Jason Brough

2015 NHL Draft - Portraits

Report: Penguins still have no plans to send Sprong to junior

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The Penguins still have no plans to send Daniel Sprong back to junior, according to a report in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The newspaper cited a club official “speaking on the condition of anonymity” for that tidbit.

Of course, GM Jim Rutherford said pretty much the same thing last week, that Sprong, 18, had done enough to stick with the Pens past the nine-game mark.

The difference between now and last week is that Sprong, the youngest player in the NHL, is coming off a healthy scratching Saturday in Toronto, and he could be in the press box again tonight in Vancouver.

Sprong has played eight games in total. He has one goal and no assists, and his average ice time is 10:04.

Which is to say, he hasn’t been all that vital to his team.

Granted, what he has given the Penguins is a cap hit of just $692,500. And that’s important, because the Pens don’t have much cap space to work with.

Not to imply that Sprong is only being kept up for salary-cap reasons; however, it’s worth noting that Rutherford admitted in April that Beau Bennett was rushed into the NHL.

“We made a mistake on Beau Bennett as far as development-wise,” Rutherford said. “I’ll take the responsibility for that. When it was getting closer for him to become a waivered player, I felt we should have sent him to Wilkes-Barre and let him play a lot.”

Sprong is not eligible to go to the AHL, only back to junior, where he’s already proven he can score. So perhaps Rutherford feels Sprong has a better opportunity to grow in the NHL, even if it means playing limited minutes.

The key question, though, is whether Rutherford still believes that Sprong “can help our team.”

Based on today’s report, he still does. But until Sprong plays his 10th game, Rutherford will maintain the option to change his mind.

Related: Blame the Canadian dollar for ‘cap squeeze’

Sharks demote Goodrow; coach DeBoer wants more out of bottom six

Frederik Andersen, Barclay Goodrow

Following up on an earlier post on the struggling Sharks, the club shook things up a bit today by reassigning forward Barclay Goodrow to the AHL.

Goodrow (0G, 3A) failed to provide much in the way of offense in 12 games, a problem that too many of the Sharks’ bottom-six forwards have had this year.

“We’re really pushing to get more productive minutes out of our third and fourth lines,” coach Pete DeBoer said today, per CSN Bay Area. “When we don’t, it bleeds into everything. We overplay our big guys, they’re going to wear down and get tired. We can’t play the system we want to play.

“For me, we’re at the point now, you’re [12] games in, you’re either getting the job done or we’re moving on to the next guy.”

Goodrow has skated mostly with Mike Brown (1G, 0A) and Chris Tierney (1G, 2A) this season, though he’s also had time with Ben Smith (0G, 0A) and Tommy Wingels (1G, 3A).

The Sharks are expected to recall a forward prior to their game Thursday against Florida.

The problem there is that nobody on the Barracuda is lighting it up either.

Hurry back, Logan Couture.

Goalie nods: After stymieing Stars, Reimer gets second straight start for Leafs

Valeri Nichushkin; James Reimer
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Monday against Dallas, James Reimer gave the Leafs something they haven’t had much of this season — good goaltending.

Reimer stopped 43 of 44 Stars shots, allowing Toronto to beat one of the NHL’s hottest teams by a score of 4-1.

He’ll get another chance tonight against Winnipeg, after Leafs coach Mike Babcock said Reimer “absolutely” earned a second straight start.

“If you’re him, you want to play every night, so to me you play good and you get to start the next game and you make sure you play good again and you get the start after that and you just keep going that way,” Babcock told reporters.

Reimer’s previous three starts had been less than stellar, as evidenced by his overall save percentage of .908, which is still slightly better than Jonathan Bernier‘s .899.

Ondrej Pavelec will start for the Jets. He’s 3-3-1 with a .919 save percentage.

Elsewhere…

Brian Elliott will make his first appearance in the Blues’ net since Oct. 24. Jake Allen has started the last four games, including last night’s 3-0 loss to the Kings. Corey Crawford will go for the Blackhawks.

— No confirmation on either starter for the Panthers-Ducks game in Anaheim. But bet on Roberto Luongo versus Frederik Andersen.

Ryan Miller likely for the Canucks. Marc-Andre Fleury likely for the Penguins.

Babcock: ‘The net’s too small for the size of the goalies. Period’

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For the record, Mike Babcock advocated for bigger nets when he was still coaching the Red Wings, so you can’t say his comments today were made out of frustration over his Maple Leafs’ scoring woes.

Babcock simply believes that the NHL has failed to adapt to the ever-growing size of netminders.

“It’s impossible to score,” said Babcock. “All you gotta do is a math equation. You go to 1980 when the puck went in the net. You got the average size of the goalies in the NHL and the average size of the net. You keep growing the net bigger, that would make the game the same. We change the game every year because we don’t want to change the game. The net’s too small for the size of the goalies. Period.”

Here’s some history:

In 1981-82, NHL teams scored 4.01 goals per game and the average save percentage was around .870. Wayne Gretzky led the league with 92 goals and 212 points. Billy Smith won the Vezina Trophy with a .900 save percentage.

In 2014-15, it was 2.73 goals per game and a .915 average save percentage. Alex Ovechkin‘s 53 goals led the league; Jamie Benn‘s 87 points gave him the Art Ross Trophy; and Carey Price won the Vezina with a .936 save percentage.

Those are some stark contrasts, to say the least.

As for the size of today’s netminders compared to the past, well, it used to be you could pick out the goalie just by finding the shortest guy on the team. Now it’s practically the opposite. As 6-foot-7 Ben Bishop said in June, the days of the little, athletic goalie are pretty much over.

“I think you see taller guys that can be just as athletic as the smaller guys,” said Bishop. “It seems to be the way it’s trending here.”

And all along, the nets have stayed the same size.

McDavid out ‘months’ with broken collarbone

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Connor McDavid will miss “months” with a broken left clavicle (collarbone), Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli said today.

McDavid, 18, will have surgery today after suffering the injury last night in Edmonton.

“Connor is such a special player at such a young age, it’s disappointing,” said Chiarelli. “We won last night. Today feels like a loss.”

Despite hearing some opinions to the contrary, Chiarelli didn’t think McDavid’s young age had anything to do with the injury.

“The injury was bad luck,” he said. “He lost an edge.”

In McDavid’s absence, the GM said the only option is for his healthy players to step up their games.

“Teams suffer catastrophic injuries and they figure it out,” Chiarelli said. “They’re going to miss Connor. He will be back. He’ll be like a trade acquisition when he comes back, which will be nice.”

The Oilers (5-8-0) host Pittsburgh Friday before leaving on a tough four-game road trip through Chicago, Anaheim, Arizona, and Los Angeles.