Mike Halford

COLUMBUS, OH - OCTOBER 15:  Aaron Dell #30 of the San Jose Sharks warms up prior to the start of the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets on October 15, 2016 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)

Goalie nods: Dell, 27, to make NHL debut for Sharks

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No shortage of storylines tonight, but here’s a neat one — Aaron Dell, the 27-year-old that’s captured the backup gig behind Martin Jones in San Jose, will make his first-ever NHL start when the Sharks take on the Isles in Brooklyn.

Dell was undrafted out of the University of North Dakota, and kicked around the CHL, ECHL and AHL after leaving school. He caught on with the Sharks organization a couple seasons ago, and won backup job by putting up solid numbers for the AHL Barracuda in ’15-16.

He posted a 17-16-6 record — with a .922 save percentage, 2.42 GAA and six shutouts — and used that, along with a strong training camp and preseason, to beat out Troy Grosenick and Mantas Armalis for the No. 2 job.

Given Dell’s relative obscurity, there was some question if San Jose would go out and snag a goalie to back up Jones this season. There were rumblings the club might look at Scott Wedgewood after the Devils exposed him to waivers, given the Peter DeBoer connection (DeBoer was the head coach in New Jersey while Wedgewood was tending goal for AHL Albany.)

That rumor never came to fruition, though, and the Sharks opted to go with Dell.

For the Isles, Jaroslav Halak will be in net.


John Gibson is back in goal for the Ducks, after allowing three goals on 30 shots in an OT loss to the Isles on Sunday. He’ll be up against Cory Schneider, who starts for the Devils.

Philipp Grubauer makes his first start of the season for Washington, giving Braden Holtby the night off. Semyon Varlamov goes for the Avs after Calvin Pickard beat the Penguins in OT on Monday.

Al Montoya starts his third game in a row for Montreal, as the Habs host the Pens. As mentioned, Pittsburgh played Colorado last night and didn’t skate this morning, so it could be Mike Condon making his team debut… against his former team, the Canadiens. If not, it’ll be Marc-Andre Fleury going back-to-back.

More: Canadiens don’t know if Price will play Thursday

Craig Anderson goes for Ottawa after Andrew Hammond was ventilated last night in Detroit. The visiting Coyotes are going with Mike Smith.

— An all-Finnish matchup in Nashville as Kari Lehtonen and the Stars visit Pekka Rinne and the Predators.

— The Flyers are going back to Michal Neuvirth in goal after Steve Mason started Saturday in Los Angeles. Corey Crawford counters for Chicago.

Jeff Zatkoff continues his run as the No. 1 in L.A., filling for the injured Jonathan Quick. Tonight he’ll face off against Darcy Kuemper, who will play his first game of the year for the Wild.

James Reimer makes his Panthers debut in the Battle of Florida. He’ll be up against Ben Bishop, who returns to start for the Lightning after Andrei Vasilevskiy beat the Devils on Saturday.

More: There’s no bad blood between Bishop and Vasilevskiy

Robin Lehner, fresh off his first win of the year Sunday in Edmonton, goes for the Sabres in Calgary. The Flames are making an interesting move by going with Chad Johnson for the second straight game, ahead of No. 1 netminder Brian Elliott, who struggled mightily to start the year.

— Battle of the Cams in Edmonton: Cam Talbot for the Oilers, Cam Ward for the ‘Canes.

Jacob Markstrom gets the nod for Vancouver, as Ryan Miller is dealing with tightness. It was an optional skate for St. Louis today, so no word on a starter.

Updated: Miller’s out for tonight. Vancouver, in need of an emergency backup, have signed University of British Columbia goalie Matt Hewitt. Hewitt, 23, used to play for WHL Regina but has spent the last four seasons at the Canadian University level.

Oilers expected to sit Puljujarvi after ugly loss

EDMONTON, AB - OCTOBER 12:  Jesse Puljujarvi #98 of the Edmonton Oilers celebrates his first NHL goal in his first regular season NHL game against the Calgary Flames on October 12, 2016 at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)

Busy news day in Edmonton ahead of tonight’s contest against Carolina.

First, the lineup stuff — Jesse Puljujarvi, the No. 4 overall pick at this year’s draft, looks to be a healthy scratch following Sunday’s 6-2 home loss to the Sabres.

The decision comes after Puljujarvi scored in his NHL debut — a 7-4 win over the Flames — but appeared to take a step back in the following two contests. He played just 7:26 in Friday’s 5-3 win over Calgary, and went minus-1 with a giveaway in just over 12 minutes of action on Sunday (though he did have a relatively solid night in terms of possession metrics.)

“He’s going through a cultural adjustment as much as he’s going through a hockey adjustment,” head coach Todd McLellan said of Puljujarvi, per CHED 630 radio. “At 18, that’s a tough thing, so we want to keep him in a central environment where he’s familiar with his surroundings, his coaching staff and with his teammates.

“If he continues to develop and evolves and we feel this is the right spot for him, he’ll stay here. If not, we have the luxury of him playing some games at the American League level.”

Anton Slepyshev, who hasn’t played since the season opener, will draw in for Puljujarvi on a line with Patrick Maroon and Leon Draisaitl. Defenseman Mark Fayne, who hasn’t played this year, will come in and replace Eric Gryba.

