Mike Halford

Sergei Bobrovsky

Goalie nods: After 17-game absence, Bobrovsky back for Columbus

Sergei Bobrovsky will look to get his injury-plagued campaign on track tonight, when he and the Jackets host the Capitals at Nationwide.

Bobrovsky, who hasn’t played since exiting a Dec. 8 loss to the Kings late in regulation, will be back in for the first time in 17 games tonight — a huge addition for a Blue Jackets team that’s been rolling with AHL netminders Joonas Korpisalo and Anton Forsberg over the last month.

(Columbus’ backup netminder, Curtis McElhinney, is also currently out injured.)

Bobrovsky is 11-12-1 this year, with a 2.52 GAA and .916 save percentage. Not terrific numbers, but he was playing great at the time of his injury — in four games in December, the former Vezina winner stopped 115 of 120 shots for a .950 save percentage.

That came on the heels of a month of November in which Bob’s save percentage was an impressive .940.

For the Caps, Braden Holtby‘s in goal.

Elsewhere…

Jonas Hiller gets another start as the Flames take on the Devils in New Jersey. No surprise that the home team is going with its usual starter, Cory Schneider.

Ryan Miller will look to build on his 47-save win over the Isles on Sunday, with a start tonight at MSG. Henrik Lundqvist counters for the slumping Rangers.

James Reimer goes up against Steve Mason as the Leafs take on the Flyers at Wells Fargo.

Mike Condon will get another chance to stymie the Bruins (he was terrific in Montreal’s 5-1 win at the Winter Classic). No definitive word out of Boston yet, but it looks like Tuukka Rask will start.

Anders Nilsson gives Cam Talbot the night off for the Oilers, while Andrei Vasilevskiy gives Ben Bishop the night off for the Bolts.

— The red-hot Corey Crawford gets the nod as Chicago invades Nashville. The Preds will go with the slumping Pekka Rinne, who is going to the All-Star Game ahead of Crawford this year despite posting pretty pedestrian numbers.

Kari Lehtonen is likely for the Stars tonight in L.A. Jonathan Quick is likely for the Kings.

What will the Rangers do with Keith Yandle?

Keith Yandle, Alex Killorn
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One of the NHL’s top offensive defensemen and a staple in the Rangers lineup, Keith Yandle is a pretty valuable commodity.

But as far as he and his head coach go, there’s only one place for Yandle — and that’s in New York.

“As soon as I got traded here I was all in, my family was all in,” Yandle said, per the Daily News. “I love my situation here. I love playing here, being here.”

Blueshirts bench boss Alain Vigneault was almost as effusive in his praise of Yandle as Yandle was of playing in the Big Apple. AV said “when Yands is on top of his game moving the puck he’s a very good player,” adding ” I would like him to be a Ranger and help us win.”

Thing is, the situation goes beyond Vigneault and Yandle.

First, there’s the fact the 29-year-old is in the last of a five-year, $26.25 million deal that pays $5.25M annually, meaning he’s primed to hit free agency on July 1. Given he finished first among blueliners with 46 assists last year, and has 23 points through 45 games this year, it’s fair to suggest Yandle will garner a pretty significant payday, regardless of where it comes from.

Back in November, agent Jerry Buckley told the Post there were no talks and no timetable for an extension for Yandle. The Daily News reports there have since bee some discussions between Buckley and Rangers GM Jeff Gorton, but still no timetable.

So, what’s the plan?

As odd as it seems for a club in playoff contention, Yandle could be traded. Part of that stems from the fact that, because of New York’s current salary structure, he might be impossible to retain:

The Coyotes agreed to continue paying half of Yandle’s salary after last year’s trade, so the Rangers are only on the hook this season for $2.625 million. In unrestricted free agency this summer, though, Yandle will command more than his total current salary of $5.25 million, and the Blueshirts already have $15.9 million committed to the contracts of Marc Staal (current no-move clause), Dan Girardi (current no-trade clause) and Ryan McDonagh (captain, not going anywhere).

Dan Boyle’s $4.5 million salary will come off the books, but Boyle plays the right, Yandle the left, and left-handed 2012 first-round pick Brady Skjei ($925K) is a heavy favorite to make the NHL jump next fall.

In this regard, it’s all about asset management. Does Gorton try and recoup something for Yandle, to avoid letting him walk for nothing? Or does Gorton take that risk, and hope that Yandle’s presence will translate into a lengthy playoff run?

