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Gaudreau joins Eichel as latest additions to USA’s Worlds roster

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Another big score for USA Hockey on Friday.

Calgary forward Johnny Gaudreau — whose season ended earlier Wednesday with a playoff sweep at the hands of Anaheim — told reporters today he’d be joining Team USA for the upcoming World Championships in Germany and France.

Gaudreau’s announcement comes just days after another big name — Buffalo’s Jack Eichelalso agreed to join the squad.

All this makes for a pretty intriguing roster.

USA Hockey has adopted a youth movement, selecting collegiate players like Notre Dame goalie Cal Petersen (a Buffalo draftee), Boston University forward Jordan Greenway (a Minnesota draftee), Notre Dame forward Anders Bjork (a Boston draftee) and Daniel Brickley, an undrafted free agent out of Minnesota State-Mankato.

In addition to those, some quality NHL youngsters are also in the mix: Noah Hanifin, J.T. Compher, Andrew Copp and a pair of prized Arizona prospects — Christian Dvorak and Clayton Keller. Detroit sophomore Dylan Larkin will also suit up for the Americans.

The 2017 Worlds get underway on May 5.

 

 

Coyotes sign former Minnesota-Duluth goalie Hunter Miska to entry-level contract

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The Arizona Coyotes added some goaltending depth to their organization on Saturday when they announced the signing of 21-year-old goalie Hunter Miska to an entry-level contract.

Miska spent the 2016-17 season playing for the University of Minnesota-Duluth (his only season with the program) and helped lead the team to the Frozen Four thanks to a 27-5-5 record and a .920 save percentage. Minnesota-Duluth lost in the National Championship game to top-seeded Denver.

Terms of Miska’s contract were not disclosed by the team.

“We are very pleased to sign Hunter to an entry level contract,” general manager John Chayka said in a statement released by the team. “Hunter was one of the top goalies in the NCAA last year and he was highly coveted by numerous NHL teams. We are excited to have him join our organization and look forward to watching him develop.”

Miska is relatively inexperienced as a goaltender (he did not begin playing the position until he was a teenager) and spent two years playing junior hockey before before joining Minnesota-Duluth.

‘I don’t think it’s acceptable’: Coyotes goalie Mike Smith is fed up of missing the playoffs

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It’s been five long years since the Arizona Coyotes made the playoffs. If you look at the way their 2016-17 season went, you’d think they probably aren’t close to ending that drought either.

Only two teams finished below Arizona in the standings (Colorado and Vancouver), three teams scored less often than them and only Colorado and Dallas gave up more goals.

For a veteran like Mike Smith, who’s been with the organization throughout these lean years, the situation surrounding the Coyotes is becoming more frustrating.

“It sucks. It’s the NHL. You play to play in the playoffs. When you’re out of the playoffs for five years in a row, I think it really leaves a bad taste in your mouth,” Smith told AZ Central.

“Personally, I don’t think it’s acceptable.”

The 35-year-old has played in 19 NHL playoff games throughout his career with 16 of those coming with the ