Markstrom starts Panthers’ home opener

The Florida Panthers will probably have plenty of people in the building for their home opener Friday because they’re playing the Pittsburgh Penguins. The bad news for Jonathan Markstrom: they’re playing the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The big Swede is starting tonight in part because Tim Thomas (groin) is still not ready to go, according to the Miami Herald’s George Richards.

The Panthers still hold out a lot of hope for Markstrom, 23, to become the team’s goalie of the future.

His start in the NHL has been bumpy (10-20-0 with a middling .903 save percentage in 34 GP), although the team in front of him has often been cratering.

Pittsburgh isn’t likely to make life easy for a team coming off of a humilating 7-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning, but this would be the kind of night where Markstrom could start to back up that hype.

If nothing else, maybe he can avoid being pulled?

Stars’ experiments begin with Peverley on top line

1 Comment

It appears that Rich Peverley has taken Erik Cole’s spot on the Dallas Stars top line – at least for now – according to the Dallas Morning News.

The move spreads the wealth in Dallas’ offense, with a Ray Whitney – Cody Eakin – Alex Chiasson second line staying intact while Cole joins Shawn Horcoff and Antoine Roussel as the third combo. Peverley was even on the first power-play unit, too.

Head coach Lindy Ruff seems like he’s fond of the mix …

“I think it kind of balances the size out on the lines,” Ruff said. “I think it’s a look we are going to take a peek at.”

… Yet he’s also open to more experiments, especially away from the comfort of home.

“I think on the road, we’d like to see how players play,” Ruff said. “We haven’t played a road game for real yet. The road is different monster, and I want to see what lines are going to compete to be the better lines on the road.”

The Stars play three road games in a row and five of their next six away, so they’ll get a good glimpse of how their players respond to that “monster.” That trip begins tonight against Winnipeg (for more on that, click here).

Stars kick off Central Division tour vs. struggling Jets

Friday’s Central Division matchup presents two teams in very different states of mind in the Dallas Stars and Winnipeg Jets.

The Jets host the Stars one night after the Minnesota Wild obliterated them in the faceoff circle. Winnipeg bench boss Claude Noel didn’t sugarcoat the Jets’ inability to control the puck lately, as the Winnipeg Free Press reported on Thursday.

“We don’t start (with the puck) so we’re always checking, chasing it down,” Noel said. “Regardless of which end, we’re always checking.”

While the Jets might be a little bleary-eyed on a back-to-back that’s causing some soul-searching, the Stars may argue that they’re still searching for their identity.

Dallas hasn’t played a game since Oct. 5 and Friday marks the Stars’ first game against a Western Conference team in 2013-14.

If it wasn’t obvious enough that they’re seeking a strong start, this also begins a three-game tour of the Central Division as they go from Winnipeg tonight to Minnesota on Saturday and Colorado on Tuesday.

Defending Big D points out that Stars owner Tom Gaglardi could be in the building, too, so the Stars obviously want to make a good impression.

Blue Jackets demote Erixon to AHL

The Columbus Blue Jackets demoted defenseman Tim Erixon to the AHL on Friday, calling up forward Ryan Craig in the process. Team Web site reporter Rob Mixer believes that Craig was recalled in part because Matt Calvert might be injured.

Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen told PHT’s Joe Yerdon that Erixon, 22, wasn’t convincing management that he was worthy of playing time by his work ethic in practice.

“If you’re not playing, you have to treat practice like your game,” Kekalainen said.

Kekalainen spun it a little differently to the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline, telling him that Erixon “needs to play games.”

Erixon has 49 games of NHL action under his belt so far, including 31 with Columbus last season, so the Blue Jackets are likely hoping that this sends a message to the 2009 first-rounder (23rd overall).

Moulson plays for Isles after birth of child (Update)

1 Comment

Update: He made it on time and will play.

New York Islanders winger Matt Moulson is a game-time decision for Friday’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks with … the birth of his child.

He’s flying to Chicago today after the birth of his son. New York Newsday’s Arthur Staple reports that Brock Nelson will play if Moulson, 29, cannot make it in time.

Moulson is in the middle of a contract year, so 2013-14 is a big year in his life in many ways. Hopefully Moulson isn’t affected by the inevitable loss of sleep, as he could be primed for a big raise as John Tavares’ running mate (and a three-time 30+ goal scorer).