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Goalie nods: Berra makes first NHL start in 15 months

The last time Reto Berra started an NHL game, he was a member of the Colorado Avalanche. His head coach was Patrick Roy. His opponent?

The Mike Johnston-led Pittsburgh Penguins.

So yeah, been a long time.

Tonight, Berra will start for the first time since the aforementioned game — played on Dec. 9, 2015 — when the Panthers host the ‘Canes in Florida. Berra’s start comes with No. 1 netminder Roberto Luongo dealing with a hip injury, and No. 2 James Reimer needing a night off (he’s been the goalie of record in eight straight).

Berra, 30, was acquired from Colorado via trade last June and has made one appearance for the Panthers this year, playing 25 minutes in relief of Reimer back on Mar. 7. That came after a lengthy stint with Florida’s AHL affiliate in Springfield, where he went 12-14-2 with a .910 save percentage and 2.53 GAA.

Berra’s in the last of a three-year, $4.35M deal (signed with the Avs back in 2014), so this audition is fairly important. If he can prove enough to be a capable NHL backup, he might find work this summer.

For the ‘Canes, Cam Ward starts in goal.

Elsewhere…

Henrik Lundqvist is closing in on a return from injury, but not there yet, so Antti Raanta starts again as the Rangers visit New Jersey. Cory Schneider goes for the Devils, looking to turn around a terrible month of March (0-5-0, 3.81 GAA, .882 save percentage).

— Even though Marc-Andre Fleury recorded a shutout on Sunday, Pittsburgh will go with Matt Murray tonight in Buffalo. No word yet on a Sabres starter.

— Another big Atlantic Division tilt, as the B’s host the Sens (one night after they lost in Toronto). Looks as though Bruce Cassidy will go back to Tuukka Rask, who made 26 saves on Monday. The Sens are going with Craig Anderson, his third game in four nights.

— The red-hot Brian Elliott, currently on an 11-game winning streak, goes for Calgary tonight in Washington. The Caps will counter with Braden Holtby.

— It’s Louis Domingue versus Andrei Vasilevskiy as the Coyotes host the Lightning.

Al Montoya starts for the first time since Mar. 9 as the Habs host the Red Wings in Montreal. No word yet on a Detroit starter, though Jimmy Howard is expected to get the call.

Michael Hutchinson, who’s hasn’t start since Jan. 16, gets a rare opportunity when the Jets host the Flyers. Steve Mason, who’s been Philly’s go-to for most of March, will be in goal.

Corey Crawford, fresh off an OT win against Toronto on Saturday, goes for Chicago. The visiting Canucks have yet to name a starter, but Ryan Miller is likely after Richard Bachman played over the weekend against Edmonton.

— Good matchup in Minnesota, as Martin Jones and the Sharks take on Devan Dubnyk and the Wild.

Jake Allen, who’s rebounded fantastically to salvage his season, gets the call as the Blues visit Colorado. Calvin Pickard‘s in for the Avs.

DeBoer praises ‘courageous’ Thornton for playing with torn ACL, MCL (Updated)

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In a fairly stunning admission on Monday, Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer told reporters that Joe Thornton played in four of San Jose’s six playoff games versus Edmonton with a significant knee injury.

Thornton, who was hurt against Vancouver late in the regular season, suffered tears to both his left MCL and ACL.

“I’ve never seen a guy play with a torn MCL and ACL,” DeBoer said, per the club’s Twitter account. “It’s a courageous effort as I’ve ever seen.”

Thornton, 37, missed the first two games of the series to rest his knee, before suiting up for the final four. He averaged 18:50 TOI per night and finished with a pair of assists, numbers that are pretty remarkable given the severity of his ailment.

Jumbo wasn’t the only unhealthy Shark during the first-round playoff ouster. Logan Couture‘s face/mouth injury was well-documented and, today, DeBoer also revealed that Tomas Hertl was playing with a broken foot, and Patrick Marleau with a broken thumb.

Looking ahead, Thornton’s knee injury might cloud what’s an already murky future. He’s a pending UFA, and there have been no clear signals from the organization on how they’ll address his potential return. ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun reported in January the Thornton camp was looking for a three-year deal.

If there’s a silver lining here, it’s that Sharks GM Doug Wilson has time on his side. It’s understood the club probably wouldn’t act on an extension for Thornton until after the June expansion draft, which could give the Sharks enough time to better gauge his health.

