Jason Brough

Jonathan Bernier

Leafs send Bernier to AHL on conditioning loan

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Jonathan Bernier has been assigned to the AHL on a conditioning loan. The struggling Maple Leafs goalie will now have a couple of weeks to find his game with the Marlies.

Bernier has yet to win this season in the NHL. He’s 0-8-1 with an .888 save percentage. He had to agree to the conditioning assignment.

“I was not going to play soon here so I think it’s good to go back down and try to find my game there,” Bernier told reporters.

The Marlies play Friday in Rochester then return to Toronto for games Saturday and Sunday versus Manitoba.

Meanwhile, James Reimer is expected to return from his injury and start tomorrow in Minnesota.

Rookie Garret Sparks will get the assignment tonight in Winnipeg. On Monday, Sparks became the first Leafs netminder in franchise history to post a shutout in his NHL debut.

Related: Another brief post on the unpredictable nature of goaltending

Jack Edwards says the Bruins’ blue line ‘is in a crisis right now’

Zdeno Chara
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Bruins broadcaster Jack Edwards is like a lot of Bruins fans.

No, not because he really wants the Bruins to win. Well, not only that. But also because he’s worried what will happen when the Zdeno Chara era comes to a close in Boston.

“Chara is still an immense presence, especially in his own zone, but he’s going to be 39 [in March],” Edwards told Sportsnet in a lengthy interview. “He’s still an alpha dog, and he can carry this team for stretches, and maybe significant stretches – though we haven’t seen it since his PCL injury. Maybe he can for two or three years, but there’s no heir apparent.

“The D core is in a crisis right now as far as a mid- to long-term outlook. There’s no alpha dog on the way. Colin Miller is not going to be an alpha dog. He’ll be a top-four defenseman, no doubt, but right now he doesn’t look like a guy who’s going to turn into Duncan Keith.”

And, of course, the Bruins don’t have Dougie Hamilton anymore. He was supposed to be the “heir apparent,” but it didn’t work out that way.

Anyway, it’s a good interview. Give it a read if you’ve got the time.

The Bruins did draft a defenseman with one of their three first-round picks in June. Jakub Zboril went 13th overall. This season, he has a modest nine points in 20 games for the Saint John Sea Dogs. Boston also selected defensemen Brandon Carlo and Jeremy Lauzon 37th and 52nd overall, respectively.

But for now, those three are just prospects. They may pan out, they may not.

Remember, it’s a high bar for defensemen in Boston. The B’s have boasted the Norris Trophy winner 14 times since Bobby Orr won his first in 1967-68.

Edwards knows that. That’s why he’s calling it a “crisis” right now.

And he’s absolutely right.

Tanner Glass recalled, will play tonight versus Isles

Zack Stortini, Tanner Glass

Tanner Glass is back up with the New York Rangers. He’ll play tonight in Brooklyn against the Islanders.

Recalled this morning from AHL Hartford, the 32-year-old winger will replace Emerson Etem, who’s “not feeling well,” according to coach Alain Vigneault.

Glass was sent to Hartford in October. He has two goals and three assists in 17 games for the Wolf Pack. He’s also a rather unseemly minus-11.

After learning of the call-up, Rangers fans could hardly contain their excitement:

Related: Glass ‘surprised’ to be sent to minors

Are the Stars contenders or pretenders?

Antti Niemi, Sean Monahan
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The Dallas Stars may be 19-5-1, and they may lead the NHL in goal-scoring, but the way they defend is why there remain doubts that they’re a serious Stanley Cup contender.

Last night in Calgary, the Stars blew a 3-0 lead and lost 4-3 in overtime.

“We just stopped playing hockey,” captain Jamie Benn told the Dallas Morning News. “We knew they were a desperate hockey team, and it was a pretty embarrassing loss.”

It was the second time in a week that Benn had called his team’s performance “embarrassing.” He also said it after the Stars had been ventilated, 7-4, by Ottawa last Tuesday.

As mentioned, Dallas leads the NHL in offense, averaging 3.48 goals per game. Defensively, however, they rank 16th (2.60). For comparison’s sake, that’s slightly worse than Toronto (2.58) and tied with Buffalo.

Goals against of past six Stanley Cup champs
2014-15 Blackhawks (2nd, 2.27)
2013-14 Kings (1st, 2.05)
2012-13 Blackhawks (1st, 2.02)
2011-12 Kings (2nd, 2.07)
2010-11 Bruins (2nd, 2.30)
2009-10 Blackhawks (6th, 2.48)

Look, nobody’s saying it’s impossible to win the Cup with the Stars’ statistical makeup. The Penguins ranked 17th defensively in 2008-09. It can be done.

But the Pens were an anomaly in the past decade. The Red Wings finished first defensively in 07-08, the Ducks were third in 06-07, and the Hurricanes were third in 05-06.

It doesn’t seem to matter the sport. If you’re not great at defending, it’s a lot to harder to win championships. That’s just obvious, right? Even the Golden State Warriors — a team widely celebrated for the way it can pile up points — ranked first overall in defensive efficiency last season.

The Stars’ next game is tomorrow in Vancouver.

“Play a full 60 minutes,” Benn said when asked what they needed to do. “We’ve really got to learn our lesson.”

Related: Once again, Ruff calls out Stars for playing ‘pond hockey’

Looks like the Canucks will have an interesting lineup tonight

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The Vancouver Canucks got banged up last night in Anaheim. As a result, it looks like they’ll have an interesting lineup tonight in Los Angeles.

Coach Willie Desjardins confirmed this morning that wingers Chris Higgins and Jake Virtanen were hurt and wouldn’t dress against the Kings.

In game-day line rushes, AHL callup Andrey Pedan, a defenseman, was skating on the wing with Jared McCann and Radim Vrbata.

But hold on, that doesn’t necessarily mean Pedan will make his NHL debut tonight. This morning, the Canucks announced they’d called up d-man Alex Biega from AHL Utica. Theoretically, inserting Biega could allow the offensively inclined Yannick Weber to move up to forward. Biega and Weber both shoot right. Pedan shoots left.

But wait, there exists another possibility — that both Pedan and Biega could play. That will depend on Chris Tanev‘s status. He got banged up yesterday as well, though he was able to skate this morning.

Confused? It’s OK. So is everyone.

As an aside, the Canucks not only got banged up last night, they also got pushed around and embarrassed in a 4-0 loss to the Ducks.

On that note, here’s what Pedan did to Jarred Tinordi in a Utica-Hamilton game last season: