Ryan Miller

After ‘nightmare’ start for Markstrom, Canucks face goaltending conundrum

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Four shots.

Three goals.

And that was the end of Jacob Markstrom’s season debut for the Vancouver Canucks, who went on to lose 6-2 at home to San Jose on Tuesday.

Markstrom only lasted 7:45 before Eddie Lack had to come off the bench, the latter’s night of rest quickly canceled.

“Not the start I wanted or the team wanted, and I’ve got to be better than that,” said Markstrom, per The Province. “I wanted all three goals back. It’s tough right now and I’m very disappointed in myself. It’s going to be a tough night but tomorrow is a new day. It was kind of a nightmare but it happens and you’ve got to refocus.”

When the 25-year-old next gets a chance is uncertain. Vancouver’s number one, Ryan Miller, could be out until the playoffs. Assuming the Canucks even make the playoffs, that is. Their cushion is down to three points after last night’s action.

Looking ahead, Vancouver has 14 more games in the month of March, including two sets of back-to-backs on Mar. 21-22 and 30-31.

Can Lack hold out until those back-to-backs? It would mean playing the next seven or eight in a row, on top of the six straight in which he’s already appeared, either as a starter or reliever.

If not, what can they expect of Markstrom after what happened against the Sharks?

“A game like that, he just has to forget about it,” said coach Willie Desjardins. “You get off to the wrong start and everything goes bad. The next time he’s got to bounce back and have a good one. Sometimes, you need to reset a bit and think about it. I just think it’s like a pitcher in baseball. You can have a Cy Young winner and sometimes he doesn’t have a good day. What does that mean? It means when his rotation comes up again, he goes again and I expect him to play well — that’s what I expect out of our goalies.”

Vancouver’s next game is Thursday in Arizona.

Goalie nods: Markstrom makes season debut for Canucks

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All the latest from the blue paint…

Vancouver goes with Markstrom

There’ll be plenty of eyes on the crease in Vancouver tonight as Jacob Markstrom makes his season debut against the Sharks.

Markstrom, a former touted prospect with Florida that came to the Canucks as part of the Roberto Luongo trade, has spent all of this season in AHL Utica and revived his career, going 17-7-2 with a 1.95 GAA and .932 save percentage, earning a spot in the All-Star Game.

Markstrom was recalled last week after Ryan Miller went down to injury, and served as Eddie Lack’s backup. Tonight, he’ll play in his first NHL game since April of 2014.

No word yet on who’ll start for San Jose. Alex Stalock played last night and shut out the Habs, so the Sharks could turn to Antti Niemi.

Elsewhere…

Preds at Devils: Carter Hutton (probable) vs. Cory Schneider

Flames at Flyers: Karri Ramo vs. Steve Mason

Caps at Jackets: Braden Holtby vs. Sergei Bobrovsky

Sabres at Bolts: Anders Lindback vs. Ben Bishop

Leafs at Panthers: Jonathan Bernier vs. Roberto Luongo

Sens at Wild: Andrew Hammond vs. Devan Dubnyk (probable)

Isles at Stars: Jaroslav Halak vs. Kari Lehtonen (probable)

Ducks at Coyotes: Frederik Andersen (probable) vs. Mike Smith

Kings at Oilers: Jonathan Quick (probable) vs. Ben Scrivens (probable)

Sabres’ Chris Stewart is eager to play postseason hockey

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Chris Stewart came to the Buffalo Sabres from St. Louis as part of the Ryan Miller trade a year ago today. He doesn’t regret his tenure with Buffalo, but given that the Sabres are sitting in the NHL basement and his contract set to expire this summer, a trade to a contender wouldn’t upset him.

“If it does happen, I’m chomping at the bit,” Stewart told the Buffalo News’ Mike Harrington.

The prospect of veterans being traded hasn’t been a taboo subject in Buffalo. Sabres coach Ted Nolan tried to use the possibility of being dealt as a motivational tool earlier this month.

“Maybe somebody will see you and want you,” Nolan suggested to his players at the time.

Stewart has 11 goals and 25 points in 61 games while playing for the offensively anemic Sabres. The 27-year-old forward comes with a $4.15 million annual salary.

