Author: Mike Halford


Goalie nods: Red-hot Talbot goes back to back


News and notes from around the crease…

Rangers to back to Cam

Just one night after stopping 29 of 30 shots in a crucial win over the Islanders, Cam Talbot will be back in goal Wednesday when the Rangers take on the Caps on Rivalry Night on NBCSN.

Talbot, the NHL’s reigning third star of the week, has been brilliant over his last seven games, allowing just 10 goals while posting two shutouts. His finest work, though, has come over the last four games — against a quartet of playoff teams (Nashville, Detroit, Chicago, NYI), Talbot has gone 3-0-1 with a .966 save percentage.

For the Capitals, Braden Holtby will be in goal.


Sabres at Leafs: Anders Lindback vs. Jonathan Bernier

Ducks at Flames: (no Anaheim starter yet) vs. Karri Ramo

Lupul on Kadri: ‘This stuff happens — it happened in Winnipeg’

Florida Panthers v Toronto Maple Leafs

Toronto winger Joffrey Lupul was front and center today in the wake of the Nazem Kadri situation, and offered up an interesting parallel when discussing Kadri with reporters.

“This stuff happens — it happened in Winnipeg,” Lupul explained, per TSN. “They were able to get away from it just fine, and control it.”

Lupul is, of course, referencing the Evander Kane situation in Winnipeg, which is a dicey example to throw out. Kane was alleged to have gotten in a dispute with teammates — specifically, Dustin Byfuglien — before reportedly no-showing for a game in Vancouver. That was followed by Kane’s decision to have season-ending shoulder surgery, which was then followed by the Jets shipping him to Buffalo.

Kadri’s situation in Toronto sounds a lot different.

The Leafs forward was made a healthy scratch on Monday after oversleeping and missing Sunday’s team meeting. That was followed by today’s announcement, in which team president Brendan Shanahan tacked on two more games to Kadri’s punishment, saying “there’s more to this, obviously” than just a missed meeting.

Unlike Kane, Kadri looks as though he’ll return to the Toronto lineup this season. And also unlike Kane, Kadri seems to have the backing of teammates, at least publicly — in addition to Lupul, Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf also vowed his support.

Winnipeg hardly showed similar unity in the aftermath of shower-gate; Byfuglien and Blake Wheeler were pretty outspoken in stressing the need for professionalism and following rules, but never said anything about welcoming Kane back, or how good a guy he was.

Based on today’s comments, Lupul and the Leafs genuinely like Kadri.

“Just so the story’s not blown out of proportion, he’s a good guy and a good teammate,” Lupul explained. “It’s not like he’s ever created any problems in here or anything.

“He’s a good guy and one of my good friends, and everyone in here will say the same thing.”

Parise ‘never would’ve predicted’ Devils would miss playoffs three years in a row

Minnesota Wild v Pittsburgh Penguins

Though they’re not mathematically eliminated yet, the New Jersey Devils won’t make the postseason this year. It’ll mark the organization’s third straight miss, a fact that took their former captain by surprise.

“I never would’ve predicted they’d miss the playoffs three years in a row. Just because of the way things are run,” Minnesota forward Zach Parise said prior to Tuesday’s 6-2 blowout win over the Devils, per the Star-Ledger. “I hope they can pull off something at the end of the year, or next year, and get back in.”

Parise, who spent the first seven years of his career in New Jersey, went to the playoffs six times with the Devils — the only time the Devils missed during the Parise era was the 2010-11 campaign which, not coincidentally, was the year Parise missed 69 games after a torn meniscus in his right knee.

New Jersey’s last playoff appearance, also not coincidentally, was in Parise’s last year with the club, when the Devils lost in the Stanley Cup Final to Los Angeles. The current team barely resembles the one that captured the Eastern Conference crown three years ago; gone are the likes of Parise, Ilya Kovalchuk, David Clarkson, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Marek Zidlicky, Ryan Carter, Petr Sykora, Mark Fayne, Anton Volchenkov and Martin Brodeur.

The club also made a coaching change, firing Peter DeBoer and replacing him with an unconventional three-coach setup comprised of Adam Oates, Scott Stevens and GM Lou Lamoriello.

Lamoriello has been the target of heavy criticism over the last three years, as a number of his veteran acquisitions — Ryane Clowe, Michael Ryder, Martin Havlat, Damien Brunner, Tuomo Ruutu — have failed to pan out.

Parise wasn’t about join the list of Lamoriello critics, however, saying that part of the Devils’ issues could be chalked up to bad luck.

“Guys have good years. Guys have off-years,” he explained. “When you have a group of people having off-years, you might miss the playoffs. If you have a group of people having a great year, you’re in.

“It’s hard to predict.”

Luongo to miss third straight as Panthers cling to playoff hopes

Roberto Luongo

Florida starter Roberto Luongo will sit again on Thursday when the Panthers take on the Jets in Sunrise, head coach Gerard Gallant confirmed today.

Luongo (23-16-11, 2.37 GAA, .921 save percentage), who suffered a shoulder injury during a wild game against Toronto last week — the same game in which second-stringer Al Montoya hurt his groin — will watch as journeyman Dan Ellis makes his third consecutive start for the Panthers, with ECHL recall Sam Brittain backing up.

It’s a tough blow for the Panthers.

Following a 4-3 shootout win over the Isles on Saturday, the Panthers were just two points back of Boston for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. But since then, Florida hasn’t played — Boston has, however, scoring big wins against Detroit and Ottawa to boost its lead to six points (the Bruins and Panthers are also now even in games played, with 66 each.)

If there is a silver lining for the Panthers, it’s that they still have three more cracks at the Bruins this season, the first of which comes in two weeks time at the BB&T Center (on Saturday, Mar. 21).

From there, the two will face each other two more times: in Boston on Mar. 31, and then back in Florida on Apr. 9.

Did Sharks’ vets convince Wilson to keep Niemi?


In three games since the trade deadline, Antti Niemi has helped San Jose gain four of a possible six points by posting a .941 save percentage, allowing just six goals on 102 shots.

Why the marked improvement in play?

In today’s Mercury-News, Niemi hinted it’s easier to relax and focus on the game now that the deadline’s passed and he’s no longer the center of rumors; curiously, this development came after an alleged meeting between some of San Jose’s older players and GM Doug Wilson.

More, from the Merc:

One reason Niemi may still be with the Sharks, according to a report by San Jose Mercury News columnist Mark Purdy, is a meeting 24 hours before the trade deadline when a group of the team’s leaders met with Wilson and expressed their preference to have Niemi be part of the push to make the playoffs.

Niemi welcomed that support.

“Yeah, if that’s the case, for sure,” he said. “It makes me feel appreciated here, and it makes me appreciate them even more.”

Logan Couture wasn’t a part of the Wilson meeting, but shared the sentiment anyway.

“Everyone in this dressing room supports [Niemi], and has his back,” Couture said. “We all want to play hard for him because we know how hard he works for us.

“I figured we weren’t going to move him because you lose a goalie like that, you’re just hunting yourself.”

At this point, it’s safe to assume the Sharks — who head into Tuesday’s play three points back of Calgary for third in the Pacific Division — will ride Niemi down the stretch, firmly planting Alex Stalock to the bench. It’ll be interesting to see how the veteran Finnish netminder reacts; the Sharks will soon embark on one of their toughest trips of the season, a seven-game Eastern roadie that sees them play in Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Detroit, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh in the span of 13 nights.