James O'Brien

Andrew Hammond

Goalie nods: The Burglar is in

“The Hamburglar” hasn’t stolen many games for the Ottawa Senators this season, but there’s still time.

Andrew Hammond will get the start on Sunday, his second game back after missing more than a month from mid-November to mid-December.

While Hammond has been limited to a 2-1-2 record in 2015-16, he’s quietly been strong individually with a .929 save percentage.

Craig Anderson has been the workhorse for much of this season for Ottawa, yet one would believe that the Sens would like to see a little more of Hammond.

It’s unclear who will be across Hammond on the other end of the ice for Tampa Bay, although Ben Bishop is the reasonable guess at this point.

Elsewhere …

Uh oh: Sidney Crosby’s day-to-day with lower-body injury

Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby skates during the first day of NHL hockey training camp, Friday, Sept. 19, 2014, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

Pittsburgh Penguins fans might be wise not to ask the question: “Can it get any worse?”

The answer’s just about always “Yes.”

Sunday presented the latest evidence, as the team announced that Sidney Crosby is day-to-day with a lower-body injury. As you likely know, this word comes a day after the Penguins lost their fifth straight game, with Mike Sullivan still lacking a win as their new head coach.

Woof, that’s a paragraph loaded with sadness. Almost a factory of sadness, even.

Allow a few bits of mild optimism, then.

Yes, this isn’t good. Some might even cite this as evidence to why No. 87 has suffered from such a puzzling lack of offense.

Could the Penguins just be picking a smart time to give Crosby a much-needed breather, though?

During this holiday week, the Penguins will get a big break. They face the Blue Jackets in Pittsburgh and then go on a siesta until a back-to-back set on Saturday and Sunday.

Wouldn’t that be the perfect time to sit their embattled leader?

No, this isn’t a good thing. Even so, it might not be such a bad situation in the big picture.

It sounds like Johansen’s swagger is intact despite recent benching

Columbus Blue Jackets' Ryan Johansen celebrates his goal against the Calgary Flames during the second period of an NHL hockey game Friday, March 29, 2013, in Calgary, Alberta. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jeff McIntosh)

Even after being a healthy scratch, it sounds like Ryan Johansen‘s swagger remains intact.

He returned to the Columbus Blue Jackets’ lineup in Saturday’s eventual 3-2 shootout win against the Philadelphia Flyers, and while he didn’t score, Johansen played more than 20 minutes.

Johansen also saw other key Blue Jackets take a benching in stride during this trying season, especially Scott Hartnell.

With all that in mind, he indicated to the Columbus Dispatch that he’s not struggling with self-doubt on the ice.

“I’ve been in the league for five years now, so if I’m scared to make a mistake now, then there is something wrong with me, and there is something wrong with my attitude towards playing hockey,” Johansen said. “It’s my job to go out there and have fun and do what I do. If I make mistakes, that’s hockey. But if I keep making the same mistakes over, that’s where it becomes an issue.”

The 23-year-old continues to say the right things, even when it’s debatable whether other members of the Blue Jackets organization are doing the same. (Team president John Davidson didn’t exactly shoot down trade rumors for Johansen, for example.)

Then again, it’s not too surprising that the kid is confident, considering how he heckled Brandon Dubinsky some time ago.

It’s reasonable to worry that John Tortorella’s tactics might leave a player timid, but that might not be much of a concern here.

Now, does that mean they’re really getting along? That may be another discussion entirely.

(H/T to The Score.)

Coyotes’ Domingue feels like he belongs in NHL after first shutout

Arizona Coyotes' Louis Domingue waves to the crowd after the Coyotes' NHL hockey game against the New York Islanders on Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. Domingue earned his first NHL shutout as the Coyotes won 1-0. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

After notching his first NHL shutout in his second career win at this level in a 1-0 victory against the Islanders, Arizona Coyotes goalie Louis Domingue didn’t deny the resulting boost in confidence.

“Every time you play and you do good, you just feel like you belong in the league,” Domingue said, according to the Arizona Republic’s Sarah McLellan. “That’s how I feel right now.”

Domingue only received a goal to work with in that win last night, yet he still got the job done.

To Dave Tippett, the biggest save came when Domingue turned aside a shorthanded attempt by Casey Cizikas:

When you’re battling for every point and only getting hit-or-miss goaltending like the Coyotes, it’s silly to leave any stone un-turned, so Tippett seems keen on finding out if Domingue really does belong in the NHL.

Goalies are a strange beast, so why not see if Domingue can continue that momentum?

Varlamov remains saving grace for Avalanche (and Roy)


When he’s on his game, few goalies save like Semyon Varlamov.

As in, literally.

No goalie made more saves or faced more shots during the 2013-14 season,* so Varlamov likely deserved as much – if not more – credit for Colorado’s surprise playoff berth as Patrick Roy received in grabbing the 2014 Jack Adams.

What was clear a few days ago is only clearer now: Varlamov is the catalyst for Colorado’s recent winning streak of five straight games and an 8-2-0 December. The Avalanche probably ask too much of Varlamov at times, yet he succeeds to a surprising degree.

Red-hot run

Varlamov is now on a six-game winning streak in which he’s allowed a total of six goals. Saturday’s performance ranks as one of his best in 2015-16, as he befuddled the Edmonton Oilers in a 5-1 win that was lopsided mainly because of his brilliance (he stopped 39 out of 40 shots).

As you can see in this post, Gabriel Landeskog called Varlamov Colorado’s best player, and he really might just be their saving grace.

Fittingly, a goalie who carries arguably the biggest workhorse role in the modern NHL will only be asked to pull off these difficult feats more as the Avs to inch their way up the mountain.

Even with this winning streak, the Avalanche are ranked sixth in the Central Division, and firmly so. Still, it’s amusing that Roy threw Varlamov under the bus when he’s the guy who keeps saving his bacon.

At least he’s not oblivious to Varlamov’s strong play, judging by what Roy told the Denver Post.

“Varly is playing so well right now,” Roy said. “When you’re looking at him, it seems very easy. He’s under control. He’s moving well. He sees the puck big. He’s in a zone right now and we feed off him.”

The Avalanche flat-out need this kind of work from their goalies most nights, so fair or not, it all hinges on Varlamov (and occasionally resurgent Reto Berra).

* – Varlamov also tops all goalies in shots faced and saves made since 2013-14.