Mike Halford

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Goalie nods: Prospects Comrie, Gillies make NHL debuts

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The future will be on display tonight for Calgary and Winnipeg.

Let’s start with the Jets, who will give Eric Comrie his first NHL start in Columbus. Comrie, 21, was Winnipeg’s second-round pick in 2013 — 59th overall, the fourth goalie off the board — and is currently in his second full season with AHL Manitoba.

Though he’s thought of highly within the organization, chances are Comrie isn’t quite ready to make the leap to the NHL full-time. The Jets got burned this year going with a relatively inexperienced combo in Connor Hellebuyck and Michael Hutchinson and, while both will (presumably) be back next year, it’s safe to think GM Kevin Cheveldayoff might bring in a veteran to stabilize the position.

Still, this is a good opportunity for Comrie to show he is, in fact, a future No. 1.

Now, over to the Flames.

As mentioned yesterday, John Gillies was recalled after an injury to backup netminder Chad Johnson. Calgary isn’t wasting any time in seeing what they’ve got in Gillies, as he’ll get the call tonight in Los Angeles.

Gillies, 23, is a former Providence College standout taken by Calgary in the third round (75th overall) in the 2012 NHL Draft. Like Comrie in Winnipeg, he’s considered to be the club’s potential goalie of the future.

As for Johnson, there’s been no update on his status, so it’s unclear how long Gillies will be in the bigs.

And as for the opposing goalies? Comrie faces Joonas Korpisalo, while Gillies takes on Ben Bishop.

Elsewhere…

— After making 22 saves in a win over Nashville on Tuesday, Jaroslav Halak goes back in for the Isles. The host ‘Canes are going with Eddie Lack, who makes his second start since suffering that scary neck injury against Detroit in late March.

Matt Murray makes his fourth straight start as the Pens take on the Devils in New Jersey. Cory Schneider gets back in after Keith Kinkaid shut out the Flyers on Tuesday.

— Big matchup in Boston tonight, and both the Bruins and visiting Senators will start their No. 1s: Craig Anderson and Tuukka Rask.

— Equally big game in Toronto, where the Bolts look to keep their season alive. They’ll go with Andrei Vasilevskiy, while the Leafs will counter with Frederik Andersen.

— Looks to be Jake Allen against James Reimer as the Blues visit the Panthers.

— In Dallas, Juuse Saros appears to be the Nashville starter, while Antti Niemi will go for the Stars.

John Gibson, who we wrote about earlier, makes his second consecutive start as the Ducks look to clinch the Pacific Division tonight. The visiting ‘Hawks will go with Corey Crawford.

— It’s Devan Dubnyk in goal for the Wild, who visit Colorado. No word yet on who the Avs will start.

Louis Domingue, who has played well down the stretch (rebounding from a difficult start in the process), gets another start as the Coyotes host the Canucks. Vancouver has yet to name a starter, but Ryan Miller appears likely.

— Finally, yet another big game as the Sharks and Oilers do battle in San Jose. Second place in the Pacific is up for grabs, and the home-ice advantage that comes with it, so both No. 1s will go: Cam Talbot for Edmonton, Martin Jones for the Sharks.

Gibson weighs in on Anaheim’s playoff starter debate

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Last week, we addressed the Ducks’ simmering goalie controversy — the one in which Jonathan Bernier‘s play, teamed with John Gibson‘s injury, led to the annual “who’s your playoff starter?” conversation.

At the time, Anaheim head coach Randy Carlyle classified it as a “1A and 1B” situation. Bernier catapulted himself into contention with a brilliant month of March, going 10-1-2 with a .941 save percentage.

Gibson, meanwhile, only made one appearance over a 14-game stretch due to a lingering lower-body ailment.

But then the calendar turned to April, and Gibson returned to health. He’s started two of three games this month and looked terrific, stopping 60 of 64 shots for a .938 save percentage.

He also had some things to say about the playoff starter debate.

“I didn’t forget how to play, right?” Gibson said, per the O.C. Register. “Just had an injury.”

When asked if he felt there was competition with Bernier to be the Game 1 starter, Gibson re-iterated his point.

