Mike Halford

Chicago Blackhawks

Goalie nods: Crawford (upper body) still day-to-day, so Darling starts again

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Bit of a rarity for Chicago on Friday — with Corey Crawford still nursing an injury, Scott Darling will make consecutive starts when the ‘Hawks take on the Jets in Winnipeg.

Darling, who stopped 26 of 29 shots in a 3-2 loss to Philly on Wednesday, hasn’t been very busy this year. Crawford has been great and a real workhorse for Chicago, which has resulted in Darling making just 19 appearances (14 of which were starts).

All told, the 27-year-old is 6-6-2 this season, with a .912 save percentage and 2.60 GAA.

As for Crawford, the ‘Hawks weren’t offering much as to injury specifics (surprise!)

Crawford did struggle in his last two outings prior to being shelved with the injury, giving up nine goals on 45 shots in losses to Dallas and Los Angeles.

For the Jets, Ondrej Pavelec is in goal.


Craig Anderson will take on Chad Johnson when Ottawa visits Buffalo.

Braden Holtby will be in goal when Washington and head coach Barry Trotz host Trotz’s former team, Nashville. The Preds haven’t announced a starter yet.

— Colorado, minus the services of Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog, will need a big game from Semyon Varlamov tonight in Calgary. Joni Ortio goes for the Flames.

— Vancouver will give Jacob Markstrom the nod tonight in Edmonton. No word yet on an Oilers starter.

— Looks as though Jonas Gustavsson will give Tuukka Rask the night off in Anaheim, while the Ducks are set to start Frederik Andersen.

Avs without Duchene, Landeskog in key battle for playoff spot

DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 20:  Captain Gabriel Landeskog #92 and Matt Duchene #9 of the Colorado Avalanche warm up prior to facing the Los Angeles Kings during their preseason game at the Pepsi Center on September 20, 2013 in Denver, Colorado. The Avalanche defeated the Kings 4-3 in overtime.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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Colorado heads into tonight’s action sitting one point clear of idle Minnesota in the battle for the final wild card spot in the Western Conference, and could expand its cushion to three points with a win.

Won’t be easy, though.

The Avs will be without two of their three leading scorers tonight in Calgary — Matt Duchene is out with a knee issue, while Gabriel Landeskog is serving the last of a three-game suspension.

It goes without saying that the losses are huge. Duchene is enjoying a really good year, and leads the team with 29 goals and 56 points. Landeskog, the club’s captain, is fourth in assists (29) and third in points (46).

With Duchene out, Carl Soderberg could see an increased workload at center, and it’s likely that Nathan MacKinnon will pick up some middle man duties as well.

Landeskog is eligible to return Sunday in Edmonton. If Duchene’s injury extends into next week, he could be in danger of missing Colorado’s massive game against the Wild on Saturday, Mar. 26.

After returning from injury, Grabovski (undisclosed) sent back to New York

New York Islanders v Philadelphia Flyers
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The Islanders got good news to start their current three-game road swing when Mikhail Grabovski returned from a 10-game absence against Pittsburgh, playing 17 minutes in a shootout loss.

But that’s when the good news ended.

Grabovski has been sent back to New York for medical evaluation, per head coach Jack Capuano. It’s unclear if this latest issue is related to the upper-body ailment that cost the veteran those aforementioned 10 games.

“I thought he played pretty well,” Capuano said following the Pittsburgh game, per the Isles’ website. “[The next day] he had a couple of issues. We decided to send him back to get checked up.”

Grabovski, 32, has had a few injury issues this season, which have limited him to just 58 games played. He does have nine goals and 25 points to his credit, however, while averaging just over 14 minutes per contest.

The Isles’ two remaining games on the current swing are tonight in Nashville, and Saturday in Dallas.

Canucks say Hansen (ribs) suffered setback, out at least two more games

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Despite his team’s lack of success, Jannik Hansen‘s enjoyed a terrific 2015-16 campaign — he’s scored a career-high 19 goals and, earlier this month, was one of the first 16 players named to Team Europe for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.

Which makes this recent rib injury so frustrating.

Hansen, who hasn’t played since Feb. 28, suffered a setback in recovering from the ailment and will miss at least two more games, Canucks head coach Willie Desjardins confirmed on Thursday.

Hansen has already missed eight games with the injury and, not surprisingly, Vancouver is 3-5-0 over that stretch.

The Canucks take on the Oilers on Friday, then the Blues on Saturday. After that, the Canucks will have just 11 games left in their season, which should give Hansen the chance to break the 20-goal plateau for the first time in his career. The Danish veteran will also look to match his career-high of 39 points — currently, Hansen has 33.

After six-game absence, Sharp returns for Dallas tonight

Dallas Stars left wing Patrick Sharp greets Chicago Blackhawks fans during the first period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
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Dallas will get a key piece back up front tonight when it takes on Tampa Bay, as Patrick Sharp will play for the first time since Mar. 1.

Sharp, who’s missed the last six games with a lower-body ailment, will draw back in on the club’s fourth line next to Colton Sceviour and Vernon Fiddler, per the Dallas Morning-News.

It’s a bit of an uncommon role for Sharp, who’s played with top-liners Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin for long stretches this season, but it’s one he’s being forced into as head coach Lindy Ruff wants to keep his top three units together.

Sharp’s been relatively productive in his first year in Dallas. He sits fourth on the team in goals, with 17, and has 47 points through 65 games.