James O'Brien

New York Rangers v Buffalo Sabres

Quick study: Rangers’ Skapski nabs shutout in second NHL start

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Few probably heard of Mackenzie Skapski before February – many probably remarked “That can’t be a real name” – but he’s done a nice job in his first career NHL starts.

Three weeks after winning in his league debut with the New York Rangers, he stopped all 20 Buffalo Sabres shots for his first career shutout as New York blanked Buffalo 2-0 on Saturday.

Yes, it’s true that the degree of difficulty wasn’t awfully high, considering the low volume of shots and the low regard of the Sabres as an opponent.

Still, after leaning so heavily on Cam Talbot, the Rangers have to feel a little bit better about turning to their oddly named third option when needed.

Again, it’s clear that he’s doing the most with his opportunities so far:

Hey, he’s already getting ragged on by teammates, too:

Could Dan Ellis be the next out-of-nowhere sensation?

Dallas Stars v Florida Panthers
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If there’s a building goaltending narrative in 2014-15, it’s been about netminders unexpectedly redeeming themselves or almost appearing out of the blue.

Devan Dubnyk went from a wayward soul last season to a possible Vezina nominee for the Minnesota Wild. The New York Rangers somehow didn’t miss a beat when Cam Talbot took over for Henrik Lundqvist. The question in Ottawa went from “Who is Andrew Hammond?” to “How do we beat him?”

It’s pretty early to add the man who was the Florida Panthers’ third goalie to the mix, but Dan Ellis certainly made a case that he should be in the argument with another strong performance Saturday.

Ellis stopped all 27 Carolina Hurricanes shots to grab a 2-0 win for Florida. He’s now currently on a three-game winning streak (and is 3-0-1 since taking over) after spending most of his year in the AHL.

Ellis, 34, comes into this situation in a fittingly weird way, as Roberto Luongo and Al Montoya were injured in the same odd game.

He doesn’t fit into the story of many others who were virtually unproven – Ellis now has 208 regular season games under his belt – yet the league soured enough on him that he wasn’t offered one of 60 NHL goaltending jobs to start 2014-15.

The Panthers still face a very, very long shot to get into the postseason, especially as Tuukka Rask really builds back into “totally worth $7 million” form.

If nothing else, it’s a cool story that follows an interesting pattern, though.

Zetterberg hopes Red Wings have hit ‘rock bottom’

Detroit Red Wings v Philadelphia Flyers
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Here’s an understatement: things haven’t been going well for the Detroit Red Wings lately.

With Saturday’s embarrassing 7-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, the Red Wings have now dropped four of their last five games. In that span, Detroit has been outscored 22-13.

For a team that once looked ahead of where head coach Mike Babcock expected it to be, this has to be a troubling sign. Then again, sometimes things have to get grim before they get better.

“Hopefully we’ve hit rock bottom,” Henrik Zetterberg said, according to the Detroit Free-Press’ Helene St. James.

Zetterberg hopes that it’s as bad as things get. Babcock labels the loss as “an exclamation point.”

Will things turn around soon? That remains to be seen.

They turn around and face the Penguins in Pittsburgh on Sunday. After that, it’s a mini-road run through Florida as they take on the Panthers on Thursday and the Lightning on Friday.

(Two back-to-backs, even spread pretty far apart, aren’t necessarily ideal.)

Really, the best chance for the Red Wings to really turn around may come starting next weekend. From March 22 – April 7, eight of 10 Red Wings games take place at home.

Is that a guarantee that Detroit will rebound in late March, or that they can’t start getting it together starting tomorrow? Now, as we know with hockey, surprises could be around the corner. The Red Wings merely hope that they are positive ones.

Video: Pacioretty scores off of Neuvirth’s gaffe, Price makes remarkable save

Max Pacioretty

Max Pacioretty continues to rise among the NHL’s best snipers in 2014-15, but as much as unleashing a big shot matters, sometimes it’s about timing and luck.

He won’t score many goals that are easier than his 34th of the season, as a highly regrettable Michal Neuvirth flub opened the door for this one:

Yep, Neuvirth probably wants that one back.

It doesn’t help that he had Carey Price doing things like this on the other side of the ice, either:

Mitchell (upper body) won’t return for Montreal

Montreal Canadiens v Arizona Coyotes
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The Montreal Canadiens will be down a skater for the rest of Saturday’s game against the New York Islanders as Torrey Mitchell suffered an upper-body injury.

(Mitchell may have been injured in an exchange with John Tavares.)

Mitchell, 30, was excited to get traded to his hometown team during the deadline. He hasn’t scored a point in six games with the Canadiens so far this season, although that’s not exactly what they acquired him for, anyway.