New York Rangers

Struggling St. Louis admits he’s not playing with confidence

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New York Rangers forward Martin St. Louis had a strong first half to the 2014-15 campaign, but he’s been on the decline lately. The 39-year-old hasn’t found the back of the net since Jan. 10 and has just one assist in his last nine games.

“I’m not playing with a lot of confidence right now,” St. Louis conceded, per the New York Post. “I’ve gone through stretches like this before, and it’s not a fun place to be, but fortunately the team is winning.

“Sometimes the game gets hard. Sometimes life gets hard. There’s only one way to get through it, and that’s by keeping your head up and continuing to work.”

St. Louis hasn’t just struggled offensively lately, he also made a key mistake that resulted in a goal from Jarome Iginla last night:

The Colorado Avalanche tied the game at 3-3 shortly after that goal, but the Rangers still went on to win 6-3. However, St. Louis was barely used after that mistake.

“I’m very disappointed with that mistake. You never want to make a mistake that leads to a goal,” St. Louis said. “But I’m going to do whatever it takes to try and get it together.

“The team is winning, so that helps you buy time to find your game.”

He still ranks third on the team with 37 points in 53 contests.

Mrazek or Monster? Wings undecided on backup goalie

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The NHL’s latest three-goalie situation has surfaced in Detroit.

With starting netminder Jimmy Howard (groin) healthy and set to make his return Saturday, the Red Wings are undecided on who should be the backup — Petr Mrazek or Jonas Gustavsson:

While carrying three ‘tenders is never ideal, you can forgive the Wings for taking their time with this decision, as there are arguments to be made for both guys.

Mrazek, 22, is the club’s goalie of the future and performed admirably with Howard and Gustavsson (shoulder) out. The Czech backstopper has gone 13-5-1 this year and while his save percentage (.909) and GAA (2.55) aren’t great, head coach Mike Babcock praised Mrazek’s “moxie” for bouncing back after rough outings.

Gustavsson, 30, is far more experienced and while he’s only appeared in three games this year, he did play extensively last season. “The Monster” went 16-5-4 during the regular season and provided nice relief of Howard in an opening-round playoff loss to Boston, posting a .917 save percentage in two games.

It’d be easy for the Wings to send Mrazek down to the American League, as he wouldn’t require waivers and would get plenty of playing time. Gustavsson, meanwhile, would need waivers and there’s a chance he could be picked up by a team looking for depth in goal (like the Rangers, who are without Henrik Lundqvist for up to a month, and could probably stomach Gustavsson’s $1.85M cap hit.)

But, does Mrazek deserve to stick? He could be ready for a full-time spot in the NHL, having already appeared in over 90 regular season and 30 Calder Cup games during his AHL career.

It’s a question Babcock and GM Ken Holland will need to answer, and soon — because nobody likes carrying three goalies.

Francis: ‘Canes ‘hope to be fairly active’ at trade deadline (Updated)

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Though Carolina has played well of late — 9-4-3 in its last 16 games — the team is still way out of a playoff spot and must make decisions on a number of key assets.

On Friday, GM Ron Francis provided insight to the direction he might take with them:

Not a huge surprise here. Earlier this week, TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported that Carolina had placed Andrej Sekera — a highly-coveted d-man — on the market, after Sekera and the ‘Canes failed to reach common ground on a contract extension. The 28-year-old rearguard, in the last of a four-year, $11 million deal, is reportedly looking for “Marc Staal money” in the neighborhood of $5.5M-$6M annually, which he could get on the open market this summer, meaning he’d probably be a rental for any acquiring team (and, therefore, the ‘Canes will probably be compensated accordingly.)

It’ll also be interesting to see what Francis does with winger Jiri Tlusty. A skill guy with a nose for goal — he’s scored 51 over his last 162 games — Tlusty, like Sekera, is a pending UFA that may or may not have a future in Carolina. Though he’s combined at times to form a dynamic scoring duo with captain Eric Staal, Tlusty has failed to replicate his success from the lockout-shortened ’13 campaign (38 points in 48 games) and could net Carolina a fairly good return in a trade.

Other players Francis could dangle prior to Mar. 2 include Jay McClement, Riley Nash, Tim Gleason and Patrick Dwyer, all of whom are up for new contracts at season’s end.

UPDATE: On cue, here’s TSN’s Bob McKenzie…

Goalie nods: Ducks start Gibson for first time in three months

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All the latest from the blue paint…

Gibson back for Anaheim

John Gibson will make his first start since Oct. 30 when the Ducks take on the ‘Canes in Carolina tonight.

Gibson, who burst onto the scene last year and appeared in four playoff games, started this season with Anaheim but has spent much of the last three months in AHL Norfolk (though he was shelved for a while with injury.)

A recent injury to Frederik Andersen — he’ll miss the next three games while on IR with an upper-body injury — and Ilya Bryzgalov’s spotty play in relief paved the way for the 21-year-old Gibson to make his return; it’ll be interesting to see if he can improve on his numbers from limited work earlier in the season (Gibson is 2-2-0 on the year, with a 2.65 GAA and .915 save percentage.)

For the ‘Canes, Cam Ward gets the start in goal.

Elsewhere…

Leafs at Isles: Jonathan Bernier vs. Jaroslav Halak

Oilers at Habs: Viktor Fasth vs. Dustin Tokarski

Pens at Sens: Thomas Greiss vs. Robin Lehner

Blues at Bolts: Brian Elliott for St. Louis, Ben Bishop likely for Tampa Bay.

Jets at Preds: Pekka Rinne likely for Nashville, no word yet on a Winnipeg starter.

Panthers at Wild: Roberto Luongo vs. Devan Dubyk

Rangers at Avs: Cam Talbot for New York, no word yet on a Colorado starter.

Flames at Kings: Jonas Hiller for Calgary, Jonathan Quick likely for L.A.

Video: Beagle’s three-point night lifts the Caps over the Sharks

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Jay Beagle scored twice and set up Joel Ward’s overtime-winner as the Washington Capitals edged the San Jose Sharks 5-4 Wednesday night.

Beagle now has as many points this season (17) as he did in the past two seasons combined.

With the loss the Sharks picked up just one of a possible six points on their three-game home stand. Washington has now won four of five.

Troy Brouwer and John Carlson had the other Caps goals.

Nicklas Backstrom and Brooks Orpik each had two assists and Braden Holtby made 26 saves in the win.

Brent Burns scored twice in a 22-second span of the second period while Logan Couture and Joe Thornton had the other Sharks goals. Couture also had an assist in the loss passing Dan Boyle for 10th spot on the Sharks’ all-time points list (270).

Patrick Marleu and Matt Nieto each had two assists for the Sharks.

Antti Niemi made 28 saves in the loss.

San Jose won the only other meeting between the two clubs 6-5 in a shootout on Oct. 14.