Mike Halford

Jori Lehtera

Blues put Lehtera (upper body) on IR

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The injury Jori Lehtera suffered against the Rangers on Saturday will keep him out for the foreseeable future.

On Wednesday — one day after Lehtera missed St. Louis’ 2-1 OT loss in Vancouver — the Blues announced the 28-year-old was headed to injured reserve with an upper-body ailment.

A regular lineup presence over the last two years, Lehtera scored 44 points in 75 games two years ago, and 34 in 79 games last season (as well as nine in 20 playoff appearances).

His absence will hurt.

When healthy, Lehtera is a top-six forward and a frequent running mate of the team’s top sniper, Vladimir Tarasenko. He’s also one of the club’s top faceoff men and can contribute on special teams.

Much like previous seasons, the Blues are dealing with a rash of injuries at the moment. Lehtera was out of the lineup against the Canucks along with Kyle Brodziak, Carl Gunnarsson and Jaden Schwartz, all currently dealing with injuries.

If there’s a silver lining, it’s that Schwartz is anticipated to return next game — St. Louis plays in Edmonton on Thursday — and the ailments suffered by Brodziak and Gunnarsson aren’t believed to be serious.

Still, it’s of little relief to head coach Ken Hitchcock, who was asked what he thought of his team through four games.

“I can’t tell,” he said. “We don’t have it yet.”

Goalie nods: Howard makes season debut for Detroit

MONTREAL, QC - MARCH 29:  Goaltender Jimmy Howard #35 of the Detroit Red Wings looks on during the NHL game against the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre on March 29, 2016 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  The Montreal Canadiens defeated the Detroit Red Wings 4-3.  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

Busy morning for goalie news (see here and here and here), juxtaposed with a relatively quiet evening on the ice — there are only two games and, therefore, only four starting announcements.

Let’s begin in New York, where Jimmy Howard will get his first start of the year as the Red Wings visit MSG.

Howard, who sat while Petr Mrazek got the nod in Detroit’s first three contests, jumps in to face a Blueshirts team he’s had good success against over the last three years, going 2-3-2 with a 1.84 GAA and .945 save percentage (stats courtesy Daily Faceoff.)

While Mrazek is the Red Wings’ No. 1, that job isn’t entirely locked in. Detroit hasn’t looked great to start the year and neither has Mrazek, though he did stop 31 of 32 shots against Ottawa in Monday’s win at Joe Louis.

For the Rangers, Henrik Lundqvist returns to action after Antti Raanta beat the Sharks two nights ago. Lundqvist lost his last start, 3-2 to St. Louis, and wasn’t overly tested, facing just 18 shots.


— Tonight’s only other game has the Maple Leafs in Winnipeg to face the Jets. Toronto will continue to ride Frederik Andersen, starting him for the third straight game, and Andersen will look to build off Saturday’s 24-save effort in a 4-1 win over Boston.

For Winnipeg, Michael Hutchinson returns to the net as the Jets look for some consistency in goal. Connor Hellebuyck started two of the first three games but didn’t fare especially well, allowing seven goals on 51 shots (.863 save percentage).

The Jets are trying to figure out what they have in goal this year, and it looks like both Hutchinson and Hellebuyck will get a shot at proving they’re No. 1-caliber netminders, now that Ondrej Pavelec is buried in the American League.

Flyers lose Raffl to upper-body injury

Los Angeles Kings v Philadelphia Flyers
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The reported abdominal pull Michael Raffl suffered in Tuesday’s 7-4 loss to Chicago will keep him out of the Flyers lineup for the next while.

On Wednesday, GM Ron Hextall said Raffl will miss the next 10-14 days with the ailment.

Raffl, 28, had one goal through the first three games of the season, and opened the year on the club’s top line next to Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds. The Austrian winger has been a good goalscorer for the Flyers over the last two campaigns, netting 13 goals last year and a career-best 21 during the ’14-15 campaign.

If there’s a silver lining here, it’s timing. Brayden Schenn is set to return from his suspension, and could plug the lineup hole left by Raffl’s injury.

It’s also possible Nick Cousins could be back in tomorrow when the Flyers host the Ducks.

Cousins was dropped from the Blackhawks game so the club could give KHL free agent signing Roman Lyubimov his NHL debut, and the Russian received just over 10 minutes of ice time.

As for Raffl, the 10-14 day recovery window means he’ll likely miss five games — Anaheim, Carolina, Montreal, Buffalo, Arizona — but could be back in time for a big tilt on Saturday, Oct. 29, when the Flyers take on their bitter rivals, the Pittsburgh Penguins.


Zero wins, too many penalties force Ducks to ‘look in the mirror’

NEWARK, NJ - OCTOBER 18: Head coach Randy Carlyle of the Anaheim Ducks handles bench duties against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on October 18, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The slow start in Anaheim was predictable.

The Ducks opened their season with a “very difficult” road trip — five straight games through Dallas, Pittsburgh, Brooklyn, Newark and Philly. They’re also without two key pieces in Hampus Lindholm and Rickard Rakell, and just 12 months removed from a ghastly 1-7-2 start last season.

So the built-in excuses are there.

But the team wants no part of them.

“Everybody has to look themselves in the mirror,” Ryan Kesler said following Tuesday’s 2-1 loss to the Devils, per the O.C. Register. “I don’t think anybody was good enough tonight to win that hockey game. We’re close but once again we’re not there.

