Mike Halford

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Goalie nods: With Anderson hurt, Condon ready for ‘big challenge’ against streaking Bolts

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The Sens lost co-leading goalscorer Mark Stone to an injury yesterday and, today, lost their No. 1 netminder to one as well.

Craig Anderson, like Stone, has suffered a lower-body ailment, one that will shelf him for tonight’s all-important tilt against the Lightning. That means Mike Condon will go for the Sens — who are looking for their seventh win in a row — against a streaking Tampa Bay club that’s 11-2-3 over its last 16 games.

“This is the job here,” Condon said, per the Ottawa Citizen. “You’ve got to be prepared for moments like this and I’m excited about a big challenge.”

Condon’s been used sparingly in March, with just one start — an OT win over Arizona in which he played very well, making 39 saves. Part of his limited action was because Ottawa wanted to get Anderson caught up after missing extensive time to be with his wife, Nicholle, while she underwent cancer treatment.

Anderson responded well to the heavy workload, going 5-0-0 this month with a .931 save percentage. It’s unclear exactly what his injury issue is, or how long it’ll sideline him for.

As for the Bolts, they know tonight’s game is massive. With a win and regulation losses from the Leafs and Islanders, they can move into sole possession of the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. Fittingly, they’ll be going with the red-hot Andrei Vasilevskiy in goal.

Elsewhere…

— Terrific matchup in Washington between last year’s Vezina winner, and the favorite for this year: Braden Holtby for the Caps, and Devan Dubnyk for the Wild.

— The ‘Canes and Isles meet for the second time in as many nights, following last night’s wild 8-4 Carolina victory. That game was a nightmare for all goalies involved, and neither team has named a starter for this evening.

Corey Crawford, fresh off a 42-save win over Minnesota on Sunday, goes for the ‘Hawks in Montreal. He’ll be up against his Team Canada teammate at the World Cup, as Carey Price goes for the Habs.

James Reimer gets to face his old team tonight, as the Panthers host the Leafs. Frederik Andersen, who’s won three straight, goes for Toronto.

— Surprise! Cam Talbot is starting for the Oilers again. He’ll be up against Antti Niemi, who gets the call for Dallas after replacing Kari Lehtonen in Sunday’s blowout loss to San Jose.

Mike Smith gets a night off after setting the Coyotes’ franchise shutout record on Monday, meaning Louis Domingue goes in L.A. No word yet on a Kings starter, but Jonathan Quick played last night against St. Louis. So it could be Ben Bishop this evening.

— The Sabres will go with Robin Lehner after he backstopped them to a comeback win over Columbus on Saturday. The host Sharks will start Martin Jones.

NCAA sniper Gaudette tells Canucks he’s going back to school

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Vancouver will have to wait another year before getting Adam Gaudette in the mix.

Gaudette, who enjoyed a breakout campaign at NCAA Northeastern this year with 26 goals and 52 points in 37 games, told News 1130 he’s returning to school for his junior campaign, rather than turn pro.

A fifth-round pick in 2015, Gaudette looks to be a potential draft steal. He led the country in power play goals this year, with 16, and TSN analyst Craig Button called him a “gem.”

Gaudette further upped his stock by being named a finalist for the Walter Brown Award, given annually to the best American-born college player in New England (other candidates include Ottawa prospect Colin White, and Bruins prospect Charlie McAvoy).

With Northeastern’s season over, there was much speculation the Canucks would persuade the 20-year-old to go pro.

“More development is best option for me,” Gaudette said as part of his explanation for going back to school. “Put on more weight and get faster and quicker.”

Vancouver is still expected to make a push for prized North Dakota prospect Brock Boeser to go pro at the end of his collegiate season. Boeser was the Canucks’ first-round pick (23rd overall) in ’15.

 

 

 

Could Halak be on his way back to the Isles?

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The Islanders have lost three of their last five, and have surrendered a whopping 21 goals over that span.

As a result, their playoff chances have taken a significant hit — down to just 26 percent, per Sports Club Stats — and now folks are asking if veteran netminder Jaroslav Halak should be recalled from AHL Bridgeport.

From the New York Post, following last night’s ugly 8-4 loss to the ‘Canes:

“Kind of a stupid question, I don’t know,” [Jean-Francois] Berube said. “I’m here, I hope I did enough to be here. I worked hard to be in this position. At the same time, I’ve been working hard and trying to find my game.

“It really stings right now because I know I’m a lot better than this. It’s a really tough situation, but I’m not going to give up. I know people believe in me, just have to find a way.”

Interim head coach Doug Weight was asked if he was thinking about bringing Halak back, but he was unsure immediately after the game.

“We’ll get on the plane and talk, and I don’t know that anything is going to happen,” Weight said. “I have no idea.”

Berube has struggled mightily over his last five games. He allowed four goals in back-to-back appearances against the Devils and Blue Jackets, and things really bottomed out on Monday night, when he was hooked after allowing another four goals — on just 13 shots.

Halak, meanwhile, has thrived since being sent down to the AHL in late December. He’s gone 16-5-1 with a .926 save percentage, and drew some interest from teams prior to the March 1 trade deadline.

