Jason Brough

Alain Vigneault
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Rangers back to work after time to ‘reset, rethink, and refocus’

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Two desperate teams will meet tonight at MSG, where the Rangers — losers of three straight, and with just three wins in their last 14 — will host an Anaheim squad that just can’t seem to get on track in 2015-16.

New York coach Alain Vigneault gave his beleaguered troops the day off yesterday, after Sunday’s 7-3 home loss to the Capitals. It was the Rangers’ third straight defeat. Combined, they’ve been outscored 17-7 over the last 180 minutes.

“I don’t think guys’ minds were away from the rink; it was more of a reset, rethink, and refocus,” defenseman Marc Staal told NHL.com. “It was good to get away and come back here with some energy tonight to try to get a win.”

The good news for the Rangers is that they’re still comfortably in a playoff spot. The same can’t be said for the Ducks, the last-place team in the worst division in the league, the Pacific.

Anaheim lost 5-2 Monday in Brooklyn. The Ducks — who came into the season with Stanley Cup hopes — haven’t strung together more than two straight wins since the beginning of November, the only time they’ve done it all season.

“To end this, we need consistency,” said coach Bruce Boudreau. “We play a good game, then a bad game. We’re not forming good habits on a continual basis. We had a lot of errors, and when we have them, they end up in our net.”

“We have to be mentally stronger,” added captain Ryan Getzlaf.

Scoring a few more goals might help, too. Anaheim’s averaging just 1.84 per game, last in the NHL. Getzlaf only has one, and that was into an empty net.

As Jets fall further back in playoff race, decisions loom for Cheveldayoff

at the Barclays Center on October 12, 2015 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.
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The Winnipeg Jets probably deserved better last night in Edmonton, where they outshot the Oilers, 45-21, only for Cam Talbot to steal another one for his team.

The Jets could only manage one goal against Talbot. They lost 3-1, their record falling to a disappointing 15-16-2.

“For sure, we outplayed them and thought we deserved the two points,” defenseman Tyler Myers told the Winnipeg Sun. “Their goalie played well and we’ve got to bear down on finishing our chances. We had a lot of chances and they just weren’t going in for us. All in all, we did a lot of good things.”

But despite all those good things they did, the reality is that the Jets will find themselves well back of a playoff spot heading into the Christmas break. Fellow Central Division team Nashville holds down the second wild-card spot in the West, eights point up on Winnipeg. The Jets aren’t even ahead of Colorado anymore.

Jets

As you can see, Winnipeg is the only team in its division with a negative goal differential. Goaltending has been a weakness. The Jets’ team save percentage is .900, 26th in the NHL. Neither Connor Hellebuyck nor Michael Hutchinson have played particularly well since Ondrej Pavelec was lost to injury.

Meanwhile, Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien remain pending unrestricted free agents in line for big pay days. The longer they go without signing extensions, and the further the Jets fall back in the playoff race, the more we can expect the trade speculation to increase as the Feb. 29 deadline approaches.

In some ways, where the Jets are in the standings could make things easier for GM Kevin Cheveldayoff. Imagine how hard it would be to trade a player like Byfuglien in the thick of a playoff race.

Not that Cheveldayoff was hoping for this. He has to be feeling the heat in the passionate market. Ditto for ownership, which has been accused of “pinching pennies” by some in the media. Winnipeg has the lowest cap payroll in the league.

The Jets play tonight in Calgary, then get four days off before hosting Pittsburgh and Detroit. After that, it’s a tough five-game road trip that includes a stop in Nashville.

Bottom line: they need to start stringing some wins together, because a return to the playoffs — and all the fun that comes with the postseason in Winnipeg — is looking increasingly unlikely.

Report: BU hockey player suspended for gambling, others may have been involved

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 09: Jack Eichel #9 of the Boston University Terriers is congratulated by teammates after scoring against North Dakota during the third period of the 2015 NCAA Division I Men's Hockey Championship semifinals at TD Garden on April 9, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts.The Boston Terriers defeat North Dakota 5-3.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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From the Buffalo News:

A potential scandal involving Jack Eichel’s college team is developing in Boston.

A Boston University hockey player has been suspended as part of an NCAA gambling investigation, and a report says players from last year’s team were also involved in the betting. The Buffalo Sabres organization has three skaters who played for the 2014-15 Terriers: Eichel, Evan Rodrigues and Cason Hohmann.

College Hockey News reported today that junior forward Nick Roberto had been suspended by the team and will not play for the remainder of the season. It hasn’t been reported which other players were involved, or alleged to be involved.

Now, before anyone jumps to the conclusion that we have another Boston College points-shaving scandal here, there’s no evidence that this has anything to do with throwing games or betting on college hockey, or even betting on professional hockey.

From College Hockey News:

According to NCAA by-laws, a player who is found gambling on any sporting event, amateur or pro in any sport, via a “bookie” or the Internet, faces a minimum one-year suspension. Other gambling, even through legal means such as fantasy sports, are subject to a suspension of an undetermined length. For some of the players, the gambling activities incurred “large” debts, which eventually led to the situation coming to light.

That last line sure makes it sound like a few of the players may have gotten in over their heads with a bookie, but we’ll have to wait for more details to emerge before we can draw any conclusions.

Don’t call Patrik Elias a ‘healthy scratch’

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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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.