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

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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.”

Goalie nods: Pickard replaces injured Varlamov; Roy says start would be ‘unfair’ to Berra

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All the latest from the blue paint…

Pickard starts, Berra backs up

Having gone 8-3-0 in their last 11, the Avs are on the fringe of playoff contention and —  with a win against Los Angeles and a Jets regulation loss in St. Louis tonight — would be just five points back of the final wild card spot in the Western Conference.

As such, Patrick Roy is replacing injured No. 1 netminder with AHL recall Calvin Pickard, rather than backup Reto Berra.

“It’s very simple. Reto’s been practicing really well and the three games he came in for relief he did a good job for us, but he hasn’t started a game since Nov. 25,” Roy explained, per the Denver Post. “It’d be unfair to put him in a situation like this, such an important game for us.

“All the games Calvin played for us, he played really well. He’s one of the reasons why we’re in the position today of still having a chance to make the playoffs.”

Pickard, 22, is 6-6-3 this year for Colorado, posting  a .936 save percentage and 2.18 GAA. Berra, who has spent most of the season in Roy’s doghouse, had a couple of decent relief outings in February — stopping 22 of 23 shots against the Coyotes and Predators — but didn’t look great in Sunday’s 3-2 win over Minnesota, allowing one goal on four shots after Varlamov left with a lower-body injury.

No word yet on who’ll start for the Kings tonight.

Elsewhere…

Rangers at Isles: Cam Talbot vs. Jaroslav Halak

Stars at Flyers: Kari Lehtonen (probable) vs. Steve Mason

Jackets at ‘Canes: Sergei Bobrovsky vs. Cam Ward

Bolts at Habs: Ben Bishop vs. Carey Price

Bruins at Sens: Tuukka Rask vs. Craig Anderson

Jets at Blues: Michael Hutchinson vs. Brian Elliott

Devils at Wild: Cory Schneider vs. Devan Dubnyk

Umberger: ‘I feel like I’ve let Hextall down’

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The Flyers acquired R.J. Umberger from the Columbus Blue Jackets along with a 2015 fourth-round draft pick in exchange for Scott Hartnell over the summer and so far that move hasn’t worked out for Philadelphia. If you want evidence of that, you need only watch tonight’s game against the Dallas Stars and notice the absence of Umberger, who will instead be in the press box.

Umberger, who initially broke into the NHL as a Flyer before spending six seasons with Columbus, has reached or surpassed the 50-point mark on three separate occasions, but he’s been limited to nine goals and 15 points in 67 games in 2014-15. Meanwhile, Hartnell has 43 points and 88 penalty minutes in 60 contests with Columbus.

“When things aren’t going well, that’s [the comparison to Hartnell] added pressure. You feel that,” Umberger told the Courier-Post. “I think the biggest thing that’s bothered me is that I feel like I’ve let (general manager Ron) Hextall down. He believed in me bringing me here and I feel like I just haven’t been the player for him that he needs.”

It’s worth noting that while he’s being regarded as a healthy scratch, he doesn’t appear to be 100 percent. He has been seen moving with a limp and has a somewhat bloodshot eye. Umberger, who has set an unwanted career-high by going 18 games without a goal, doesn’t want to use that as an excuse though.

“Everybody has injuries,” Umberger said.

Vinny Lecavalier will be inserted into the lineup as a fourth liner while Zac Rinaldo will move up to the third line due to Umberger’s absence.

Umberger comes with a $4.6 million annual cap hit and is signed through 2016-17.

PHT Morning Skate: How a hockey enforcer became a drug-dealing cop

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

The tragic descent of Bryce Charpentier, a former minor league enforcer, who became a San Diego Police Officer and used his position to get and eventually deal drugs. (Vice Sports)

Editor’s Note: Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $35,000 fantasy hockey league for Tuesday’s NHL games. It’s just $2 to join and first place wins $3,000. Starts Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. ET. Enter Now!

Columbus has been terrible in the first 20 minutes of its recent contests. (Columbus Dispatch)

Highlights from San Jose’s 2-1 shootout win over Pittsburgh:

In a possible nod to his future, Daniel Alfredsson was in Senators GM Bryan Murray’s box for Sunday’s game against Calgary. Alfredsson wanted to pick the brains of the scouting staff. (Ottawa Sun)

Nail Yakupov posed for a picture with the NHL’s first Russian referee, Evgeny Romasko. Paul Devorski is the one in more casual attire:

While we’re on the subject of Tweets, here’s a fun exchange between the Coyotes, Predators, and league:

Monique Lamoureux would love to have the opportunity to play in an outdoor game in the lead up to the Winter Classic. Her CWHL Boston Blades just won the Clarkson Cup against the Montreal Stars while the 2016 Winter Classic will feature the Canadiens and Bruins. (Puck Daddy)

Penguins forward Craig Adams was a healthy scratch again on Monday. Before that happened, the veteran of 937 NHL games said that while he obviously wants to play, he understands the situation. (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)

Kesler shakes off puck to head to start for Ducks

One injury break went the Anaheim Ducks’ way as James Wisniewski will be able to play against the Vancouver Canucks, but it remains to be seen if Ryan Kesler will enjoy the same luck.

Kesler left Ducks’ warm-ups after taking a puck to the head, HNIC’s Elliotte Friedman reports.

This post will be updated when more is known about Kesler’s condition, including if this mishap will sideline him against his former team.

Update: You never know how these things can progress, but it’s certainly a good sign that Kesler was in the Ducks’ starting lineup. If there are any noteworthy updates, PHT will pass them along. At the moment, it seems like Anaheim dodged a bullet, though.