Maurice: ‘Vigneault wanted the electric chair’ for Byfuglien

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Jets head coach Paul Maurice addressed the media Friday, one day after the NHL levied a four-game suspension against Dustin Byfuglien for his nasty cross-check on Rangers forward J.T. Miller.

Maurice, it seems, took issue with two things. One, what he perceived as inconsistency between the Byfuglien ruling and other cross-check suspensions and two, how Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault portrayed Big Buff in the aftermath.

“Vigneault wanted the electric chair, and I’ve got a lot more time for Dustin than that,” Maurice said, per the Winnipeg Sun. “So we will always be a little agitated by what we feel is the unfairness of it.

“From my point of view, though, you can hand out heavier suspensions on all these events. The players will make the adjustment.”

Maurice mentioned a few incidents from this season for comparison purposes, including the cross-check Dallas’ Antoine Roussel landed on Boston’s Adam McQuaid in early February, which resulted in a two-game suspension for Roussel:

As for the Vigneault quote, Maurice appeared to be referring to what the New York bench boss said immediately following Tuesday’s tilt.

“[It was] violent, deliberate, could have broken his neck,” said Vigneault. “It was one of the most vicious cross-checks I’ve seen this year.”

Goalie nods: Gibson goes for Ducks, whose playoff starter is still uncertain

John Gibson will get another chance to show he should be the Anaheim Ducks’ playoff starter when he goes up against Colorado tonight at Honda Center.

Gibson’s last start was a good one; the 21-year-old stopped all but one of the Devils’ 27 shots last Sunday in a 2-1 victory, after which he was named the game’s first star.

Still, neither Gibson nor Andersen has made it an easy decision for coach Bruce Boudreau. Both young goalies have had excellent performances, and both have had their hiccups.

“I think they both want the starting role,” Boudreau said recently, per NHL.com “We had a tough game in New York and Columbus [last month] and when [Andersen] played two really good games, it was like [Gibson] said, ‘Oh, yeah? OK,’ and he came in and played great. I think they both would like to have it.

“If we go far they’re both going to play, and if we don’t go far, they’re both going to play, because if we’re losing, we’re going to make switches. That’s the way I think of it right now. We’re not married to thinking one is better than the other. When they’re on top of their game, they’re as good as there is.”

Reto Berra will start for Colorado.

Elsewhere…

Scott Darling likely for Chicago versus Anders Lindback for Buffalo.

Dustin Tokarski for Montreal versus Keith Kinkaid for New Jersey.

Brian Elliott for St. Louis versus Kari Lehtonen (likely) for Dallas.

Louis Domingue for Arizona versus Antti Niemi for San Jose.

 

Nichushkin expected to return to Stars’ lineup tonight vs. St. Louis

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Valeri Nichushkin, who was recalled from his conditioning assignment on Thursday, is expected to return to the Stars’ lineup tonight when Dallas plays host to the St. Louis Blues.

Nichushkin has missed nearly five months after undergoing hip surgery in November.

Stars coach Lindy Ruff would not confirm Nichushkin’s return to the lineup, but Mike Heika of The Dallas Morning News reports that it’s a safe bet the 20-year-old will appear in his first game since Nov. 6.

“He’s real excited to be back playing, to be back here and have the opportunity to play,” Ruff said.

Nichushkin had 14 goals and 34 points in 79 games during his rookie campaign last season while playing alongside Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin.

He played in just four games registering a minus-3 rating this season prior to the surgery.

Ruff admits the club has missed the presence of the 6-foot-4, 205-pound forward.

“We’ve missed his size,” Ruff said. “For the most part, Seguin, Benn and Val were a good line. He was a guy who could hang onto the puck down low, physically dominate some teams, and even come off the wall in the offensive zone and make plays. And I really felt by the end of [last] year he was one of our best defenders coming back defending.”

Tonight concludes the five-game season series between the two clubs. Each team has won twice.

Stars recall Nichushkin for last-gasp playoff push

Dallas isn’t going down without a fight.

The Stars, six points out of playoffs with five games left, have recalled Valeri Nichushkin from his conditioning stint with AHL Texas.

Nichushkin, 20, has missed almost the entire regular season with a hip injury and subsequent surgery, appearing in just four games. It was a fairly significant loss for the Stars; in his rookie campaign, Nichushkin appeared in 79 contests and performed well, scoring 14 goals and 34 points while averaging just under 15 minutes per game.

The big Russian also played in all six of Dallas’ opening-round postseason games against Anaheim, scoring a goal and two points.

Should he shine in his return, Dallas will probably be thinking of what could’ve been.

After a slow start, the Stars have been one of the NHL’s top teams since Dec. 13 and made a strong playoff push in March, going 10-5-0. But for all the good they did, they also ended the month with a thud, losing 4-0 in Edmonton on Mar. 27 and 5-3 at home to Calgary on Mar. 30.

Dallas’ next game comes on Thursday, when it hosts the Blues.

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.

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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.