Darcy Kuemper

GLENDALE, AZ - NOVEMBER 11:  Head coach Lindy Ruff of the Dallas Stars watches from the bench during the NHL game against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on November 11, 2014 in Glendale, Arizona. The Stars defeated the Coyotes 4-3.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Getty

Frustration reaching peak levels for Stars and their coach

8 Comments

The Dallas Stars are one frustrated hockey team.

Last night’s 3-1 loss to the Wild was just their latest setback. Afterwards, the comments were telling.

“I don’t know if I have ever been through a stretch like this,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said, per the Dallas Morning News. “That first period was puck possession, and we did a good job in all areas, and we come away with nothing again. The bounces aren’t going our way.”

“I’m kind of at a loss for words right now,” forward Patrick Eaves told reporters. “I thought we’ve been playing some pretty good hockey and not getting results. It’s just the way it’s going, but we’ll work our way out of it.”

The Wild opened the scoring with just one second left in the first period on a power-play goal by Ryan Suter. The Stars had dominated early on, but couldn’t beat Minnesota’s backup, Darcy Kuemper.

Dallas has now dropped six of its last seven and sits seven points back of Calgary for the second wild-card spot. With the March 1 trade deadline looming, it appears GM Jim Nill will be a seller. Eaves and Patrick Sharp are both pending UFAs who could be auctioned off.

It has been an extremely disappointing season for the Stars, last year’s Central Division champs. There was frustration even before the games started, with Valeri Nichushkin bolting for the KHL. Then came all the injuries, and the goaltending never improved either.

For Nill, it’s going to be a challenging offseason. He has to fix the goaltending somehow, but first he has to decide if Lindy Ruff is the right coach.

How quickly things can change in the NHL. Ruff was a Jack Adams finalist in 2016. Now he’s on an expiring contract, with no guarantee of a job next season.

Goalie nods: Philly sticks with Neuvirth in second of back-to-back

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 14:  Michal Neuvirth #30 of the Philadelphia Flyers looks on during the second  period of a game against Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center on October 14, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Getty
1 Comment

Desperate for points as they fight for a playoff spot, the Flyers will once again roll with Michal Neuvirth when they take on the Oilers in Edmonton tonight.

Last night, Neuvirth was in for 3-1 loss in Calgary. Though he wasn’t overly busy — just 22 shots faced — he’s still a bit of a surprise starter, given Steve Mason hasn’t played in a week and has a .918 save percentage over his last five appearances.

Neuvirth, though, is clearly the more in-form ‘tender. He’s 3-2-1 in his last six outings, boasting a 1.34 GAA and .940 save percentage.

For the Oilers, no questions over who starts in goal. Cam Talbot gets his NHL-leading 52nd nod of the year.

Elsewhere…

Mike Condon returns to the Ottawa net after Craig Anderson started the last two. The host Devils will counter with Cory Schneider, who’s coming off a 28-save win over the Avalanche on Tuesday.

— After Antti Raanta started on Monday, Henrik Lundqvist returns to the Rangers net for a rivalry game against the Isles. Lundqvist will face Thomas Greiss, who has host three of his last five.

Ondrej Pavelec‘s still out injured, so Connor Hellebuyck makes another start for the Jets. He’ll be up against Marc-Andre Fleury, who last played on Saturday in a loss to the Coyotes.

— Jeremy Smith made his NHL debut for the Avs on Tuesday, so Calvin Pickard draws back in tonight in Buffalo. Robin Lehner, coming off a banner 39-save win over his former Ottawa team earlier this week, gets another start.

— It’s Jacob Markstrom versus Jake Allen as the Canucks take on the Blues in St. Louis.

— Minnesota will give Darcy Kuemper his second start in five games when it hosts Dallas. The Stars will counter with Kari Lehtonen, after Antti Niemi lost to the Jets on Tuesday.

Mike Smith, fresh off a 36-save shutout of the Flames on Monday, gets right back in for the Coyotes, who are in L.A. The Kings are going with Peter Budaj.

Wild re-up with Stalock, a goalie to expose in expansion draft

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 17:  Alex Stalock #32 of the San Jose Sharks skates against the New York Islanders at the Barclays Center on October 17, 2015 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. The Islanders defeated the Sharks 6-3.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Getty
4 Comments

Minnesota locked in some goaltending depth on Thursday, agreeing to a two-year, $1.3 million contract extension with Alex Stalock.

Stalock, 29, originally signed with the Wild last July, and was quickly slotted into No. 3 on the depth chart behind Devan Dubnyk and Darcy Kuemper. He’s spent all of the year with AHL Iowa, where he’s gone 14-10-4 with a 2.56 GAA and .916 save percentage.

The logic behind Stalock’s deal is worth mentioning. He essentially signed to be the goalie Minnesota leaves unprotected for the upcoming Las Vegas expansion draft (Devan Dubnyk, obviously, will be the one protected).

In a related development, the first year of Stalock’s extension is of the one-way variety.

