Pekka Rinne

Goalie Nods: Hamburglar to make third straight start

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All the latest from the blue paint…

Ottawa sticks with Andrew Hammond

Ottawa is seven points back in the battle for a Wild Card spot with just 15 games remaining in its schedule. Under those desperate circumstances, the Senators are putting their fate in the hands of 27-year-old rookie Andrew Hammond. Given that Hammond hasn’t allowed more than two goals in any of his 11 appearances this season, it’s hard to fault Senators coach Dave Cameron for his desire to ride the hot hand.

The Senators will be challenged by the Philadelphia Flyers, which are coming off of a 7-2 victory over Detroit on Saturday. Steve Mason played in that contest, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see former Senators goalie Ray Emery start to provide Mason with a breather.

Elsewhere…

Panthers at Rangers: Dan Ellis will probably start for Florida while Cam Talbot has been confirmed for New York.

Canes at Blue Jackets: No word yet on Carolina, but there’s a good chance it will be Anton Khudobin after Cam Ward played Saturday. Sergei Bobrovsky will get the nod for Columbus.

Blues at Stars: Jake Allen will start for St. Louis. Nothing’s confirmed for Dallas, but it will likely be Kari Lehtonen.

Bruins at Capitals: Bruins coach Claude Julien wouldn’t reveal Sunday’s starter, but Braden Holtby will probably play for Washington.

Preds at Ducks: Nothing’s confirmed, but it will likely be starters Pekka Rinne and Frederik Andersen between the pipes.

Preds top Kings, set stage for West showdown with Ducks

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The Nashville Predators have been struggling lately, yet after beating the Los Angeles Kings 2-1, they’re now back on top of the Central Division and Western Conference. Sunday’s game will determine if Nashville even makes it out of the weekend with that conference lead, however.

Jeff Carter scored the game’s first goal in the first period. The Predators weren’t able to find the net until the final frame, yet they beat Jonathan Quick in rapid succession, scoring two goals in less than a minute and a half to win 2-1.

After a troubling six-game losing streak (not to mention dropping eight of 10), the Predators have now won two of the first three games on their four-game road trip, which ends tomorrow against the Ducks in Anaheim.

Pekka Rinne was sharp in the game, which happened to represent his 200th career win.

That now stands as a clear match to temporarily hold the top spot in the West.

Technically, Nashville has the No. 1 spot in the West, as both teams have identical 43-20-7 records but the Preds have two more regulation/overtime wins. It won’t really matter tomorrow, though, as the victor will at least briefly stand alone in the West.

To some, that top spot may just be a curse in disguise … at least if the Kings grab the final wild card spot.

A lot can change in that regard, especially since this loss leaves Los Angeles outside of the two wild card spots. It’s probably easiest just to take an updated look at the West race, via NHL.com’s standings:

source:

The Colorado Avalanche beat the Calgary Flames in regulation while the Minnesota Wild and Winnipeg Jets held serve with wins to keep the playoff picture more or less in place. The basic takeaway is that it could be a very competitive battle for those final spots, not to mention seeding with the heavyweight teams.

Goalie Nods: Rangers’ Skapski gets second NHL start

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Skapski starts vs. Sabres

Mackenzie Skapski will make his second career NHL start tonight as the New York Rangers visit the Buffalo Sabres. The 20-year-old got his first NHL win with a 24 save performance defeating the Sabres 3-1 on Feb. 20. Skapski was 12-7-3 to go along with a .914 save percentage and a 2.38 in 24 AHL games prior to being recalled.

Anders Lindback gets the nod for Buffalo.

Elsewhere…

Blackhawks at Sharks: Corey Crawford vs. Antti Niemi

Leafs at Canucks: Jonathan Bernier vs. Eddie Lack

Panthers at Hurricanes: Dan Ellis vs. Cam Ward

Canadiens at Islanders: Carey Price vs. Michal Neuvirth

Jets at Lightning: Ondrej Pavelec vs. Andrei Vasilevskiy

Wild at Blues: Devan Dubnyk vs. Brian Elliott

Devils at Coyotes:Cory Schneider vs. Mike Smith

Flames at Avalanche: Karri Ramo vs. Semyon Varlamov

Predators at Kings: Pekka Rinne vs. Jonathan Quick

Preds descent continues as Sharks’ Niemi earns 35-save shutout

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After being one of the league’s top teams for most of the season, the Nashville Predators seem to be falling apart in the 11th hour. Their latest setback came in the form of a 2-0 loss to the San Jose Sharks.

San Jose goaltender Antti Niemi stopped all 35 Predators shots to earn his fifth shutout of the season. San Jose has gone 4-1 this month and Niemi has played a significant part in that with a 1.48 GAA and .956 save percentage in March.

Pekka Rinne was solid between the Predators’ pipes, but Tomas Hertl found the back of the net with the man advantage late in the second period to break the scoreless tie.

Tommy Wingels scored an empty-net goal to make it 2-0 with less than a minute left in regulation.

Between Winnipeg losing and Los Angeles winning tonight, the Sharks are now three points behind in the battle for the second Wild Card spot. Their journey to the playoffs is about to get even more challenging though as they’ll face Chicago on Saturday before beginning a seven-game road trip.

Nashville has now lost seven of its last eight games and the one exception was an overtime victory against the lowly Arizona Coyotes. Thanks to St. Louis’ victory tonight, Nashville is no longer in control of the Central Division’s top seed. Instead, if the playoffs were to start today, the slumping Predators would be up against the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round.

As is the case with San Jose, the Predators schedule isn’t going to get any easier in the near future. They’ll complete their road trip with games against Los Angeles and Anaheim on Saturday and Sunday respectively before hosting the red hot Minnesota Wild Tuesday night.

Goalie Nods: Hutchinson gets a sixth straight start

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Michael Hutchinson gets the nod in Nashville

Michael Hutchinson will look to right the ship tonight in Nashville. The Jets’ goaltender allowed three goals on 17 shots in a loss to the Senators on Wednesday. Hutchinson has lost three of his last five games while posting a 2.57 GAA and .906 save percentage. The Jets have not won in Nashville this season and will look to avoid a third straight loss to the Preds.

Pekka Rinne, who has lost four in a row, gets the nod for Nashville.

Elsewhere…

Blues at Leafs: Brian Elliott vs. Jonathan Bernier

Stars at Lightning: Jhonas Enroth vs. Andrei Vasilevskiy

Islanders at Panthers: Michal Neuvirth vs. Dan Ellis

Sabres at Capitals: Anders Lindback (unconfirmed) vs. Braden Holtby

Avalanche at Blue Jackets: Semyon Varlamov vs. Curtis McElhinney

Canadiens at Coyotes: Carey Price vs. Mike Smith

Penguins at Kings: Marc-Andre Fleury (unconfirmed) vs. Jonathan Quick (unconfirmed).

Canucks at Sharks: Eddie Lack vs. Antti Niemi