Ed Lack

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Rick Nash at career crossroads in contract year

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This post is part of Rangers Day on PHT…

New York Rangers GM Jeff Gorton has indeed done a great job managing the team’s salary structure. In that context, it might be tough to justify the idea of extending an aging power forward who will be 34 when his current deal expires next summer.

There are more than a few people who believe that the Rangers would be wise to bring Rick Nash back, however. Just recently, Josh Lipman made such an argument for Fansided and a similar thought surfaced from Jackson Heil of The Hockey Writers.

Of course, wherever Nash goes, he figures to see a decrease in pay – maybe a drastic drop – from the $7.8 million cap hit that expires after 2017-18.

For Nash, it’s a fork in the road during what’s been a somewhat odd career.

Nash is closing in on 500 career goals, as the winger already produced 416 in 989 regular-season games. He’s become quite the specialist in New York, scoring 127 goals vs. 97 assists in 315 contests with the Rangers.

On those playoff questions

As Rangers fans likely know too well, there have been some playoff headaches.

It’s wrong to say that Nash has never enjoyed postseason success. In 19 games during their 2015 run, he managed 14 points. He also had four points in what was otherwise a miserable five-game series for the Rangers against the Penguins in 2016.

His strange run of bad luck resurfaced this past postseason, so for all we know, Nash might not ever fully silence critics regarding his supposed lack of “clutch play.”

Best option available?

When people picture Nash’s future, many envision him hitting the free agent market in 2018.

The Rangers might not be so wise to outright dismiss bringing Nash back, though. New York boasts some nice forwards, but it’s plausible that Nash could remain one of their most reliable snipers, even at an advanced age. Lipman points out that Nash easily outclasses other Rangers during his time with the team from a sniping perspective; while he generated 127 goals during that time, the second-most prolific scorer was Derek Stepan, who only managed 90.

It’s worth noting that, despite being limited to 67 regular-season games in 2016-17, Nash still scored 23 goals. Nash generated 42 goals as recently as 2014-15, which was one of his only healthy campaigns with the Rangers.

Now, it’s rarely safe to assume that a player will become more durable as he ages, so that’s another concern to consider.

Still, if the price is reasonable, Nash brings a lot to the table.

The 2017-18 season stands as a year that could have a huge impact on Nash’s future. The Rangers should at least keep an open mind about being a part of his future beyond this next season.

Peters doesn’t regret Lack criticism: ‘That’s just being honest’

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Carolina Hurricanes coach Bill Peters made some headlines on Friday when he went on a bit of a rant regarding the play of backup goaltender Eddie Lack this season, basically telling him to make a big save every once in a while.

It was surprising not only because of how direct and sharp the criticism was, but also because of how out of character it was from a coach that has previously avoided such criticism of his goaltenders.

Following the Hurricanes’ 4-2 loss to Arizona on Friday, a game in which Cam Ward allowed three goals on just 21 shots, Peters was asked if he had any regrets about his comments toward Lack.

He did not.

“No. That’s just being honest,” Peters said. “You guys want it to be a competition for starts, and you gotta have competition to be a competition, correct? You know what I mean? I can’t just give people stuff for free, in pro sports that is not how it works.”

What’s odd about this is that neither goalie in Carolina has played well this season.

Part of Peters’ criticism of Lack on Friday morning was that in his last game he allowed four goals only 16 shots, and had a save percentage for the season that would place him near the bottom of the league. And all of that is accurate. But it’s not like Ward has significantly outplayed Lack this season. After Friday’s game Ward owns a .904 save percentage that is currently 46th out of 60 goalies in the NHL and has given up at least three goals in nine of his past 14 starts. In seven of those starts he has given up at least four goals. Since the start of the 2012-13 season Ward’s .906 save percentage is 43rd out of 45 goalies that have appeared in at least 100 games, ahead of only Ben Scrivens and Jacob Markstrom (and oddly enough, five spots behind Eddie Lack).

The point here is that both goalies are struggling and neither one has played anywhere near well enough to give the Hurricanes a chance to win on most nights. To single out the guy that has only played in 10 games this season (and missed significant time to a concussion) while pretty much giving a free pass to the other goalie just seems … odd. He even went out of his way on Friday to praise Ward for making a timely save on a night he gave up three goals on 21 shots (a dismal .857 save percentage) just hours after ripping apart Lack for giving up four goals on 16 shots. Neither performance is good enough.

Goaltending has been a major issue for the Hurricanes for several years now and things seem to be a lot more even than Peters suggests when he says it’s not a competition.

It is a competition.

Not because both guys are playing well, but because both have been equally bad.

Hurricanes activate Eddie Lack from IR, getting closer to a return

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Goaltending has, once again, been a bit of a weakness for the Carolina Hurricanes as they try to compete for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

But they might be getting some good news on that front when they come back out of the All-Star break next week.

