Jason Brough

NEWARK, NJ - DECEMBER 06:  Patrik Elias #26 of the New Jersey Devils waits for a faceoff in an NHL hockey game against the Florida Panthers at Prudential Center on December 6, 2015 in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)
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Don’t call Patrik Elias a ‘healthy scratch’

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Patrik Elias doesn’t like the connotation of the phrase “healthy scratch.”

True, the 39-year-old Devils forward is not technically injured.

Also true, he didn’t play Sunday in Boston.

But…

“A healthy scratch would be for the reason (coach John Hynes) might not be happy with the way I’m playing or something,” Elias told NJ Advance Media.

“At my age, with some of the issues I’ve been having, it’s fine to give me a night off. Especially when we played five games in eight nights.”

Hynes offered a better word for it — “maintenance.”

Elias — who considers himself “lucky to still be playing” at his age — logged a mere 10:31 of ice time in Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Anaheim. He has just one goal and three assists in 13 games, after missing the first 20 games with a knee injury.

In conclusion, getting old isn’t very fun.

Goalie nods: Sullivan goes back to Murray

Carolina Hurricanes' Eric Staal (12) collides with Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Matt Murray (30) during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Pittsburgh, Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
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Rookie Matt Murray will be back in goal tonight for the reeling Pittsburgh Penguins.

The 21-year-old made his NHL debut Saturday in a 2-1 loss to Carolina.

“I thought he really settled into the game the other night and I really liked what I saw,” Pittsburgh coach Sullivan told the Penguins’ website.

Just barely out of junior, Murray wasn’t expected to be in the NHL this season. But with Marc-Andre Fleury hurt, and after Jeff Zatkoff struggled Friday versus Boston, Murray is suddenly the Penguins’ go-to.

Murray had already gained the trust of Sullivan during their time together this season with AHL Wilkes-Barre.

“He’s a very good goalie. He’s got a calm demeanor,” Sullivan told the Post-Gazette. “I think his demeanor gives confidence to his team in front of him. He’s mature beyond his years as a young player and he’s a very competitive kid.”

Another 21-year-old, Joonas Korpisalo, will be in goal for Columbus. Korpisalo made 30 saves in Saturday’s 3-2 shootout win over the Flyers.

Elsewhere…

— No word yet on a Ducks starter in Brooklyn, but Jaroslav Halak will be in goal for the Islanders.

Jake Allen for the Blues in Philadelphia, versus Steve Mason for the Flyers.

— No word yet on a Capitals starter in Carolina, but Cam Ward will be in goal for the Hurricanes.

— Dustin Tokarski for the Canadiens in Nashville, likely versus Pekka Rinne for Nashville.

Kari Lehtonen for the Stars in Minnesota, versus Devan Dubnyk for the Wild.

— Jonathan Bernier (after getting his first win of the season Saturday) for the Leafs in Colorado, versus Semyon Varlamov (the NHL’s first star of the week) for the Avalanche.

— Connor Hellebuyck for the Jets in Edmonton, versus Cam Talbot for the Oilers.

‘Canes feeling confident, but can they get the goaltending?

Carolina Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward (30) blocks a shot by Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby (87) with Hurricanes' Victor Rask (49) also defending during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Pittsburgh, Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
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The Carolina Hurricanes don’t intend to play scared against the high-powered Washington Capitals.

Why should they? The ‘Canes are actually playing some pretty decent hockey themselves. They’re 5-2-1 in their last eight.

“We’re going to try and have the puck and make them defend,” coach Bill Peters told NHL.com. “We’re not going to defend, defend, defend, chip it in and let them come at us. We’re going to try and make them play in their defensive zone and play a puck possession game ourselves.”

Of course, puck possession is one of the Hurricanes’ strengths. They rank among the NHL’s best in team Corsi.

It’s goaltending that’s really hurt them this season. Which is why it was so encouraging when Cam Ward made 37 saves in a 2-1 win over the Penguins on Saturday.

“I made a couple of good saves early that got me into the game,” Ward said, per CBS Pittsburgh. “I don’t really care what anybody says about the Penguins; they’ve got a really good team over there, some high-end skill, and you really have to be on your toes. Fortunately, tonight I felt really comfortable.”

Suffice to say, if Carolina is going to take a run at a playoff spot, Ward and backup Eddie Lack will need to be a lot better, because there’s a lot of ground to be made up in the standings.

With almost half the season in the books, Ward has an .899 save percentage. Lack’s is even worse, .876.

“To be honest, I don’t think it could have gone any worse,” Lack told The Province recently.

In the article, it was strongly suggested that Lack’s style may not be a good fit for Carolina’s goalie coach, David Marcoux.

“Here, they want me to challenge more,” said Lack. “I’m not going to lie, it’s been an adjustment. At times, it’s been really hard.”

Not surprisingly, Ward will start in goal tonight versus the Caps.

Related: ‘In five of our losses, we clearly were the better team’

Canucks admit they’re playing overtime to get to the shootout

Vancouver Canucks goaltender Ryan Miller, left, stops a shot by Florida Panthers forward Jonathan Huberdeau (11) during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2015, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Joel Auerbach)
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For the Vancouver Canucks, a win in overtime has been downgraded from actually winning to simply not losing.

Their 3-on-3 strategy was on full display yesterday in Florida, where the Canucks were outshot 8-1 in the extra frame before falling in the shootout. 

Vancouver is 0-7 in overtime this season. Hence, the new approach.

“The way we play in OT, we started talking to each other, saying let’s just play these tight defensively and we’ll take our chances in the shootout,” Daniel Sedin told The Province.

“Our thought is, play it like a PK. When you start skating around that gets tiring. Now, we’re standing still and just trying to defend the slot. It’s not pretty, but that’s the way we have to play.”

But is it? Because the Canucks are only 2-2 in the shootout. And let’s face it, they easily could have lost yesterday in overtime.

In other words, is accepting what’s essentially a zero percent chance of winning in 3-on-3 (while still assuming a significant risk of losing) worth it to gain a 50-50 shot of winning in the shootout?

For the Canucks, apparently the answer is yes.

We’ll see how that works out for them.

Varlamov, Oshie and Koivu are NHL’s three stars of the week

Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov, Capitals winger T.J. Oshie and Wild center Mikko Koivu have been named the NHL’s three stars for the past week.

From NHL.com:

Varlamov went 3-0-0 with a 0.67 goals-against average, .981 save percentage and one shutout to help the Avalanche (17-16-1, 35 points) extend their winning streak to five games, their longest such run since March 25 – April 5, 2014 (6-0-0).

Oshie paced the NHL with five goals and shared the League lead with eight points as the Capitals (24-6-2, 50 points) won all four of their games to move into first place in the overall standings.

Koivu tied for first in the NHL with 3-5—8 in three games to lift the Wild (17-8-6, 40 points) to a pair of wins.

Related: For streaking Avs, Varlamov has ‘been our best player, no doubt’