Montreal Canadiens

Bolt of energy: Lightning get Hedman back

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The Tampa Bay Lightning might be hobbling into the playoffs a bit, but one big, important player is back on Thursday night. Victor Hedman will play against the New Jersey Devils tonight, according to the Tampa Bay Times’ Joe Smith.

Hedman is returning from his second troublesome injury of the 2014-15 season, as he’s been sidelined since March 30.

The Lightning have done an admirable job putting together wins even with significant injuries seemingly occurring left and right. Getting Hedman back – maybe even getting both of Tampa Bay’s remaining two games under his belt, depending upon how things shake out – is almost as enormous as the sizable Swede.

Tampa Bay needs some help in chasing Montreal for the Atlantic Division crown. The Habs face the hungry Detroit Red Wings without Tom Gilbert tonight because of an upper-body injury, so consider that another advantage for the Lightning.

Goalie nods: After 39 straight starts, Dubnyk gets a rest

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News and notes from around the crease…

“Duuuuuuubs” takes a break

For the first time since Jan. 15, the Minnesota Wild will start a goalie not named Devan Dubnyk.

Dubnyk, who’s made 39 consecutive starts — one with Arizona, 38 with the Wild — will be dropped from the lineup entirely tonight as Darcy Kuemper will start in goal against Nashville, with Niklas Backstrom backing up.

While kicking back and relaxing, Dubnyk can reflect on what’s been a truly impressive — and borderline unbelievable — bounce-back campaign. He’s 36-13-4 on the year with a 2.04 GAA and .930 save percentage, numbers made even more remarkable given that, last year, he bounced around three different organizations and finished with Montreal’s AHL affiliate in Hamilton.

For the Predators, Pekka Rinne is the likely starter.

Elsewhere…

Sens at Rangers: Andrew Hammond vs. Henrik Lundqvist

‘Canes at Flyers: Cam Ward vs. Ray Emery

Wings at Habs: Jimmy Howard vs. Carey Price

Devils at Bolts: Keith Kinkaid vs. Ben Bishop

Bruins at Panthers: Tuukka Rask (probable) vs. Roberto Luongo

‘Hawks at Blues: Corey Crawford (probable) vs. Jake Allen

Jets at Avs: Ondrej Pavelec vs. Reto Berra

Kings at Flames: Jonathan Quick (probable) vs. Jonas Hiller

Sharks at Oilers: Antti Niemi vs. Laurent Brossoit

Coyotes at Canucks: Mike Smith vs. Eddie Lack

Leafs recall Orr for season finale

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With his contract set to expire and his future in the game uncertain the Toronto Maple Leafs have recalled Colton Orr.

Orr spent the entire season with the American Hockey League’s Toronto Marlies registering four penalty minutes while appearing in 14 games.

An undrafted free agent signing of the Boston Bruins, Orr has appeared in 476 career NHL games with the Bruins, New York Rangers and Leafs registering 24 points and 1,186 penalty minutes.

Orr was waived along with fellow enforcer Frazer McLaren in October.

The Leafs play host to the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night in the season finale.

Given the way the game is headed, it could be Orr’s final NHL game.

Habs rule out Pacioretty after Kulikov hit

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Montreal leading goalscorer Max Pacioretty will miss his first game of the season on Thursday when the Habs host Detroit at the Bell Centre.

Canadiens head coach Michel Therrien made the announcement on Tuesday, 48 hours after Pacioretty exited Sunday’s 4-1 win over Florida after an awkward fall into the boards following a hit from Panthers d-man Dmitry Kulikov:

Kulikov received a two-minute interference minor on the play, and Pacioretty didn’t return to action. Lars Eller moved into his spot on a line with David Desharnais and Devante Smith-Pelly.

Pacioretty, who sits tied for fourth in the NHL with 37 goals this year, will also see his personal ironman streak snapped by missing Thursday’s tilt against the Wings:

Holtby has been the difference for Caps this season

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The Washington Capitals didn’t sit on their hands after missing the playoffs in 2014. They replaced both their general manager and head coach with Brian MacLellan and Barry Trotz respectively. They splurged on free agent defensemen Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik. One thing they didn’t do though was address their goaltending, which was a point of significant uncertainty based on how the 2013-14 campaign played out.

All the same, the Washington Capitals decided to stick with Braden Holtby and only bring in Justin Peters to serve in a supporting role. Their belief in Holtby paid off on Sunday when the Capitals’ netminder turned aside 35 of 36 shots versus Detroit on no rest en route to securing a playoff spot.

“That was an outstanding performance,” Trotz said, per the Washington Post. “Back-to-back in this league against good teams, goalies usually don’t fare very well and he stepped up tonight.”

That wasn’t an isolated incident by any stretch of the imagination. Holtby’s been a big part of Washington’s resurgence this season with a 40-19-10 record, 2.24 GAA, and .922 save percentage in an incredible 71 games. He’s the first goaltender since Pekka Rinne in 2011-12 to reach both the 40-win and 70-game marks. Of course, Rinne was also guided by Trotz and goalie coach Mitch Korn. Among goaltenders that played in at least 70 games in a single season, his GAA is the best since Martin Brodeur in 2007-08.

Holtby’s brilliant season has been overshadowed somewhat by Carey Price’s Hart Trophy bid. In fact, in a campaign where Pekka Rinne has been nearly as dominant as Price and Devan Dubnyk swooped in to reverse the Minnesota Wild’s fortunes, Holtby might not even warrant a Vezina Trophy finalist spot. Nevertheless, Washington’s fortunes this season have been tied to Holtby.

So far that’s been to the Capitals’ benefit. They just have to hope that continues to be the case.

“Great season for him and if we’re going to go somewhere great this spring, we’re going to need a great effort from him for sure,” Niskanen said.