Jason Brough

PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 03:  Sergei Bobrovsky #72 and Curtis McElhinney #31 of the Columbus Blue Jackets celebrate their 2-0 shutout against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center on April 3, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Bobrovsky gets a rare night off, McElhinney to start versus Kings

For just the fourth time all season, Curtis McElhinney will start in goal for the Columbus Blue Jackets when they host Los Angeles tonight.

The Jackets have ridden Sergei Bobrovsky for most of their nine-game winning streak. McElhinney (1-0-2, .930) got the nod Dec. 3 in a 3-2 shootout win over Arizona. But he’s been watching from the bench ever since.

Bobrovsky’s workload is always a popular topic given his history of groin injuries. So far this season, he’s 19-5-2 with a .932 save percentage, one of the biggest reasons for his team’s success.

“Bob is our No. 1 goalie and we’re going to monitor the situation very close . . . to make sure we don’t overload him or overwork him,” general manager Jarmo Kekalainen told the Columbus Dispatch in late November. “But he’s going to play most of our games no matter who our backup is.”

Here’s more, from a New York Times story on the surprising Jackets:

 “Bobrovsky has a chip on his shoulder,” (head coach John) Tortorella said. “He’s probably one of the hardest, most concentrated players I’ve ever seen. I had a goalie in New York, (Henrik) Lundqvist, very similar. He’s been the backbone of our team. I’m proud of him, because that was hard for him last year. He was either hurt or he was average, and he knew it.”

Known for his lightning-fast reflexes, Bobrovsky has been plagued by groin injuries in his career. But this year, he changed some workout habits and lost about 17 pounds of lean muscle in the off-season.

Columbus hosts Los Angeles tonight, Pittsburgh Thursday, and Montreal Friday before entering the Christmas break. Bobrovsky will likely start against both the Penguins and Canadiens. He’s already played five times on consecutive days this season. Earlier this month, he started a game in Detroit, then started the next night in Columbus, and won them both.

The NHL’s five busiest goalies

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Jets, Canucks meet for ‘two huge games’ in Vancouver

WINNIPEG, MB - MARCH 22: Dustin Byfuglien #33 of the Winnipeg Jets fights for the puck with Daniel Sedin #22 of the Vancouver Canucks as Jacob Markstrom #25 looks on in third period action in an NHL game at the MTS Centre on March 22, 2016 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Photo by Marianne Helm/Getty Images)
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A quirk in the schedule has the Winnipeg Jets in Vancouver for two straight games with the Canucks, tonight and Thursday at Rogers Arena.

It’s a big series for both teams, neither of which occupies a playoff spot. The Jets (15-16-3) have won two straight since dropping four in a row. The Canucks (13-16-3) are also undefeated in regulation in their last two, with a win and an overtime loss.

“We kinda limped into the mini-break we had there, got some rest here at home and took care of business,” Jets captain Blake Wheeler told reporters Sunday. “We had to get back on track. It was two huge games here at home, two huge games in Vancouver now and we want to go into this break feeling good about ourselves.”

Read more: The Jets are finally rested, and it’s time to start winning

The Canucks also have to play Friday in Calgary before their Christmas break starts. They’re feeling a lot better about themselves after that disastrous loss in Carolina. On Friday, they beat Tampa Bay, then on Sunday they battled back to get a point off the NHL’s hottest team, the Columbus Blue Jackets.

“We wanted to be a team in the mix and we knew we needed a lot of things to go our way,” Canucks president Trevor Linden told The Province newspaper recently. “Quite honestly, we haven’t seen that. We got on the wrong side of the injuries with our defense. Loui (Eriksson) got off to a slow start offensively and Sven (Baertschi) has struggled to score. Jannik (Hansen) missed a bunch of games. We knew we were riding that fine line. We’ll see how things play out here.”

The Canucks are still hurting on defense, with Alex Edler, Erik Gudbranson and Philip Larsen all out with various injuries. But at least Chris Tanev is back now. He provides a calming influence on the back end, something that was sorely missed in the 23 games he was forced to sit out.

