Jason Brough

From bad to worse: Fleury may have a concussion (Updated: He does)

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Welcome to the struggle, Mike Sullivan.

The Penguins’ new coach delivered two bits of bad news this morning, following last night’s 4-1 loss to Washington.

First, goalie Marc-Andre Fleury — arguably the number-one reason the Pens have managed to tread water this season — may have a concussion.

“He came to us last night and said he wasn’t feeling right,” Sullivan said. “He’s being tested but there’s a possibility it’s a concussion.”

Whatever the tests reveal, Fleury (13-10-2, .925 SV%) will not play tomorrow in Boston.

On top of that, Sullivan said that forward Beau Bennett will be out 4-6 weeks with an upper-body injury.

Bennett has five goals and five assists. His 10 points are good for seventh in team scoring.

Update:

GM Jim Rutherford confirmed to the Post-Gazette that Fleury does indeed have a concussion.

“I haven’t talked to the doctor yet. I don’t have any further information other than he was examined, and it was determined he was concussed,” said Rutherford. “At a minimum one to two weeks. You can’t put a timeline on these things though.”

The newspaper reports that goalie Matt Murray is likely to be recalled from AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

Related: Penguins focused on cleaner breakouts

Five backup goalies that aren’t getting it done

Wayne Simmonds, Eddie Lack
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This blog has stated time and time again that a backup goalie can be the difference between making and missing the playoffs. The example we hammered home last year was the Dallas Stars, who had nobody reliable to step in and give struggling Kari Lehtonen a break. And so this offseason the Stars went out and got Antti Niemi. Things are going much better for them now.

But things aren’t going so well for these five backups:

Eddie Lack: Many believed Lack would’ve usurped Cam Ward by now. Hasn’t happened. The affable 27-year-old is 3-6-1 with an .876 save percentage. With better goaltending, the Hurricanes could be right there in the wild-card race. Seriously. They could be. Stop laughing.

Alex Stalock: Sharks GM Doug Wilson rolled the dice on two goalies with a combined cap hit of just $4.6 million. While Martin Jones has held up his end of the bargain, Stalock has not, going 2-4-0 with an .891 save percentage. San Jose may still make the playoffs anyway, because the Pacific Division. But Stalock isn’t doing himself any favors. He’s a pending unrestricted free agent.

Anders Lindback: Last year, he was the Stars’ backup who wasn’t getting it done. This year, he’s the Coyotes’. Now, to be fair, the Stars had defensive issues, and so do the Coyotes. It’s hard to say how much that’s hurt his numbers. But nobody can say that the 27-year-old hasn’t been given an opportunity to prove himself in the NHL. Arizona is Lindback’s fifth team since 2011-12.

Jacob Markstrom: Granted, he missed the first chunk of the season with an injury, and he’s had a couple of decent starts since returning. But Markstrom had a great chance to earn his coach’s trust the previous Saturday in a “must” game against Boston. He proceeded to allow four goals on 22 shots, and he hasn’t played since. Remember that the Canucks made the playoffs last year in large part due to the play of the aforementioned Lack. It’s hard to see them making them again if 35-year-old Ryan Miller can’t get the odd night off.

Curtis McElhinney: OK, we’re obviously not trying to pin all the Blue Jackets’ problems on their backup goalie. But with an 0-5-2 record and .891 save percentage, McElhinney sure hasn’t been part of the solution. You think back to when Todd Richards was the still the coach and he kept running “zero confidence” Sergei Bobrovsky out there, and you wonder if things might’ve played out a bit differently if they’d had a reliable backup to help weather the storm.

Related: When it comes to goalies, Bill Peters is the anti-Patrick Roy

After ‘shock’-ingly poor effort Saturday, Sens get the Kings tonight

Brian Flynn, Craig Anderson, Erik Karlsson, Alex Chiasson,
AP

Dave Cameron is hoping for a much better performance tonight from his Ottawa Senators.

And that’s putting it mildly.

The Sens were beaten, 3-1, Saturday in Montreal, and it was much worse than the final score indicated. It was 3-0 before the game was half over. The effort from his troops, particularly in the first period, left Cameron in “shock.”

“No pride in the D-zone and in getting the puck back in all the zones,” Cameron reiterated today, per NHL.com. “No compete. No pride.”

The Sens host L.A. tonight. The Kings lost 2-1 in overtime Saturday in Buffalo, but they have at least a point in their last nine games. There isn’t a team in the league playing a whole lot better right now.