The team announced that Eddie Lack, sidelined since early November with a concussion, has been activated from injured reserve and assigned to the AHL’s Charlotte Checkers for a conditioning stint. That is the next step in his recovery from a concussion that has sidelined him for more than 30 games.

In Lack’s absence the Hurricanes have been relying almost entirely on Cam Ward to carry the position and play in 33 of the team’s past 37 games. That workload might be starting to wear on him a little bit as he’s lost four of his past five starts and given up 23 goals during that stretch. Overall he is on track to finish with a save percentage lower than .910 for the fourth time in the past five years.

The Hurricanes acquired Lack before the start of the 2015-16 season in an effort to solidify the position but his debut season with the team was probably considered a bit of a disappointment. His injury early this season has robbed him of the opportunity to bounce back from it so far, limiting him to just four games.

Carolina enters the All-Star break with 49 points in 48 games, seven points back of the Philadelphia Flyers for the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.

Royal pain: Kings rule out Quick until March (Updated)

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Earlier this week, we wrote about Darryl Sutter’s less-than-optimistic health update on Jonathan Quick.

Turns out Sutter might’ve been foreshadowing.

On Wednesday, GM Dean Lombardi told the L.A. Times that Quick would be out until March with a groin injury suffered in the Kings’ season-opening loss to the Sharks.

Update: Lombardi has since revised the timeline, saying they’re predicting Quick’s return will be in mid-February.

The season opener was on Oct. 12 and, originally, the Kings said Quick was expected to miss “about three months.” Monday marked month No. 2 on the shelf, which is (presumably) why Sutter was asked for an update.

It’ll be curious to see how the club reacts to Lombardi’s latest news.

The Kings have survived without Quick — posting an 14-12-2 record — but have hardly thrived. Veteran forward Jeff Carter tore into his teammates following last night’s 6-3 loss in Buffalo, calling them “fragile.”

The perceived lack of stability isn’t surprising. Quick’s been L.A.’s backbone for years and was one of the league’s busiest workhorses over the last three seasons, including a ’15-16 campaign in which he led all NHL netminders in games (68) and minutes (4034) played.

Quick’s replacements have tried their best, and probably done about as well as could be expected.

Peter Budaj (13-7-2, 2.27 GAA, .907 save percentage) jumped from third-string AHL farmand to the No. 1 job, which is a huge leap, and has crashed back to earth after a good start.

Budaj has been pulled from two of his last five games, and has just an .861 save percentage during that stretch.

Jeff Zatkoff, originally signed to be Quick’s backup, has dealt with injuries himself and hasn’t played much. As a result, he’s yet to find any sort of groove and his ugly numbers (1-5-0, 3.20 GAA, .882 save percentage) reflect it.

Lombardi told the Times he won’t “throw the kitchen sink,” at his club’s netminding issues, so don’t expect any huge trade. That said, he may take a look at a smaller, less costly move — perhaps he could target ex-Kings netminder J-F Berbue, who’s stuck in limbo with the Islanders.

He’s a natural: Cammalleri’s hat trick leads the Devils over Hurricanes

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) Michael Cammalleri made up for lost time Sunday night.

Cammalleri got his first three goals of the season, lifting the New Jersey Devils over the Carolina Hurricanes 4-1 for their first road victory.

“It was nice to get them to hit the back of the net,” Cammalleri said.

Cammalleri scored twice in the second period and again midway through the third for his sixth career hat trick. Captain Andy Greene scored into an empty net for New Jersey.

The Devils improve to 1-3-2 away from home. Keith Kinkaid got his first win of the season behind 33 saves.

“Getting the first road win, hopefully it will be like Cami’s first goal and open the flood gates for us,” Kinkaid said. “He had a tremendous game, and it was good to get the win.”

New Jersey had been off to its worst road start since going 0-5-2 in 2013-14. The Devils lost to Florida 4-3 in overtime and then suffered a 4-1 loss at Tampa Bay in their last two outings.

“We didn’t like the way things were going in the last couple,” Cammalleri said. “To be able to nip that in the bud a little bit and now go back home means we can build on something.”

Carolina’s Andrej Nestrasil scored with 6:59 left in the third period. Eddie Lack stopped 17 shots in his first home start.

Cammalleri’s first goal came 4:31 into the second. He took a cross-ice pass from Travis Zajac and scored easily from just inside the left circle. He scored again just over three minutes later, slipping a shot under Lack’s pads on a rush from near the left faceoff dot.

He completed the hat trick on a shot from the left side 8:30 into the third.

Cammalleri has five goals and four assists in his last six games against the Hurricanes. He also had a key blocked shot late as Carolina was pressing.

Carolina pulled Lack for an extra skater with four minutes left but could not generate another goal.

The Hurricanes began the year with one of the league’s top power-play units but have gone four games without a man-advantage goal. They were 0 for 4 in this one.

“It comes down to execution,” coach Bill Peters said. “It comes down to confidence and it comes down to five guys doing their part.”