Author: Mike Halford


Video: Eichel notches first point at Worlds, U.S. takes 1-0 lead on Russia


It took three games, but Jack Eichel now has his first point at the 2015 World Hockey Championships.

Eichel, the Boston University standout projected to be the No. 2 overall pick at this June’s draft, registered an assist on Trevor Lewis’ opening tally as the U.S. jumped out to a 1-0 lead over Russia in today’s group action:

The tournament’s been an adjustment for Eichel thus far, as it’s the first time he’s played with professionals. He played 14:47 in the first game — a 5-1 win over Finland — but finished with a minus-1 rating and two PIM. In the U.S.’s second game, a 2-1 win over Norway, Eichel received more ice time (18:12) but took a pair of minor penalties.

Wild goalie Gustafsson joins Swedish League team

Minnesota Wild v Philadelphia Flyers

Johan Gustafsson’s headed home.

Gustafsson, who’s spent the last two years with Minnesota’s AHL affiliate in Iowa, has reportedly returned to play in his native Sweden with Frolunda, per the club’s Twitter account.

Gustafsson, 23, was the Wild’s sixth-round pick (159th overall) at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft but became something of a prized commodity in 2011-12, when he posted great numbers with SHL team Lulea (.929 save percentage, 1.74 GAA, six shutouts) and backstopped the Swedes to gold at the 2012 World Juniors in Alberta.

One year later, Gustafsson was on the roster for Team Sweden as it captured gold at the Worlds.

In North America, though, Gustafsson failed to replicate the same sort of success. He never posted impressive numbers in Iowa — spending a brief time with ECHL Alaska this season — and was stuck behind a logjam of goalies at the NHL level: Niklas Backstrom, Darcy Kuemper Josh Harding and, in the latter half of this season, Devan Dubnyk.

Gustafsson, a pending RFA, never appeared in a regular-season game for the Wild but was called up on a few occasions, most notably in the middle of last season when Harding was dealing with complications from multiple sclerosis.

Quick switch: Flames name Ramo Game 2 starter versus Ducks

Calgary Flames v Montreal Canadiens

Jonas Hiller is out, and Karri Ramo is in.

Flames head coach Bob Hartley announced the starting goalie change on Friday afternoon — less than 24 hours after a 6-1 whipping in Game 1 of the Calgary-Anaheim series — opting to bench Hiller after he starred in an opening-round victory over Vancouver.

The decision probably won’t sit well with the Swiss netminder. Hiller had spoken at length prior to this series about relishing the chance to exact some revenge on the Ducks, who let him walk last summer after seven years with the organization. Hiller also finished the Canucks series with a sparking .931 save percentage, allowing just 11 goals on 159 shots.

But the end of the Canucks series proved the beginning of his downfall.

Hiller was hooked in the decisive Game 6, with Ramo stopping 17 of 19 shots in relief for the win. That led to questions about who would start the Anaheim series, ones that Hartley emphatically shot down by saying there was “no question” Hiller was the No. 1.

But last night, Hiller allowed three goals on 14 shots and was hooked early in the second period. Ramo fared slightly better, allowing three goals on 21 shots.

While the change might be seen as a bit of a knee-jerk reaction, it really shouldn’t be. The Flames employed a goalie timeshare all season long, with Hiller starting 44 games to Ramo’s 32 (Joni Ortio got six.) That’s another reason why Hartley was asked about his starter for the Anaheim series; while he made a pretty definitive statement that Hiller is the No. 1, he also acknowledged he’s more than willing to turn to Ramo if need be.

“I’m very conformable with both goalies,” he said.

Housecleaning continues: Sabres fire AHL coach Cassidy


Buffalo GM Tim Murray’s organizational overhaul continued on Friday, as he announced Chadd Cassidy — head coach of the team’s AHL affiliate in Rochester — has been dismissed after two seasons on the job.

“I’d like to thank Chadd for all of his hard work and contributions during his time with the Amerks,” Murray said in a statement. “With the organization as a whole continuing to move forward into a new chapter, we have decided to make a change at that position and will begin the search for a new Amerks head coach immediately.”

Cassidy, 41, has been with the Sabres organization four the last four years, first serving as an assistant in Rochester under Ron Rolston before taking the gig himself in 2013-14. The Amerks missed the Calder Cup playoffs this year with a 29-41-6 record.

Cassidy’s dismissal comes just three weeks after the Sabres relieved head coach Ted Nolan of his duties, and announced the contracts of assistant coaches Bryan Trottier and Tom Coolen would not be renewed.

So, needless to say, Buffalo has some hiring to do.

The club has already been tied to a few coaches for the NHL gig, including AHL Binghamton bench boss Luke Richardson and ex-Sharks coach Todd McLellan. It remains to be seen who’ll be in the running for the Amerks job, but the Sabres are probably looking for someone with high teaching acumen and the ability to develop players, given they’re in the midst of a rebuild and looking to stockpile talent through the draft.

Report: Leafs’ Lindstrom signs in KHL

Montreal Canadiens v Toronto Maple Leafs

Joakim Lindstrom’s return to North American was a brief one.

On Friday, Swedish outlet Hockey Sverige reported that Lindstrom, who returned to the NHL this season with St. Louis — before getting traded to Toronto — has signed with KHL club SKA St. Petersburg.

The 31-year-old, who spent time with the Blue Jackets, Coyotes and Avalanche in his first North American tour, signed with the Blues last summer following three very productive years with Skelleftea of the Swedish League.

While he was OK in St. Louis (six points in 34 games), he didn’t have a significant presence and wasn’t a lineup regular, eventually getting flipped to the Leafs at the deadline as part of the Olli Jokinen trade.

With Toronto, Lindstrom scored four points in 19 games, averaging 10:30 TOI per night.

Lindstrom is expected to fill the gap at SKA left by Artemi Panarin, who recently signed with the Chicago Blackhawks.