If there’s a building goaltending narrative in 2014-15, it’s been about netminders unexpectedly redeeming themselves or almost appearing out of the blue.
Devan Dubnyk went from a wayward soul last season to a possible Vezina nominee for the Minnesota Wild. The New York Rangers somehow didn’t miss a beat when Cam Talbot took over for Henrik Lundqvist. The question in Ottawa went from “Who is Andrew Hammond?” to “How do we beat him?”
It’s pretty early to add the man who was the Florida Panthers’ third goalie to the mix, but Dan Ellis certainly made a case that he should be in the argument with another strong performance Saturday.
Ellis stopped all 27 Carolina Hurricanes shots to grab a 2-0 win for Florida. He’s now currently on a three-game winning streak (and is 3-0-1 since taking over) after spending most of his year in the AHL.
Ellis, 34, comes into this situation in a fittingly weird way, as Roberto Luongo and Al Montoya were injured in the same odd game.
He doesn’t fit into the story of many others who were virtually unproven – Ellis now has 208 regular season games under his belt – yet the league soured enough on him that he wasn’t offered one of 60 NHL goaltending jobs to start 2014-15.
The Panthers still face a very, very long shot to get into the postseason, especially as Tuukka Rask really builds back into “totally worth $7 million” form.
If nothing else, it’s a cool story that follows an interesting pattern, though.
Mackenzie Skapski will make his second career NHL start tonight as the New York Rangers visit the Buffalo Sabres. The 20-year-old got his first NHL win with a 24 save performance defeating the Sabres 3-1 on Feb. 20. Skapski was 12-7-3 to go along with a .914 save percentage and a 2.38 in 24 AHL games prior to being recalled.
Anders Lindback gets the nod for Buffalo.
Blackhawks at Sharks: Corey Crawford vs. Antti Niemi
Leafs at Canucks: Jonathan Bernier vs. Eddie Lack
Panthers at Hurricanes: Dan Ellis vs. Cam Ward
Canadiens at Islanders: Carey Price vs. Michal Neuvirth
Jets at Lightning: Ondrej Pavelec vs. Andrei Vasilevskiy
Wild at Blues: Devan Dubnyk vs. Brian Elliott
Devils at Coyotes:Cory Schneider vs. Mike Smith
Flames at Avalanche: Karri Ramo vs. Semyon Varlamov
Predators at Kings: Pekka Rinne vs. Jonathan Quick
Jets’ coach Paul Maurice said the club expects to know more about Myers’ injury by Tuesday when he is checked out in Winnipeg.
“Some injuries take a few days before they settle down and before you can get a real good handle on where he’ll be going forward,” said Maurice per the Winnipeg Sun’s Ken Wiebe.
Postma has been a healthy scratch in 27 consecutive games dating back to Jan. 8.
“Obviously it’s a tough one to go through, not only physically but mentally,” said Postma of being a scratch. “Getting that opportunity to be back in the lineup is awesome and I’m excited to be part of it.
“A big part of this game is confidence. Some days you have it, some you don’t. I have to have confidence in myself, know I’m here for a reason.”
The 26-year-old has two goals and six points to go along with a plus-2 rating while averaging 13:55 in ice time in 41 games this season.
He is expected to begin Saturday’s game paired with Mark Stuart.
The 26-year-old was on a one-year, $550,000 deal and set to become a restricted free agent after this season.
Florida acquired Kampfer along with Andrew Yogan from the New York Rangers for Joey Crabb in October.
“Since we acquired Steven in October, he has been a welcome addition to our organization,” said Panthers’ GM Dale Tallon. “He has worked extremely hard since his recall and has fit very well into our line-up, contributing both offensively and defensively.
“Steven is most deserving of this contract extension and we look forward to his continued contributions to our club.”
Kampfer has a goal and three helpers to go along with a minus-3 rating while averaging 17:58 in ice time in 18 games with the Panthers this season.
He has also appeared in 42 AHL games with the San Antonio Rampage registering eight goals and 19 points.
Few teams in the NHL need points right now more than Florida and Winnipeg. The Panthers and Jets are key squads in the Eastern and Western Wild Card races respectively, so given the importance of this contest it was appropriately close. However, Florida ultimately squeaked by with a 4-2 victory.
Jonathan Huberdeau and Jaromir Jagr led the Panthers with two points each, but the hero tonight was 19-year-old Aleksander Barkov who scored the game-winning goal at 16:07 of the third period.
Nick Bjugstad helped himself to his 24th marker of 2014-15 by firing on an empty Jets net with less than a minute left in regulation time.
The Jets, which held the second Wild Card spot going into tonight’s action, desperately needed a win tonight with the defending champion Los Angeles Kings on their heels. However, the missed points might prove to be just the tip of the iceberg. The Jets also lost defenseman Tyler Myers after he crashed into the post and then boards.
Winnipeg head coach Paul Maurice didn’t update Myers’ condition following the game, per the Winnipeg Sun’s Ken Wiebe.
For Florida these two points help, but the Panthers’ situation is getting desperate. They’re chasing Boston for the second Wild Card spot and remain six points behind with just 15 games left. Meanwhile, the Senators are only one point back of Florida after Ottawa earned its ninth win in 11 games.