Mike Halford

Dallas Stars goalie Antti Niemi (31) subs in for goalie Kari Lehtonen (32) during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015, in Dallas. The Stars won 6-5. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Dallas likely to sit Lehtonen, give Niemi series debut


Detroit’s done it, and so has Philly.

Anaheim, too.

So why not Dallas?

The Stars will be the latest to make a starting goalie change this postseason — tonight, they’re set to give Antti Niemi the Game 4 nod against Minnesota, after Kari Lehtonen started the first three.

More, from the Morning-News:

Dallas has tried to continue its daily routine to a tee from the regular season, and during the regular season goalies Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen shared the load. So it should be no surprise that Niemi will jump into the net for Game 4 on Wednesday against the Minnesota Wild.

Stars coach Lindy Ruff does not announce his goalies before a game, but Niemi was off the ice first at morning skate and Lehtonen stayed out to work with the scratches. Niemi talked to the media and said he is ready to go.

Lehtonen started the series strong, posting a 22-save shutout in the opener, and followed that up with 25 saves on 26 shots in a Game 2 victory.

Game 3, however, wasn’t as good.

Lehtonen allowed four goals on 24 shots in the loss — Dallas’ first of the series — but it sounds like the decision to go to Niemi tonight isn’t so much about Lehtonen’s performance.

It’s about keeping the rotation going.

Dallas GM Jim Nill identified goalie depth as one of his major offseason initiatives, and he set about addressing it by acquiring Niemi from San Jose at the draft, then inking him to a three-year, $13.5M deal. The plan was to have two No. 1 goalies, and let them share the workload.

Between Niemi’s and Lehtonen’s cap hits, the Stars allotted more than $10 million on goaltending this season.

While neither Finn was terrific, both did enough to pace Dallas to top spot in the Western Conference. What’s more, both have said all the right things about playing in and maintaining a goalie timeshare — yes, even in the playoffs.

“I think it can work,” Lehtonen said, per the Morning-News. “If we get to go all the way, I’m sure there will be a series that one goalie plays a more dominant role and kind of takes over.

“But the thing with our situation is it can change quickly, too. You just have to be ready to go.”

Reminder: Last day to vote for the Kraft Hockeyville Top 4

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With just four towns left in the running and only a few hours left until voting closes, be sure to head over to the Kraft Hockeyville site, and cast your ballot for who advances to the final.

The two East rinks in contention are the Lakeview Arena in Marquette, Michigan and the Twin Ponds Family Complex East in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

The two West rinks in contention are the Maysa Arena in Minot, North Dakota and the Rushmore Thunderdome in Rapid City, South Dakota.

Remember, voting closes today, so cast your ballot now!

Shaw apologizes for ‘insensitive remarks,’ Hawks say they’re ‘extremely disappointed’


Both Andrew Shaw and the Chicago Blackhawks have addressed a controversial incident from Tuesday night, in which Shaw yelled a homophobic slur after receiving a late penalty in Chicago’s 4-3 loss.

You can read the full statements here.

Shaw — who initially claimed he didn’t know what he said — explained that, upon arriving home last night, he watched the video and “it was evident what I did was wrong.”

The 24-year-old then said he was “sincerely sorry for the insensitive remarks that I made,” before apologizing to the gay and lesbian community, the Blackhawks organization and fans.

“I know my words were hurtful,” Shaw said in closing. “I will learn from my mistakes.”

As for the Blackhawks, they said they were “extremely disappointed” in Shaw’s actions, noting his remarks “do not reflect what we stand for as an organization.”

The club went on to cite its support of the Chicago Gay Hockey Association and You Can Play Project — the latter of which took immediate issue with Shaw’s actions last night, prompting this tweet:

On Wednesday, the NHL confirmed an investigation into the incident. NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said as much in an email to the Chicago Tribune, but noted the league “can’t comment on it until that process is complete.”

It’s unclear if the Blackhawks are considering a club-issued punishment for Shaw.

Ducks sign Thompson, meaning another North Dakota d-man goes pro

North Dakota defenseman Keaton Thompson (4) cuts between Quinnipiac forward Soren Jonzzon (18) and forward Tim Clifton during the first period of an NCAA Frozen Four championship college hockey game Saturday, April 9, 2016, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

After the high of capturing the 2016 Frozen Four, North Dakota is now dealing with the ramifications of success.

On Wednesday, junior defenseman Keaton Thompson — Anaheim’s third-round pick in 2013 — signed a three-year, entry-level deal with the Ducks, forgoing his senior season in the process.

Thompson, 20, scored a career-best 17 points in 43 games this year. The O.C. Register described him as a “defensive stalwart” and, according to the Grand Forks Herald, the school expected him to go pro.

Thompson’s departure comes just days after another UND junior — blueliner Troy Stecher — signed a two-year deal with Vancouver, forgoing his senior year as well.

Meanwhile, Frozen Four most outstanding player Drake Caggiula — a senior that was already leaving school — has begun his tour of interested NHL suitors. Per TSN, Caggiula has shortlisted six clubs: Philadelphia, Edmonton, Ottawa, Vancouver, Chicago and Buffalo.

As for the rest of North Dakota’s key players? Well, freshman scoring sensation and (and first-round pick of Vancouver) Brock Boeser already said he’s going back to school, as did junior defenseman Gage Ausmus.

There’s still some uncertainty around junior d-man Paul LaDue, a L.A. Kings draft pick. It’s possible the 23-year-old will turn pro, rather than return for his senior year.

Goalie change: Neuvirth in, Mason out as Philly looks to avoid sweep


For the third time in four nights, we have a starting netminder switch in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The Philadelphia Flyers will park Steve Mason in favor of Michal Neuvirth for tonight’s potential elimination game against the Caps, per CSN Philly.

The decision comes after Mason had a great Game 1 — 29 saves on 31 shots — but then allowed 10 goals on 50 shots in Games 2 and 3, including this historically bad marker to Jason Chimera:

As mentioned above, this is just the latest in a sequence of goalie changes.

On Sunday, Detroit head coach Jeff Blashill parked Jimmy Howard in favor of Petr Mrazek after Howard started the two opening games — both losses — of the Tampa Bay series.

Mrazek posted a 16-save shutout in Game 3.

On Tuesday, Anaheim head coach Bruce Boudreau parked John Gibson in favor of Frederik Andersen after Gibson started the opening two games — again, both losses — of the Nashville series.

Andersen posted a 27-save shutout in Game 3.

Neuvrith had a pretty solid year, going 18-8-4 with a .924 save percentage and 2.27 GAA. He carried the starting load at times, but a torn meniscus in his left knee sidelined him at the end of the regular season.

Mason played almost exclusively down the stretch, and backstopped the Flyers in the to the playoffs.

All told, Neuvirth’s played just one game in the last four weeks — Philly’s season-ending win over the Isles on Apr. 10, in which he stopped 15 of 17 shots.

There is some history between Neuvirth and the Caps, which could give the 28-year-old some added juice for tonight’s tilt.

Neuvirth was drafted by Washington and spent his first six NHL seasons there, starting nine playoff games for the team during the 2011 postseason.

He eventually lost the starting gig to Washington’s current No. 1, Braden Holtby, and was dealt to Buffalo in 2014.