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Goalie Nods: Cam Talbot makes 53rd start for Oilers

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The Edmonton Oilers are on their way to the playoffs for the first time since the 2005-06 season and there are quite a few players responsible for the turnaround, including two young forwards — Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl — residing in the top-16 in scoring. McDavid, currently pacing the league at 64 points entering Saturday and giving Sidney Crosby a run for his money when it comes to the best player in the league, is perhaps the biggest factor.

But one of the more underrated parts of their turnaround remains the play of starting goaltender Cam Talbot.

Not only because he has a .920 save percentage on the season (7th in the league among the 32 goalies that have appeared in at least 30 games), but also because of how often he has been able to play.

When he takes his spot between the pipes on Saturday night against the Chicago Blackhawks he will be matching his career high (set a year ago in his first season with the Oilers) by making his 53rd start of the season. No other goalie in the league has started more than 49 games.

His backups, Jonas Gustavsson and Laurent Brossoit, have started just six games this season and combined for only an .890 save percentage.

A lot of the Oilers’ improvement this season defensively (and in the standings) has come from the fact they have a starting goaltender that has been able to play in almost every game this season and also give them a top-10 performance.

The Blackhawks will go with Corey Crawford.

Elsewhere on Saturday…

— St. Louis’ Jake Allen went against Robin Lehner in Buffalo, while Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck matched up against Carey Price in Montreal. It was Braden Holtby vs. Petr Mrazek in Detroit.

Thomas Greiss, winner in three of his past five starts, gets the call for the New York Islanders as they look to keep pace in the Eastern Conference wild card race. He goes against New Jersey’s Cory Schneider.

Craig Anderson returns to the Senators’ net on Saturday when he takes on Frederik Andersen in the battle of Ontario. This could be a potential first-round matchup in the Atlantic Division.

Aaron Dell, who has played extremely well this season as a backup to Martin Jones, gets a rare start for the San Jose Sharks when he gets the call against Mike Smith and the Arizona Coyotes.

— It will be Andrei Vasilevskiy against Kari Lehtonen in Dallas on Saturday in a game that might have been looked at as a potential Stanley Cup Final matchup before the start of the season. Now, it is just two disappointing teams desperately trying to stay in the playoff race.

Devan Dubnyk looks to continue his Vezina Trophy worthy campaign on Saturday night when he gets back in the net against Pekka Rinne and the Nashville Predators. The Predators are returning from their bye week.

— After Jacob Markstrom had a tough night on Thursday, taking the blame for the defeat, Ryan Miller draws back in for the Vancouver Canucks when they host the Calgary Flames. The Flames will counter with Brian Elliott.

Peter Budaj is the likely starter for the Los Angeles Kings when they take on a Florida Panthers team that is starting to find its stride. The Panthers have yet to announce their starter.

PHT Morning Skate: Zdeno Chara shot catches emergency goalie in a sensitive spot

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–Sean McIndoe looks at five players who became the unlikeliest first 50-goal scorers in their franchise’s history. McIndoe chose Rick MacLeish (Flyers), Rick Vaive (Maple Leafs), Vic Hadfield (Rangers), Guy Chouinard (Flames) and Mickey Redmond (Red Wings). (The Hockey News)

–A lot of people think hockey players are the toughest athletes, but Islanders forward Anders Lee is here to tell you that they aren’t tough at all. In his story for The Players’ Tribune, Lee writes about a tough, young friend, who is battling cancer. “In the seven years since he has been diagnosed, he has gone through multiple surgeries. He’s had countless radiation treatments. He’s gone through chemotherapy, immunotherapy and stem cell transplants. And he does it all with a smile on his face. So when I hear people refer to me as tough because I play hockey, I think of Fenov and kids like him.” (The Players’ Tribune)

–The Boston Bruins needed an emergency goalie for their practice yesterday, and they settled on Massachusetts state trooper Kevin Segee. Surely, it was the experience of a lifetime for him, but it didn’t come without pain. Segee was clearly shaken up after getting a Zdeno Chara in the…well, you know. (CSN New England)

–Blackhawks forwards Artemi Panarin, Patrick Kane and Tanner Kero each had multi-point games in Wednesday’s 5-1 thumping of the Pittsburgh Penguins. You can watch the highlights from the game by clicking the video at the top of the page.

