New York Rangers

Goalie nods: Price versus Rinne in potential Vezina showdown


All the latest from the blue paint…

Elite battle at Bridgestone

Two goalies most have penciled in as Vezina candidates will square off tonight in Nashville when Carey Price and the Habs take on Pekka Rinne and the Preds.

Price, widely considered to be the Vezina favorite, has been nothing short of brilliant all season long and heads into tonight’s action leading the NHL in wins (40), save percentage (.938), GAA (1.86) and shutouts (nine). The 27-year-old’s dominance has led to serious discussion about Hart Trophy consideration as league MVP.

Rinne, meanwhile, has been solid as well. He’s second to Price in both GAA (2.09) and wins (38), sitting fifth overall in save percentage (.927). What’s interesting about the two, however, is that Price has never been named a Vezina finalist over the course of his seven-year career; Rinne, who’s in his ninth NHL campaign, has been a finalist twice and fell just short of capturing the Vezina in 2011, when he finished a few votes shy of eventual winner Tim Thomas.

So with Price and Rinne likely to both be finalists this year, the conversation turns to who’ll be the third nominee. Right now, it seems like a three-horse race between New Jersey’s Cory Schneider, Washington’s Braden Holtby and Minnesota’s Devan Dubnyk.


Wild at Isles: Devan Dubnyk vs. Jaroslav Halak

Kings at Rangers: Jonathan Quick (probable) vs. Cam Talbot

Blues at Pens: Jake Allen vs. Marc-Andre Fleury

Ducks at Jackets: John Gibson vs. Sergei Bobrovsky

Coyotes at Wings: Mike Smith vs. Jimmy Howard

Panthers at Bolts: Roberto Luongo vs. Andrei Vasilevskiy

Jets at Canucks: Michael Hutchinson vs. Eddie Lack

‘Hawks talking contract, facing deadline with NCAA standout Paliotta


Contract negotiations are underway between Chicago and Vermont d-man Mike Paliotta, the ‘Hawks third-round pick at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.

“We’ve had conversations,” Paliotta’s agent, Jordan Neumann, told ESPN. “I think everything is progressing. We’re listening to everything the Blackhawks say, and Michael and his family are giving signing with the Blackhawks a tremendous amount of thought.”

Paliotta, 21, just wrapped a four-year career at Vermont in style, posting a career-high 36 points while being named to the Hockey East second-team. He’s got good size — 6-foot-4, 205 pounds — and ‘Hawks GM Stan Bowman is high on his ability, saying he’d like Paliotta to turn pro right now.

Just one catch, though.

Paliotta hasn’t signed yet and is getting closer and closer to Aug. 15, which is the deadline for Chicago to sign him to an entry-level deal. If this situation sounds familiar, well, it is — Chicago underwent a similar scenario with 2010 first-rounder Kevin Hayes, who played out his four full years at Boston College before passing on signing his ELC with the ‘Hawks. That allowed him to become an unrestricted free agent, at which time Hayes signed with the New York Rangers.

Like Hayes, Paliotta is aware of the depth within the Chicago organization, something that could play a factor in whether or not he signs. Earlier this season, the ‘Hawks jettisoned Adam Clendening to Vancouver — who was taken in the same draft year as Paliotta — because of their logjam of right-handed defensemen prospects (Paliotta is a righty.)

“The Blackhawks are obviously a great organization,” Paliotta said in January, per ESPN. “They have a lot of depth. That’s what makes them successful. They’ve obviously developed a ton of great players.

“Anywhere you go, it’s going to be challenging. You’re going to have to beat out guys.”

Lundqvist expects to return to Rangers lineup this weekend


Henrik Lundqvist skated with teammates this morning ahead of tonight’s game against the Kings and, afterward, told reporters he planned on playing this week.

Good timing, as the Rangers have plenty of opportunities for him to draw back in.

The Blueshirts will play four times over the next six nights: tonight at home against the Kings, Thursday in Ottawa, Saturday in Boston and then Sunday back at MSG, against the Capitals.

Per the New York Daily News, Lundqvist sounds to be targeting a weekend return. If that’s the case, two interesting options present themselves: 1) return Saturday against the Bruins at TD Garden in the first of a back-to-back, or 2) let Cam Talbot face the B’s and return on Sunday in front of the MSG faithful, against Metropolitan Division rival Washington.

Regardless of return date, there will be ample opportunities for Lundqvist to get back into full game shape prior to the playoffs. After this weekend, New York has seven games remaining in the regular season — four road, three home — which includes two pretty good tests against potential Western Conference playoff teams in the Jets (game is in Winnipeg on Mar. 31) and the Wild (game’s in Minnesota on April. 2.)