More: ‘We can’t handle prosperity yet’ — McLellan rips Oilers after ugly loss to Sabres

In other Oiler news, McLellan updated the statuses of injured forwards Drake Caggiula (hip), Matt Hendricks (lower body) and Iiro Pakarinen (knee).

With Gustavsson out, the Oilers will give Cam Talbot another start and Laurent Brossoit, recalled from AHL Bakersfield, will serve as the backup.

KHL signee Lyubimov to make Flyers debut

MOSCOW, RUSSIA - MAY 19: Roman Lyubimov #23 of Russia and Sinan Akdag #82 of Germany battle for the puck  at Ice Palace on May 19, 2016 in Moscow, Russia. Russia defeated Germany 4-1. (Photo by Anna Sergeeva/Getty Images)

Welcome to the big stage, Roman Lyubimov.

Lyubimov, the 24-year-old Russian signed out of the KHL this summer, will make both his Flyers and NHL debut tonight when Philly takes on the Blackhawks in Chicago.

“He’s a big guy, he skates well,” Flyers general manager Ron Hextall upon signing Lyubimov in June, per CSN Philly. “He plays a solid, two-way game. Kind of an up-and-downer.

“We’ve had our eye on him for a couple years, but he kind of really popped at the World Championships this past year.”

Lyubimov, 24, hardly stood out in the KHL — just 34 points in 185 games over six seasons — but, as Hextall mentioned, burst onto the scene at the Worlds. He had eight points in 10 games, helping Russia capture bronze, and his size (6-foot-2, 207 pounds) caught the eye of several scouts in attendance.

Lyubimov will draw in for Nick Cousins this evening, who was one of the club’s most productive forwards through the first two games of the year, with two points in just over 13 minutes of action per night.

The Russian will skate on a line with Boyd Gordon and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare.

It’s the Battle of Florida tonight, which is actually a thing now

Florida Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo (1) defends the goal from a shot by Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Michael Blunden (46) during the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, March 26, 2016, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Brian Blanco)
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When one thinks of great Floridian sports rivalries, they usually think of the Gators, Seminoles or Hurricanes.

But on Tuesday night, the Lightning and Panthers will take center stage in the Battle of Florida at Amalie Arena.

“It should be a pretty good clash,” said Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper, per the Associated Press. “They’re a really good team. They won our division last year. They’re strong on defense. They’re strong down the middle.

“They’ve had a year to win together, so they’re that much more confident in what they’re doing.”

Cooper knows of what he speaks.

Despite his club being the more successful of the two recently — the Bolts have made back-to-back trips to the Eastern Conference Final, punctuated with a Stanley Cup Final appearance in 2015 — the Lightning had trouble with the Panthers last season.

Florida went 4-1-0 in five head-to-head matchups, outscoring its in-state rival 16-11.

The big story this offseason, of course, was Florida refusing to rest on its laurels. Despite a franchise-best 47 wins and 103 points — and the first playoff appearance since 2012 — the Panthers literally remade their defense, overhauling the group with a new focus on puck movement.

Through two games, things look good.

The Panthers are off to a perfect start, beating New Jersey 2-1 in OT, then Detroit 4-1 on Saturday. They’ve done this minus the services of key forwards Jonathan Huberdeau and Nick Bjugstad, and while the new defense has yet to break through — Keith Yandle, Jason Demers and Mark Pysyk are still looking for their first points — Florida’s depth forwards have been terrific.

Jonathan Marchessault — who spent the last two seasons in Tampa Bay — leads the team with four points, while fellow newcomers Colton Sceviour (signed from Dallas) and Denis Malgin (a 19-year-old draftee out of Switzerland) have hit the scoresheet as well.

Roberto Luongo, the NHL’s reigning third star of the week, has been rock solid, posting a .957 save percentage and 0.98 GAA.

Tampa Bay is off to a good start as well, going 2-0-0 against those dame Devils and Red Wings.

The Bolts offense has been more flush than Florida’s — nine goals so far, with seven different players finding the back of the net — but they have conceded six times, with tonight’s starter (Ben Bishop) surrendering four goals on 32 shots in an opening-night win over Detroit.

Speaking of goalies, another wrinkle to add to tonight’s affair. James Reimer will make his Panthers debut, taking over for the red-hot Luongo.

No hearing scheduled for Virtanen after Nordstrom incident


Vancouver forward Jake Virtanen isn’t scheduled for a disciplinary hearing after shoving the head of Carolina’s Joakim Nordstrom into the boards, an NHL spokesman confirmed.

As seen above, the incident occurred early in the third period of Sunday’s game, which the Canucks won 4-3 in overtime.

Virtanen wasn’t penalized on the play and Nordstrom was able to complete the contest, finishing with 14:25 TOI.

Virtanen has a history with the NHL’s Department of Player Safety. Last season, he was suspended two games for a “late, forceful, blindside check” on San Jose defenseman Roman Polak.

The sixth overall pick at the 2014 draft, Virtanen was on the receiving end of a heavy Lance Bouma check in Vancouver’s season-opening win over Calgary. Bouma wasn’t penalized on the play.


Canucks author another comeback win, which was rare last season

A frustrating start for the ‘Canes, who’ve already blow a pair of 3-goal leads