Mike Halford

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‘Not an easy situation’ for Bernier, who hasn’t started in 23 days

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The last time Jonathan Bernier started for the Ducks was on Dec. 20, when he allowed five goals in a loss to Montreal.

Since then, his lone appearance was a brief 3:48 stint in relief of John Gibson in a New Year’s Day win over Philly (Gibson left the game momentarily, and was put right back in).

As the numbers suggest, Gibson’s been leaned upon heavily lately — part of head coach Randy Carlyle’s plan to develop more consistency throughout the team — but that hasn’t been the Ducks’ only goaltending development.

Dustin Tokarski, the club’s No. 3 who’s spent most of the year in AHL San Diego, was signed to a one-year extension on Jan. 5. Six days later, Anaheim acquired Jhonas Enroth from Toronto.

So, back to Bernier.

“That’s the business,” he explained, per the O.C. Register. “You got to win games and [Gibson’s] playing well right now. We’re playing well as a team obviously and I think it’s completely understandable. But it’s not an easy situation at the same time for anyone.

“Every guy that’s in here, it could be a forward, or (defenseman) or goalie, wants to play and help this team. I’m just trying to stay ready for when my chance will come.”

Carlyle told the Register he expected Bernier to accept the current situation, even if it was “begrudgingly.” One has to wonder what it means for the 28-year-old moving forward, though.

Though Anaheim is only paying him $2.15 million in salary this year, Bernier still carries a cap hit of $4.15M, fairly hefty for a little-used backup. And this is a Ducks team, remember, that is pressed right up against the cap ceiling — Simon Despres and Nate Thompson are on LTIR, which has provided some savings, and the club did waive Clayton Stoner earlier in the year, he of the $13 million contract.

Bernier’s numbers aren’t great — 6-3-1, 3.05 GAA, .897 save percentage — and, given he turns 29 in August and has never really flourished as a No. 1, projects to be a backup moving forward.

He’s also scheduled to become a UFA this summer. If the Ducks keep using Gibson as often as they have, it’ll be tough for Bernier to put forth a “contract year” performance.

Stoll back with Kings, but as a player development ‘intern’

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Though he’s yet to officially retire, Jarret Stoll’s latest endeavor suggests the transition could soon be underway.

Stoll, who remains unsigned after appearing in 51 games for Minnesota last season, has caught on with his former team — the Los Angeles Kings — in a player development role.

More from Kings Insider, following Stoll’s appearance on the club’s pregame show Monday night:

Less visible from his television appearance are the steps Stoll has taken to shadow the team’s development staff in a somewhat hands-on capacity that has brought him to Ontario a small handful of times, where he has taken the ice with Reign coaches and players as part of a learning-as-he-goes endeavor he referred to as an “internship.”

There’s not a great deal of structure yet or title attached to this opportunity, and Stoll, whose primary focus is to continue playing in the NHL, hasn’t officially been hired. It is simply an open-ended introduction to the type of work that goes into developing young hockey players – primarily centers at the faceoff dot.

Stoll has a long history with Los Angeles. He appeared in over 500 games over seven years as a King, helping the club capture a pair of Stanley Cups, and was praised for his defensive work and veteran leadership along the way.

Stoll, of course, is also remembered for his arrest for cocaine possession in April of 2015. It was an ignominious end to his time in Los Angeles — arrested months before his contract was set to expire, the incident was one of the last things he did as a member of the organization.

Needless to say, it hit GM Dean Lombardi hard. From ESPN:

Lombardi cried when he finally sat down with Stoll after Stoll’s arrest, absolutely gutted not by the mistake itself but by the betrayal of trust that it signified. Lombardi had tabbed Stoll as one of the team’s most important leaders.

Lombardi said he couldn’t function for four days. He questioned his own judgment.

It’s evident Lombardi held Stoll in high regard. Fittingly, it was the GM that extended an invite for him to rejoin the club.

“Dean gave me a great opportunity to come back in and help some of the guys out in Ontario,” Stoll explained. “Just hang around the team there a little bit more and start coming to some games here.”

Jamie Benn back for Stars following four-game absence

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Dallas will get its captain back as it looks for a win tonight against Detroit.

Jamie Benn, who’s missed the last four games with a foot injury, has declared himself good to go for this evening’s tilt, per NHL.com. The return couldn’t come at a better time — the Stars are slumping, having lost four of their last five, and are coming off a 2-0 shutout loss to Anaheim on Tuesday.

It’s been a trying year for Benn, physically speaking. His beginning of the season was slowed due to offseason core muscle surgery, and this latest ailment has been lingering for a while.

Despite that, he still has put up good numbers — 34 points in 38 games — and now re-joins a Stars team that has most of its offensive weapons in the lineup, and firing: Jiri Hudler had a multi-point outing against L.A. on Monday, while Patrick Sharp finished with three points against the Kings.

Of course, not all is well in Dallas. Towering d-man Jamie Oleksiak will be out a couple weeks after injuring his hand.

 

Isles put Hamonic on IR, recall Mayfield

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It’s been a tough campaign, at least physically, for Isles d-man Travis Hamonic.

That trend continued on Thursday.

The Isles put Hamonic on injured reserve retroactive to Jan. 7, which is when he last played (a loss to Arizona). Hamonic, who’s dealing with a lower-body injury, sat out last night’s loss to Florida and, shortly thereafter, the Isles recalled d-man Scott Mayfield from Bridgeport.

Earlier this season, Hamonic was slated to miss 4-6 weeks with a hand injury, but gutted it out and returned after missing just three games. All told he’s appeared in 35 games this season, racking up 12 points while averaging nearly 21 minutes per night.

Losing Hamonic will hurt the Isles, a team that can’t afford any more losses. They’ve dropped three straight and are just 15-16-8 heading into Friday’s rematch with the Panthers.

 

Goalie nods: Murray’s back, but Fleury starts versus Caps

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Tasty matchup for tonight’s Rivalry Night game between Pittsburgh and Washington — Marc-Andre Fleury, who’s stopped 128 of his last 136 shots faced (for a .941 save percentage), will go up against Braden Holtby, the NHL’s reigning third star of the week.

Fleury’s start comes with Matt Murray returning to the fold, after missing the last two weeks with a lower-body injury. In a related move, the Pens returned Tristan Jarry to AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Wednesday, after he sat as Fleury’s backup for the last few games.

Fleury has been Pittsburgh’s goalie of record in each of the last five games — all wins — so this is a chance for him to keep the streak alive, and potentially keep his grasp on the No. 1 job as well. Coaches are loathe to mess with a winning recipe.

As for Washington, this will be Holtby’s fifth start in the last nine nights, which is a pretty hefty workload. That said, one of those starts didn’t go the distance — he was hooked in a 6-5 OT comeback win over Toronto on Jan. 3 — and he’s playing some of his best hockey of the year right now, having allowed just one goal over the last three games.

Elsewhere…

Carey Price was busy in Monday’s loss to Washington, facing 39 shots, so Al Montoya gets the nod in Winnipeg. He’ll be up against Connor Hellebuyck, who is making his sixth straight start and appears to have won the No. 1 gig over Michael Hutchinson.

— Coming off a shutout of New Jersey on Monday, Roberto Luongo gets another start for the Panthers. The host Isles are going with Thomas Greiss, who has played well in the wake of the Jaroslav Halak departure. Greiss is 1-0-2 in his last three, with a .958 save percentage.

— No switching things up in Calgary, as Chad Johnson will make his third straight start, despite losing in Winnipeg on Monday. No word yet on who goes for the Sharks, but Martin Jones did play in last night’s 5-3 win over the Oilers.