Jason Brough

VANCOUVER, BC - OCTOBER 15: Jake Virtanen #18 of the Vancouver Canucks is stopped by goaltender Chad Johnson #31 of the Calgary Flames during the second period of their NHL game at Rogers Arena on October 15, 2016 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Ben Nelms/Getty Images)

Johnson earns second straight start for Flames, after Elliott struggles


Glen Gulutzan knows a goaltending controversy when he sees one. The Flames’ new head coach was an assistant in Vancouver when John Tortorella started Eddie Lack over Roberto Luongo in the 2014 Heritage Classic. It was the “last straw” for Luongo, and a couple of days later came the trade to Florida.

So for Gulutzan, what’s happening in Calgary right now is far from a “goalie controversy.”

But at the very least, let’s call it an interesting development. Because Chad Johnson confirmed to reporters today that he’ll get the start Tuesday when the winless Flames host the Sabres. Brian Elliott started the first two games of the season and got shelled by the Oilers, allowing 10 goals on 55 shots (.818). Johnson then started Saturday night in Vancouver and was solid in a 2-1 shootout loss.

Both Elliott and Johnson are new to the Flames, and both of them are pending unrestricted free agents. So expect the Flames’ goaltending story to be front and center all season long, or at least until the situation stabilizes. Elliott was supposed to be the consistent starter they’ve so badly needed in Calgary; he wanted to be the “backbone of the team.” It’s still very early, but it hasn’t started out that way.

Related: Elliott gets off to tough start with Flames

Injury to Girardi means an opportunity for Rangers’ McIlrath

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 25:  Dylan McIlrath #6 of the New York Rangers takes the puck as Matt Moulson #26 of the Buffalo Sabres defends at Madison Square Garden on January 25, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

One wonders if a few scouts might be in the building for tonight’s Rangers-Sharks game at Madison Square Garden.

That’s because Dylan McIlrath will be in the lineup for the Blueshirts, stepping in to replace injured Dan Girardi.

It’s been reported that the Rangers have explored trading the 24-year-old McIlrath. But with injuries to both Girardi and Kevin Klein, the team needs to keep McIlrath, at least for now. (All three of the aforementioned are right-shot defensemen.)

“I expect him to play well,” head coach Alain Vigneault said of McIlrath, per the New York Post. “He’s just coming in the lineup, and we need him to play to his strengths and give us a good game.”

McIlrath is expected to skate with Brady Skjei on the third pairing, with a top pair of Ryan McDonagh and Nick Holden, and a second of Marc Staal and Adam Clendening.

The Rangers have played reasonably well to start the season. They beat the Islanders in their opener, then fell on the road to Carton Hutton and the Blues, 3-2, despite outshooting them, 35-18.

McIlrath was a healthy scratch for both those games. McDonagh logged 30:08 of ice time against the Blues, as the Rangers were forced to play with just five defensemen for much of the game.

Related: Buchnevich out with back spasms

Coyotes assign Michalek to AHL

Arizona Coyotes' Mike Smith (41) makes a save on a shot by Philadelphia Flyers' Wayne Simmonds (17) as Coyotes' Zbynek Michalek (4), of the Czech Republic, defends on the play during the first period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, March 26, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

The Arizona Coyotes announced today that veteran defenseman Zbynek Michalek has been assigned to AHL Tucson.

Michalek, 33, cleared waivers prior to the start of the season. He was scratched for the Coyotes’ season opener on Saturday, a 4-3 OT win over Philadelphia.

Michalek played 70 games for Arizona last season, but new additions Alex GoligoskiLuke Schenn, Jamie McBain and Jakob Chychrun all played Saturday, as did Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Connor Murphy.

Michalek is in the final year of his contract, which has a cap hit of $3.2 million.

The Coyotes’ next game is Tuesday in Ottawa, the first of a six-game trip. Injured defensemen Michael Stone and Kevin Connauton will reportedly accompany the team. With today’s assignment of Michalek, it’s likely that at least one of them is ready to go.

Two losses and the Blue Jackets get new lines

COLUMBUS, OH - OCTOBER 15:  Sergei Bobrovsky #72 of the Columbus Blue Jackets stops a shot from David Schlemko #5 of the San Jose Sharks during the first period on October 15, 2016 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)

Brandon Dubinsky is already minus-6, and Boone Jenner is minus-5.

And so, Dubinsky and Jenner aren’t on a line together anymore. To nobody’s surprise, Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella has scrambled his forward combinations, after his squad started the season with two straight losses at home to Boston and San Jose.

Based on Monday’s practice, the new first line in Columbus has Dubinsky centering Atkinson and Matt Calvert; the second line has Alexander Wennberg between Brandon Saad and Nick Foligno; and the third line has William Karlsson between Scott Hartnell and Josh Anderson.

As for Jenner, he’s been dropped all the way down to the fourth line, according to Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch:

It remains to be seen if today’s practice lines will stick, or if Tortorella is just experimenting. The Blue Jackets don’t play again until Friday when they host the Blackhawks. After that, it’s four road games in six nights, against tough competition in Dallas, Los Angeles, San Jose, and Anaheim.

For a team that started last season with eight straight losses, it’s a particularly daunting stretch.

To their credit, the Jackets nearly fought back to tie the Sharks on Saturday. But it wasn’t enough, and they lost, 3-2.

“That last half of the game there, I really thought we found ourselves,” Calvert said, per Today’s Slapshot. “We were figuring ourselves out offensively tonight, and we started to find an identity. Obviously, we have a few mistakes we could fix up, but we have a young group here and it’s going to be a process, but we have to take that and move forward.”

Related: Brad Marchand’s five-point night buries the Blue Jackets

A final home opener at Joe Louis Arena, and the Wings need to be better

DETROIT, MI - APRIL 27:  Fans watch the pre game show prior to Game Six of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Detroit Red Wings during the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Joe Louis Arena on April 27, 2015 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Granted, they were against two tough opponents, but the first two games of the season did little to arrest the pessimism surrounding the Red Wings.

Tonight in Detroit, the Wings will play their final home opener at Joe Louis Arena, and they’ll do it coming off back-to-back losses in Florida.

“We don’t worry about external expectations, our expectations are extremely high,” head coach Jeff Blashill said, per MLive. “Right now, we haven’t lived up to those expectations in two games. But the good thing is we get to work on Monday morning and get ready for Monday night.”

The Wings lost 6-4 in Tampa Bay on Thursday and 4-1 in Sunrise two days later. Combined, they were outshot 74-54 by the Lightning and Panthers. They host undefeated Ottawa tonight.

“It’s early in the year and we’re trying to do the right thing but we’re not really connected right now,” veteran forward Henrik Zetterberg told reporters Saturday.

The Red Wings have not missed the playoffs since 1990, but it would not be a huge surprise if that streak ended in 2016-17. Detroit has some promising, young forwards and a good, young goalie in Petr Mrazek, but its core is aging and increasingly broken down, and Pavel Datsyuk isn’t a part of it anymore.

The Wings will move into a new arena next year, after a great run at The Joe that included four Stanley Cup-winning seasons. Their final regular-season game at the old rink is set for Apr. 9 against New Jersey. Don’t stop believing, Wings fans, but remains to be seen if there will be playoff hockey after that.