New York Rangers

Jackets prospect Reilly going pro — but maybe not for Columbus

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The saga of Blue Jackets draftee Mike Reilly has taken another turn.

Reilly, a Hobey Baker candidate that Columbus took in the fourth round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, announced he’s leaving the University of Minnesota and will turn pro next season, but played coy as to where he’d sign.

“[I] will not be returning [next season] and will know more after the [World Championships] tournament,” Reilly said, per the Star-Tribune. “I don’t want to talk too much about my situation.

“But I am going to worlds the 25th [of April] and I’m very excited.”

Reilly is expected to be named to Team USA for the Worlds, which will be played in the Czech Republic from May 1-17, allowing him to further stave off a decision about his professional future. If he doesn’t sign with the Jackets before June 1, he becomes an unrestricted free agent and can sign with a different NHL club.

That’s important, because the 21-year-old defenseman is held in high regard. He’s a two-time All-American that, this season, became the first d-man in nearly 20 years to lead the Golden Gophers in scoring. The Jackets want him in the fold, now, and haven’t been shy about expressing as much.

More on that, from the Dispatch:

[Jackets GM Jarmo] Kekalainen and company have tried hard to woo him.

Last spring, they played host to him at Nationwide Arena for the two home playoff games against Pittsburgh. When the Blue Jackets played in St. Paul, Minn., on Jan. 19, Reilly watched the morning skate with Davidson and Kekalainen. When the Blue Jackets traded defenseman James Wisniewski, Kekalainen mentioned Reilly as a player who has a clearer path to an NHL job.

“Mike Reilly is having a great year in Minnesota,” Kekalainen said. “He’s a prospect we believe in, and he’ll be stepping into some big shoes with our organization. We look forward to getting him signed.”

The feelings don’t appear to be mutual, however. Reilly’s repeatedly deflected questions about signing in Columbus and now, Golden Gophers associate head coach Mike Guentzel is following suit.

“I talked to [Reilly] last week when we had our season-ending meetings. Mike is going to sign, it’s just a matter of who he’s going to sign with. He’s got options,” Guentzel told the Star-Tribune. “He’s going to make a decision sometime in May [or June] what he’s going to do.

“He’s 21 and he’s earned that right and opportunity, and he’s in a good situation. I really respect how much Columbus has tried to go after him and I think he’d be in a good situation there, but he has to make the decision that is best for him.”

Should Reilly balk on signing with Columbus and go unrestricted, he’d be following in the footsteps of Kevin Hayes and Justin Schultz, who spurned the teams that drafted them — the Blackhawks and Ducks — to sign with the Rangers and Oilers, respectively.

It’s also worth noting that Reilly’s dad, also named Mike, is a minority owner of the Minnesota Wild, which has led to speculation that the younger Reilly could opt to sign with his hometown team.

Update: As pointed out in several places, Reilly’s coach at the Worlds is (pending formal announcement) Todd Richards — the head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Which could make for an interesting dynamic.

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

You’re welcome, Ottawa — Rangers resting Nash, Zuccarello, and Staal (Updated)

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With the Presidents’ Trophy clinched, the New York Rangers are reportedly giving three of their top players — Rick Nash, Mats Zuccarello, and Marc Staal — the night off tonight.

That’s great news for the Rangers’ opponents, the playoff-hopeful Ottawa Senators, and not-so-great news for the teams the Sens are chasing, like the Bruins and Penguins.

Boston, tied in points with Ottawa but holder of the ROW tie-breaker, plays in Florida tonight. Pittsburgh, just one point up, hosts the Islanders tomorrow.

The Red Wings and Islanders are the two other teams that have yet to clinch playoff spots in the East. Detroit, with a two-point cushion, is in Montreal tonight.

Update:

Related: Breaking down the East bubble after Boston’s big loss

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.

Goalie nods: Oilers start Bachman, look to avoid another Kings blowout

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All the latest from the blue paint…

Bachman returns for Oilers

Richard Bachman will return to the Edmonton net tonight when the Oilers host the playoff-hungry Kings at Rexall.

Bachman, who’s been away from the team following the death of his brother, will look to regain the form shown in his last two starts — a 29-save effort in a 4-1 win over Colorado, and a 29-save shutout in a 4-0 win over Dallas.

But it won’t be easy.

The Kings absolutely crushed the Oilers two games ago, lighting up Ben Scrivens and ECHL recall Tyler Bunz in a 8-2 victory. It marked the first time in five years L.A. scored eight goals in a game, prompting Oilers forward Jordan Eberle to lash out at his team’s performance.

“That was embarrassing,” Eberle said. “They treated us like a junior team. They pushed us around.

“You’re a professional hockey player. You have to be able to push through whatever it is, or there will be guys who will take your spot.”

No word yet on who’ll start for L.A. Jonathan Quick played last night in Vancouver and fared well, stopping 37 of 38 shots in a 2-1 shootout loss.

Elsewhere…

Rangers at Devils: Cam Talbot vs. Cory Schneider

Isles at Flyers: Jaroslav Halak vs. (No Philly starter yet)

Pens at Sens: Marc-Andre Fleury vs. Andrew Hammond

‘Canes at Wings: (No Carolina starter yet) vs. Jimmy Howard

Jets at Blues: Ondrej Pavelec vs. Jake Allen

Wild at ‘Hawks: Devan Dubnyk vs. Corey Crawford

Preds at Avs: (No Nashville starter yet) vs. Semyon Varlamov

Coyotes at Flames: Mike Smith vs. Jonas Hiller