–What was the world like the last time the Detroit Red Wings missed the playoffs? Thanks to Sports Illustrated, we don’t have to wonder. In 1990, J.K. Rowling had just started writing the Harry Potter series, Donald Trump walked out of an interview with CNN because they were asking tough questions about his casino, the first known webpage was written and much, much more. (Sports Illustrated)

–Edmonton Oilers players and their significant others came together to make 400-500 bowls of homemade soup for charity. It’s pretty cool to see most of the team be involved in such a nice event, even though the onion chopping station gave some of the guys a hard time. (Edmonton Oilers on Twitter)

–Sportsnet has assembled the top hits of the week for your viewing pleasure. Hits from that Toronto, Columbus game made the video a couple of times:

Milbury, Jones: Tkachuk walked the walk; Kings’ response was embarrassing

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The Los Angeles Kings got revenge on Matthew Tkachuk and the Calgary Flames on the scoreboard on Wednesday. But was that 4-1 win enough?

Mike Milbury and Keith Jones provided a lengthy “overtime” segment on NBCSN that brought about some really fascinating takes on the situation between Tkachuk and the Flames versus Drew Doughty and the Los Angeles Kings.

Watch the full video above, as it’s worth your time.

A few interesting lines if you’re (tsk tsk) skipping it:

Milbury: Believes that Doughty didn’t “do enough,” noting that star players sometimes have to stick up for themselves. On the other hand, Tkachuk showed that he can “walk the walk.”

He also gave the Kings a “C-, D+ if not worse” for their overall response. “Fight your own battles,” Milbury said of Doughty.

Jones disagreed to some extent, believing that Kings teammates won’t look at Doughty differently. But Jake Muzzin? He believes that Muzzin’s frequent defensive partner (at least over the years, maybe not this season) backing down from a fight was an embarrassment.

Spicy stuff.

For what it’s worth, Drew Doughty has one career fight (against Joe Thornton [!] in 2011-2) while Jake Muzzin’s lone bout came against Andrew Desjardins in 2012-13, according to Hockey Fights. Does that mean they shouldn’t have dropped the gloves on Wednesday? Milbury and Jones seem to believe that they should have answered the bell.

For more, check out a collection of the early violent moments and Tkachuk’s attempted shot at Doughty. The Kings win is summarized in greater detail here.

Measure of revenge: Kings delay clinching efforts for Flames, Blues

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Deep down, the Los Angeles Kings probably realize that their season will end on game 82. Still, they kept their slim playoff hopes alive on Wednesday night … and managed to spite a team they’re growing to hate.

OK, maybe the hate is almost totally focused upon Matthew Tkachuk, yet the disdain for that talented-but-tormenting rookie was palpable.

It didn’t feel like the Kings exacted physical revenge on Tkachuk, but beating his team 4-1 ranked as classic scoreboard vengeance. With that, the Calgary Flames (and by extension the St. Louis Blues) will need to wait to clinch a playoff berth.

Now, as much as tonight was about Tkachuk, the focus was also on a pugnacious player who once dazzled for the Flames: Jarome Iginla.

In what might be Iginla’s final visit to Calgary – at least as an active NHL player – he was one of the best players on the ice. His fitting curtain call included a “Gordie Howe hat trick” with a spirited fight, an assist and a goal.

Seriously, that fight with Deryk Engelland:

That goal included a bit of luck, but hey …

Iginla was named the first star of the contest, and cameras captured his big smile in enjoying a special night. For all the nastiness of that game, it was refreshing to see such a heartwarming moment.

For more on the violence, check out this post on the early stuff and this one on Tkachuk’s missed missile launch on Drew Doughty.

Kings and Canucks will square off in first NHL exhibition games in China

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It’s official: the NHL will hold preseason games in China before next season.

The league made the announcement on Wednesday night: the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks will play two exhibitions: one on Sept. 21 (Shanghai) and Sept. 23 (Beijing). How cool is that?

“It is a privilege and an honor for the L.A. Kings to represent the National Hockey League in China as part of these two games against the Vancouver Canucks,” Kings president Luc Robitaille said. “Growing the game of hockey is something we take great pride in and it is a big priority for our hockey club and AEG as a whole. This will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our players and our staff, and we are looking forward to the games taking place in two tremendous facilities in two remarkable cities.”

The press conference inspired some jokes tonight.

Some of the best bits came in roping in … Kobe Bryant and David Beckham?

Alrighty then.

Click here for more details.