Lundqvist hasn’t played since Feb. 2 due to a vascular injury. The Rangers have thrived in his absence, going 17-3-3 and emerging as the favorite to capture their first Presidents’ Trophy since 1994.

NHL on NBCSN: Kings’ crucial road trip continues tonight in New York


NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign tonight as the New York Rangers host the L.A. Kings at Madison Square Garden, starting at 7:00 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game and pre-show online.

The New York Rangers will look to add to their lead in the Presidents’ Trophy race Monday night when they play host to the L.A. Kings in the second and final meeting between last season’s Stanley Cup final participants.

New York (46-18-7) won the only other meeting between the two clubs 4-3 on Jan. 8.

The Rangers enter the game winners of seven of their last eight games while Kings (35-23-14) snapped a two-game skid with a 3-1 win over the New Jersey Devils Monday night.

Tonight is the second of a five-game road trip, which could make or break the Kings’ playoff aspirations.

The Kings currently sit outside the playoff picture trailing the Calgary Flames by two points for the third seed in the Pacific Division. L.A. is four points back of the Winnipeg Jets for the second wild card spot in the Western Conference.

L.A. is looking to avoid being the first team since the 2006-07 Carolina Hurricanes to miss the playoffs the year after winning the Stanley Cup.

Mike Richards returned to the Kings’ lineup for the first time since Jan. 21 on Monday. The 30-year-old was a minus-1 in 11:41 of ice time in the win. Monday also marked the return of Alec Martinez to L.A.’s lineup. Martinez had been sidelined since Feb. 7 due to a concussion.

The Rangers are coming off a 7-2 thumping of the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday night at the garden.

New York is 16-4-5 against the Western Conference and 11-1-1 against the Pacific Division.

The Rangers are 17-3-3 in 23 games since starting goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was sidelined due to a vascular injury. Cam Talbot is 15-3-3 with a 2.12 goals-against average in Lundqvist’s absence.

Jonathan Quick made 19 saves against the Devils last night. He is 6-3-2 with a 1.86 GAA and two shutouts while making 11 straight starts. Quick owns a 1.97 GAA while winning six of nine meetings with New York, including spring’s Stanley Cup final.

Could Vesey be to Nashville what Kreider was to the Rangers?


Over at TSN, Bob McKenzie notes that Harvard sniper and Preds draftee Jimmy Vesey — who led the country in goals this year, with 31 in 36 games — is being watched closely by Nashville GM David Poile.

Poile isn’t keeping tabs solely with an eye for the future, however. Some NHL GMs told McKenzie that Vesey is “NHL-ready,” and it sounds like Poile is of the same mind.

“Jimmy is a player we believe we could put in our lineup right now,” Poile said. “And the way we’re playing right now, yes, we could really use him.”

Vesey’s currently ineligible to join the Preds, but that could change on Saturday should Harvard lose its opening-round NCAA tournament game against Nebraska-Omaha. If that happens, the “Vesey Watch” will intensify, especially in Nashville, where the Preds — who have struggled a bit offensively of late — are headed back to the playoffs for the first time in three years.

And three years ago was, ironically enough, when Chris Kreider broke onto the scene.

In 2012, Kreider on passed returning for his final year at Boston College to join the Rangers in time for the Stanley Cup playoffs. Like Vesey, Kreider was considered one of college hockey’s most NHL-ready players and, like Nashville, the Rangers occasionally had issues on offense — under then-head coach John Tortorella, the Blueshirts were known mostly for their lunch bucket approach and shot-blocking ability.

They were also highly keen on adding Kreider, and Kreider showed why in the playoffs. At 20, made his NHL debut in Game 3 of New York’s opening-round series against Ottawa and went on to become a valuable performer, finishing tied with Marian Gaborik for third on the team in goals (with five) while breaking a 59-year-old record by scoring the most playoff goals in NHL history before making his regular-season debut.

So… could Vesey do something similar in Nashville this year?

It’d be an awfully tough act to follow. While he has decent size — 6-foot-1, 195 pounds — Vesey isn’t the physical presence Kreider was (and still is.) What’s more, Vesey might not want to leave one of the most prestigious educational institutions in the world.

“It’s Harvard, right? We know that,” Poile explained. “We’ve been in close contact [with Vesey’s parents and family advisor Peter Fish].

“Even [if Harvard’s season were to end this Saturday night with a loss in South Bend] we know that [Vesey turning pro] may not be until next season or next year. He’s a very good player but he also a very smart kid, a good student, so we’ll just take it one day at a time and see what happens.”

This promises to be a really interesting situation to monitor moving forward. If Poile truly believes Vesey could help his club in the playoffs, history suggests he’ll be aggressive in trying to get him on board — this is the same GM, remember, that made the bold move of bringing Alex Radulov over from the KHL with just a handful of games left in the regular season.