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Goalie nods: Lack primed for first start in 40 games

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Big night for Carolina’s Eddie Lack.

Lack, who has missed most of the season dealing with a concussion, will start for the first time since Nov. 6 when the ‘Canes take on the Caps at Verizon.

Though he made another appearance following that contest — a brief 28-second relief spot on Nov. 10 — Lack hasn’t played at all in nearly three months, save a conditioning stint with AHL Charlotte.

The injury really stretched the ‘Canes thin.

Equipment manage Jorge Alves was called into repeated practice duty, and even got into a game back in December. Veteran journeyman Michael Leighton and young prospect Alex Nedeljkovic were also thrown into the mix, but duties have primarily — and often — fallen to Cam Ward, who is among the league leaders in starts (44) and shots faced (1,197).

It’ll be curious to see how Lack fares tonight. It’s a tough matchup against a powerhouse offense like Washington but, if he can perform well, it could lighten Ward’s load down the stretch, and prevent him from getting fatigued as the ‘Canes try make the playoffs for the first time since 2009.

Elsewhere…

— The Sharks begin their Eastern road swing tonight in Buffalo, and they’ll do it with Martin Jones in goal. Anders Nilsson goes for Buffalo, after Robin Lehner started the last four.

— After getting last game off, John Gibson is back in for the Ducks as they take on the Rangers at MSG. Henrik Lundqvist goes for New York, after making 29 saves in a win over Calgary on Sunday.

Brian Elliott lost the aforementioned Flames-Rangers game, so he’s out and Chad Johnson‘s in. The host Penguins will start Matt Murray.

— Los Angeles will go back to Peter Budaj after he was roasted for four goals on 15 shots in Sunday’s ugly loss in Washington. Tampa Bay will go with Ben Bishop, coming off a win over the Ducks.

Petr Mrazek, coming off a stellar 42-save shutout of Nashville, is right back in for the Red Wings. The visiting Blue Jackets didn’t have a morning skate, so no word on who starts.

Jake Allen returns to the starter’s crease for St. Louis, after Carter Hutton shut out Philly last night. The Sens are giving workhorse Mike Condon a break, and going with Andrew Hammond.

— It’s Antti Niemi versus Curtis McElhinny as the Stars and Leafs do battle in Toronto.

Jacob Markstrom gets his first start since Jan. 25 when the Canucks take on the Preds in Nashville. He’ll be up against Pekka Rinne, who is playing well lately (.932 save percentage over last six starts).

Ondrej Pavelec makes his eighth start in nine games since his recall, as the Jets host the Wild. Minnesota, per usual, is going with Devan Dubnyk.

— After getting Sunday off, Carey Price starts as the Habs take on the Avs in Denver. Calvin Pickard counters for the home side.

Markov, Habs officially part ways

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Andrei Markov‘s run of 17 consecutive seasons in Montreal is over.

On Thursday, the Habs announced that Markov — who’s played all 990 of his career NHL contests with the Canadiens — wouldn’t be brought back for the 2017-18 campaign.

The news comes after months of rumblings about Markov’s contractual status. It was initially believed the 38-year-old UFA was looking for $12 million over two years, and there was a brief flirtation with the Flyers (which, it later turned out, was simply Markov’s interest in going to Philly, not the Flyers actively pursuing him).

Montreal GM Marc Bergevin stated on several occasions he wanted to bring Markov back, but only at the right price and term. That’s because Bergevin knew Markov still played an important role — despite appearing in just 62 games last year, the Russian rearguard was offensively productive, with six goals and 36 points, and averaged nearly 22 minutes per night.

That said, Bergevin also knew the financial realities. He dished out big bucks this offseason — a combined $154.8 million for Carey Price, Jonathan Drouin, Alex Galchenyuk and Karl Alzner — and just didn’t have the money left to give Markov a big ticket.

Instead, Bergevin played it conservative in rounding out his defense, which included Tuesday’s one-year, $700,000 deal for Mark Streit. Some saw that deal as the writing on the wall for Markov in Montreal.

Looking ahead, it’ll be interesting to see where Markov ends up. If he lowers his asking price, there’s no doubt an NHL team would be interested. If he doesn’t, he could angle for a KHL deal and the opportunity to represent Russia in the upcoming Winter Olympics.

