Jacob Markstrom

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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.

Goalie nods: As Nilsson trade winds swirl, Sabres give Ullmark season debut

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Netminding duties in Buffalo have been handled exclusively by Robin Lehner and Anders Nilsson this year but, tonight, a third goalie will get in the mix.

Linus Ullmark, the 23-year-old Rochester farmhand, will make his first start of the season when the Sabres host the Preds. Ullmark spent considerable time at the NHL level last season — starting 20 games — but was sent to the American League this year for further seasoning.

He’s played quite a bit, going 20-20-2 with a 2.90 GAA and .910 save percentage, and the timing of this start has raised some eyebrows. The Sabres are believed to be in seller mode heading into tomorrow’s deadline, and there’s been a lot of talk around Nilsson, who’s a pending UFA.

For the Preds, Pekka Rinne is the likely starter in goal.

Elsewhere…

Mike Smith returns from a two-game absence (illness) to start in Boston. The Bruins will counter with Tuukka Rask, who has won four of his last five starts.

— Marquee matchup on Broadway, as Braden Holtby and the Caps take on Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers. This will, of course, be Kevin Shattenkirk‘s debut in a Washington uniform.

Steve Mason will start for the first time in seven games when the Flyers host the Avs at Wells Fargo. No word yet on a Colorado starter.

— Another really good matchup in Montreal, as Sergei Bobrovsky takes on Carey Price in a battle of former Vezina winners.

Cam Ward gets the nod in Florida, looking to snap a personal four-game losing streak. He’ll be up against Roberto Luongo, who has also struggled lately. He’s allowed 18 goals on his last 139 shots faced, for a poor .871 save percentage.

Connor Hellebuyck makes his seventh straight start for the Jets, who host the Wild. Darcy Kuemper will give Devan Dubnyk the night off, after Dubnyk beat the Kings on Monday.

— No surprises for Edmonton, as the Oilers will once again start Cam Talbot for the NHL-leading 57th time. Talbot will face Jake Allen.

Matt Murray gets the nod for Pittsburgh, fresh off a 36-save win over the Flyers in Saturday’s Stadium Series game. It looks as though the host Stars will go with Antti Niemi.

— The Kings didn’t have a morning skate, but it’s possible Ben Bishop makes his team debut when L.A. takes on the Flames in Calgary. Jonathan Quick played last night against Minnesota and looked rusty in a loss. For the Flames, Brian Elliott gets the start.

— Petr  Mrazek looks likely to start for Detroit tonight in Vancouver, while the Canucks are expected to go with Ryan Miller. Jacob Markstrom is out with an injury suffered during Sunday’s Super Skills contest.

— Finally, Frederik Andersen faces an old foe as the Leafs take on the Sharks in San Jose tonight. Martin Jones will be in the other net.

Canucks’ Miller, agent to discuss trade possibilities

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Vancouver’s in the midst of its bye week, and won’t play again until Saturday, but still figures to be very active next over the few days.

GM Jim Benning said he’d talk with players possessing no-trade clauses during the break, and one of those, veteran netminder Ryan Miller, will have additional discussions as well.

Per News 1130, the pending UFA will talk with agent Mike Liut about trade deadline possibilities. Liut added his client has yet to decide anything regarding his future.

More on this, from Pierre LeBrun on TSN’s Insider Trading:

Ryan Miller has a no-trade with only five teams on it, and of those five teams to go to, three are in the state of California. He spends his offseason, as most people know, in the L.A. area.

The L.A. Kings are, to me, the only real team that potentially makes sense. If they get news on Jonathan Quick in the next week that they’re not sure about him, then perhaps they have to go out and trade for a goalie — and Ryan Miller, that could be of interest.

On the flip side? The Canucks are not against Ryan Miller coming back next year at a lower salary, and being a mentor of sorts.

Miller’s in the last of a three-year, $18 million deal with a $6M cap hit. Pricey, but one that could be mitigated by salary retention.

As for potential suitors?

Today, the Kings waived current backup goalie Jeff Zatkoff, a move many have linked to Quick’s pending return. So that would (theoretically) rule out the Miller-to-L.A. idea.

In a recent radio hit, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman floated the idea of Anaheim acquiring Miller. John Gibson has been terrific and is the unquestioned No. 1, but the situation behind him is dicey. Jonathan Bernier, himself a pending UFA, has just a .901 save percentage on the year with a 2.93 GAA, and isn’t playing much. Bernier’s made just two starts this month and in his last one, he was hooked after allowing three goals on just six shots.

Then there’s San Jose.

The club has history of upgrading the backup goalie position at the deadline, most notably last year when James Reimer was acquired to replace the ineffective Alex Stalock. There have been rumblings GM Doug Wilson might try it again this season, but head coach Peter DeBoer recently gave current No. 2 Aaron Dell a vote of confidence.

“There’s probably only one or two teams in the league with the luxury that if their starter goes down they feel very confident,” DeBoer said, per the Mercury News. “At the same time, our group has a real confidence in Deller, I think he’s earned that.”

In the end, an extension in Vancouver might be the most likely outcome. Miller’s been solid, posting a .917 save percentage for a sub-.500 team with one of the league’s worst goal differentials (minus-30). Jacob Markstrom hasn’t proven he’s a legitimate full-time starter, and the goalie market could be flooded this summer with the likes of Ben Bishop, Marc-Andre Fleury, Steve Mason, Michal Neuvirth, Brian Elliott and Chad Johnson all potentially available.

Related: What does the future hold for Ryan Miller?

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.

Markstrom takes blame for Canucks loss: ‘I was just awful today’

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The Vancouver Canucks wrapped up their six-game road trip on Thursday night with a 4-3 loss in St. Louis.

It is another damaging loss for the Canucks as they cling to whatever slim playoff hopes they have remaining, and is their seventh in the past nine games.

Starting goaltender Jacob Markstrom had a particularly tough night in the crease, allowing four goals on the 21 shots he faced, including two power play goals in the first five minutes of the third period to put the Canucks into a 4-2 deficit they would not be able to overcome.

After the game Markstrom was especially hard on himself and took pretty much all of the blame for the loss, saying that he was “awful.”

“The players on this team played an unreal road game and I was awful,” Markstrom said, via the Vancouver Province. “I was just awful today. It’s not acceptable, especially when we play such a great game and score three goals in a tough building against a tough team. We play a good game like this, and then the poor play by me is very disappointing. I let down my teammates for sure tonight.”

So here is the situation the Canucks are facing after Thursday.

They are currently in 11th place in the Western Conference and five points behind the Calgary Flames for the second wild card spot, with another two teams (the Los Angeles Kings, 5-2 losers against Arizona on Thursday, and the Winnipeg Jets, who lost in overtime in Pittsburgh) sitting between them. The Kings, however, with only 56 games played and just one point back of the Flames are currently on track to take over that wild card spot and on pace for 87 points this season. That means the Canucks would need to finish with 88 points to finish ahead of them, which means they would need to pick up 32 points in their final 24 games. That is at least a 17-7 record.

General manager Jim Benning said on TSN radio on Thursday that the team had five games before the deadline for him to find out where they are when it comes to their approach to the trade deadline. After losing yet again on Thursday, and facing a pretty daunting challenge when it comes to passing the teams still ahead of them, it should be pretty clear as to where they are at this point.