Author: James O'Brien

Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Anaheim Ducks 6-2

Bryzgalov gets first Ducks start since 2007


Considering Frederik Andersen’s iron man streak, it’s been an even longer time coming, but Ilya Bryzgalov is finally getting the first start of his second tour with the Anaheim Ducks tonight.

By facing the Ottawa Senators tonight, Bryzgalov starts for the Ducks for the first time since Nov. 7, 2007; the team points out that 2,599 days have passed since that last happened. Perhaps such a gap in time explains the horrible/awesome/horrible-awesome pun the team’s Twitter feed trotted out to mark the occasion.

If any team has a reason to see the upside of the 34-year-old, it would probably be the Ducks (or maybe the Arizona Coyotes).

Bryzgalov showed some promise despite sparse work (70 regular season games played) during five seasons with Anaheim in his previous stay, as the Russian goalie played especially well in two playoff spurts (.944 save percentage in 11 playoff games in 2006 and a .922 mark in five games played during the 2007 championship year).

Bryzgalov already made one appearance for Anaheim this season, as he allowed two goals on seven shots in about 15 minutes of relief work against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Dec. 16.

Stomach flu makes Lightning’s Johnson a surprise scratch

Carolina Hurricanes v Tampa Bay Lightning
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The Tampa Bay Lightning must face the New Jersey Devils without their under-the-radar star Tyler Johnson tonight, as he’s a late scratch thanks to a stomach flu,’s Dan Rosen reports.

He might not be the household name that Steven Stamkos is, yet Johnson hasn’t been that far behind his elite teammate from a scoring perspective in 2014-15. Johnson has 33 points in 33 games so far, just two points shy of Stamkos, who is currently tied for fifth overall in NHL scoring.

Johnson, 24, had played in 115 consecutive games heading into Friday, so it must be a pretty rough belly bug. It’s weird to be optimistic when someone’s dealing with a stomach flu, yet considering what’s beguiled the NHL, here’s hoping it’s just that and not the latest in a disturbingly long line of mumps sufferers.

(At this point that’s a default concern, even if some cases seem more likely than others.)

Here’s how the Tampa Bay Times’ Joe Smith expects the team’s lines to look like without Johnson in the mix:

This comes right as the Lightning looked a little healthier heading into this game against the Devils, as Radko Gudas and Ondrej Palat (another underrated gem among Lightning forwards) seem primed to return from their injury issues.

Wolverine, indeed: Pacioretty reportedly isn’t ruled out for Saturday after hospital visit

The Wolverine 2 premieres in Beijing

As much as people cringed as Montreal Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty labored his way off the ice (and then to a hospital) on Thursday, at least a few onlookers probably couldn’t help but say, “If anyone can avoid missing the Habs’ next game, it’s him.”

Well, he might not miss the Habs’ next game. That’s the report from TVA’s Renaud Lavoie, who notes that the 26-year-old is in “much better shape” today and “anything is possible.” Lavoie didn’t say anything is possible because Pacioretty actually has Wolverine’s mutant healing powers, though.

Even by “hockey players are tough” standards, Pacioretty’s developed a reputation for returning from injuries with stunning speed. It’s to the point where the “Wolverine” comparison almost feels less like a joke and more like an all-too-obvious observation.

Pacioretty continues to be a go-to winger for Montreal, as he has 13 goals and 25 points with a whopping 114 shots on goal in 33 games in 2014-15. The Canadiens face the Ottawa Senators on Saturday.

A check by Anaheim Ducks defenseman Clayton Stoner left Pacioretty wobbly on Thursday, but did not draw a suspension. Here’s video of that hit:

Rinse, repeat: Blue Jackets place Gibbons on IR, could get Hartnell back in weeks

Florida Panthers v Columbus Blue Jackets

Apparently the “hockey gods” finally made their rounds back to the Columbus Blue Jackets, as they announced that forward Brian Gibbons was placed on IR on Friday. The Blue Jackets recalled Alexander Wennberg and Cody Goloubef as well today.

The Blue Jackets estimate that Gibbons, 26, will need about two-to-three weeks to recover from a knee injury that he suffered against the Washington Capitals last night.

Depending upon healing speed, the Blue Jackets could be quite a bit stronger at the end of Gibbons’ recovery window; the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline reports that Scott Hartnell could also be back from his finger injury in a couple weeks.

The bright side is that there might be some benefit to getting another look at Wennberg, 20.

Both Gibbons and Wennberg have played 21 games apiece so far in 2014-15, and while Gibbons has two more assists (five versus three) in that frame, the Blue Jackets obviously must expect bigger things from Wennberg long-term.

(He was the 14th pick of the 2013 NHL Draft, after all.)

As much as this injury narrative has dominated the Blue Jackets’ headlines this season, the team recently went on a seven-game winning streak and has recorded at least one standings point (7-0-1) in December. Their next game is against the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday.

Habs demote Andrighetto, who made a strong impression

Montreal Canadians v Chicago Blackhawks

The Montreal Canadiens sent Sven Andrighetto to the AHL on Wednesday, but not before the 21-year-old forward made a good first impression at the highest level.

Habs Eyes on the Prize argues that the Swiss forward is better off getting experience in the AHL, even after scoring three points in his first four NHL games.

His puck skills are great, his vision is solid, and he skates hard, but you can tell that he’s not quite there yet. Andrighetto struggles a bit in the defensive zone, and even though he’s played with high quality linemates, his possession game hasn’t been very good, sitting at just 47.1% Corsi. It’s a small sample, but I think we all know he can be better than that.

Andrighetto has been productive with the Hamilton Bulldogs, as he ahs 18 points in 21 AHL games this season.

The 86th pick of the 2013 NHL Draft seems to be ahead of the curve so far, but onlookers also believe that he might be better off in the AHL, at least at the moment.