At 1-6-2, the Anaheim Ducks have already dug a sizable hole in the race for a playoff spot. Tonight in St. Louis, they need a win, and badly.
“The level of urgency is as high as you can be,” coach Bruce Boudreau told the Ducks’ website. “There are only so many points on the table in 82 games. You have to start putting games together. If you have to get 99 points to get into the playoffs, that’s 47 wins for us right now. That’s not an easy task.”
To match the 45-30-7 record the Flames squeaked into the playoffs with last year, the Ducks would need to go 44-24-5 over 73 games.
That’s why Boudreau’s seat is as warm as it’s been during his time in Anaheim. Another loss tonight and all eyes will be on GM Bob Murray.
The Ducks return home after tonight’s game. They host Nashville on Sunday.
Back in September, Canucks GM Jim Benning said of Ryan Miller: “Some people look at his age, but I think he’s going to be real good for us this year.”
It’s still early, but so far Benning has been proven correct — Miller has been very good, starting all nine games for the Canucks and registering a save percentage of .930.
With backup Jacob Markstrom still not ready to return from injury, the 35-year-old will start once again tonight in Dallas. The Canucks’ temporary backup is Richard Bachman, who may or may not get the nod tomorrow in Arizona.
Only Vancouver and Pittsburgh have used just one goalie in 2015-16. And as you’ll see below, Marc-Andre Fleury‘s streak will come to an end tonight.
Antti Niemi will start for Dallas.
— Jeff Zatkoff will make his season debut for Pittsburgh, versus Chad Johnson for Buffalo.
— Eddie Lack will get his third start for Carolina, going up against Isles backup Thomas Greiss in Brooklyn.
— Cory Schneider for New Jersey. Steve Mason for Philadelphia.
— Semyon Varlamov for Colorado. Ben Bishop for Tampa Bay.
— Frederik Andersen for Anaheim. Jake Allen for St. Louis.
— Carey Price for Montreal. Cam Talbot for Edmonton.
— Corey Crawford for Chicago. Michael Hutchinson for Winnipeg.
Ryan Johansen is back and feeling “100 percent.”
Of course, these are the Blue Jackets so it can’t be all good news.
Brandon Saad is sick — reportedly with a “stomach flu-type ailment” — and won’t play Friday in Washington.
But hey, at least Johansen is back.
“It’s good to be back out there with the guys,” he told the Jackets’ website after practicing Thursday. “(The recovery) was just taking care of your body: all the little things, nutrients, fluids, and do everything you can to get yourself ready to play.”
Johansen has yet to be in the lineup for a Columbus win in 2015-16. He missed the last two games with an illness; they were the only Jacket victories of the season.
Alex Semin will be a healthy scratch tonight in Edmonton. It’ll be the first game this season that the Canadiens winger has not played.
Paul Byron will take Semin’s spot in the lineup, Montreal coach Michel Therrien confirmed today.
Semin has one goal and two assists in 10 games, while skating mostly with Alex Galchenyuk and Lars Eller. His spot on that line will be filled tonight by Bryan Flynn.
Semin, 31, was a minus-2 in Tuesday’s 5-1 loss to Vancouver. He’s registered just one shot in his last two games combined.
The Canadiens also play tomorrow in Calgary.
Related: ‘Canes prez Waddell sounds off on Semin
Dan Bylsma is back in Pittsburgh today. For the first time since he was fired by the Penguins, he’ll be coaching against his former team.
Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury conceded it will be strange to see Bylsma on the Sabres’ bench.
“It’ll be weird, that’s for sure,” Fleury told NHL.com. “We got a Cup with him. So it’ll be weird to have him on the other bench, on the other side.”
Bylsma, meanwhile, hasn’t been so focused on his new team that returning to Pittsburgh slipped his mind.
“Of course I’ve thought about it,” Bylsma told reporters. “I haven’t been gone from Pittsburgh that long. We just moved a few months ago. I know more street names in Pittsburgh than I do in Buffalo right now. I’m going to know my way around when I get there.”
The Sabres beat the Flyers in Philadelphia on Tuesday, improving their record to 3-6-0. While the losses have continued to outnumber the wins, the team is far more competitive than it was last year. A victory tonight, over a Penguins side that played last night in Washington, is not out of the question, that’s for sure.
And wouldn’t that add to the pressure that Mike Johnston is already feeling.