Whatever the case, the clock is ticking. The NHL’s trade deadline is just 41 days away.

Detroit loses Kronwall (2-4 weeks), Miller (4-6 months) to knee injuries

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Some difficult injury developments on the Red Wings front Tuesday, as head coach Jeff Blashill announced that veteran d-man Niklas Kronwall and versatile forward Drew Miller will be sidelined with knee injuries.

Both losses are fairly profound.

Though Kronwall will only miss 2-4 weeks compared to Miller’s 4-6 months (torn ACL), his presence is massive. The 35-year-old leads all skaters in ice time, at 22:45 a night, and is tops among d-men with 17 points through 45 games.

Kronwall is also one of just six Detroit skaters to appear in every game this season.

As for Miller — it’s quite possible this injury will end his campaign, one that already saw him suffer a broken jaw. While the 31-year-old had done little offensively this year — just a goal and an assist — he did provide minutes as a penalty killer and bottom-six checking forward. He was also a pretty regular lineup fixture:

(This was prior to the broken jaw, of course.)

No word yet on who the Wings will recall from AHL Grand Rapids to fill the void.

Dallas GM doesn’t think Kopitar deal will affect Benn negotiations

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With Anze Kopitar‘s monster eight-year, $80 million extension now signed, sealed and delivered in Los Angeles, reporters in Dallas are asking GM Jim Nill about contract negotiations for the Stars’ franchise player — team captain Jamie Benn.

From the Morning-News:

Q: Anze Kopitar just signed an eight-year extension for $80 million, does that affect your contract talks with Jamie Benn, who can become a UFA after next season?

Nill: I don’t think so. There’s a market, and we know what the market is. There are certain dynamics to any negotiation, and we’ll wait and see.

Q: Do you have to have it done before next year starts?

Nill: No.

Q: Would you like to have it done before next year?

Nill (laughs): You’d like everything done, but this is my job, and they have to do their job, too. I’m realistic.

Benn, 26, has this year and the next left on a five-year, $26.25 million deal signed back in 2013 — a deal orchestrated by Nill’s predecessor, Joe Nieuwendyk.

That deal, you may recall, was a contentious one. Benn missed the first four games of the lockout-shortened ’13 campaign trying to finagle an extension.

In light of that, it’ll be interesting to see what the reigning Art Ross winner demands with his new contract. Benn will be turning 28 by the time his current deal expires — roughly around the same age Kopitar was when he inked — and it’s widely expected he’ll receive a significant raise on the $5.25M he makes annually on his current deal.

So, is Benn $10M cap hit worthy?

That’s the big question Nill will face moving forward.

He’s got key pieces like Tyler Seguin (2019) and John Klingberg (2022) locked in long-term, but also has a slightly onerous cap hit in Jason Spezza ($7.5M annually through ’19) and some key contract decisions on the horizon: Patrick Sharp is up the same time as Benn, and Alex Goligoski is in the final year of his deal.

It’s official: John Scott is going to the All-Star Game

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After much deliberation, one of the greatest sagas in NHL All-Star Game history has finally been resolved.

On Tuesday, the NHL announced that former Arizona forward John Scotttraded to Montreal last week — will retain his position as Pacific Division captain, and take part in the ASG in Nashville on Jan. 31.

More, from the league:

Scott, elected to the Pacific Division captaincy in fan voting while a member of the Arizona Coyotes, was traded Friday to the Montreal Canadiens of the Atlantic Division.

The resultant change in division, and Scott’s subsequent assignment to the American Hockey League, created a unique circumstance that required review – the result of which was a determination to maintain the status quo for the All-Star weekend in order to preserve all parties’ pre-existing expectations, including Scott’s desire to participate.

“I am looking forward to enjoying a fun and unique experience at All-Star Weekend in Nashville with my family,” Scott said in a statement. “While being voted to the All-Star Game by the fans was not something I expected to happen, I am excited to participate in the All-Star events with my fellow players.”

Previously, it had been reported that the trade to Montreal would keep Scott from playing in this year’s event. Aside from the switch in divisions, Scott isn’t even in the NHL anymore — after acquiring him from the Coyotes, Habs GM Marc Bergevin sent the longtime enforcer to Montreal’s AHL affiliate in St. John’s.

Related: Coyotes GM ‘dumbfounded’ at suggestions he traded John Scott to keep him from All-Star Game