanders collect seven out of eight points) and will look to continue his recent strong play against Carey Price and the Montreal Canadiens. With 30 saves on 31 shots in his most recent start Price is looking to break out of his recent slump.

Frederik Andersen gets the night off for Toronto after his shutout against the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday night. It will be Curtis McElhinney going for the Maple Leafs when they visit the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers have not announced their starter but Steve Mason started on Wednesday, shutting out the New  York Rangers. It could be a Michal Neuvirth night with this being their second game in 24 hours.

Cam Ward has been mired in a pretty significant slump in recent weeks but he gets another start for the Hurricanes on Thursday when they host the Los Angeles Kings. Ward has allowed 21 goals in his past four starts. Look for Peter Budaj to go again for the Kings.

— After stopping 36 shots against Chicago on Tuesday, Andrei Vasilevskiy goes again for the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night when they take on the Florida Panthers in a game where both teams should be desperate for two points. Roberto Luongo goes for the Panthers.

Brian Elliott gets a chance to snap a personal four-game losing streak on Thursday when he gets the call for the Calgary Flames when they visit the Ottawa Senators. The Senators have not announced their starter.

Sergei Bobrovsky gets a chance to rebound from a rough start earlier this week against the New York Islanders when he goes for the Columbus Blue Jackets against the surging Nashville Predators. Pekka Rinne is the man in net for a Nashville team that has earned a point in seven of its past eight games (6-1-1).

— After shutting out the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday, Carter Hutton gets another start for the St. Louis Blues when they take on the first place Minnesota Wild. As expected, Devan Dubnyk gets another start for the Wild.

— As Corey Crawford continues to struggle a bit Scott Darling gets another chance for the Chicago Blackhawks when they take on the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday night. The Jets go with Connor Hellebuyck.

— It will be Anders Nilsson for Antti Niemi when the Dallas Stars host the Buffalo Sabres.

— After Jacob Markstrom went for the Canucks in their win over Colorado on Wednesday, Ryan Miller is back in the crease on Thursday against another of the NHL’s worst teams when they take on the Arizona Coyotes. Mike Smith gets the call at the other end of the ice.

— The Oilers and Sharks have yet to announce their starters for the late game, but it is a good bet that it will be Cam Talbot vs. Martin Jones.

Yes, NHL will share protected, available player lists for expansion draft

Getty
Leave a comment

We can debate all day how much the NHL, Vegas Golden Knights and others involved really want to do this, but they’re making the right choice with the expansion draft nonetheless. The league will make protected and available players lists available at the same time they’re shared with teams, according to NHL.com’s Nick Cotsonika.

(The NHL tweeted out as much, too.)

Could this lead to feelings being hurt or perhaps even certain sneaky deals being scuttled? Perhaps, but those are headaches that management should be expected to absorb.

The bottom line is that an expansion draft is a dream come true for armchair GMs, rumor enthusiasts, fantasy sports fans and … really, just about anyone interested in hockey. It would be a bewildering decision to try to keep all of this information locked down, even for a league that frequently garners a reputation for choosing comfort over entertainment value.

Cotsonika reports that such lists will probably be made available on June 18, though that isn’t set in stone.

(If you’re the type to take off work if a trade deadline was exciting, you might want to start drumming up excuses/putting aside vacation time/practicing your best “I’m sick” voice just in case …)

Goalie nods: Blues give Hutton first start in two weeks

Getty
Leave a comment

Even though Jake Allen has played extremely well of late, Carter Hutton will get the call when the Blues take on the Coyotes in Arizona tonight.

Some of this could have to do with the opponent. The Coyotes are playing out the string on a forgettable campaign, and have lost six of their last seven. That includes a 4-1 defeat in St. Louis on Monday (in which Allen stopped 27 of 28 shots for the win).

As mentioned above, Allen has been great in March and deserves huge praise for turning his season around. He’s gone 8-1-1 this month with a remarkable .951 save percentage, allowing a mere 14 goals over his 10 appearances.

