Mike Halford

during the 2016 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Gillette Stadium on January 1, 2016 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

Goalie nods: Rask back in for B’s after Winter Classic disappointment

Tuukka Rask hopes his next game goes better than his last.

That’s because his last outing was a rough one, on the biggest of stages — a 5-1 thumping by Montreal in the 2016 Winter Classic at Gillette Stadium.

Rask, who did play well in that game — especially in the first period, when Boston was badly out-shot — didn’t mince words afterwards about what he thought of his team’s performance:

Rask faces a tall order tonight against Washington, the top club in the Eastern Conference. He was on the wrong end of a 4-1 loss to Washington earlier this year (in November), and could really use a result tonight, given he’s lost three of his last four starts.

For the Caps, no surprise — Braden Holtby starts.

Elsewhere…

Roberto Luongo and the red-hot Panthers are in Buffalo. Luongo will get the start, while Linus Ullmark will go for the Sabres.

— Looks like it’s Finland versus Sweden in New York: Henrik Lundqvist will start for the Rangers, while Dallas appears ready to give Antti Niemi the start after he lost to New Jersey on Saturday.

— Good matchup in Pittsburgh, as the red-hot Corey Crawford goes for Chicago. The resurgent Penguins will start their No. 1, Marc-Andre Fleury.

— Columbus, currently without Sergei Bobrovsky and Curtis McElhinney, will give one of their two AHL netminders a shot — Anton Forsberg. Devan Dubnyk starts for the visiting Wild.

— In Philly, it’s a battle of the backups: Ben Scrivens goes for Montreal, giving Mike Condon the night off after a solid Winter Classic outing. Michal Neuvirth is in for the Flyers.

— The Jets will switch from Michael Hutchinson to Connor Hellebuyck in Nashville, while the Preds are likely to counter with Pekka Rinne.

Karri Ramo (who we wrote about earlier) starts for the Flames, to nobody’s surprise. The Lightning are going with Ben Bishop.

Avs claim d-man Bodnarchuk off waivers from Jackets

BOSTON - 2007:  Andrew Bodnarchuk of the Boston Bruins poses for his 2007 NHL headshot at photo day in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Getty Images)
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Colorado made a minor addition on Tuesday, picking up defenseman Andrew Bodnarchuk off waivers from Columbus.

Bodnarchuk, 27, is a well-traveled journeyman that’s spent the majority of his professional career in the AHL.

He broke in with the Bruins, making his NHL debut in the 2009-10 campaign, then jumped from the Kings organization to Columbus, where he got back into a big-league lineup this season (a five-year gap between appearances.)

He’s appeared in 16 games for Columbus, scoring two points while averaging 14:32 TOI per night.

Bodnarchuk does have ties to the Avs organization. He spent three years in the QMJHL (with Halifax), playing against Colorado head coach Patrick Roy who, at the time, was behind the bench for the Quebec Remparts.

What’s more, Bodnarchuk’s coach with the Mooseheads, Cam Russell, was Patrick Roy’s old Avalanche teammate. The two played together during the 1998-99 campaign.

Bodnarchuk could be a temporary depth solution, with defenseman Brad Stuart currently on IR.

After going unclaimed on waivers, Ramo’s ‘probably one of the hottest goalies in the NHL’

Dallas Stars v Calgary Flames
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What a strange year for Karri Ramo.

The Calgary netminder opened the year as one of three goalies on the active roster but, following a dismal start, was placed on waivers in late October, went unclaimed, and landed in AHL Stockton.

But then Jonas Hiller got hurt, and Joni Ortio looked ineffective. So Ramo was summoned back a week later — and has since taken a stranglehold on the starting gig.

“I feel that Karri, right now, is probably one of the hottest goalies in the NHL,” Flames head coach Bob Hartley told the Sun, after naming Ramo the starter in 23 of the last 26 games. “That makes it pretty easy for us in our decision-making.”