“We’ve been through it before. We’re probably going to go through it again during the stretch of this year. We just need everybody collectively to look in the mirror.”

If the Ducks follow Kesler’s urging for self-reflection, they’ll probably see the penalty box somewhere in the background.

Discipline’s been an issue thus far. The Ducks have been whistled for 19 minor penalties already — fifth-most in the league — and while they did a good job of killing them in their first three games, it cost them last night.

New Jersey converted two of its seven power play opportunities. Things were especially bad in the second period, when Anaheim was dinged for five straight penalties — Kesler, Emerson Etem, Antoine Vermette, Nick Sorensen and Kevin Bieksa, if you’re keeping track — a procession that head coach Randy Carlyle called “unacceptable” and “frustrating.”

Add it all up, and the Ducks now head into Thursday’s game at Wells Fargo sporting a 0-3-1 record.

It’s hardly the end of the world — three of the four losses came by one goal, and the club got a point off the Islanders — but one can sense pressure mounting.

Remember, GM Bob Murray faced criticism for bringing Carlyle back into the fold to replace Bruce Boudreau. Rakell is now signed, but still needs to obtain a work visa and recover from abdominal surgery.

Everything remains quiet on the Lindholm front.

The bottom-six forward group is a work in progress — Etem, claimed off waivers from Vancouver, made his team debut against New Jersey — and the defense is still without the services of Simon Despres, who’s dealing with a possible concussion.

The Ducks showed last year they can rebound from a bad start, finishing with 103 points and the Pacific Division title.

Bet they’d like to avoid digging out of a similar hole this year, though.

Now’s a good time to examine the goalie market

GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 15:  Goaltender Mike Smith #41 of the Arizona Coyotes is introduced before the NHL game against Philadelphia Flyers at Gila River Arena on October 15, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Jonathan Quick is out with a groin injury — one that could be long-term — and that’s left Los Angeles with Jeff Zatkoff as its No. 1 goalie.

Mike Smith was hurt last night in Ottawa — the second straight year he’s picked up an injury — which has once again pushed Louis Domingue into Arizona’s starting role.

And with those two developments, the NHL’s goalie carousel is in full spin.

To be fair, the ride started this summer. There was confirmation of an expansion draft, followed by the Brian Elliott-to-Calgary trade at the draft, and all the rumors involving Ben Bishop and Marc-Andre Fleury.

Then the season started, and injuries hit.

Spin baby spin.

The calls for L.A. to bring in a goalie got louder last night as Zaktoff struggled, again, in a 6-3 loss to Minnesota. Whether it’s him in goal or Peter Budaj, neither seems like an adequate solution, especially for a Kings team with playoff aspirations.

Arizona’s not quite in a similar boat. The severity of Smith’s injury is still unknown, and the club has faith in Domingue, but it wouldn’t be surprising if the Coyotes contemplate some sort of move.

When Smith got hurt last year, then-GM Don Maloney said he was “willing to pay up an asset” to get a “top end goaltender” and while Maloney has since been replaced by John Chayka, a similar — but more tempered — strategy could be employed.

If Smith is badly hurt, the Coyotes might have to bring another guy in, though not necessarily someone to challenge for starts. Justin Peters and Marek Langhamer are the No. 3 and 4 goalies on the depth chart, and Chayka will probably want to avoid a repeat of last season, when the likes of Anders Lindback and Niklas Treutle tried, but failed, to stabilize the backup position behind Domingue.

So that’s the situation at hand.

Now… what’s out there?

For the purposes of keeping this realistic, let’s skip over Bishop and Fleury. Both would be insanely expensive acquisitions, and it’s tough to see either getting moved right now.

If you’re looking for a guy with plenty of No. 1 experience, you can call the Jets for Ondrej Pavelec or the Red Wings for Jimmy Howard. Of course, both acquisitions are tough to stomach because of their cap hits. OK, Howard is completely un-stomachable (not a word) while Pavelec is somewhat stomachable (still not a word) if the Jets retained salary.

But there’s a reason Pavelec’s currently in the American League. Two reasons, actually — a .907 career save percentage, and a .904 last season.

The Flyers have two potential No. 1 netminders, and affordable ones in Michal Neuvirth and Steve Mason (what’s more, both pending unrestricted free agents.) But if Flyers GM Ron Hextall is going to trade one of them, is he going to do it now?

As Brough wrote today: “Not for nothing, that’s for sure.”

Some look at Carolina and wonder if GM Ron Francis would move one of Cam Ward ($3.3 million through 2018) or Eddie Lack ($2.75 million).  But those same people also realize Ward has value this summer, when the ‘Canes will be forced to expose a goalie in the expansion draft.

The Islanders have a three-goalie situation right now with Jaroslav Halak, Thomas Greiss and J-F Berube. But GM Garth Snow was comfortable rolling with it last year, and this year appears no different.

The ideal solution for teams looking for goalie help, of course, is to do what Minnesota did a couple of seasons ago — find a potential reclamation project on the cheap, like Devan Dubnyk, and cross your fingers.

Problem is, not many current candidates fit the mold. Pittsburgh’s Mike Condon has had some success at the NHL level, and will likely come available when Matt Murray returns from his hand injury, but let’s be honest — Condon’s a reach.

Darcy Kuemper is interesting, and sitting behind Dubnyk in Minnesota. But GM Chuck Fletcher is probably content with his goalie situation, and therefore would feel no need to mess with it (unless the price was right).

Whatever the case, this market is something to watch in the coming days and weeks.