Hutton, though, has played equally well when called upon. He’s gone 4-1-0 over his last five starts, posting a .962 save percentage and a pair of shutouts. In his last outing, on Mar. 16, he allowed just one goal in a victory in San Jose.

For the Coyotes, Louis Domingue is in goal.

Elsewhere…

— A good matchup in Pittsburgh tonight, as the two defending Stanley Cup champions go head-to-head. Marc-Andre Fleury starts for the Penguins, while Corey Crawford goes for the Blackhawks.

— Calgary can clinch a playoff spot with a win tonight so, unsurprisingly, it’ll go with No. 1 Brian Elliott. No word yet on who starts for the visiting Kings, though it could be Ben Bishop after Jonathan Quick lost last night in Edmonton.

Philipp Grubauer gets the call for Washington, after Braden Holtby led the Caps to victory in Minnesota on Tuesday. Grubauer will take on Calvin Pickard, who starts for the Avs.

Vegas wants ‘progressive’ head coach, says McPhee

Getty
5 Comments

Golden Knights GM George McPhee continued to list the characteristics he wants from a head coach this week, explaining that he’s searching for a forward-thinking bench boss.

“We want someone who is very current on the game, who is progressive on how the game should be played,” McPhee said in a recent phone call with season ticket holders, per the club website. “We’re looking for that progressive guy that can really help us through the early years and help develop our team and our players.”

So, time to connect the dots.

Back in November, Vegas owner Bill Foley laid the initial groundwork for McPhee’s coaching profile, saying he wanted to hire an experienced head coach.

“He’s not looking for a first-termer,” said Foley. “Some may or may not be available. … I would say the coach that we name is going to be a recognizable individual.”

Among the names that have already been floated, many fit the above billing: Jack Capuano, Gerard Gallant, Ken Hitchcock and Michel Therrien, among others.

Vegas has already spoken with Gallant and reportedly made contact with Capuano as well, which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Gallant was nominated for last year’s Jack Adams as the NHL’s top coach, and McPhee is familiar with Capuano, having worked as an adviser to Isles GM Garth Snow prior to taking the Golden Knights gig.

It’s also believed former Flyers head coach Craig Berube is being considered, along with current Montreal associate Kirk Muller.

 

Pre-game reading: Tonight’s Kings-Flames game could get testy

1 Comment

— Up top, the Calgary Flames don’t want Matthew Tkachuk to play any differently — even though Drew Doughty called the rookie winger a “pretty dirty player” after taking the 19-year-old’s elbow to the face earlier this month.

— Tkachuk was suspended two games for that elbow. Still, there could be fireworks tonight when the Flames and the Kings meet again in Calgary. Especially after Tkachuk replied to Doughty’s remarks with the following: “I expected more from him, honestly, than to go right to the media and start complaining after a loss.” (Calgary Sun)

— TSN’s Gary Lawless thinks Sergei Bobrovsky should win the Hart Trophy over Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby. Lawless writes: “No other player has been as important to his team and its results as Bobrovsky has to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Take Bobrovsky off the C-bus and it’s not necessarily in the ditch but it isn’t nipping at the Capitals for the league lead.” (TSN)

— Coyotes captain Shane Doan is understandably frustrated about the lower-body injury that’s kept him out of the lineup the past six games. At 40, this could be Doan’s last year in the NHL, so hopefully he’s able to return and play at least once more in front of all his fans. (Arizona Republic)

— Golden Knights owner Bill Foley doesn’t want each team’s protected list to be made public ahead of the expansion draft. That being said, Foley is also realistic: “I’d rather we know what each team has left unprotected and we make our picks and it’s a big surprise. I think there’s going to be a lot of leaks, though. I found one thing about the NHL that … everyone talks.” (Yahoo)

— An appreciation of the Detroit Red Wings playoff streak, which will finally come to an end this season. The last time the Wings missed was 1990. As noted by Nick Cotsonika: “No player in the NHL today was in the NHL then, not even Jaromir Jagr. Nine of the franchises in the NHL today weren’t in the NHL, 10 if you include the Vegas Golden Knights, who begin play next season.” (NHL.com)

Enjoy the games!