Johnny Hockey named NHL’s rookie of the month for March

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The NHL’s rookie scoring leader is also its rookie of the month.

On Wednesday, the league announced that Calgary freshman Johnny Gaudreau took home the honors for March after putting up 16 points in 15 games, keeping the Flames afloat in the Western Conference playoff chase.

More:

Gaudreau edged Ottawa Senators right wing Mark Stone (4-11—15 in 16 GP), Boston Bruins teammates Ryan Spooner (7-7—14 in 15 GP) and David Pastrnak (3-10—13 in 15 GP), Carolina Hurricanes center Victor Rask (3-8—11 in 15 GP), and Anaheim Ducks goaltender John Gibson (6-2-0, 2.50 GAA, .918 SV%) for the honor.

Gaudreau, a fourth-round selection (104th overall) by the Flames in the 2011 NHL Draft, recorded at least one point in 10 of his 15 March appearances, highlighted by four multi-point efforts. Those included his fourth career multi-goal game in a 6-3 victory over the Anaheim Ducks March 11 (2-0—2) and his fourth career game-winning goal in a 5-3 triumph over the Dallas Stars March 30 (1-1—2).

Gaudreau joins Tanner Pearson (October), Filip Forsberg (November), John Klingberg (January) and Anders Lee (February) as this season’s rookie of the month winners. He also looks to be a lock as one of this year’s three Calder Trophy finalists, along with Forbsberg and Aaron Ekblad.

Contract stalemate continues between Columbus, prized prospect Reilly

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Doesn’t appear as though there’s been much progress on a deal between the Blue Jackets and star University of Minnesota defenseman Mike Reilly.

First, this report from the Columbus Dispatch:

Then this, from TSN’s Bob McKenzie:

“If he wants to, he can say I’m not going back for my final year [at Minnesota] and 30 days later or June 1st — whatever is later — he can declare himself an unrestricted free agent.

“Columbus thinks the world of this guy. He’s a Hobey Baker candidate, a mobile, puck-handling defenseman, but right now there’s no decision imminent on that front. What he’s going to do is finish his academic year at the University of Minnesota, so that means no decision on his future will be forthcoming until we get into May.”

Reilly, 21, was Columbus’ third-round pick (98th overall) at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. A two-time All-American, he became the first d-man in nearly 20 years to lead the Golden Gophers in scoring and, as McKenzie noted above, is highly coveted by the Blue Jackets.

More on that, from the Dispatch:

[Jackets GM Jarmo] Kekalainen and company have tried hard to woo him.

Last spring, they played host to him at Nationwide Arena for the two home playoff games against Pittsburgh. When the Blue Jackets played in St. Paul, Minn., on Jan. 19, Reilly watched the morning skate with Davidson and Kekalainen. Last week, when the Blue Jackets traded defenseman James Wisniewski, Kekalainen mentioned Reilly as a player who has a clearer path to an NHL job.

“Mike Reilly is having a great year in Minnesota,” Kekalainen said. “He’s a prospect we believe in, and he’ll be stepping into some big shoes with our organization. We look forward to getting him signed.”

Should Reilly balk on signing with Columbus and go unrestricted, he’d be following in the footsteps of Kevin Hayes and Justin Schultz, who spurned the Blackhawks and Ducks to sign with the Rangers and Oilers, respectively.

It’s also worth noting that Reilly’s dad, also named Mike, is a minority owner of the Minnesota Wild, which has led to speculation that the younger Reilly could opt to sign with his hometown team.

With Hedman questionable, Bolts recall ’12 1st-rounder Koekkoek

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The Tampa Bay Lightning could get a true defensive depth test tonight against Toronto.

Slater Koekkoek, the 10th overall pick at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, has been recalled and could make his NHL debut this evening in place of Victor Hedman, who’s questionable after barely playing in the third period of Monday’s win over Montreal.

Should Hedman miss, he’d join fellow blueliners Jason Garrison and Braydon Coburn on the shelf. Garrison, who suffered an upper-body injury on a questionable hit from Detroit’ Justin Abdelakder over the weekend, is out 3-4 weeks; Coburn, who suffered a lower-body injury earlier this month, isn’t expected back until the playoffs at the earliest.

While those ailments have made for some tough times on defense, the Bolts have to be excited about Koekkoek’s arrival. The 21-year-old is enjoying a solid campaign with AHL Syracuse — 24 points in 66 games — and has some serious pedigree, the seventh d-man taken in first round absolutely loaded with quality defensemen (like Hampus Lindholm, Morgan Rielly, Jacob Trouba, Cody Ceci, Olli Maatta, Ryan Murray, Mathew Dumba and Derrick Pouliot.)

Kekalainen: Jackets to add ‘depth on defense’ this offseason

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Given all the injuries the Blue Jackets have endured this season, it’s no surprise that their GM, Jarmo Kekalainen, would like to add some insurance for next season.

And he’s looking specifically at the blue line.

“I think we need to add a little bit more depth on defense to make sure… I mean defense is a position that if you have injuries you’re going to be in a tough situation,” Kekalainen told FOX Sports Ohio recently.

“The guys that come up to play from the minors have to be NHL-ready, at least, for the amount of games that they need to play at that time. That can expose you if they’re not.

“I think with the amount of players that we have now under contract for next year, and the prospects that we have, whether that’s in Springfield, junior or college coming to the pros, we have to make sure that we have enough depth for next year. That’s something that we’ll focus on in the offseason.”

Remember that the Jackets no longer have James Wisniewski on the payroll; he was traded to Anaheim at the deadline, with no defensemen coming back in the deal.

Fedor Tyutin and Jack Johnson are the only real veteran defenders under contract.

Related: Kekalainen ‘worried’ about Murray’s development after three injury-plagued years

Ducks face prospect of entering playoffs without clear Game 1 goalie

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The Anaheim Ducks are unique in the NHL in that they only have four games left in their regular season schedule. They also have essentially won their division and might even capture the Presidents’ Trophy. So it’s safe to call the regular season a success, but one thing it hasn’t produced is a clear Game 1 starter for the playoffs.

Going into the campaign both Frederik Andersen and John Gibson looked like equally viable candidates for that role given their potential and relative lack of NHL experience. For much of the season it looked like Andersen would run away with the starting gig, although that was partially due to Gibson suffering a groin injury early in the campaign.

Now they’re both healthy and have split the Ducks’ duties pretty evenly this month. Gibson was the latest to get the nod on Sunday and led Anaheim to a 2-1 victory over New Jersey.

Along the way he made this gem of a save:

“He never stops,” Ducks forward Ryan Kesler told the Orange County Register. “I think three or four times, they had a wide-open net. He throws something. Stick, leg, arm. Somehow, he keeps it out of the net. He’s a special talent.”

At the same time, Gibson did surrender four goals in each of his previous two games. At the end of the day, neither goaltender has significantly beaten out the other this month and with so little action left in Anaheim’s schedule, it seems unlikely that this matter will be cleanly settled before the playoffs.

Going into the postseason without an obvious number one is typically not desirable, but the Ducks don’t see this as a negative.

“It’s a great battle to have,” Corey Perry said. “They’re playing at the top of their game. They’re battling. And that’s all we can ask for. You’d rather have 1A and 1B rather than one and four. It’s a good thing.”