Author: Mike Halford

Anaheim Ducks v Vancouver Canucks

Andersen or Gibson — who starts for Anaheim in the playoffs?


Last spring, the Ducks became one of the few teams in NHL history to start three different goalies in three consecutive playoff games — a state of flux that, while intriguing, is something they probably don’t want to mimic this year.

And to be fair, it’ll be impossible to replicate that situation with only John Gibson and Frederik Andersen in the mix (Jonas Hiller, who made six playoff appearances last year, has departed). But the Ducks will eventually need to determine who’ll start as their playoff goalie and, with just 11 games left in the regular season, it sounds like the audition is on.

From the O.C. Register:

[Head coach Bruce] Boudreau has repeatedly said that John Gibson and Frederik Andersen will share the net until the start of April, but Gibson has been in goal the past three times out, all of them against potential playoff teams.

Andersen said he isn’t worried about suddenly losing playing time in a season where he’s gone 30-10-5 with a 2.37 goals-against average.

“There’s still a lot of games left,” Andersen said. “That’s how I look at it. I know that I’m going to have a chance to play.”

They’ll need to determine who will start as the playoff goalie, but a feeling that’s growing is Gibson nudging Andersen aside. Andersen sees a healthy competition down the stretch.

“I know we both have to battle for it,” Andersen said. “I know it’s going to be a long season. You saw it last year. We had three goalies playing due to different circumstances. I know that.”

Boudreau told the Register there is a plan in place for starts, but added it’s “subject to change.” There are a few dates worth keeping an eye on, however:

— On Sunday, Mar. 22, the Ducks take on the defending Eastern Conference champion Rangers at MSG.

— On Thursday, Mar. 26, the Ducks take on the Bruins at TD Garden.

— On Saturday, Mar. 28, the Ducks take on the Islanders at Nassau.

And there is, of course, tonight’s key Freeway Faceoff tilt against the Kings (no starter named yet). Boudreau has done a good job of mixing up appearances versus L.A. among his netminders this season — Andersen, Gibson and Jason LaBarbera have all been goalies of record — but tonight is the fifth and final meeting between the two this season, and a huge one for the Kings’ playoff chances.

Looking ahead to the postseason, it is worth noting that both Boudreau and the organization are extremely high on Gibson, made evident last year when the Ducks threw the 20-year-old into the fire midway through its second-round series against the Kings.

Gibson responded incredibly well — he became the youngest goalie in NHL history to record a shutout in his playoff debut — but it has to be noted that he got the nod over Andersen because the Danish netminder suffered an injury in Game 3 of the series.

Get your game notes: Sabres at Bruins

Buffalo Sabres v Boston Bruins

Tonight on NBCSN, it’s the Boston Bruins hosting the Buffalo Sabres at 7:30 p.m. ET. Following are some game notes, as compiled by the NHL on NBC research team:


• Last game (Sunday): WSH def. BOS 2-0 – BOS shut out for just the 4th time this season, second time vs. WSH.

• Both season-high 5-game winning streak and 11 straight games scoring first streak snapped.

• Despite the loss, the Bruins have been playing better hockey since Feb. 22. They are 8-2-1 in their last 11 games, and have closed the gap between themselves and teams just ahead.

• Bruins need this game: Of the Bruins 13 remaining games, 6 are against teams currently in playoff position. Another 4 are against teams in the playoff hunt, including Thursday’s matchup at OTT.

• Sabres slumping continues: Last game (Monday): WSH def. BUF 4-3 SO.

• Surrendered two 1-goal leads; allowed 2 PP goals.

• BUF has lost 7 straight games (0-5-2 record), while scoring 9 goals in their 6 games this month.

• If BUF finishes last overall, they will have a 20.0% chance of landing the first pick in the NHL draft.

• Scoring woes continue: Last season, BUF set an NHL record for the fewest goals in the expansion era of hockey dating to back to 1967 (150 goals; 1.83 g/gm). This season, Buffalo’s scoring is occurring at an even worse rate: 1.81 goals/gm (last in NHL).


• Lone All-Star and number-one center Zemgus Girgensons was placed on IR on February 26 after blocking a shot by CBJ defenseman James Wisniewski (since traded to ANA) off his right foot two days prior. Whether or not he will return this season is still to be determined.

• Girgensons’ injury, combined with the trade of veteran center Torrey Mitchell (to MTL), have left Buffalo without much depth (or production) amongst its 4 centers, though both Larsson (5 points in last 4 games) and Hodgson scored last night. With a PP goal Monday vs. WSH, Tyler Ennis now has 5 points (3G-2A) in his last 6 games since returning from a groin injury. He leads the team in goals (18), power-play goals (6), and points (38).

• Since Feb. 19, Matt Moulson has been the team’s most consistent scorer. He logged an assist vs. WSH, giving him 11 points (2G-9A) in the last 12 games.

• Chad Johnson (lower-body) was injured before he could make an appearance with the Sabres after being acquired at the trade deadline from NYI.

• This has made Anders Lindback the everyday goalie – he has started 5 of the 6 games in March, posting an 0-3-2 record, 2.70 GAA, and a .924 SV% in the month.

• Lindback has not won a game in which he has started this season (b/w DAL and BUF). In those 12 starts, he has a record of 0-10-2.

• His two wins this season both came in relief appearances with the Stars.

• In his last 2 starts combined, Lindback has stopped 66 of 70 shots faced (vs. NYR & vs. WSH).