It’s believed that Boston recently expressed an interest in Stewart’s services, per ESPN, but Buffalo’s reported asking price of a second-round pick and a prospect might be a roadblock.

Are the Sharks looking to go young in goal? If so, here are some options

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Interesting tidbit today on the future of San Jose’s goaltending from Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, appearing on Edmonton’s CHED 630 radio:

“I think they’re looking for a 25-year-old goalie who can play for a few years for them. They’re going to let [Antti] Niemi’s contract run out. [Alex] Stalock they just don’t believe has grabbed the net.

“I think they’re in the market for a guy who can play net for them for a few years. I would guess that’s as high on their list of things to do as anything else.”

Niemi, 31, is a UFA on July 1 and it sounds increasingly unlikely he’ll return to the Bay Area. Stalock, 27, will be a UFA after the 2015-16 campaign.

All of which leads to some interesting speculation about who could be in goal for the Sharks next year — and beyond.

In terms of goalies that are 25 at the time of writing, Chicago’s Antti Raanta, Vancouver’s Jacob Markstrom and Los Angeles’ Martin Jones jump to mind. Raanta appears to be in play, based on this latest report from the Chicago Sun-Times, as Scott Darling looks to have passed him on the organizational depth chart.

Markstrom, currently enjoying a bounce-back campaign in AHL Utica, could be viewed as expendable by the Canucks, who also have Eddie Lack — who, it should be mentioned, only just turned 27 and has one year left on his deal — and Ryan Miller, signed through 2017.

Jones, who’s served as Jonathan Quick’s backup in L.A. for each of the last two seasons, has great career statistics — .925 save percentage, 1.95 GAA, seven shutouts — but those numbers have come in a small sample size: 30 NHL appearances, and just 27 starts.

Moving out of the 25-year-old window ever so slightly, there are others to consider.

Like 26-year-old Jonathan Bernier, for example. At this point, it’s safe to assume no Leaf is safe as Toronto goes through a full-scale rebuild and, what’s more, Bernier’s a proven commodity, having appeared in nearly 100 games over the last two seasons.

Michal Neuvirth, also 26, could be a candidate. He’s been a No. 1 before (in Washington) and has really turned in on lately for Buffalo, posting a .942 save percentage in eight games in February (numbers that coincided with Jhonas Enroth being shipped off to Dallas.)

So, more than a few options here for the Sharks. And what makes their search really interesting is that, as Friedman notes, they’ll have money to play with this summer — at a time where other clubs could be hamstrung by a salary cap that might not rise all that much, if at all.

“They have a lot of cap room,” he explained. “And I could see them, in the summer, taking a look at some of these teams that need to clear room and saying, ‘What are you going to do for us?’”

Sabres GM Murray: I got a trade call on a player ‘I never thought I would get’

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If David Clarkson can get traded, anybody can get traded.

That message was delivered on Thursday and re-iterated shortly thereafter, when Sabres GM Tim Murray told WGR 550 Radio one of the trade calls he recently received caught him completely off guard.

“I had a call like that today that I never thought I would get on a guy,” Murray explained. “He actually said, ‘Can you believe I’m calling you on this guy?’

“I said, ‘No, I can’t. But let’s talk.'”

It’s easy to see why someone would ring up Murray with this kind of offer, as the Buffalo GM has established himself as one that’s willing to orchestrate a big move. Since coming aboard, Murray has pulled off two major deals — the Ryan Miller-to-St. Louis trade, and the Evander Kane blockbuster — and a series of smaller, but still significant moves, including Matt Moulson to Minnesota and Jaroslav Halak to Washington.

It’s also worth noting that, as the rental market becomes depleted with all these pre-deadline deals, the potential for actual “hockey trades” rises. There’s also the potential for names that haven’t been bandied about to surface by Monday, like the one Murray discussed.

“You’re supposed to have an idea of who you may be dealing with because of previous conversations, but you never know,” he explained. “Some team could come out of the blue, whether that’s because of an injury or your guy happens to be playing very well and their opinion changed on them.

“There’s multiple reasons why you might get a call from somebody that you hadn’t previously thought was a fit for a guy.”