Mike Condon

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Goalie Nods: McElhinney gets the start for Leafs

With Frederik Andersen unavailable for tonight’s regular season finale for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Curtis McElhinney will get the start against his former team, the Columbus Blue Jackets.

He made quite an impact on Saturday night, coming on in relief of Andersen and making a couple of huge saves late in the third period.

As we mentioned this morning this is still a relatively big game for the Maple Leafs. Even though their playoff spot is already clinched, they can still move up in the standings and avoid a first-round matchup with the Washington Capitals. But to do that they have to knock off the Blue Jackets.

McElhinney and the Maple Leafs are going to get a bit of a break on Sunday, not only because Columbus is riding a six-game losing streak, but also because the Blue Jackets have nothing (quite literally) to play for. Their playoff spot has already been locked in place for a week now, and they not only are still without defenseman Zach Werenski, but it also appears that Alex Wennberg, Seth Jones and Scott Hartnell will also be held out of the lineup for precautionary reasons.

The Blue Jackets are preparing for their first-round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Sergei Bobrovsky, perhaps the Vezina Trophy front-runner at this point, will also get the night off.

Joonas Korpisalo will start in net for the Blue Jackets.

Elsewhere on Sunday…

— In the final game at Joe Louis Arena it will be Cory Schneider for the New Jersey Devils going up against Jimmy Howard of the Detroit Red Wings.

Andrei Vasilevskiy will be in net for the Tampa Bay Lightning against the Buffalo Sabres. No word yet from the Sabres on their starter.

Mike Condon gives Craig Anderson a break for the Ottawa Senators in their regular season finale in New York against the Islanders. The Islanders are starting Thomas Greiss.

— It will be Calvin Pickard vs. Jake Allen when the Colorado Avalanche visit the St. Louis Blues.

James Reimer helps the Florida Panthers close out their season when they visit the Washington Capitals. Braden Holtby gets one more tune-up start before the playoffs begin after getting the day off on Saturday.

Eddie Lack will play for the Carolina Hurricanes when they visit the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers will start Anthony Stolarz.

— Magnus Hellberg goes for the New York Rangers when they host the Pittsburgh Penguins. No word yet from the Penguins on their starter.

— The Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks have not announced their starters.

Cam Talbot will get a much-needed break for the Edmonton Oilers as Laurent Brossoit gets the start as they have a chance to maybe win the Pacific Division. Talbot will finish with a league-leading 73 starts, seven more than any other goalie in the NHL. The Vancouver Canucks have not announced their starter.

Goalie nods: Leafs start McElhinney with chance to clinch playoffs

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Toronto can secure a postseason berth with a win over the Caps tonight, and some help on the out of town scoreboard.

And they’ll look to do it with Curtis McElhinney in goal.

McElhinney, who came up huge last week in relief of the injured Frederik Andersen, will get the call on Tuesday as the leafs host the Caps at the ACC. The start comes exactly one week after McElhinney stopped 25 shots in a 3-2 win over Florida, a game that kicked off the Leafs’ current four-game unbeaten streak.

Calling the Panthers game the biggest start of his career, the veteran backup did very well. But tonight is certainly a more difficult task.

The Caps come into Toronto boasting the NHL’s second-best offense and third-best power play. They’re also on the verge of clinching the Presidents’ Trophy, so plenty at stake for them as well.

Washington is going with Philipp Grubauer in goal.

(For more on Toronto’s playoff-clinching and Washington’s Presidents’ Trophy-clinching scenarios, click here).

Elsewhere…

— In a game the Leafs will be paying close attention to, the Lightning are going with Andrei Vasilevskiy in Boston. No confirmed B’s starter yet, but chances are Tuukka Rask will be in goal, as the Bruins can clinch a postseason berth with a regulation win.

Matt Murray goes for Pittsburgh, who hosts Columbus in a likely first-round playoff preview. No word yet on a Blue Jackets starter.

— No confirmed starters from Detroit and Ottawa, who played each other last night. Petr Mrazek and Craig Anderson were the goalies of record, so we could see Jimmy Howard and Mike Condon. (Update: It’s Anderson for Ottawa.)

— It’s Cam Ward versus Devan Dubnyk as the ‘Canes visit Minnesota.

— The Isles’ playoff hopes are hanging by a thread, and they’re hoping Jaroslav Halak can keep them alive in Nashville. The Preds have yet to announce a starter.

— The Jets continue to give Michael Hutchinson late season looks, and he’ll start tonight in St. Louis. Jake Allen starts for the Blues, as expected.

— It’s Mike Smith versus Antti Niemi as the Coyotes take on the Stars in Dallas.

— Like Hutchinson in Winnipeg, Devils backup Keith Kinkaid is getting more and more looks down the stretch, including tonight’s home date against the Flyers. Steve Mason goes for Philly.

Scott Darling gives Corey Crawford the night off, and gets the start in Colorado. He’ll be up against Calvin Pickard.

— Speaking of nights off, Brian Elliott gets one for Calgary as the Flames look to snap an 11-year (yes, year) losing streak in Anaheim. Chad Johnson gets the call, and no word yet on who he’ll face.

