Jason Brough

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Hall returns for Devils, John Quenneville expected to make NHL debut

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Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville will see a familiar face on the ice tonight at United Center. His second cousin, John, is expected to make his NHL debut for the visiting New Jersey Devils.

John Quenneville has been tearing it up in the AHL. The 20-year-old forward has seven goals and 10 assists in 20 games for Albany. He’s tied with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s Jake Guentzel (currently up with Pittsburgh) for the points lead among AHL rookies.

The Devils are also expected to get Taylor Hall back tonight. Hall was back practicing with his teammates earlier this week. He’ll end up missing just eight games after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left knee.

The Devils have added forward Beau Bennett (lacerated leg) to injured reserve, clearing a roster spot for Quenneville.

Quenneville was drafted 30th overall in 2014. He then spent two additional years in the WHL with the Brandon Wheat Kings before beginning his pro career this season.

The Blackhawks will be without their captain, Jonathan Toews, for a fourth straight game.

No Toews tonight and ‘doubtful’ to return Saturday

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Jonathan Toews will miss a fourth straight game tonight when his Chicago Blackhawks host the New Jersey Devils.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Toews suffered a back injury last week in San Jose. Head coach Joel Quenneville said today that the Blackhawks’ captain is “doubtful” for Saturday’s game in Philadelphia, which would make it five games missed.

The ‘Hawks have survived relatively well without Toews, going 2-0-1 in the three games he’s been out. But not surprisingly, they’ve struggled to maintain puck possession. If not for Corey Crawford, they could’ve gone winless.

Chicago has a quick turnaround after Saturday’s game in Philly, returning home to host Winnipeg Sunday and Arizona Tuesday.

World Juniors to return to Vancouver in 2019

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Hockey Canada will reportedly announce later today that the 2019 World Juniors will be co-hosted by Vancouver and Victoria.

The event will return to British Columbia for the first time since 2006, when it was co-hosted by Vancouver, Kelowna and Kamloops.

The city of Victoria, a ferry ride across the Georgia Strait from Vancouver, opened the 7,000-seat Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre in 2005. It is currently the home of the WHL’s Victoria Royals.

The games in Vancouver will be held at Rogers Arena, where in 2006 Canada blasted Russia, 5-0, in the gold-medal game.

That Canadian team featured the likes of Jonathan Toews, Kris Letang, Dave Bolland, and Marc Staal, against a Russian side with Evgeni Malkin, Alex Radulov, and Alexei Emelin.

The 2017 World Juniors will be co-hosted by Montreal and Toronto. The 2018 tournament will be held in Buffalo, including an outdoor game between the United States and Canada at New Era Field, the home of the NFL’s Bills.

Rinne named NHL’s first star of the month

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The Nashville Predators badly needed Pekka Rinne to bounce back after his third sub-par season in the last four years.

So far, he’s delivered.

Today, Rinne was named the NHL’s first star of the month, after going 9-1-2 with a .949 save percentage in November.

Rinne has started all but four of the Predators’ 22 games. Young Juuse Saros is the current backup, after Marek Mazanec struggled in the No. 2 role and was eventually assigned to the AHL.

While Saros, 21, was good in his only two starts, Rinne is the veteran with the $7 million cap hit. Last season, the 34-year-old didn’t play like one of the NHL’s highest-paid goalies, when he finished with a .908 save percentage in 66 starts.

The Preds as a team have been much better since a rocky start to the current season, but there have still been games when Rinne has been busy. Tuesday in Colorado, he made 37 saves in a 5-3 victory over the Avs. His overall record sits at 10-5-3 with a .934 save percentage.

Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov and Edmonton’s Connor McDavid were the second and third stars of the month, respectively.

Enroth off to tough start with Maple Leafs

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The Toronto Maple Leafs waited a while before settling on a backup goalie for 2016-17. On Aug. 22, they gave Jhonas Enroth a one-year, $750,000 deal to be the No. 2 behind Frederik Andersen.

A quarter of the way through the season, it is not looking like a very good signing. Enroth fell to 0-3-1 with last night’s 3-0 loss to the Calgary Flames, who beat him twice in the first minute of the game.

“The first goal I didn’t get to my position and that’s on me,” Enroth said afterwards. “Maybe I was a little bit slow on the pass out. On the second goal it was just a bang-bang play. Not much to do there I think.”

Enroth spent last season with the Los Angeles Kings. He only started 13 games behind workhouse Jonathan Quick, but managed to put up decent numbers, going 7-5-1 with a .922 save percentage.

This season, his save percentage is a lowly .872. And for a bubble team like the Maple Leafs, that’s not something they can afford in their push to make the playoffs for the first time since 2013.

The good news for the Leafs is that Andersen has been much better since his own tough start. He won eight games in November, finishing with a .931 save percentage for the month. Barring the unexpected, he’ll get the start Saturday in Vancouver.

The Leafs should be a motivated group against the Canucks. Their coach, Mike Babcock, was left fuming after the performance in Calgary.

“As a team, as a coaching staff, as a goaltender we weren’t ready and end up giving up your full day of preparation in the first five minutes or whatever it is,” said Babcock. “There’s no excuse for that.”