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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.

Malkin on ‘workaholic’ Crosby, Penguins’ chances for three Cups in a row

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Evgeni Malkin shared some interesting observations with Sports-Express’ Igor Eronko this weekend, including that he believes that the Pittsburgh Penguins “have all the tools” to win a third Stanley Cup in a row.

Quite reasonably, Malkin notes that the team kept its core intact.

Of course, Malkin and Sidney Crosby are still the catalysts for the Penguins, so it’s always fun to come across the latest observations from the Russian star.

Good stuff.

It’s not surprising to see Malkin praise Crosby and pump up the Penguins’ chances. Last year, he showed confidence in Pittsburgh’s repeat chances and professed an interest in being on the same team with Crosby for the next “10 years.”

This summer’s been a great one for Geno, with plenty of team honors mixing with some great individual feats. For example:

Habs’ Byron got to skate(board) with Tony Hawk

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Montreal Canadiens forward Paul Byron is so speedy on the ice, his skating can sometimes be intimidating, particularly when he’s on the penalty kill.

Every now and then, we’ll see, say, a floppy-haired snowboarder also show some serious skateboarding acumen, and skateboarding seems to blend well with surfing to boot. So what about ice skating and skateboarding?

Well, Byron apparently got to meet Tony Hawk – along with his kids – and at least made a solid impression, as the Canadiens website notes.

“Paul can hold his own. I bet he’d do better on my board,” Hawk said. “It wouldn’t be so wobbly.”

The only bummer is that it doesn’t seem like footage of Byron skateboarding is available. There is some cute footage of Hawk with Byron’s kids, though:

Little B's turn💙

A post shared by Sarah Byron (@sarahannbyron) on

There’s also Hawk skateboarding in a Canadiens sweater. Fun stuff.

(H/T to Sportsnet.)

Taylor Hall’s remarkable run of bad luck

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This post is a part of Devils day at PHT…

Taylor Hall deserves credit for that great “lottery ball specialist” tweet when the New Jersey Devils landed the top pick of the 2017 NHL Draft, but you could picture the star winger making such a joke while gritting his teeth.

You see, as much as Hall seems to be a luck rabbit’s foot for a team when it comes to landing the top pick of a draft – just consider his Edmonton Oilers days on top of this last bit – but that good fortune hasn’t always come from an individual standpoint.

In hopes that we may some day see Hall in, say, a playoff game, let’s recount some of his unluckiest moments. Keep in mind that he’s still just 25.

Injuries

He became the first pick of the 2010 NHL Draft, which means he’ll be compared to Tyler Seguin (though that discussion mercifully doesn’t come up that often).

Hall’s rookie season was limited to 65 regular-season games thanks to the ill-advised decision to fight Derek Dorsett. His first NHL bout ended his 2010-11 campaign; Hall received criticism for the choice, which sometimes overshadowed debuting with 22 goals.

It was reckless to fight, especially with someone like Dorsett, but we’ve seen plenty of players get through skirmishes without anything major happening. Jarome Iginla endeared himself to hockey fans, in some ways, by doing just that … but Hall wasn’t so lucky.

Even if you chalk that first bit up to poor decisions, Hall’s injury luck has often been poor. He was limited to 61 games in his sophomore season, 53 in 2014-15 and missed significant pieces of 2013-14 and last season, too.

Some of the injuries were just downright-freakish.

Click here if you want to remember the time he caught a skate in the head during warm-ups, which left him with a disgusting “Frankenstein” wound and … it’s just gross. If you haven’t seen it, you’re lucky.

While his speedy, courageous style might leave him susceptible to issues, it seems like Hall catches an unusually high number of bad breaks.

Terrible team to bad team

Taylor Hall has been a productive player, keeping his head up even as he’s played for some miserably bad teams.

The Oilers have been pretty clueless for virtually the entirety of Hall’s career; this National Post article provides a handy rundown of their mishaps in rarely finding decent defensemen.

Those struggles likely inspired the team to trade Hall for Adam Larsson, a steady Swedish blueliner.

It says a lot that Oilers fans voted massively in favor of the Oilers winning that trade in at least one poll, as most hockey people agree that the Devils ended up with the upper hand.

Team success can skew the views of certain players, something Hall knows too well as a frequent scapegoat in Edmonton. If you want to roll your eyes, peruse some of the “not captain material”-type takes that Hall likely became all-too-familiar with.

He didn’t even get to truly benefit from Connor McDavid‘s presence, as Hall’s bad injury luck seemed to transition to McDavid for a brief spell; as you recall, McDavid’s season was greatly limited by an lucky fall that came from the same sort of driving style you’d expect to see from Hall.

Who could blame Hall for being jealous of the Oilers’ success now that he’s gone?

New Jersey is making some nice strides toward being a more competitive team, and Hall’s a big part of that sunnier outlook. It has to sting to take all those steps back to the painfully familiar rebuilding stages after suffering through all of those with the Oilers.

***

Look, Hall is nicely compensated for his play. He also was the top pick of a draft, so it’s not like he’s totally anonymous.

Still, it’s difficult not to root for the guy to soak in the accolades that come with greater team success, as Hall has been a fantastic power forward in some not-so-fantastic situations.

In other words, here’s hoping a little more luck goes his way … on the ice rather than in the carousel.

Poll: Nico Hischier vs. Nolan Patrick

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This post is a part of Devils day at PHT…

To some extent, the New Jersey Devils probably don’t care that much if Nolan Patrick ends up being slightly more effective, overall, than Nico Hischier.

As Taylor Hall can attest, the Devils lucked into the top pick of the 2017 NHL Draft, so GM Ray Shero was probably delighted that he would be able to pick between the two prospects. Rather than choosing Patrick or finding a trade, he made Hischier the first Swiss-born number one pick in NHL history.

Sports are about competition and comparisons, so it should be fun to measure the two forwards’ accomplishments and development as time goes along.

We might as well take hockey fans’ temperature now, though. Before we do, a quick “tale of the tape” – and an apology to the other prospects in the 2017 NHL Draft. For the sake of simplicity, we’ll be keeping this poll to Hischier vs. Patrick. Feel free to make a case for Miro Heiskanen (pictured, chosen third by Dallas) or any number of other candidates in the comments, though.

Hischier (draft profile): Scored 86 points in 57 games for the QMJHL’s Halifax Mooseheads in 2016-17. Broadly speaking, Hischier seems to rate as the most creative player and has already impressed the Devils with his skating ability.

Apparently his favorite movie is “Happy Gilmore.”

Patrick (draft profile): The Winnipeg native was on the radar a bit longer than Hischier, in part because he managed 102 points in 71 games in the WHL in 2015-16. Last season hurt his stock quite a bit; while he was able to score well over a point-per-game (46 in 33), injuries limited him in 2016-17. Those issues might have limited more than people even realized, as it turns out he needed two hernia surgeries instead of one.

Generally speaking, Patrick is praised for his two-way play, which could help him be a quick fit for Philly. Both forwards are listed as centers.

Oh yeah, and Reid Duke gave him the nickname “Doctor Pat.”

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OK, so with all of that information, let’s get after it: did the Devils make the right call or should they have selected Patrick at No. 1 instead?