Ottawa, meanwhile, has managed a respectable 15-10-5 record and currently holds down a wild-card spot in the Eastern Confernce, but with the 24th-best GAA (2.90) and a score-adjusted Corsi better than only Colorado, it’s no surprise to hear the coach voicing some serious concerns.

Could the Lightning lose Stamkos for nothing?

Steven Stamkos, Jake McCabe
AP
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Let’s say you’re Steven Stamkos and you’ve decided that you want to play for another team next year.

We’re just supposing here, OK? Nobody’s saying he definitely won’t re-sign with the Lightning. But let’s say you’re him and you’ve decided to move on. Just for fun. You only live once.

Is there any reason you’d first agree to sign an extension so that the Lightning had a more valuable trade chip to play?

Because we can’t think of a great one. Maybe out of a sense of obligation to the Lightning? You’d feel bad, basically. You’d want to throw them a bone as you walked out the door.

Of course, the “feel bad” reason isn’t a great one, because you’d only be hurting the team you wanted to join. Let’s say that team was the Toronto Maple Leafs. Again, just for fun. Why force them into giving up a bunch of assets in a trade when you could just join them by signing on the dotted line this summer? You’re gonna get paid regardless, and you’re gonna get paid a lot.

That was the gist of yesterday’s story in the Globe and Mail:

[Stamkos] has a full no-movement clause in the final year of his contract, meaning the Lightning may not even be able to deal him as a rental player late in the year.

It is widely believed that Yzerman already investigated trading Stamkos before the no-movement clause kicked in. Prior to the draft, the Lightning were in discussions with the Buffalo Sabres about a potential deal for the second-overall pick, which they eventually used to take Jack Eichel.

Depending on who you believe – and we’re dealing with a rumour mill gone absolutely wild right now – those discussions were either very preliminary or somewhat advanced.

Those who argue they were advanced say that it was Stamkos who nixed the deal, because one condition the Sabres put on the blockbuster trade was that they had to be able to sign him to an extension.

Now, as the Globe later notes, there’s always the possibility that Stamkos could accept a trade at the deadline as a pure rental, then sign with whichever team he wants on July 1. And wouldn’t that be something, Stamkos going to a contender as a rental. (Rangers, Canadiens, and Predators fans just perked up a bit.)

There’s also the very real possibility that we’re not creative enough to come up with a way for the Lightning to turn Stamkos into more than a rental. Perhaps Yzerman has a brilliant Plan B up his sleeve.

But the longer Stamkos remains unsigned, the more we start to wonder about these things.

Suffice to say, Yzerman will not look good if he loses his young superstar captain for nothing.

Related: Steven Stamkos ‘liked’ a tweet about joining the Leafs, and now it’s a thing

All of a sudden the Rangers are a ‘disaster in the making’

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The good news is that nobody’s saying the Rangers are due for a regression.

The bad news is they’ve already regressed.

We direct you to this post, published Nov. 24, when the Rangers were sitting pretty at 16-3-2:

The Rangers’ PDO is an NHL-high 107.1, per war-on-ice.com.

The next highest belongs to Ottawa, at 102.7.

Now, granted, given the quality of their goaltending and the way some of their forwards can shoot the puck, nobody should be surprised if the Rangers continue to have a high PDO. They led the NHL last year, finishing at 101.7.

But when it comes to PDO, there’s high and there’s high. Right now, the Rangers are fully in italicized territory. The question isn’t whether they can sustain it; they can’t. It’s what happens when it comes back down to earth, or at least within orbit.

The Rangers are 2-6-2 since we wrote that. Their PDO (combined shooting and save percentage) still leads the NHL, but it’s fallen all the way to 102.9, per war-on-ice.com.

Today, they waived veteran center Jarret Stoll.

Also today? This New York Post headline: “Why the Rangers seemingly are a disaster in the making.”

Now, to be fair, the Rangers have been without two of their key players, Derek Stepan and Kevin Klein. The former is their best two-way center, the latter one of their most dependable defensemen. A “disaster in the making” may be a bit harsh.

But it’s funny how, all of a sudden, a lot more people are willing to concede there might be some issues with this roster, to the point where sentiment may actually have swung too far to the negative.

The Rangers host the red-hot Oilers Tuesday.

Hey, remember when the Oilers were terrible?

If we recall, it was right around the time the Rangers were amazing.