Darcy Kuemper, currently the Wild’s No. 2, is an unrestricted free agent on July 1. If he signs elsewhere, Stalock would have a shot at either going to Vegas, or being Dubnyk’s backup in ’17-18.

Either way, it’s a chance at getting back to the NHL.

Stalock has been out of the picture for a while but, just three years ago, had a nice regular season in San Jose (12-5-2, .932 save percentage). That spring, he battled with Antti Niemi for playing time in the club’s opening-round playoff collapse to Los Angeles.

Since then, he’s struggled to reclaim that form and hasn’t played a big-league contest since February of ’16.

Goalie nods: Flames go with Elliott out of All-Star break

CALGARY, AB - OCTOBER 18: Brian Elliott #1 of the Calgary Flames during warm-ups prior to an NHL game against the Buffalo Sabres during an at Scotiabank Saddledome on October 18, 2016 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
Getty

Brian Elliott went into the All-Star break on a high, making 25 saves in a 3-2 OT win over Ottawa.

Now, Elliott will look to exit the break in a similar fashion.

He’ll get the start ahead of Chad Johnson this evening when Calgary hosts Minnesota at the Saddledome. The decision probably has to do with the fact Elliott posted a rare victory for the Flames last Thursday — the club skidded down the last half of January, going 3-6-1 over its last 10.

As we wrote last week, head coach Glen Gulutzan is employing the “win and you’re in” strategy, a testament to how desperate Calgary is for points. The Flames are currently outside of the playoff picture, even on 53 points with St. Louis but behind because of the tiebreaker.

For the Wild, Devan Dubnyk starts after Darcy Kuemper beat the Oilers last night.

Elsewhere…

— In Washington, Braden Holtby returns to the starter’s crease after Philipp Grubauer was tagged for the loss last night in Brooklyn. No word yet on who goes for the visiting Bruins. Tuukka Rask beat the Lightning last night, and the club recalled Zane McIntyre from AHL Providence.

Peter Budaj goes for the Kings at Staples, when they host the Avalanche. Colorado has yet to name a starter, but it will be one of Calvin Pickard or Spencer Martin now that Semyon Varlamov has been shut down for the year.

Goalie nods: Luongo gets surprise start after Reimer’s wife goes into labor

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 11: Roberto Luongo #1 of the Florida Panthers keeps his eyes on the play during the second period against the New York Islanders at the Barclays Center on January 11, 2017 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Getty
2 Comments

James Reimer was supposed to start for the Florida Panthers tonight at home to Ottawa, but it will be Roberto Luongo instead after Reimer’s wife went into labor.

Interim coach Tom Rowe got a call from Reimer at 4 a.m. this morning informing him of the news.

“The baby is on the way I guess and he’s home,” said Rowe, per the Miami Herald.

The baby has since arrived:

Rowe had been hoping to ride the hot hand before the plan changed. Reimer was named first star in Thursday’s 2-1 OT victory over Tampa Bay, the Panthers’ last game before the All-Star break.

Not that Luongo has been playing all that poorly; he just hasn’t been getting the wins. The 37-year-old has an impressive .925 save percentage in January, but his record is a modest 2-4-1.

Who else but Mike Condon will start for the Senators.

Elsewhere…

Thomas Greiss, with a new contract extension, will start for the Islanders at home to Washington. Philipp Grubauer gets the assignment for the Caps, after Braden Holtby spent the weekend at the All-Star Game in Los Angeles.

Henrik Lundqvist will try to stay hot for the Rangers against the visitors from Columbus. Joonas Korpisalo gets the nod for the Blue Jackets, after Sergei Bobrovsky represented the club in L.A.

Matt Murray and Pekka Rinne are expected in Pittsburgh when the Penguins host the Predators.

Tuukka Rask was in L.A. this weekend, but he’s expected to play anyway when the Bruins take on the Lightning tonight in Tampa. Ben Bishop will go for the Bolts.

— It’ll be Steve Mason versus Cam Ward when the Flyers and Hurricanes meet in Carolina.

— In Detroit, Cory Schneider for the Devils versus Jared Coreau for the Red Wings.

— Even though Connor Hellebuyck went into the break with a winning performance in Chicago, Ondrej Pavelec will start for the Winnipeg Jets tonight in St. Louis. For the Blues, it’ll be Jake Allen making his first start in two weeks.

Carey Price for the Canadiens versus Robin Lehner for the Sabres in Montreal.

— Frederik Anderson for the Maple Leafs versus Kari Lehtonen for the Stars in Dallas.

— Darcy Kuemper has allowed at least three goals in each of his last four starts. He’ll get the nod for the Wild in Edmonton, where Cam Talbot will start for the Oilers.

— Skills competition hero Mike Smith will start for the Coyotes in Glendale. No official word on a starter for the Kings, but bet on Peter Budaj.

Calvin Pickard for the Avalanche versus John Gibson for the Ducks in Anaheim.

— A couple of All Stars square off in San Jose, where it’ll be Corey Crawford for the Blackhawks versus Martin Jones for the Sharks.