Edler, meanwhile, should be back shortly after the break. He was expected to miss 4-6 weeks with a fractured finger, and that was at the end of the November.

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Darling’s strong play has changed the goaltending equation in Chicago

Chicago Blackhawks
AP
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Scott Darling‘s impressive stint during Corey Crawford‘s recovery from an appendectomy has changed the goaltending equation in Chicago.

While Crawford remains the No. 1 (and is expected back between the pipes Friday against Colorado), Darling may get some additional work down the stretch, at least compared to what was originally planned.

“It will get some discussion, knowing that we’ll keep an eye on Corey,” head coach Joel Quenneville said, per the Chicago Sun-Times. “Going into the season, you anticipate [Darling] playing all the back-to-backs, and getting more based on performance, and how [Crawford] is handling it, as well. That will [factor] into the decision. Certainly, he’s enhanced how we view the opportunity — him getting a little bit more, and making it tough when we’re making decisions on who’s in net.”

The Blackhawks have received outstanding play from both their netminders. Crawford, 31, is 12-6-2 with a .927 save percentage. Darling, 27, is 10-2-2, also with a .927 save percentage — a well-timed performance considering he’s a pending unrestricted free agent.

Darling’s strong play has even led some to speculate that the ‘Hawks could trade Crawford and his $6 million cap hit. After all, they do need to get Artemi Panarin re-signed, and GM Stan Bowman did once walk away from a Stanley Cup-winning goalie in Antti Niemi.

That being said, Crawford has since won two more Cups for the ‘Hawks. He’s had his struggles at times, like any starting goalie does. But overall he’s been excellent. To even consider trading him, they’d have to be pretty darn sure about Darling, who’s only made 51 career starts in the NHL — a far cry from Crawford’s 334, plus 81 more in the playoffs.

Anisimov to miss second straight game with upper-body injury

SUNRISE, FL - JANUARY 22:  Artem Anisimov #15 of the Chicago Blackhawks looks on during a game against the Florida Panthers at BB&T Center on January 22, 2016 in Sunrise, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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Artem Anisimov will miss a second straight game for the Chicago Blackhawks when they host Ottawa tonight.

Anisimov was forced to leave Saturday’s game in St. Louis with an upper-body injury. The 28-year-old center missed Sunday’s 4-1 win over San Jose at United Center. His status is day-to-day.

Tonight against the Senators, Vinnie Hinostroza is expected to remain in Anisimov’s second-line center spot. Hinostroza scored against the Sharks. He also assisted on a Ryan Hartman goal.

Jonathan Toews, meanwhile, is expected to center Artemi Panarin and Patrick Kane.

The Blackhawks have been relatively healthy this season, but have endured a couple of key injuries extremely well. When Toews missed nine games, they went 5-2-2. Without Corey Crawford (appendectomy), they’ve gone 6-2-1.

Crawford, by the way, is expected to start Friday against the Avalanche.

Alexander Burmistrov is one frustrated healthy scratch

Alexander Burmistrov
AP
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A healthy scratch the past five games for the Winnipeg Jets, Alexander Burmistrov just wants an explanation from his coach, Paul Maurice.

“It’s tough, tough for me because I do not know why I’m not playing, you know,” said Burmistrov, per the Winnipeg Free Press. “I never have a conversation with the coach, so he never tell me why I’m not playing.”

Maurice, for the record, said there have been numerous conversations with Burmistrov, who has no goals and two assists in 23 games — pretty meager numbers for a former eighth overall draft pick.

The Jets have reportedly been testing the trade market with the 25-year-old forward. But it’ll be tough to get much, if anything, in return given his numbers this season, not to mention the fact he’s a pending restricted free agent with a history of leaving the NHL for the KHL.

It’s possible Burmistrov could be placed on waivers when forwards Shawn Matthias, Joel Armia and Nic Petan come off injured reserve. The holiday roster freeze is in effect through Dec. 27, but it could happen after that.