• Should Matt Hackett be named the starter of this 2nd game of a back-to-back, he would be making just his 3rd start of the season.

• He was pulled after allowing 4 goals on 23 shots at WSH on March 7.

• This season: 0-2-0 record, 5.19 GAA, and a .867 SV%.

• In his only career start vs. BOS last season, he allowed 3 goals on 23 shots in the 4-1 loss.


• David Krejci took part in the team’s morning skate today. This is the first time he has skated with the team since suffering a partially torn MCL at STL on Feb. 20. Krejci is in the 4th week of a 4-6 week timetable that was originally given.

• Boston’s recent winning ways can be attributed to the team’s newfound production out of young forwards Ryan Spooner (3rd-year) and David Pastrnak (rookie).

• After being recalled on Feb. 21, Spooner has 9 points (3G-6A) in the last 11 games.

• Pastrnak now has 8 points (3G-5A) in the last 9 games. See chart below that shows his scoring outburst.

• 2014 1st-round pick (25th overall) and the youngest player in the NHL (May, 25, 1996 – 18 years old).

• Team-leading scorer Patrice Bergeron has also picked up the scoring load for BOS during this surge, logging 9 points (3G-6A), +4 rating in the last 11 games.

• Career vs. BUF: 32 points (9G, 23A) in 54 games.

• 3rd- year defenseman Dougie Hamilton is enjoying a career-year for BOS. For the second consecutive season, he has topped his previous amount of goals, assists, and points.

• Leads all BOS defensemen in points this season (40).

• Career vs. BUF: 9 points (5G-4A) in 11 games.

• Tuukka Rask’s strong goaltending of late has helped the Bruins stay in playoff position. In his last 9 starts, he has gone 6-2-1, with a 1.64 GAA, and a .949 SV%.

• Niklas Svedberg is expected to get the start in net vs. BUF.

• This season: 7-5-0 record, 2.43 GAA, and a .918 SV%.

• He’s won his last 2 starts (2.44 GAA, .929 SV%) at NJ (Feb. 27) and vs. DET (March 8).

Jackman scratched; ‘I’m sure he’s not pleased,’ says Backes

St Louis Blues v Colorado Avalanche

A potentially interesting development in St. Louis, where Barret Jackman — one of only three Blues to have played all 69 games this year — will be parked in the press box for tonight’s tilt against Calgary.

Nobody’s really sure why this is happening. It could be nothing more than a rest opportunity as Jackman, who just turned 34, is the second-oldest player on the team. It could also allow head coach Ken Hitchcock to see some of his newer d-men, specifically deadline acquisitions Robert Bortuzzo and Zbynek Michalek, in larger, more expanded roles.

Thing is, Hitchcock wouldn’t say why he scratched Jackman — “I’m not going back and forth on who we’re sitting out everyday,” he told the Post-Dispatch — and Jackman wasn’t made available to the media following today’s skate.

That left the talking to captain David Backes.

“I’m sure he’s not pleased by any means,” Backes said of Jackman. “It’s extremely tough to see a guy that puts it all on the line every night to be sitting out.

“If he’s not playing tonight, he’ll be ready for the next one.”

If feathers do end up ruffled here, it won’t be the first time. Two weeks ago, Hitchcock rattled the cage of goalie Brian Elliott by putting him in after Vancouver scored four times on Jake Allen, only to quickly go back to Allen after Elliott allowed one goal on six shots.

Hitchcock later said Elliott was “mad” about having to come out, and that he had to tell veteran goalie to relax.

The King is back: Lundqvist cleared to return to Rangers practice

Henrik Lundqvist

Henrik Lundqvist took a significant step towards returning from a vascular injury on Tuesday, as the Rangers announced he’s been medically cleared to return to practice.

Lundqvist, who suffered the injury in late January and hasn’t played since Feb. 2, will begin skating with teammates in the hope of getting back into game action. Per yesterday’s report from The Hockey News, the 33-year-old netminder is targeting his return date on Mar. 24 against Los Angeles — a rematch of the 2014 Stanley Cup Final.

When ready, Lundqvist will rejoin a Blueshirts team that’s thrived in his absence. While some figured the club would take a step back with Cam Talbot as its No. 1 netminder, New York has done the opposite — in 20 games sans-Lundqvist the Rangers have gone a remarkable 15-2-3, vaulting atop the NHL standings.

Neal to miss third straight as Preds host Wild in key tilt

St Louis Blues v Nashville Predators

The Nashville Predators will be without co-leading goalscorer James Neal for the third consecutive game when they host the Wild tonight.

Neal, currently dealing with an upper-body issue, hasn’t played since a 2-0 loss to San Jose on Mar. 12. Prior to that the 27-year-old was mired in a bad slump, with just one goal in his previous 11 games.

As Neal hit the skids and eventually exited the lineup hurt, the Preds went through — and are still experiencing — their toughest stretch of the season. The club is 2-8-0 in its last 10 and has lost its grip on the Central Division; heading into tonight’s play the Preds trail St. Louis for the lead (via tiebreaker) and are just five points up on Chicago, with the ‘Hawks holding three games in hand.

As for the Wild, tonight’s game is (another) big one in the Western Conference wild card race. Minnesota holds the first of two spots with 83 points, two up on Los Angeles and three up on Winnipeg — and the Jets are in action tonight, hosting San Jose.