Mike Halford

Carter Hutton, Jonathan Ericsson
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Goalie nods: For big test versus Stars, Preds give Hutton second straight start

Well, this one’s interesting.

The Nashville Predators, holding onto the last playoff spot in the Western Conference, are giving backup Carter Hutton his second straight start tonight when they host West’s top team, Dallas, at Bridgestone Arena.

Hutton was in goal on Saturday and made 22 saves in a 5-0 shutout win over Florida. Overall, he’s played well when called upon — in his last three starts, he’s posted a 0.33 GAA, .987 save percentage and two clean sheets.

So, statistically speaking, it makes sense to go with Hutton this evening.

But it’s still raising eyebrows in Nashville…

This has not been a good year for Rinne, who last lost four of his last five starts, allowing 17 goals on 122 shots (an .861 save percentage). Overall, his .902 save percentage on the season is alarming, which could be why head coach Peter Laviolette is throwing caution to the wind by starting Hutton against the Stars.

If the career backup can produce a result against Dallas — a team that thumped Rinne and the Preds 5-1 last time out — Laviolette could have a semi-legit goalie controversy on his hands.

For the Stars, it looks like Antti Niemi will be in net.


Jonas Hiller, who’s now Calgary’s No. 1 with Karri Ramo out injured, goes for the Flames as they host the Ducks. No word on an Anaheim starter yet, but Frederik Andersen seems very likely given John Gibson is nicked up, and Anton Khudobin was just recalled from AHL San Diego.

Al Montoya gives Roberto Luongo the night off as Florida hosts Pittsburgh. No Penguins starter yet.

James Reimer will go for the Leafs tonight, in a tough assignment in Chicago. The ‘Hawks are also giving their starter the night off, as Scott Darling starts ahead of Corey Crawford.

— Quebec native Louis Domingue gets the start against his hometown team as Arizona hosts the Habs. No word yet on a Montreal starter.

Jacob Markstrom gets back into the Vancouver net after stopping 29 of 30 shots in a win over Colorado last week. No confirmed Wild starter yet.

‘Stamkos will not be traded before the NHL’s trade deadline’: Yzerman

Steve Yzerman
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If there were any lingering hopes of Steve Stamkos getting moved at the trade deadline, Bolts GM Steve Yzerman snuffed them out in dramatic fashion on Monday, by releasing the following statement:

“As February 29th approaches, I am stating today that Steven Stamkos will not be traded before the NHL’s trade deadline.

“I have said repeatedly that it is our hope to reach an agreement with Steven on a new contract at some point, and with 27 games remaining in the season, our entire organization, Steven included, wants to focus on making the playoffs.

“I will keep the negotiating process strictly between the involved parties and have no further comment on the state of those negotiations.”

Yzerman’s statement comes on the same day that Lightning founder and current VP of corporate relations Phil Esposito told a local radio station “I don’t think [Stamoks] is going anywhere.”

While the statement is bold, it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. The Lightning are in win-now mode and their Stanley Cup window is much more open with Stamkos in the mix, than with him playing elsewhere.

So with that, the focus in Tampa now goes from the Stamkos Trade Watch to the Stamkos Extension Watch.

Reports from Sportsnet and the Tampa Tribune suggested the opening offers hovered around eight years at $8.5 million per season — for a $68M deal overall — but the focus won’t necessarily be on the Lightning’s offer.

It’ll be on what Stamkos could get in free agency.

By going to market, he’d be the biggest prize since Zach Parise and Ryan Suter landed in Minnesota four years ago, with matching $98 million deals. If Stamkos wants to join Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews as the NHL’s lone $10M cap hits, it’s very likely he’d get it in free agency — not in Tampa, where Yzerman must keep the finances in check to ensure he can address other pressing free agents on the horizon, like Victor Hedman and Ben Bishop (UFAs) and Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson (all up in 2018).

Oh, and RFAs Nikita Kucherov and Vladislav Namestnikov, both of whom need new deals this summer.

Related: Could the Lightning lose Stamkos for nothing?

