Jason Brough

Jonas Hiller
AP

Goalie nods: It’s Hiller time for the Flames

Jonas Hiller will make his first start since Dec. 12 when his Calgary Flames host Florida tonight.

Hiller is 4-4-0 with an .862 save percentage. And with numbers like that, it’s no surprise that Karri Ramo has been handling the starting duties the past month.

But after Ramo — who’d been playing so well — got lit up Monday by the San Jose Sharks, surrendering five goals on just 18 shots, it’s Hiller time once again.

Calgary (19-20-2) has lost two straight and has fallen four points back of a playoff spot. After tonight, the Flames will play their next five games on the road.

Roberto Luongo will start for the Panthers, who saw their 12-game winning streak halted Monday in Vancouver.

Elsewhere…

— On NBCSN, Tuukka Rask is likely for the Bruins in Philly, where Steve Mason will start for the Flyers.

— No word yet on a Blue Jackets starter in Toronto. Anton Forsberg allowed four goals in last night’s loss to the Islanders, so it may be Joonas Korpisalo‘s turn. For the Maple Leafs, it’ll be James Reimer.

— In Anaheim, it’ll be Craig Anderson for the Senators versus Frederik Andersen for the Ducks.

Higgins clears waivers, Utica Comets coach ‘excited’ to get him

Chris Higgins
AP
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Chris Higgins has cleared waivers and is off to the AHL to join the Utica Comets.

Comets coach Travis Green is glad to be getting him.

“I’m excited,” Green told News 1130 in Vancouver. “Great player and leader. We want to get him back confident and back to the NHL.”

That’s obviously what Higgins is hoping for, too. Before he was placed on waivers, the 32-year-old winger had just two goals and one assist in 25 games for the Canucks.

Vancouver first tried, but ultimately failed, to trade Higgins, who’s signed through next season for a cap hit of $2.5 million. Only $950,000 of a cap hit can be buried in the AHL.

If the Canucks can’t find a trading partner for Higgins, they may opt to buy him out this summer. Doing so would garner an $833,333 cap hit next season and in 2017-18.

Though some might argue that keeping Higgins buried in the AHL next season would make more sense from a cap-management perspective — i.e., just one season of his contract on the books, as opposed to two — Higgins would probably prefer to be cut loose and become a free agent.

And the Canucks do feel a sense of loyalty to the veteran forward.

“Chris is a quality person who has been an important member of our team for nearly five seasons,” GM Jim Benning said Sunday. “Our focus has been on finding a positive new situation for him and we will continue to do so.”

Oilers recall Kassian from AHL

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Zack Kassian is back in the NHL.

The Edmonton Oilers recalled the big winger from AHL Bakersfield today. He had one goal in the four games he played for the Condors after being traded from Montreal.

Kassian, 24, last played an NHL game on March 14, when he was still a member of the Vancouver Canucks. After spending time in treatment for substance-abuse issues, he understands that this opportunity with the Oilers is “most definitely” his “last chance”.

Edmonton plays in San Jose tomorrow, before hosting Calgary Saturday.

With Matt Hendricks suspended, the Oilers opted to dress seven defensemen in last night’s overtime loss to the Arizona.

In case you haven’t noticed, and judging by the attendance you haven’t, the Hurricanes have managed to win a few here and there

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Back in November, when the Carolina Hurricanes were languishing at the bottom of the NHL standings, GM Ron Francis said, “The frustrating thing for us is that in five of our losses we clearly were the better team but did not win.”

His frustration was understandable. Statistically, the ‘Canes were one of the top puck-possession teams in the league. For whatever reason, they just couldn’t score. And they weren’t getting many saves from their goalies, either. A bad combination.

Fast forward to the present and the Hurricanes are one of the NHL’s hottest teams. No, really. They totally are.

Since bottoming out at 8-13-4 on Dec. 3, the Hurricanes have gone 11-5-3. Last night’s 3-2 overtime win in Pittsburgh put them within two points of Boston for the final wild-card spot in the East.

Granted, they’ve got a bunch of company in the race…

wild

…but it beats jockeying with the Blue Jackets at the back of the pack.

“We’ve been staring at the standings all year,” captain Eric Staal told reporters after beating the Pens. “We talked about (how) we scraped and clawed … (and) now you’ve got to climb, you’ve got to beat teams in front of you.”

It’s worth noting that, if the ‘Canes can keep making up ground in the standings, Francis could be faced with some interesting decisions at the Feb. 29 trade deadline. Staal is a pending unrestricted free agent; his situation has been well-covered here at PHT.

But Staal’s not the only pending UFA. Kris Versteeg and John-Michael Liles are, too. The former has 27 points in 43 games; the latter is logging around 20 minutes a night.

Carolina plays in St. Louis tomorrow, before returning home to face Vancouver Friday.

Bruins will be without Krejci, McQuaid for at least two more games

The Boston Bruins have just two wins in their last 10 games. They’re barely hanging on to the final wild-card spot in the East. And it gets worse.

Per CSN New England, injured regulars David Krejci and Adam McQuaid aren’t expected back for the final two games of the Bruins’ road trip (tonight in Philadelphia, Friday in Buffalo), and it may be longer than that.

“They’re still home,” said coach Claude Julien. “They’re not coming on this road trip so far, so that’s all I need to know at this point.

“Those guys…you hope they’re getting better, but in McQuaid’s case it was one of those hits from behind. Who knows what is going to happen with him?

“I’d suspect David is healing as predicted from week-to-week, and that he is getting better.”

On Dec. 21 — the day before the B’s entered this challenging stretch — Boston was one point back of first in the Atlantic and had a five-point playoff cushion.

Today, the standings look like this:

Standings

Related: Kevan Miller is not the problem for Bruins, but he does illustrate the problem