Michal Neuvirth

Goalie nods: Ramo shrugs off trade talk, will start versus Rangers

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News and notes from around the crease…

Ramo goes at MSG

Karri Ramo will get the start in goal tonight when Calgary takes on the Rangers in New York, and knows this opportunity — getting the nod ahead of Jonas Hiller, that is — could be viewed as a potential showcase for a trade.

Not that the pending UFA is letting it distract him.

“It’s not up to me,” Ramo said, per the Calgary Herald. “Maybe some players are affected by this, when they are going to decide where they want to go.

“All I can do is to play my best, work hard, and if it happens, it happens.”

There are rumblings around Ramo, and with good reason. He’s unrestricted come July 1, and it stands to reason he’s not in Calgary’s future plans — Hiller is under contract for one more year at $4.5M and the club is very high on 23-year-old Joni Ortio, an AHL All-Star this season who went 4-1-0 with a 1.98 GAA and .931 save percentage in a five-game NHL cameo earlier this year.

Calgary also has a history of flipping goalie depth at the deadline — last year, the Flames sent Reto Berra to Colorado in exchange for a second-round pick.

It remains to be seen if Ramo would garner similar interest on the open market. The 28-year-old’s numbers on the year aren’t great — 9-5-1, .904 save percentage, 2.69 GAA — but he could be seen as an upgrade at the backup position for certain teams.

That said, he would be an expensive option with his $2.75M cap hit.

(Also, no word yet on who’ll start for the Rangers.)

Elsewhere…

Canucks at Bruins: Eddie Lack for Vancouver, Tuukka Rask likely for Boston.

Coyotes at Isles: Mike Smith vs. Chad Johnson

Flyers at ‘Canes: Rob Zepp vs. Cam Ward

Sabres at Jackets: Michal Neuvirth vs. Anton Forsberg

Stars at Jets: Michael Hutchinson for Winnipeg, Jhonas Enroth likely for Dallas

Oilers at Wild: Devan Dubnyk for Minnesota, no word yet on an Edmonton starter.

Avs at Preds: Nothing yet from either team.

Habs at Blues: Carey Price vs. Jake Allen

Panthers at ‘Hawks: Scott Darling for Chicago, no word yet on a Florida starter.

Wings at Kings: Jonas Gustavsson for Detroit, no word yet on a L.A. starter.

Nashville wins, but Neuvirth is making Buffalo pesky

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The Buffalo Sabres haven’t been that much better as a team lately – at least as far as any reasonable stat goes – but Michal Neuvirth is on such a hot run that it’s not as safe to write them off as an easy win.

Yes, the Nashville Predators won 2-1 via a shootout on Sunday, but they had to sweat this one thanks almost entirely to Neuvirth’s efforts. They trailed for most of the third period until Mike Ribeiro was the only Predator who could thwart Neuvirth in regulation (and on the power play, to boot).

Overall, Neuvirth stopped 37 out of 38 shots. While he’s still not really winning, just look at what the 26-year-old goalie’s done in February:

1-3-2 record, .944 save percentage, 1.93 GAA.

One almost wonders if Neuvirth might just play himself out of Buffalo, as his strong work may just be a threat to what many believe is a tank job.

In other words, there’s at least some room for concern that the Sabres’ bid for a guaranteed top-two pick could even hit a wall:

Agent: No extension talks between Sabres and Neuvirth

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There have been no discussions for a new contract between Buffalo and pending UFA goalie Michal Neuvirth, player agent Patrick Stefan told PHT on Friday.

Neuvirth, 26, assumed the Sabres’ No. 1 gig following Jhonas Enroth’s trade to Dallas and has been the goalie of record ever since. Over that stretch, the Czech netminder — who’s in the last of a two-year, $5 million deal — has played very well, allowing just five goals on 103 shots (.951 save percentage) while earning high praise from onlookers:

Neuvirth’s numbers on the year remain unimpressive — 4-15-2, .310 GAA, .913 save percentage — though his playing opportunities were limited earlier in the year with Enroth in the fold.

Looking ahead, it’ll be interesting to see if Sabres GM Tim Murray opts to begin negotiations, as the current state of Buffalo’s goaltending behind Neuvirth and Anders Lindback (another pending UFA) is murky. Matt Hackett, 24, and Nathan Lieuwen, 23, could still turn into NHL-caliber netminders, but they’re not there yet; the club’s three most recent draftees (Linus Ullmark, Cal Petersen, Jonas Johansson) don’t project to be ready anytime soon.

As for heading to free agency… Neuvirth would be one of the youngest and most intriguing UFAs on the market, and could probably garner more interest than, say, Antti Niemi or Viktor Fasth. Problem is, this projects to be a buyer’s market for goalies and there aren’t many starting opportunities available.

Gionta gets 500th point as Sabres top Flyers in SO

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The Boston Bruins’ recent slide has created an opening for teams trailing in the Eastern Conference playoff race, but Philadelphia hasn’t been able to capitalize on that. Tonight was another example as the Flyers suffered a 3-2 shootout loss to the NHL-worst Buffalo Sabres.

Sabres goaltender Michal Neuvirth was superb as he stopped 36 of 38 Flyers shots. He also had a strong game against Philadelphia on Sunday, but in that case he wasn’t rewarded for his efforts as Buffalo suffered a 2-1 loss. Still, he’s kicked out 98 of 103 shots over a three-game stretch, which is good for a .951 save percentage.

“For a young goaltender trying to establish himself as a number one, the difference makers, that’s how you’ve got to be,” Sabres coach Ted Nolan said, per the team’s Twitter feed.

This was a big night for Brian Gionta too as he found the back of the net early in the second period to earn his 500th career point in 821 games.

Brian Flynn netted the winner in the shootout.

Philadelphia has only won two of its last seven contests. It has earned four consolation points over those five losses, but the Flyers haven’t gained nearly as much ground as they could have over Boston’s recent five-game slump. Instead the Florida Panthers are in a better position to overtake Boston.

Goalie nods: Canadian Olympians square off as Price faces Luongo in Montreal

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A couple of Olympic gold-medal winners will be between the pipes tonight in Montreal, where the Canadiens’ Carey Price will be staring down the Bell Centre ice at the Panthers’ Roberto Luongo.

Both Canadian netminders are enjoying excellent seasons. Price is a serious Hart Trophy candidate, while Luongo has helped keep Florida in the playoff race with a .920 save percentage in 46 appearances.

With a win, the Panthers would move to within one point of the Bruins for the final wild-card spot in the East.

So let’s hear those “Go Habs Go” chants, Boston sports fans!

Elsewhere…

Jaroslav Halak will look to rebound from a shaky performance versus the Rangers when the Islanders host the Predators, who are likely to go with Pekka Rinne.

Cam Talbot for the Rangers versus Ryan Miller for the Canucks.

Curtis McElhinney for the Blue Jackets versus Marc-Andre Fleury for the Penguins.

Ondrej Pavelec will see his first action in a week when the Jets visit Washington to take on Braden Holtby and the Capitals.

Michal Neuvirth for the Sabres versus Ray Emery for the Flyers.

Antti Niemi for the Sharks versus Kari Lehtonen (likely) for the Stars.