James O'Brien

AP

Gaudreau, Holtby and Kane: NHL’s three stars for December

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If there was any lingering fear about Johnny Gaudreau backing up his fantastic rookie season, the Calgary Flames forward put any unease to rest with a fantastic month of December.

The NHL announced the three stars for December on Monday with Gaudreau being the first star, Washington Capitals goalie Braden Holtby coming in second and Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane grabbing the third star.

It’s not the first time Holtby or Kane grabbed monthly star spots this season.

More from the league:

FIRST STAR – JOHNNY GAUDREAU, LW, CALGARY FLAMES

Gaudreau led the NHL with 12 goals and ranked second with 18 points in 13 games to power the Flames (18-18-2, 38 points) to a 9-4-0 December, helping the club set a franchise record with 11 consecutive home victories. He registered at least one point in nine of his 13 appearances, highlighted by four multi-goal performances and a pair of hat tricks: Dec. 4 vs. BOS (3-1—4) and Dec. 22 vs. WPG (3-0—3). In doing so, Gaudreau became the first Flames player to post multiple hat tricks in one calendar month since February 2003 (Jarome Iginla: 2). He also collected three game-winning goals, capping his first hat trick at 3:20 of overtime Dec. 4 vs. BOS. The 22-year-old Salem, N.J., native paces the Flames and ranks eighth in the NHL with 17-22—39 in 38 games this season. His three overtime goals are tied for second in the League, while his five game-winning goals share third place.

SECOND STAR – BRADEN HOLTBY, G, WASHINGTON CAPITALS

Holtby went 9-0-1 with a 1.69 goals-against average, .947 save percentage and one shutout in 11 appearances to rank second in the NHL in wins and lead the Capitals (28-7-3, 59 points) to an 11-2-1 December as well as the top of the Eastern Conference standings. He allowed two or fewer goals in nine of his 11 outings, including a 31-save shutout Dec. 28 at BUF. The 26-year-old Lloydminster, Sask., native owns a 24-4-2 record in 31 games this season, pacing the NHL in wins while also ranking in the top five in goals-against average (2nd; 1.92) and save percentage (5th; .932). He has earned at least one point in 18 consecutive decisions dating to Nov. 12 (16-0-2), the longest such streak by any goaltender since Roberto Luongo posted a 21-game run with the Vancouver Canucks in 2010-11 (16-0-5).

THIRD STAR – PATRICK KANE, RW, CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS

Kane again paced the NHL with 9-10—19, including five power-play goals, in 15 games to power the Blackhawks (23-13-4, 50 points) to a 9-5-1 December. He extended his point streak 26 games (16-24—40) before he and the team were shut out Dec. 15 vs. COL. In doing so, Kane set a franchise record as well as the longest point streak by a U.S.-born player in NHL history. Overall, he collected at least one point in 12 of his 15 December appearances, highlighted by a trio of three-point performances: Dec. 3 at OTT (1-2—3), Dec. 29 at ARI (1-2—3) and Dec. 31 at COL (1-2—3). The 27-year-old Buffalo native has recorded at least one point in 35 of 40 games this season, leading the League in points (57), assists (34) and power-play goals (t-12) while sharing second in overall goals (23).

Goalie nods: Montoya tasked with keeping Panthers’ streak alive

Florida Panthers goalie Al Montoya watches game action against the New Jersey Devils' during the second period of a NHL hockey game in Sunrise, Fla., Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)
AP

In case you haven’t noticed, the Florida Panthers are setting all sorts of franchise marks lately, and Roberto Luongo‘s been one of the main reasons why.

An eighth-consecutive win is already a team record, but it falls on Al Montoya to brush off the cobwebs and keep the streak alive against Devan Dubnyk and the Minnesota Wild on Sunday.

Montoya has actually been quite impressive in his rare appearances, going 5-1-1 so far with a fantastic .930 save percentage.

He’s also on a three-game winning streak, although that’s been on ice for some time considering the fact that his last start came on Dec. 17.

(He also claimed three December appearances.)

The Wild have been on an upward trend lately (3-1-1 in their last five games), so this is a legitimate test for the 30-year-old backup.

Elsewhere …

Stars at Islanders: Kari Lehtonen vs. Thomas Greiss

Senators at Blackhawks: Craig Anderson vs. Corey Crawford

Jets at Ducks: Both are up in the air, current guess being Connor Hellebuyck vs. John Gibson

Jets activate Scheifele from IR

Winnipeg Jets' Mark Scheifele celebrates after scoring against the Toronto Maple Leafs during first-period NHL hockey game action in Toronto, Saturday, Feb. 21, 2015. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darren Calabrese)
AP

The Winnipeg Jets have a long way to go to get back into the playoff picture, but they’re getting key forward Mark Scheifele back on Sunday.

The talented scorer missed the last three games with a concussion. He’s suiting up against the Anaheim Ducks tonight.

Matt Halischuk is the odd man out in this equation, as he’s on his way back to the AHL.

Winnipeg is showing signs of life with three wins in its last four games, but in the brutally competitive Central, they’ll need all the help they can get.

With that in mind, you almost couldn’t blame them for envying tonight’s opponent in the Ducks, who enjoy a relatively extravagant margin of error in the Pacific.

Latest road bump in Hudler’s contract year: lower-body injury

Calgary Flames' Jiri Hudler, from Finland, signs jerseys in the dressing room as team members show up for season-end activities in Calgary, Alberta, on Monday, April 14, 2014. Flames ended the season 27th in the NHL standings.  (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Larry MacDougal)
AP
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To put things mildly, this hasn’t been a strong contract year for Calgary Flames forward Jiri Hudler.

Here’s a quick way to tell that things aren’t going well for a hockey player: when there’s a story that boils down to “Well, at least he has a sense of humor about things.”

Saturday presented another wrinkle to his struggles, as his participation was limited thanks to a lower-body injury.

Perhaps this seemingly lingering issue may be part of the problem for the veteran winger?

Sometimes a little time off can do a slumping player some good, so we’ll see if he sits for a while. There still seems to be some optimism there.

People are really sticking it to 19-year-old Jake Virtanen for WJC flubs

virtanen
Screen of Vancouver Province
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Most people make mistakes at age 19. Few see their errors get the full-page newspaper treatment.

That’s what happened to Vancouver Canucks prospect Jake Virtanen on Sunday, as he was clearly scapegoated for Canada’s 6-5 loss to Finland in the 2016 World Juniors.

PHT’s Jason Brough ranked among those who shared this shot from the Vancouver Province:

That’s easily the harshest treatment, but shortly after taking some bad penalties that put Canada in a bad position, he seemed to be the talk of the town on Twitter:

This just in: the World Juniors tournament is kind of a big deal in Canada.

Virtanen (who, it feels worth repeating, is just 19) does indeed seem slated to return to the Vancouver Canucks.

The Canucks are standing up for the young player.

As painful as this can be, perhaps it will be a learning experience for the prospect, at least in the long run?