Pre-game reading: Philipp Grubauer is enjoying the compressed schedule

— Up top, Philipp Grubauer notched his third shutout of the season Sunday. The Capitals’ backup goalie now sports a 10-3-2 record with a sparkling .931 save percentage.

— Grubauer, 25, is one of the few players who’s enjoying the NHL’s compressed schedule. “You don’t have to wait two or three weeks to get a chance. It helps winning because if you lose it’s going to stick with you for a week or two weeks. If I lose I don’t want to be seen, I don’t want to be seen around the rink.” Grubauer’s strong play has likewise been good for starter Braden Holtby, who’s been able to get a rest whenever he needs it. (Washington Post)

— In praise of Oilers starter Cam Talbot, who’s been by far the busiest goalie in the NHL this season. “Talbot started his league-leading 49th game on Sunday, ran his league-leading minutes played total to 2,922:08, league-leading shots against total to 1,439, and league-leading saves total to 1,326. He also put up his 27th win, good for a second-place tie in the NHL, and a fifth goose egg, tying him for third.” Talbot has played almost 260 more minutes than the NHL’s second-busiest goalie, San Jose’s Martin Jones. (Edmonton Journal)

— Why it’s time to bring back the Quebec Nordiques, by Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News. “As in Winnipeg, a love for hockey never died in the city. You can still walk into sporting goods stores and find rafts of Nordiques gear, while major junior’s Remparts currently bring fans to the Videotron Centre. In fact, the Remparts are one of the top-drawing CHL franchises around, despite being a middling team this year. The team’s most recent game, against Rimouski, drew more than 12,600 fans.” (The Hockey News)

— A look at which teams have the easiest and hardest schedules down the stretch. Good news for the Carolina Hurricanes, who still have two games against both Arizona and Colorado. Bad news for the Vancouver Canucks, who kick off a six-game road trip tomorrow in Nashville. (TSN)

— The Islanders are hosting the Maple Leafs tonight, so of course the traveling Toronto media inquired about John Tavares‘ contract status (UFA 2018). Here was his response: “At this point, I’ve got enough to worry about with our team and trying to make the playoffs. I can understand and respect why the questions are being asked. It’s something to talk about, it’s something that’s coming up in the future. But for myself, I just try to worry about playing.” Tavares indicated at the All-Star Game that he’d be willing to negotiate an extension with the Isles this summer. (Toronto Sun)

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

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    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 …)

    Cap Friendly provides a handy timeline for the expansion draft process:

    Goalie nods: Blues give Hutton first start in two weeks

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    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

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    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

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    — 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)

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