Jason Brough

Semyon Varlamov

Roy won’t ‘throw Varly under the bus,’ but Pickard likely to start next game


Semyon Varlamov had a third straight rough outing last night. The Avalanche goalie, in a big game against Minnesota, allowed three goals on 12 shots and was replaced by Calvin Pickard after 20 minutes.

The Avs went on to lose, 6-3, with two empty-netters surrendered. In the process, Colorado was passed by the Wild in the race for the final wild-card spot in the West.

Varlamov has now allowed 11 goals in his last three starts. His save percentage in February (eight appearances) was a modest .897. He’s off to a .750 start in March.

Avs coach Patrick Roy told reporters that Pickard was likely to start Thursday against Florida, but didn’t want to heap too much blame on Varlamov.

“I’m not going to throw Varly under the bus here,” Roy told the Denver Post. “There’s highs and lows in a career, and those things happen. Right now, it’s a bit tougher time for him, and Pick’s been playing really well.”

To be fair to Varlamov, two of the three goals he allowed last night were on Wild breakaways; the other came on a 2-on-1.

But Roy has always expected a lot from his star goalie. The way the Avs play, they’re going to give up some chances. That’s why Varlamov has been so important for them when he’s been on top of his game.

“We made mistakes, but at the same time these are important saves,” Roy told reporters. “I know it’s breakaways and I know it’s a 2-on-1 and we could’ve done better in those areas. But that’s part of the game.”

Varlamov’s save percentage has fallen to .912, a few points below the league average .916.

Pickard’s is .918.

Prince to debut on Isles’ top line with Tavares and Strome

Ottawa Senators' Shane Prince warms up prior to an NHL game in Ottawa, Ontario, Monday, Feb 16, 2015. This will be Prince's first ever NHL game. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Sean Kilpatrick)

Prior to yesterday’s trade, Shane Prince‘s most common linemate with the Ottawa Senators was veteran grinder Chris Neil.

Tonight in Vancouver, Prince will reportedly make his New York Islanders debut on the top line with John Tavares and Ryan Strome.

Talk about a great opportunity for the 23-year-old to make a good first impression.

Prince was traded by the Sens after scoring just three goals in 42 games this season. Still, he’s shown at the lower levels that he can put the puck in the net. He had 28 goals last season for AHL Binghamton. In 2011-12, he scored 43 times for OHL Ottawa in just 57 games.

“[Prince] is a player we feel can rotate up and down the lineup to different lines and has some untapped potential,” Isles GM Garth Snow told Newsday. “He can help us now and hopefully in the future.”

A pending restricted free agent, Prince is no longer waiver-exempt, a factor that contributed to the Senators sending him to the Isles.

“It’s an opportunity for a young man. He wasn’t playing much here. He deserved to play,” Ottawa GM Bryan Murray told NHL.com. “He was a good guy. Worked hard in practice, did all the things. But we felt there were a couple of people in line that could take that job and the coaching staff appeared to like more. We felt to be fair to us and to be fair to Shane, it was the right thing to do.”

Get your NHL awards odds (Kane heavily favored to win Hart)


Online bookmaker Bovada has posted its odds to win the NHL’s major individual awards, and according to the oddsmakers, the races aren’t very close at all.

At 1/5, Chicago’s Patrick Kane is the heavy favorite to win the Hart Trophy (MVP), which no American-born player has ever won. Braden Holtby is next at 10/3, followed by Erik Karlsson at 13/2, Jamie Benn (12/1), Sidney Crosby (15/1), Tyler Seguin (25/1), and Alex Ovechkin (30/1).

Another Blackhawks forward, Artemi Panarin, is heavily favored to win the Calder Trophy (rookie of the year). Panarin is at 3/10, followed by Connor McDavid (5/1), Shayne Gostisbehere (7/1), and Dylan Larkin (7/1).

Holtby, meanwhile, is the front-runner for the Vezina Trophy (top goalie). He’s at 2/5, followed by Corey Crawford (7/5), Henrik Lundqvist (5/1) and Cory Schneider (10/1).

On to the Norris Trophy (top defenseman), which Karlsson is favored to receive for the third time (1/4). Drew Doughty (who’s never won it) is next at 3/1, followed by John Klingberg (10/1).

Finally, there’s the Rocket Richard Trophy (most goals), where the big favorite is Ovechkin (1/20, 40 goals), followed by Kane (9/2, 36 goals), Benn (12/1, 32 goals), and Seguin (20/1, 32 goals).

Naturally, there will be disagreement over these odds. The voting for the Norris Trophy, for example, is going to be extremely interesting. Because while Karlsson is the runaway leader in points by a defenseman (67, which is 13 more than second-place Brent Burns), many view Doughty (40 points) as the superior player overall.

Not to mention, the Senators are likely to miss the playoffs while the Kings are almost guaranteed to make them. Could that be a factor? It was the opposite scenario last season, when the Sens were surprise qualifiers and the Kings were surprise misses. And remember that Doughty actually received more first-place Norris votes than Karlsson did last year.

No odds were posted for the Art Ross Trophy (Kane has a 15-point lead in the scoring race) or Selke Trophy (Patrice Bergeron is the two-time defending recipient.)

Related: Karlsson edges Doughty for Norris Trophy

Rinaldo suspended five games for illegal check to Paquette’s head


Bruins forward Zac Rinaldo has been suspended five games for an illegal check to the head of Lightning forward Cedric Paquette.

In the explanatory video, the NHL’s Department of Player said that Rinaldo made Paquette’s head the “main point of contact on a hit where such head contact is avoidable,” while later noting that Rinaldo is a repeat offender under terms of the CBA.

Prior to today’s ruling, Rinaldo had managed to avoid suspension/fine this season. However, he received an eight-game ban for charging/boarding Pittsburgh’s Kris Letang last season and, the season prior, was suspended four games for an illegal check to the head of then-Buffalo defenseman Chad Ruhwedel. He also served a two-game ban in 2012 for charging Red Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson.

The hit on Paquette was not Rinaldo’s first controversial play of 2015-16. In October, the Department of Player Safety released a video explaining why Rinaldo was not suspended for charging Flyers forward Sean Couturier.

Here’s the video explanation for the Paquette hit:

Yesterday, Rinaldo was assigned to AHL Providence. No word when or if he’ll be called up to serve his suspension.

The 25-year-old is under contract through next season for a cap hit of $850,000.

The Preds stood pat on deadline day because they didn’t want to ‘give away Vesey’s position on our team’

BOSTON, MA - FEBRUARY 23:  Jimmy Vesey #19 of the Harvard Crimson skates against Steve Santini #6 of the Boston College Eagles during the second period of the 2015 Beanpot Tournament consolation game at TD Garden on February 23, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

The recruitment of Jimmy Vesey was in high gear yesterday in Nashville, even if Predators GM David Poile wasn’t.

The Preds didn’t add any significant pieces on deadline day. The way Poile spun it, they didn’t want to do anything that might dissuade Vesey from joining the club after his Harvard season ends.

“The biggest thing in this trading deadline is that we did not want to give away Vesey’s position on our team,” Poile told The Tennessean. “We have a place for him to come in and play. We feel he is as good or better than anybody we could have gotten in a trade. We want to sign him when he gets out of school. We’ve told him we have a place for him and I didn’t want to take away that place.”

It was not the first time Poile had relayed that message. The Preds have until Aug. 15 to sign Harvard’s leading scorer, otherwise the 22-year-old senior can become a free agent, assuming he graduates.

The last possible day Vesey could play for Harvard is April 9, which also happens to be last day of the Predators’ regular season.