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For the Florida Panthers, Michael Hutchinson could be the perfect fit

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If the Florida Panthers are in the market for a goaltender — and they are, according to reports  — Dale Tallon might want to give the Winnipeg Jets a call.

The Jets hold the keys to the top goaltender without a job in the NHL this season. His name? Michael Hutchinson (a man feared by Chicago Blackhawks fans).

If one thing has become abundantly clear early in this current NHL season, it’s that organizational goaltender depth is something every team should be grooming.

Many teams have, or are currently, figuring out where they stand in this department. The Vegas Golden Knights have been hardest hit, so much so they had to use an emergency recall on a goaltender still trying to find his way in the Western Hockey League earlier year.

But the likes of Carey Price, Matt Murray and, most recently, Roberto Luongo, have given their respective teams no option but to look within (or claim Antti Niemi off waivers, which two of those three teams have done this year). The Canadiens found relief in Charlie Lindgren and Tristan Jarry has been a stud for the Penguins.

But Luongo’s injury might just force the Panthers in a different direction. James Reimer hasn’t been the model of consistency this season and has failed to take the starter’s reins in Florida and run with them. With Luongo on the shelf for the long-term and the fact that looking within isn’t likely to help in the Sunshine State, perhaps a phone call to Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff could help turn the Panthers’ fortunes.

Hutchinson has been on a tear with the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League, where he ranks first in save percentage with a whopping .951 and is second only to Toronto Marlies netminder Garret Sparks in goals-against average with a 1.73. In 11 games played, Hutchinson has lost just once in regulation and holds a 9-1-1 record and his rich vein of form earned him AHL’s goalie of the month honours for November.

Hutchinson has played so well that when Steve Mason went down with a concussion last month, there was a low chance that Hutchinson would be recalled. He simply wouldn’t clear waivers when Mason makes his eventual return and the Jets would be out an asset that looks increasingly likely to garner a decent return.

‘Hutch’ certainly fits the Panthers’ criteria, suggested by TSN insider Bob McKenzie: He’s 27, a young netminder that comes with 99 games of NHL experience including some meaningful action when he helped the Jets secure a playoff spot during the 2014-15 season when Ondrej Pavelec went down with injury, winning 21 games in what was his coming out party.

Hutchinson has cooled off over the past two seasons, playing second fiddle to Pavelec in 2015-16 and then Connor Hellebuyck last season. When the Jets signed Steve Mason on the first day of free agency in July, it was all but assured that Hutchinson would start the season in the AHL and ride out the final year of his contract.

It’s become clear in Winnipeg that Hutchinson didn’t like being sent down. Most don’t. He has yet to give an interview to scribes this season.

But despite being upset, he’s handled it (mostly) the correct way: take it on the chin and go out and be a professional on the ice.

It could end up being the right fit at the right time for both parties. The Panthers need someone to steady the ship. Hutchinson, in the final year of a two-year contract, needs some NHL games to make his case for a spot on an NHL roster next season.

And the Panthers aren’t bringing Niemi back.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

The Buzzer: Milestones, shutouts and NHL firsts

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Players of the Night:

Marian Gaborik, Los Angeles Kings: 

Gaborik scored twice and helped propel a four-goal third period for the Kings, who came back from a 2-1 deficit after 40 minutes to win 5-2 against the visiting Minnesota Wild. Gaborik’s second goal of the night was his 400th of his NHL career. It came against the team he achieved his highest scoring prowess with.

Gustav Nyquist, Detroit Red Wings: 

Nyquist scored twice and added a helper as the Red Wings toppled the Western Conference-best Winnipeg Jets at Little Caesars Arena. Nyquist’s first-period marker held up as the game-winner in a big game for the Red Wings, who responded after getting shellacked 10-1 by the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday.

Jacob Markstrom, Vancouver Canucks:

Markstrom made 30 saves in a 3-0 win for the Canucks against the Carolina Hurricanes. His shutout was the first of his NHL career.

Highlights of the Night:

Boo Nieves, the owner of one of the coolest nicknames in the league, scored his first NHL goal on a slick wrist shot in the first period of a 4-3 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

John Gibson committed this theft tonight. The victim failed to press charges:

Shea Weber did his best Clayton Kershaw impression to score against the St. Louis Blues:

Factoids of the Night:

Gaborik had a pretty good night:

And Nikita Kucherov put himself in some pretty elite company, both in Tampa Bay Lightning history, as well as NHL history in general:

MISC:

Scores:

Devils 4, Blue Jackets 1

Rangers 4, Penguins 3

Blues 4, Canadiens 3

Red Wings 5, Jets 1

Lightning 6, Islanders 2

Predators 5, Stars 2

Sabres 4, Avalanche 2

Canucks 3, Hurricanes 0

Golden Knights 4, Ducks 3 (SO)

Kings 5, Wild 2


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Winnipeg Jets fans quickly reach Chiarot fine GoFundMe goal

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Winnipeg Jets fans put their disdain for Anaheim Ducks forward Corey Perry to good use over the past few days.