Update:

Per NBC Sports California, Wilson confirmed Thornton is undergoing surgery today to repair the ligaments.

 

 

Online bookmaker: Caps are Stanley Cup favorites

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The Washington Capitals got a bit of a scare in the first round, but they’ll go into the second round as the Stanley Cup favorites.

Per online bookmaker Bovada, here is the full list of Stanley Cup odds for the eight remaining teams:

Washington Capitals   7/2
Pittsburgh Penguins    17/4
Anaheim Ducks             11/2
Edmonton Oilers          11/2
St. Louis Blues              13/2
Nashville Predators     7/1
New York Rangers       8/1
Ottawa Senators           10/1

The Chicago Blackhawks entered the postseason as 4/1 Cup favorites at Bovada. Of course, the ‘Hawks were then swept by the Preds, who’ve gone from 25/1 long shots to 7/1 heading into their series with the Blues.

The Caps’ odds actually dropped to 13/2 after they fell behind the Toronto Maple Leafs, 2-1. But three straight wins, two in overtime, clinched them a spot against the Penguins in the second round.

The Ottawa Senators are the long shots of the bunch now, despite having home-ice advantage over the Rangers in the second round.

Isles bring back Seidenberg — one year, $1.25 million

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The Islanders saw enough from Dennis Seidenberg this season to bring him back for another.

On Monday, the club announced it had signed the veteran defenseman to a one-year deal. Per Newsday, it’s for $1.25 million — a slight raise from the $1M he earned this season.

Seidenberg, 35, caught on with the Isles in late September, parlaying a good showing with Team Europe at the World Cup into a contract after going the entire summer unsigned.

For New York, it worked out very well.

Seidenberg was a regular lineup fixture, averaging 19:26 TOI over 73 games. He also provided some good production from the back end, scoring five goals and 22 points — his highest offensive output in five years.

Today’s deal also gives the Isles some flexibility when it comes to the upcoming expansion draft. The club now has six blueliners under contract for next season — Seidenberg, Johnny Boychuk, Nick Leddy, Travis Hamonic, Thomas Hickey and Scott Mayfield — and a seventh, pending RFA Calvin de Haan, will (presumably) be locked in as well. The same might be said of fellow RFA Adam Pelech.

Young d-man Ryan Pulock, who only appeared in one game this year, locked in through 2018.

Cassidy ‘absolutely’ wants to return as Bruins’ head coach

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To nobody’s surprise, Bruce Cassidy is on board with shedding his interim tag and becoming Boston’s full-time bench boss.

“Absolutely,” Cassidy said of coming back, following the Bruins’ opening-round playoff loss to Ottawa (per CBS Boston). “One hundred percent.”

One would think the 51-year-old did enough to warrant a longer look. After replacing Claude Julien in early February, Cassidy led a team on the fringes of the playoff picture to an 18-8-1 record down the stretch, and a third-place finish in the Atlantic Division.

Yes, the B’s fell short against the Sens, but were hamstrung by a depleted lineup missing the likes of Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo. Top center David Krejci was also extremely limited, missing three of six games to injury.

When further asked about his future, Cassidy tapped the brakes on predicting what will happen, or what changes the team needed for next season.

“Well, now we’re making a lot of assumptions,” he said. “That will be determined going forward by management. It’s a tough question to answer.”

Cassidy’s time with Boston’s AHL affiliate in Providence, and his history working with young players, may certainly help his cause. A few of his guys — Austin Czarnik, Frank Vatrano, Tommy Cross, Noel Acciari — forged out roles with the big club this season, while other youngsters certainly made an impact in the playoffs.

Prized d-man prospect Charlie McAvoy was a central figure on defense, and one of Cassidy’s more notable lineup moves — putting Sean Kuraly in for Games 5 and 6 — gave the club a boost of energy.

That said, the B’s do have options on the coaching front.

There are a number of experienced bench bosses available. Lindy Ruff, Darryl Sutter and Jack Capuano — a former teammate of Sweeney’s, it should be mentioned — are just a few of the higher profile free agents out there. It’s unclear if Boston is interested in going this route, however. Cassidy has been with the organization a long time, going on eight seasons, and has certainly paid his dues.