Mike Halford

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‘I wasn’t fired because of analytics,’ says Gallant

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Many wanted to shoehorn the Panthers firing Gerard Gallant into the longer, seemingly endless debate pitting new-school analytic types against old-school hockey guys.

But this wasn’t that.

In November, GM and current head coach Tom Rowe said it was more about a “philosophical divide” that went well beyond numbers.

In speaking with ESPN over the weekend, Gallant reiterated much of the same.

“I wasn’t fired because of analytics,” Gallant said. “I loved coaching the Florida Panthers and I’m a stubborn guy at times, maybe I said a little too much, maybe I gave my opinion a little bit too much.

“Maybe when they asked for my opinion, I have an honest opinion and sometimes it doesn’t help you. Maybe it wasn’t always what they wanted to hear.”

That last bit is probably the most important. Because Gallant certainly wasn’t afraid to express himself.

Last summer, not long after being named a Jack Adams finalist as coach of the year, he responded to Florida’s organizational overhaul by saying he was “definitely a little bit surprised” by all the changes made.

He also seemed consistently at odds with the club’s diminishing size and toughness element. That came to a head a week prior to his firing, when he sounded off after a game in which the Flyers took liberties with a few different Panthers skaters.

From the Sun-Sentinel:

The Panthers had no suitable enforcer to respond Tuesday when Philadelphia Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds got feisty or when Radko Gudas flattened Vincent Trocheck with a headshot. Gallant said he regretted not having Thornton available.

“You always think that when things happen to your team. It’s frustrating to see that happen, especially in your own building,” Gallant said. “The Simmonds situation and then the Gudas hit on Trocheck, you’d like a response on that.

“But when you don’t have personnel to put out there for that it shows.”

Rowe referenced this in explaining why Gallant was let go.

“We wanted to develop a team and build a team that was fast, that moved the puck quickly, attack the offensive net and pressure the puck in all three zones,” he said. “Gerard and I talked about it, he said he wanted to get a little more size.

“And we decided to go in a different direction.”

Columbus waives veteran backup McElhinney

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The Blue Jackets made a move in goal on Monday, placing No. 2 Curtis McElhinney on waivers and recalling Anton Forsberg from AHL Cleveland.

McElhinney, 33, has spent the last four seasons in Columbus, largely serving as Sergei Bobrovsky‘s backup. He was cut loose despite posting relatively solid numbers this year — 5-2-1, .924 save percentage, 2.39 GAA.

The decision to waive McElhinney came after arguably his worst outing of the season — Saturday’s 5-4 loss to the Rangers at Nationwide, in which the Jackets blew a 4-1 lead (and McElhinney allowed all five goals).

The former Colorado College product also struggled last year, finishing with a 3.30 GAA and .890 save percentage in 18 games played.

It’s not entirely surprising the Jackets are making the switch to Forsberg, who has experience at the NHL level and has fared well in the American League. He’s posted a .930 save percentage and 2.12 GAA for the Monsters this year, playing in tandem with another of Columbus’ goalie prospects, Joonas Korpisalo.

As for McElhinney, any team in need of an experienced No. 2 could have a sniff. His relatively low cap hit ($800,000) and the fact he’s a pending UFA will also play in his favor, though the goalie market is pretty flush right now. Chances are he clears, and lands in Cleveland.

After historic winning streak, Columbus loses second in a row

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Rarely does a two-game losing streak make for a headline — unless you’re the Columbus Blue Jackets, of course.

After their franchise-record 16-game winning streak — the second-longest in NHL history — came to a crashing halt with Friday’s 5-0 loss in Washington, the Blue Jackets dropped their second in a row on Saturday with a 5-4 loss to the Rangers at Nationwide.

Michael Grabner provided the heroics for New York, scoring the game-winner — his second goal of the night — on a breakaway with 17 seconds remaining. That ended what was a stirring comeback by the Blueshirts — they rallied from deficits of 2-0, 3-1 and 4-1 to win for the fifth time in their last six games.

