Mike Halford

Report: Kopitar expected to sign new contract on Friday

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Sounds like Anze Kopitar‘s mega-deal will be made official tomorrow.

Per LA Kings Insider, a “high ranking Kings executive” said Kopitar is expected to sign his contract on Friday. That contract, of course is the one TSN’s Bob McKenzie broke news on yesterday, reporting it’ll be an eight-year, $80 million deal — putting Kopitar in the rarefied class of $10 million cap hits, along with Chicago’s Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.

Currently in the final season of a seven-year contract worth $47.6 million, Kopitar’s new deal will kick in next season, which could have major ramifications for Los Angeles’ salary cap.

Per war-on-ice.com, the Kings will have roughly $59 million committed to 15 players once the Kopitar deal becomes official, and will have six UFAs to deal with: Milan Lucic, Trevor Lewis, Luke Schenn, Christian Ehrhoff, Jamie McBain and Jhonas Enroth.

Defenseman Brayden McNabb, who’s been a pretty solid contributor this season, is a restricted free agent.

Speaking of RFAs, it’ll be interesting to see how the Kopitar money affects the contracts of two of the Kings’ brightest young players: Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson, both of whom will need new contracts after next season.

Goalie nods: After eight-game absence, Miller back for Canucks

Ryan Miller
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After starting Jacob Markstrom for three weeks straight, the Canucks will return a familiar face tonight when starting netminder Ryan Miller gets back into goal against the Caps.

Miller, who hasn’t played since suffering an undisclosed injury on Dec. 20, returns to a club that fared reasonably well in his absence. The Canucks went 5-2-1 with Markstrom in goal, and remained right in the thick of the Pacific Division playoff chase.

Miller faces a tall order in his first game back in action. The 35-year-old gets the Caps at Verizon, and their 2nd-ranked offense (3.3 goals per game).

For Washington, Braden Holtby will get the start. As per usual.

Elsewhere…

— Marquee matchup in the battle of New York, as Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers go to Brooklyn to take on Jaroslav Halak and the Isles.

Corey Crawford gets the start for Chicago in his hometown of Montreal. He’ll be up against Mike Condon, who’s played well for the Habs of late.

Eddie Lack, Miller’s former running mate in Vancouver, gets the nod for Carolina in St. Louis. The Blues will start Brian Elliott.

— Looks like Pekka Rinne versus Connor Hellebuyck in Winnipeg tonight. Both the Preds and Jets could really use a win.

Calvin Pickard will give Semyon Varlamov the night off as the Avs host the Devils. He’ll be up against All-Star Cory Schneider.

— The Coyotes will look for their fifth straight win with Louis Domingue in goal. Detroit is going with Petr Mrazek.

— In Todd McLellan’s first game back in San Jose, Cam Talbot gets the nod for the Oilers. McLellan’s replacement, Peter DeBoer, is going back to Martin Jones after Alex Stalock got the win last time out.

Video: McLellan cherishes ‘really, really good’ memories in first trip back to San Jose

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Having spent the last seven seasons as the head coach in San Jose, it wasn’t surprising to see Todd McLellan get a bit emotional prior to tonight’s Oilers-Sharks game at SAP Center.

“Man, there’s a lot. A lot of really, really good ones,” McLellan said when asked about his favorite memories, per CSN Bay Area. “Those are the ones that you want to cherish. I remember the players more than anything, and the people I worked with, [general manager] Doug [Wilson] and [assistant general manager] Joe Will and that staff.

“We had some real good years with the players, in particular.”

Tonight’s tilt will be McLellan’s second against his old team. The first, back on Dec. 9 at Rexall, ended well for Edmonton — Taylor Hall scored in overtime to give the Oilers a dramatic 4-3 win.

Much has changed since then, however.

Edmonton has struggled lately, losers in each of the last three, though it did get a point from Tuesday’s overtime defeat in Arizona.

The Sharks, meanwhile, are surging.

Peter DeBoer’s club has won three straight while exploding offensively. The Sharks have scored 16 goals during their win streak, with points coming from everywhere. While Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski have been clicking as per usual, some secondary scorers are finally starting to chip in.

Chris Tierney has four points in his last three games, as does Tomas Hertl. Brent Burns has also continued his torrid pace, with five points in the last three.

‘Really good pro’ Gomez signs with Caps’ AHL team

Scott Gomez, Erik Gustafsson
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Interesting move out of Washington on Thursday, as the Hershey Bears — the Caps’ AHL affiliate — signed veteran center Scott Gomez to a professional tryout.

“I think it’s good,” Capitals head coach Barry Trotz said, per the Washington Post. “We’re a little thin there because of the center-ice injuries and call-ups and all of those things, so Scott has been a really good pro in the league for a long time.

“He’s got a real high skill set.”

The deal is AHL exclusive, meaning that — should they want to bring Gomez into the mix — the Caps would need to sign the 36-year-old to a deal. American League PTO’s are limited to 25 games, and a player can only sign two per season.

It’ll be curious to see how this plays out for Gomez. Trotz suggested he’ll be in a mentor role for some of the club’s young prospects, like Chandler Stephenson and ’14 first-round pick Jakub Vrana. But it would also seem there’s the potential to catch on in Washington, especially given the club’s fourth-line center situation.

Jay Beagle is currently sidelined after undergoing hand surgery, and it’s unclear exactly when he’ll be back. The team brought in Mike Richards, but there’s no telling if that experiment will work out or not. Michael Latta has manned the position before, but he’s pretty inexperienced (less than 100 NHL contests) and has been playing the wing more and more lately.

Related: Richards: ‘I took coming to the rink and playing hockey for a living for granted’

Tootoo becomes second Devil to be fined for diving in a week

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Last Thursday, the NHL fined Devils forward Bobby Farnham $2,000 for diving/embellishment.

This Thursday, the NHL fined Devils forward Jordin Tootoo $2,000 for diving/embellishment.

More, from the league:

Tootoo was issued a Warning following an incident flagged by NHL Hockey Operations during NHL Game No. 75 at New York Rangers on Oct. 18.

His second Citation, which triggered the $2,000 fine, was issued for an incident at 9:39 of the third period during NHL Game No. 583 against Detroit on Jan. 4.

Tootoo becomes the sixth player to be dinged for diving this season, joining Farnham, Ottawa’s Zack Smith, Vancouver’s Jannik Hansen, Detroit’s Teemu Pulkkinen and Winnipeg’s Nikolaj Ehlers.

It’s worth noting that, per the NHL, Devils head coach John Hynes could eventually face punishment as well.

Should New Jersey receive a third citation for diving/embellishment, Hynes would face a $2,000 fine for the fourth.