“You’d have to ask Randy what he thinks,” he explained. “I’ve been here for the whole year. I got hurt for a month.”

Logic suggests Gibson will be the guy. It certainly appears to be trending that way. The Ducks are giving him a second consecutive nod tonight against Chicago, in a relatively important game — they can clinch top spot in the Pacific with a win and an Edmonton loss in San Jose.

If Gibson shows well again, it’ll silence any doubts about his readiness or rust accumulation.

But Bernier’s emergence over the last few weeks will make things intriguing, regardless of who opens as starter. Remember, Gibson was anointed Anaheim’s No. 1 in last year’s opening-round series against Nashville, only to lose that gig to Frederik Andersen after Game 2.

No Thornton for Sharks in potential playoff preview against Oilers

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The knee injury that Joe Thornton suffered Tuesday against Vancouver will keep him out of the Sharks lineup Thursday in a potential playoff preview against Edmonton.

But when the postseason begins? Jumbo will be there.

Thornton told the Mercury News there’s “no doubt” he’ll be playing when San Jose opens the playoffs next week. He also suggested he could play on Saturday, when the Sharks wrap their regular season at home against Calgary.

As for fellow injured forward Logan Couture, it’s unclear when he’ll return to the lineup. He resumed skating yesterday and his helmet’s been outfitted with a facial guard.

As mentioned above, the Sharks and Oilers are on a crash course for Round 1. Both head into tonight’s action tied on 97 points, with Edmonton holding second place in the Pacific Division due to fewer games played.

Here are the playoff ramifications for this evening:

The Anaheim Ducks will clinch the Pacific Division title:

* If they defeat the Chicago Blackhawks in any fashion AND the Edmonton Oilers lose to the San Jose Sharks in any fashion.

OR

* If they get one point against the Blackhawks AND the Oilers lose to the Sharks in regulation.

So, essentially, the Sharks and Oilers are playing second, and all that comes with it. It’s something the Oilers — who need just one point to clinch — are well aware of.

“This is going to dictate home ice advantage,” forward Patrick Maroon said, per the Sun. “That was our goal going into the playoffs, to get home ice advantage, so for us this is one of the biggest games we’ll play.”

No Karlsson, maybe no Marchand for big Sens-B’s tilt

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There’s plenty at stake tonight at TD Garden when the Sens take on the Bruins.

Yet two of the biggest stars might be on the outside looking in.

Ottawa captain Erik Karlsson is out, for sure — following the morning skate, head coach Guy Boucher confirmed that Karlsson would sit with a lower-body injury, the third game he’s missed in the Sens’ last five.

Then, there’s Brad Marchand.

Boston’s leading scorer is set to have a disciplinary hearing today for a spear on Tampa Bay d-man Jake Dotchin. Marchand was given a five-minute major and game miscondcut for his actions — which occurred during a 4-0 Bruins win earlier this week — and could be suspended for tonight’s affair.

Per the Boston Globe, the team is prepping to play without Marchand:

Aside from tonight being a potential first-round playoff preview, the Sens — who will also be without d-men Cody Ceci and Marc Methot — need just a single point to clinch their postseason berth.

There’s also the jockeying for positions within the Atlantic Division — while Montreal has clinched top spot, the Senators and Bruins even at 94 points with the Toronto Maple Leafs one point back.

The Senators have a game in hand on the Bruins, so they head into tonight sitting second.

Wings first-rounder Cholowski leaves school, signs ELC

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Dennis Cholowski, the d-man taken 20th overall by Detroit at last year’s draft, is leaving St. Cloud State after his freshman campaign.

The Red Wings announced the move on Thursday, signing Cholowski to his three-year, entry-level deal.

Cholowski, 19, scored 12 points in 36 games this year as one of the youngest players in the country. Per the Red Wings, he finished fourth in points among 1998-born defensemen.

It’ll be interesting to see what Detroit does with Cholowski from here. While talented, he didn’t play in one of the top Canadian junior leagues in his draft year (starred with Chilliwack of the BCHL) and only had one campaign at the collegiate level.

Given the Red Wings’ organizational history with letting prospects spend extensive time in AHL Grand Rapids, that could be the play for Cholowski.