Malkin wants to see Ovechkin win a Stanley Cup

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Evgeni Malkin‘s career is far from over, but he’s already accomplished so much.

The 30-year-old has won three Stanley Cups, a Conn Smythe Trophy, a Hart Trophy, two Art Ross Trophies and a Calder Trophy.

Fellow countryman Alex Ovechkin has also won a number of individual awards, but he hasn’t been as fortunate when it comes team awards and playoff success.

There always seemed to be a rivalry between the two Russian forwards, but that doesn’t mean Malkin isn’t rooting for Ovechkin to take home a championship before his career is over.

“I was a bit luckier than (Ovechkin), that’s why I won those cups,” Malkin said, per Sports-Express’ Igor Eronko. “He has everything ahead of him. I wish him to win the cup.”

How do Penguins fans feel about that?

Malkin was also one of the more controversial omissions on the NHL’s “Top 100 Players” list. The Pens forward was disappointed about being left off the list, but hoisting Lord Stanley again seems to have erased that sting.

“I was a little bit disappointed when I wasn’t included in the list of 100 greatest players,” added Malkin. “But I won the cup and am happy.”

PHT Morning Skate: 9 rookies that could win the Calder Trophy in 2017-18

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–This year’s offseason is a lot more quiet than last year’s offseason (P.K. Subban for Shea Weber and Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson were two major stories last summer). So Sean McIndoe dug up seven storylines that still need sorting out. Somehow, the Avs have failed to trade Matt Duchene, John Tavares hasn’t signed an extension with the Islanders, and the Golden Knights still have a lot of defensemen. (Sportsnet)

–Sam McCaig of The Hockey News put together his free agent All-Star team, and there were some pretty big names to chose from. Mike Fisher, Jaromir Jagr and Thomas Vanek were all on McCaig’s first line, while Andrei Markov and Fedor Tyutin were on the top pairing. (The Hockey News)

–The San Jose Sharks lost Patrick Marleau to the Maple Leafs this offseason which means that they’ll need to replace his production. Don’t be surprised if players like Mikkel Boedker, Jannik Hansen and Tomas Hertl are asked to do more in 2017-18. (NHL.com)

–Devils rookie Nico Hischier has to be considered one of the front runners to win the Calder Trophy in 2017-18, so NJ.com came up with a list of eight other players that will push him for that crown. Fellow 2017 draft pick Nolan Patrick could be a legitimate contender for top rookie too, but so can Coyote prospects Clayton Keller and Dylan Strome. (NJ.com)

–The person running the Golden Knights’ Twitter account has been incredibly funny throughout the summer, and that didn’t stop yesterday. The account took a nice little jab at some Canadian friends:

–Here are some interesting numbers from last season regarding scoring by defensemen. Obviously, Brent Burns played a big part in San Jose being at the top of list:

Penguins’ Letang gains more than just funny videos from Terrell Owens

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Off-season training is probably tedious at times … maybe even more tedious than the hockey-free months of the summer. Perhaps that explains why athletes love to mix things up, even if it means bringing in stars from other sports (and even if that calls for an embarrassing moment or two).

Kris Letang provided some background information surrounding that “ankle breaking” moment with former NFL star receive Terrell Owens during an NHL Network interview, which was transcribed by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Josh Mackey. Letang also noted that others were faked out to an even greater degree.

The most important stuff, really, comes from what he looks to gain from these workouts … and also how close Letang might be to full-strength.

“I’m trying to get better all the time,” Letang said. “I think I found that I can improve my footwork.

“We have that at the gym twice a week. We have a sprinting coach. ‘TO’ has been working out with us. He’s an unbelievable guy to be around. He’s teaching us a lot of little things.”

Later on, Letang stated that ‘we’re on the path to starting training camp and being fully healthy,” according to Mackey’s transcription.

That sounds great, though that doesn’t sound like an outright guarantee that he’ll be ready by September. If nothing else, the Penguins and their star defenseman are used to this kind of thing.

Now, in case you missed it in the Morning Skate, here’s that bit of schooling from Owens:

And here’s “the proof” that Letang wasn’t alone in getting beat:

Now to solve the mystery of the other fakee