Now, let’s be clear — Hartley can tend to be a tad hyperbolic at times, especially when it comes to talking up his own players.

In terms of wins and losses, yes, Ramo’s been hot. He’s won eight of his last 12 starts and has helped the Flames overcome their ugly start, and get back into playoff contention.

But Ramo’s save percentage still leaves much to be desired.

It’s .910 on the year, well up from the .879 he was sporting at the time of his demotion. But it’s not as if he’s been lights out on a nightly basis — just consider his last seven outings:

Dec. 19: 19 saves on 22 shots in a loss to St. Louis (.864)

Dec. 20: 31 saves on 34 shots in a loss to Detroit (.912)

Dec. 22: 19 saves on 20 shots in a win over Winnipeg (.950)

Dec. 27: 28 saves on 31 shots in a win over Edmonton (.903)

Dec. 29: 20 saves on 21 shots in a loss to Anaheim (.952)

Dec. 31: 20 saves on 23 shots in a loss to L.A. (.870)

Jan. 2: 26 saves on 26 shots in a win over Colorado (1.000)

Still, Ramo deserves plenty of credit for turning his season around in such short order. Given Calgary still needs to fight and claw, you can expect him to get the majority of starts moving forward.

“He’s giving you freedom,” Hartley explained. “You know that you can count on him and not only that you can count on him, but you make mistakes, he bails you out and you go right back.”

Getting healthy: Sabres send Lehner, Pysyk for conditioning stints

Matt Puempel, Alex Chiasson, Robin Lehner
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Yesterday, we wrote about all the injury problems plaguing the Buffalo Sabres.

Today — some optimism!

Head coach Dan Bylsma has announced that No. 1 netminder Robin Lehner — who only played once this year before suffering a serious ankle injury — and d-man Mark Pysyk, out since Nov. 17 (foot), will both go to AHL Rochester on conditioning stints.

Both are positive developments, to say the least.

Lehner was acquired from Ottawa at the draft to be Buffalo’s starting goalie this season, but his campaign was quickly interrupted when he rolled his ankle less than 30 minutes into his Sabres debut.

Linus Ullmark and Chad Johnson have done well in relief, but given the price paid to acquire Lehner — the 21st overall pick in ’15 — it’s obvious the Sabres want him in the mix.

As for Pysyk, he’d be a welcome addition to the club’s blueline. Prior to getting hurt, he appeared in 18 games and played 16:20 per night — the former first-round pick (23rd overall, ’10) has struggled to become a full-time contributor at the NHL level, but will push to get back in the top-six once he returns from Rochester.

 

 

U.S. thumps Sweden to capture bronze at World Juniors

LAKE PLACID, NY - AUGUST 03: Anders Bjork #7 of USA Blue skates against Team Finland during the 2014 USA Hockey Junior Evaluation Camp at the Lake Placid Olympic Center on August 3, 2014 in Lake Placid, New York.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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America is back in the medals at the World Junior Hockey Championships.

After failing to crack the top-three in consecutive years, Team USA returned on Tuesday with an 8-3 whipping of Sweden in the bronze medal game at the 2016 World Juniors.

As the scoreline suggests, it was a dominant performance. Anders Bjork (Boston), Matthew Tkachuk (’16 draft eligible) and Ryan Donato (Boston) each scored twice for the U.S., while Nick Schmaltz (Chicago) added three assists.

Christian Dvorak (Arizona) and Ryan MacInnis (Arizona) also had a pair of points each.

All told, the Americans’ disappointment in not playing for gold should be mitigated by their overall performance in this tourney.

The team suffered just two losses in Finland, and avenged one of them — a 1-0 defeat to the Swedes in the preliminary round — with a convincing effort today.

The Americans also defeated rival Canada 4-2 in the opening round, and exploded offensively on three occasions: Tuesday’s win over the Swedes, a 7-0 defeat of the Czechs in the quarterfinal and a 10-1 pounding of Switzerland in the prelims.