Jonathan Quick gets another start for the Kings, as he was first off the ice at this morning’s skate. Edmonton hasn’t unveiled its starter yet, but Cam Talbot literally plays every game, so….

— In San Jose, Martin Jones gets to face the visiting Canucks. He’ll be up against Richard Bachman.

Goalie nods: Cam Ward looks to keep rolling for Hurricanes

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Thanks to a month of March that saw the Carolina Hurricanes collect 25 out of a possible 34 points, they have managed to at least somewhat remain in the playoff hunt in the Eastern Conference.

They look to continue that pursuit on Saturday night when they host the Dallas Stars.

It will be Cam Ward getting the start once again for the Hurricanes after he stopped 23 out of 24 shots on Thursday night in their win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. He has allowed just five goals in his past three starts, all wins for the Hurricanes.

Overall it has been another tough season for Ward, but he has worked to salvage it down the stretch with some recent strong play. He has been good enough that the Hurricanes have been able to earn at least a point in each of his past eight starts and nine of his past 10.

Even with that stretch the Hurricanes will still need a minor miracle to secure a playoff spot, entering the night five points back of a wild card spot, but if nothing else they have made the stretch run a little more interesting with this stretch of games.

The Dallas Stars will be going with Kari Lehtonen.

Elsewhere on Saturday…

— It was Tuukka Rask vs. Reto Berra for the Boston-Florida game, while Alex Stalock went against Pekka Rinne in the Minnesota-Nashville game.

Mike Condon tries to get the Ottawa Senators back on track when they visit the Winnipeg Jets. The Jets will go with Conor Hellebuyck.

— It will be Cory Schneider vs. Michael Neuvirth when the New Jersey Devils visit the Philadelphia Flyers.

Andrei Vasilevskiy looks to keep the Tampa Bay Lightning on track in their playoff pursuit when they host the Montreal Canadiens. As expected, the Canadiens will go with their No. 1 goalie, Carey Price.

Frederik Andersen starts for the Toronto Maple Leafs when they make their final visit to Joe Louis Arena. The Red Wings will start Jimmy Howard.

Cam Talbot will make his 70th start of the season for the Edmonton Oilers when they host John Gibson and the Anaheim Ducks.

Sens bring over Hogberg, one of Swedish League’s top goalies

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Ottawa has added to its goaltending depth, inking Marcus Hogberg to a two-year, entry-level deal.

Hogberg, 22, is coming off a terrific campaign with SHL Linkoping. He posted a 1.89 GAA and .932 save percentage (fourth-best in the league), and will now join the club’s AHL affiliate in Binghamton on an amateur tryout.

The Sens took Hogberg in the third round (78th overall) at the ’13 draft, and he could soon find himself moving up the depth chart. Andrew Hammond is on the outs, while minor-leaguers Chris Driedger and former BU standout Matt O’Connor have failed to impress.

Ottawa’s had extension talks with backup netminder Mike Condon, while No. 1 Craig Anderson — who turns 36 in May — is in the second of a three-year, $12.6 million deal with a $4.2 million cap hit.

With Lehtonen’s strong finish, is Niemi done in Dallas?

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The Stars have spent the last two years working with their oft-criticized two goalie setup.

Could the experiment soon be over?

Over the last month, the club has played Kari Lehtonen almost exclusively — he’s been the goalie of record in 10 of 12 games, including six straight — and has performed well. On Monday, he was named the NHL’s second star of the week, and has a .926 save percentage in March.

According to the Morning-News’ Mike Heika, this might be foreshadowing Antti Niemi‘s departure.

I think they have lost all faith in Antti Niemi and they want to see if Lehtonen is worth keeping next year.

I’m still not sure if this is proving they should keep him, but it makes the decision to get two new goalies more difficult.

A lot will depend on whether or not they acquire a goalie in trade before the NHL buyout window (which opens June 15) closes June 30. If they make a trade or two, that will possibly push them to buy out Lehtonen and Niemi.

I think it would be tough to buy out both and have no goalies in house on July 1.

The guess here is Niemi will be bought out for sure.

Niemi is in the second of a three-year, $13.5 million deal, one that carries a $4.5 million cap hit. Per CapFriendly, a buyout would cost Dallas $1.5 million against the cap through 2019.

This season has been a struggle for the 33-year-old. He’s posted an 11-11-4 record with a 3.35 GAA and .892 save percentage, and that came after a fairly mediocre first year in Dallas. Though he won 25 games and appeared in five playoff contests, Niemi never posted a save percentage above .905.

If the plan is to keep Lehtonen and move on from Niemi, it’s fairly safe to assume GM Jim Nill will acquire a goalie to work in tandem with the former.

And this is where things could get interesting.

This summer’s UFA goalie market will be flush. Ryan Miller, Ben Bishop, Jonathan Bernier, Steve Mason, Brian Elliott, Mike Condon, Scott Darling and Chad Johnson are all currently without contracts for next season, and the prospect of joining the Stars has to be enticing. There is playing time to be had, and Lehtonen — who turns 34 next season — only has a year left on his deal.