Author: Mike Halford

Ottawa Senators v Winnipeg Jets

Maurice calls Blues ‘best team in the league’ ahead of tonight’s game in Winnipeg


Remember our old Tuesday Tire Pump? (It’s OK if you don’t, it didn’t last that long.) I ask because Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice seems to have utilized the format, albeit on a Thursday — prior to tonight’s key Western Conference clash against the Blues, Maurice put some major air in St. Louis’ whitewalls.

“I think St. Louis is the best team in the League,” Maurice said, per the Post-Dispatch. “So we have to be at our very best, shift-to-shift. They have been tight games because for the most part we have done that, but we’re going to need a little bit better in everything that we do.”

To their credit, the Jets nearly topped the NHL’s best team last Tuesday, when they rallied from a 4-1 deficit in the third period to even things up… only for Barret Jackman to score an outrageous game-winner from center ice with 63 seconds left in regulation:

Many thought that would be a crushing blow to Winnipeg’s playoff chances, but the Jets have recovered nicely, winning two straight while moving back into the final wild card spot (the Jets could also move to within one point of Minnesota with a win tonight and a Wild regulation loss to the Capitals.)

The Jets will need to be at their sharpest to knock off the red-hot Blues, however. St. Louis has won five of its last six and is riding a two-game shutout streak, with back-to-back blankings — on the road, no less — against Dallas and Calgary.

“[The Blues] are so balanced,” Jets winger Blake Wheeler told “They have four lines that can hurt you. So I think that is the biggest key, matching up, getting all four lines against all four [lines] of theirs. I think we match up well.”

Goalie nods: Panthers return ‘our MVP’ Luongo for key tilt versus Wings

Roberto Luongo

All the latest from the blue paint…

Luongo back for Florida

Roberto Luongo will play for the first time since Mar. 3 when the Panthers host the Red Wings in Sunrise this evening.

Luongo, who’s missed the past six games with a shoulder injury, draws back in looking to keep Florida’s playoff hopes alive. The Panthers went an impressive 3-2-1 during his absence with journeyman Dan Ellis in goal, but know their chances of making the postseason are increased greatly with Bobby Loo in net.

“[Luongo] has been our MVP all year long,” Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said, per “He’s been a great player for us and a great leader and a great character. He’s going to come in tonight and try to do his best.

“He’ll work hard and compete hard and I’m sure the guys will be excited to see him.”

Florida heads into tonight’s action seven points back of Boston (the Bruins take on the Sens in Ottawa tonight), but still has three head-to-head matchups remaining against the B’s.

For Detroit, Petr Mrazek gets the call in net tonight.


Sharks at Leafs: Antti Niemi vs. Jonathan Bernier

Canes at Habs: Anton Khudobin vs. Carey Price

Bruins at Senators: Tuukka Rask (probable) vs. Andrew Hammond

Blues at Jets: Brian Elliott vs. Ondrej Pavelec

Caps at Wild: Braden Holtby vs. Devan Dubnyk

Pens at Stars: Marc-Andre Fleury vs. Kari Lehtonen (probable)

Flyers at Flames: Steve Mason vs. Karri Ramo

Jackets at Canucks: (No Columbus starter yet) vs. Eddie Lack

Avs at Coyotes: Semyon Varlamov vs. Louis Domingue

Parise chirped Weber with ‘nothing you want to write’ after Wild’s OT win over Preds

Shea Weber, Pekka Rinne, Zach Parise

In the aftermath of Mathew Dumba’s overtime goal in Minnesota’s 2-1 win over Nashville on Tuesday, some viewers noticed Zach Parise chirping Preds captain Shea Weber prior to joining Dumba in the celebratory mob.

So, what exactly did Parise say to Weber?

“Nothing you want to write,” he explained, per the Star-Tribune. “We were just going after each other all game.

“You reach your boiling point. I think he reached his, too.”

The visual evidence (not overwhelming, but you can see Parise get after Weber around 0:08.)

Parise had good reason to chirp. The Wild are the NHL’s hottest team at the moment and, improbably, have trimmed Nashville’s 21-point lead in the Central Division — yeah, the Preds were up 21 on the Wild on Jan. 13 — to just nine heading into tonight’s action.

Slumping Isles return Poulin to AHL, Halak back Saturday?


Looks as though Jaroslav Halak’s absence with a lower-body injury could last just one game.

Halak, who missed Tuesday’s loss in Chicago, is reportedly healthy enough to return to the lineup and could be back in goal when the Isles face the New Jersey Devils on Saturday.

In a move that seems to corroborate that report, the Isles sent goalie Kevin Poulin back to AHL Bridgeport today.

Halak is 34-15-1 with a 2.46 goals-against average, four shutouts, and a .912 save percentage in 50 games this season, and has been one of the big reasons why the Isles are headed back to the playoffs. It’s likely the Isles are banking on him to help snap their current skid, which has seen them lose a season-high four games.

After sitting last time, Hamburglar gets his shot at B’s

Andrew Hammond

Last Tuesday, the Ottawa Senators sat red-hot Andrew Hammond in favor of Craig Anderson for a crucial tilt against the Boston Bruins — and lost, 3-1.

Tonight, it’s Hamburglar time.

Ottawa’s season may very well be on the line when it hosts the B’s at the Canadian Tire Centre, and it’ll be Hammond — who’s 11-0-1 in his last 12 starts — with the chance to draw his team within two points of the Bruins in the wild card race.

This is not an insignificant development. Prior to the aforementioned Boston tilt, Sens head coach Dave Cameron said it was Anderson, not Hammond, that gave Ottawa the best chance to win, even though Anderson had missed significant time with a lingering hand injury and had only one game back (a wild 5-4 shootout win over Calgary, in which Ottawa blew a 4-0 third-period lead.)

Cameron also made this pronouncement with Hammond in the midst of a historic hot streak, one the NHL hasn’t seen in a while — in Tuesday’s 2-1 OT win over Carolina, the Hamburglar tied Frank Brimsek’s 77-year-old record by allowing two goals or less in his first 12 big league starts.

This week, Sens GM Bryan Murray tried to put Hammond’s streak into further context.

From the CP:

Murray has seen a couple of goalies on streaks similar to the brilliant run the “Hamburglar” is on: John Vanbiesbrouck and Jean-Sebastien Giguere.

Vanbiesbrouck carried the Florida Panthers to the Stanley Cup final in 1996, and Giguere got the Anaheim Mighty Ducks one victory from the Cup in 2003.

“I remember Vanbiesbrouck, we would go into Pittsburgh for Game 7 in the Eastern Conference finals and they had Ronny Francis and Mario Lemieux and (Jaromir) Jagr — all the big stars — and he wouldn’t let anything in,” Murray said Wednesday at the NHL general managers meeting. “In Anaheim when J-S played, we went into Detroit, they got 50-some shots the first night, 40-some the second night and we win both games and we win four straight.

“It was only because of goaltending.”

Not to harp on this, but remember: Cameron sat Hammond in the midst of this streak, in a huge game for playoff survival. Just a stunning decision, in retrospect.

But retrospect is the key word there. The Sens refused to crumble following that loss to Boston and today, it seems everybody — the head coach included — now knows Hammond gives them the best chance of winning.

“He’s just been awesome,” Cameron said.