Datsyuk, Lundqvist, Marchand named NHL’s three stars of the week

Detroit Red Wings center Pavel Datsyuk acknowledges the crowd after an NHL hockey game against the Philadelphia Flyers in Detroit Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
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Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk, New York’s Henrik Lundqvist and Boston’s Brad Marchand hvae been named the NHL’s three stars for the week ending Feb. 14, the league announced on Monday.


Datsyuk shared the League lead with five goals and tied for second overall with seven points in four games to power the Red Wings (29-18-9, 67 points) to seven out of a possible eight standings points and second place in the Atlantic Division.

Lundqvist went 3-0-0 with a 0.67 goals-against average, .976 save percentage and one shutout to backstop the Rangers (32-18-6, 70 points) to seven out of a possible eight standings points, helping the team maintain second place in the Metropolitan Division.

Marchand shared second place in the NHL with 4-3—7, including goals in all four games, to help the Bruins (30-20-6, 66 points) win two of four starts and finish the week third in the Atlantic Division.

Pretty emphatic statement made by Datsyuk who, earlier this month, called on his Red Wings teammates for more offensive production.

Since then, Datsyuk has been reunited on a line with Henrik Zetterberg, and Detroit has started to score in bunches. The Red Wings have 22 goals in their last six games, which includes Sunday’s wild 6-5 win over Boston — a game in which Datsyuk and Zetterberg combined for six points.

Pirri (ankle) out ‘a few weeks’ after ugly crash into boards

Florida Panthers center Brandon Pirri (73) goes down after being checked by Boston Bruins center Chris Kelly (23) in the first period of an NHL hockey game in Sunrise, Fla., Saturday, March 21, 2015. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
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Considering how bad the injury looked, Brandon Pirri‘s prognosis is relatively good.

On Monday, Panthers head coach Gerard Gallant said Pirri — who suffered what appeared to be a gruesome ankle injury in Saturday’s loss to Nashville — would only be out “a few weeks.”

Per the Miami Herlad, Gallant said the injury wasn’t as bad as it looked.

But man, did it look bad.

At the time, many speculated Pirri could be lost for the season. He reportedly left the arena on Saturday night on crutches, per the Sun-Sentinel, and obviously hasn’t practiced since getting hurt.

Pirri, 24, has been fairly productive this season, with 11 goals and 24 points in 52 games. His absence could further push Panthers GM Dale Tallon in his quest to add a goalscorer by the trade deadline.


Andersen: ‘Fair question’ to ask if Ducks will trade him

Corey Perry, Frederik Andersen
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The seemingly endless drama that is Anaheim’s goaltending situation could have another twist by Feb. 29.

This past weekend, the O.C. Register’s Eric Stephens wrote that Frederik Andersen is one of the Ducks’ “most attractive pieces to dangle” at this month’s trade deadline, because 1) Andersen’s $1.3 million cap hit is “a remarkably affordable deal,” and 2) there’s a feeling within the organization that Andersen, a pending RFA, “will be expendable at some point.”

Why? Because it’s largely assumed that John Gibson, the 22-year-old that made his first NHL All-Star Game this season, is the goalie of the future.

So, Stephens put it to Andersen — is it possible he’ll be dealt by the deadline?

“It’s a fair question,” Andersen replied. “We have two good goalies. (You’re) always going to look for using assets in whatever way. It’s nothing that’s in my control.

“You can’t worry about that stuff. It’s cliché but you really can’t. That’s never going to do anything good.”

Andersen, 26, has certainly upped his value at the right time. After a rough start to the year that included missed time to a back injury and illness — an absence that allowed Gibson to snare the No. 1 gig — the Danish netminder has stormed back recently, posting a .942 save percentage in January and a .931 in February.

The big question, of course, is how hungry the market is for goalies.

The one team that would seem to make sense is Calgary. Neither Jonas Hiller nor Karri Ramo are under contract beyond this year, and Ramo is currently sidelined with a knee injury.

Andersen’s RFA status is appealing for teams, because it gives them control over the contract, and it’s plausible to think Flames GM Brad Treliving could make a play for Andersen now, at the deadline, as opposed to this offseason.