The question, or concern, about a Halak recall is what effect it might have on starting netminder Thomas Greiss. The two have worked in tandem in the past, though it was pretty clear part of demoting Halak in the first place was to fully anoint Greiss as the club’s No. 1 (the Isles inked Greiss to a three-year extension shortly after demoting Halak, as if to cement it.)

But the Isles now have just 14 games left in the season, and there has to be concern about Greiss’ potential fatigue. Berube’s poor play has forced interim head coach Doug Weight to use Greiss quite a bit, and it’s hard to imagine there’ll be much trust in Berube moving forward.

Amid tough season in Arizona, Smith sets ‘pretty cool’ franchise record

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GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) Mike Smith knew toward the end of Monday night’s game that an important milestone was within reach. As it turned out, one goal was all Smith needed from his teammates to accomplish it.

Smith set a franchise record with his 22nd shutout, making 22 saves to back Brendan Perlini‘s goal and help the Coyotes beat the Colorado Avalanche 1-0 on Monday night.

Perlini scored early in the second period and Smith made it stand, even through a flurry of activity in front of his own net in the final minute.

“To get that many shutouts with one team is a pretty cool achievement,” Smith said. “I’ve played with a lot of different teammates through my time in Arizona, a lot of special people that will be friends for a long time that deserve a lot of credit with this, too. You can’t get shutouts alone.”

Calvin Pickard stopped 34 shots for Colorado, but the Avalanche were blanked for the 12th time this season.

“Both goalies were good, but we missed the net on too many of our good chances,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said.

Smith got his third shutout this season and the 33rd of his career, including five with Dallas and six with Tampa Bay. He’s been with the Coyotes since 2011 and was named an All-Star this season.

“He’s been kind of the backbone here for a long time now, so it’s fitting that he gets those accomplishments,” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said.

The Coyotes started without captain Shane Doan, who appeared to be shaken up in a collision during warmups with teammate Jakob Chychrun. Radim Vrbata took Doan’s place on the third line until late in the first period, when Doan returned.

Doan said he got the wind knocked out of him and was checked for a concussion. The 40-year-old has played in all 68 of Arizona’s games this season. He is the Coyotes’ franchise leader in games played, goals, assists and points.

“I had no idea who it was that hit me,” Doan said. “I haven’t been hit that hard in a long, long time.”

In the first period, the teams combined for only nine shots on goal, and none in the final 9:14. Avalanche center J.T. Compher hit the post twice.

It took less than four minutes in the second for the Coyotes to get on the board. Peter Holland sent a pinpoint pass to Perlini on a rush, and Perlini’s wrist shot beat Pickard glove side.

The 20-year-old Perlini has 13 goals in 43 games this season and has scored in three straight.

“Just shooting the puck, trying to get as many pucks on net as possible,” Perlini said. “Hopefully some go in.”

Pickard kept the Avalanche in the game with several athletic saves. He stopped back-to-back point-blank shots from Jamie McGinn and Tobias Rieder just over halfway through the second period, and made the save of the night on Perlini at 14:27 of the period when he reached out to stop a shot on a 2-on-1 rush.

Pickard also deflected Max Domi‘s breakaway shot a few minutes into the third period, and thwarted another Domi breakaway try at 14:37 of the period.

Smith moved into third place on the Coyotes’ wins list with 127. His shutout total passed former Coyotes goalies Ilya Bryzgalov and Nikolai Khabibulin.

NOTES: F Rene Bourque and D Patrick Wiercioch were scratched for Colorado. Bourque was a healthy scratch and had played in the last eight games. … The Coyotes killed a four-minute power play in the first period after D Anthony DeAngelo was called for holding and slashing at the 4:33 mark.

UP NEXT

Avalanche: Return home to face Detroit on Wednesday, then on the road for the next two games.

Coyotes: At the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday, the second-to-last back-to-back set of games of the season.

‘Pretty crazy’ how bad scoring slump has become, says Duchene

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With his team on pace for the worst regular season in franchise history, Matt Duchene is dealing with his own personal ignominy.

“This is probably the worst (slump) I’ve ever been through,” Duchene told the Denver Post on Monday, after his pointless streak hit 11 games. “It’s been pretty crazy just in terms of how bad it’s gone.

“Sometimes you can’t really read too much into it and just realize it’s part of the game.”

The Avs lost 1-0 against the Coyotes last night, a result that’s hardly new for Duchene and company. Colorado is the worst offensive team in hockey — averaging 1.9 goals per game — and has been shut out in three of its last eight games.

Duchene’s production has fallen off a cliff. He has just one goal in his last 25 contests, a dramatic reversal after scoring a career-best 30 last season.

Though it’s easy to pin his offensive woes on his situation — the Avs could end up being the worst team of the salary cap era — one has to wonder how big a hit Duchene’s stock is taking. It’s widely anticipated Colorado GM Joe Sakic will look to try and move Duchene and/or captain Gabriel Landeskog this summer, and it’ll be curious to see what teams would be willing to offer up in exchange.

Duchene is still only 26 years old, an elite skater and could still crack the 20-goal plateau this season (for a team that’s historically bad on offense). But he only has two years left on a five-year, $30 million contract that carries at $6 million average annual cap hit.

That’s not a lot of term left. Any team interested in bringing Duchene aboard does so with the looming specter of unrestricted free agency in 2019.