Other heroics were provided by blueliner Adam Clendening, who like Grabner scored twice, his first two goals of the year. Oscar Lindberg also found the back of the net for the Rangers, while Henrik Lundqvist made 33 saves.

Columbus will no doubt be disappointed in the result. Aside from blowing the aforementioned leads, the club also surrendered five goals for the second game in a row, this after playing tremendous defensive hockey throughout the win streak. No opponent scored more than three goals during the 16 games, and that only happened three times.

Backup Curtis McElhinney was on the hook for all five markers tonight. Columbus got goals from Markus Nutivaara, Cam Atkinson, Scott Hartnell and Lukas Sedlak.

 

Goalie nods: Miller, Elliott to start as Canucks and Flames go back-to-back

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The Flames and Canucks will play a two-game, home-and-home series starting tonight in Vancouver — and, unsurprisingly, both clubs are going with their in-form netminders.

Ryan Miller, riding a personal four-game winning streak and coming off a 22-save shutout of Arizona, will go for Vancouver. The veteran has been terrific of late, allowing just five goals on his last 111 shots — a stellar .955 save percentage.

Elliott’s been good lately, too.

He’s riding a personal five-game winning streak, which included a win over Vancouver two weeks ago. All told, he’s posted a 1.80 GAA and .922 save percentage over that stretch, and has wrestled the No. 1 gig away from Chad Johnson.

Speaking of Johnson, it’ll be interesting to see if he gets the nod for tomorrow’s rematch in Calgary. The Flames could opt to rest Elliott — Saturday’s game would be his fourth start in seven days — but head coach Glen Gulutzan could also stick with the hot hand, given points are so precious.

Canucks head coach Willie Desjardins faces a similar conundrum. Jacob Markstrom is due for a start, having not played since Dec. 31, and there is always concern in Vancouver about overplaying the 36-year-old Miller.

Elsewhere…

Frederik Andersen, fresh off getting lit up for six goals in an OT loss to Washington, is back in goal for the Leafs. He’ll go up against Cory Schneider, who starts for the host Devils.

Roberto Luongo gets a second start for Florida, after facing 39 shots in a mid-week loss to Winnipeg. No word yet on who he’ll face, as the visiting Preds have yet to name a starter (Pekka Rinne did beat the Bolts last night.)

Scott Darling gives Corey Crawford the night off in Chicago, making his first start since Dec. 30. No word on who goes for the visiting ‘Canes, as Cam Ward started in St. Louis last night, and got the win.

— The Isles will stick with Thomas Greiss in Colorado tonight, as Greiss is riding a three-game winning streak. Semyon Varlamov still isn’t ready to go, so the Avs will give Calvin Pickard another start.

John Gibson, coming off a 23-save shutout of Detroit on Wednesday, is back in goal for the Ducks. Mike Smith will be between the pipes for the visiting Coyotes.

Report: Hertl won’t rejoin Sharks until mid-to-late February

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Tomas Hertl‘s troublesome right knee continues to give him, well, more trouble.

From CSN Bay Area:

According to a source, Hertl will likely be out until mid-to-late February, as he recovers and rehabs from his latest right knee surgery.

Hertl has been skating lightly under the watch of the team’s medical staff since Dec. 27, but there is no timeframe for him to return to practice.

It’s a noteworthy development given that, back in late November, Sharks GM Doug Wilson said Hertl has been diagnosed with a right knee sprain and would undergo a “minor procedure” to correct it. It was later reported Hertl was expected to be out “weeks,” and, so far, he’s been out of the lineup 45 days — closing in on seven weeks on the shelf.

The former first-round pick had a quality effort during last year’s Stanley Cup run, scoring six goals and 11 points through 20 games. He was one of San Jose’s best players early in the series against Pittsburgh, but was knocked out of action in Game 2 with a knee problem.

As mentioned above, the knee has been a recurring issue. Hertl’s rookie year was cut short after tearing his right PCL and MCL on a hit from Dustin Brown.

That said, he’s shown an ability to rebound. Despite being limited this year, he still managed to rack up nine points in his first 17 games.