A GoFundMe that came about after a fine to Winnipeg Jets defenseman Ben Chiarot reached its goal on Monday, just 48 hours after it went live.

A total of 153 people donated over $4,300 in two days and all of it will go to the Christmas Cheer Board, a local Winnipeg charity that provides food hampers and gifts for children during the holiday season to those less fortunate.

“I’m not surprised Manitobans stepped up because they always do. I was surprised at how quickly word spread and how people from outside Manitoba have jumped in to help,” said Kyle Klatt, a Winnipegger who set up the GoFundMe page.

The crowdfunding page was set up to raise the same amount of money Chiarot was fined after he put the butt-end of his stick into the chin of Anaheim Ducks star Corey Perry last week, which can be seen below.

Chiarot was fined $3,763.44 for the incident, the maximum allowed under the collective bargaining agreement.

Chiarot wore a smile on his face when reporters attempted to ask him about the GoFundMe, but declined to comment on Monday, preferring to leave his negative on-ice moment where he left it in Anaheim.

Klatt said he’s happy with how the campaign turned out and hopes others can follow its lead.

“I guess I am a bit proud the idea turned out the way it did,” he said. “I feel like I’ve been getting more praise than I deserve though. I would like the word to get out about this campaign so we can raise a bunch of money but also so others in different markets may use the same idea to raise money for other worthwhile causes.”


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Jets fans set up GoFundMe after Chiarot fine

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Winnipeg Jets fans are having a bit of fun (again) at the expense of Corey Perry, who was on the receiving end of a butt-end to the face on Friday.

Jets defenseman Ben Chiarot was the culprit in the second period of a 4-1 Winnipeg win against the Ducks. Chiarot got his hands up in Perry’s grill and, along with it, the butt-end of his stick.

The NHL’s Department of Player Safety deemed it to be a no-no and fined Chiarot as much as they could under the current collective bargaining agreement, just under $3,500. 

Ducks fans, of course, weren’t too pleased that Perry’s face needed many stitches to repair the wound, which can be seen here:

For Winnipeg fans, Chiarot was doing God’s work. And now those same fans are trying to use the incident to spread some love.

A GoFundMe to raise the same amount of money Chiarot was fined has been set up, with donations going to the Christmas Cheer Board, a local charity in Winnipeg that provides food hampers and toys for children to those less fortunate during the holiday season.

A great man by the name of Ben Chiarot butt ended Corey Perry the other night. He was fined $3763.44 and I am looking to collect that amount and donate it to the Christmas Cheer Board in Ben’s name. This way almost everyone wins in this “tragedy.”

Hilariously, the GoFundMe has raised nearly half its goal amount of $3763.44 from 75 people in five hours (at the time of this blog post.)

Perry’s history with the Jets and its fans goes back some years.

During the playoffs during the 2014-15 season, Jets fans, forever unhappy with Perry and his perceived antics, chanted ‘Katy Perry, Katy Perry’ periodically. Perry, of course, would have the last laugh in that series as the Jets were swept out of the playoffs in four games by the Ducks.

Last season, Perry drew the ire of Jets fans once again after this slash to the hand of Mathieu Perreault:

Perreault missed four games because of a broken finger.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Jets’ Byfuglien still looking for No. 1

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Dustin Byfuglien looks to be pissed off in more ways than one these days.

After a slow start to the season in the physical department (and in his game overall), the Winnipeg Jets heavyweight defenseman regained his train-wreck-causing self over the past week, putting his signature beating on some unfortunate souls that drifted into his path of destruction.

Exhibit A: Philadelphia Flyers forward Michael Raffl:

Exhibit B: Philadelphia Flyers forward Jordan Weal:

Even his own teammates aren’t safe from the carnage.

In his obliteration of Weal in the above clip, you can see Jets forward Kyle Connor becoming an innocent victim of the collateral damage.

Jets captain Blake Wheeler made mention of Big Buff’s angered demeanour during their homestand last week, and as they say in Winnipeg: angry Buff is the best Buff.

Indeed, but since Byfuglien arrived in Winnipeg with the rest of the former Atlanta Thrashers in 2011, fans have also seen the other side of his game – a productive one.

At the moment, however, all fans want for Christmas is Byfuglien to find the back of the net.

This season, goal-scoring has been non-existent from the 6-foot-5, 260-pound Minnesota native, who has chipped in for 10 assists in 20 games.

It took Brent Burns 21 games to score his first goal of the season for the San Jose Sharks, a marker that came — mercifully for the man who has scored 56 goals over the past two seasons — on Friday night.

Byfuglien plays in his 21st game of the season on Saturday night, ironically against Burns’ Sharks in San Jose. Perhaps Santa will come a month early.

Byfuglien has had no shortage of chances recent with 16 shots in this past four games and nearly scored twice in a 4-1 win against the Anaheim Ducks on Friday.

Fair warning to Santa: you don’t want to piss off Dustin Byfuglien.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck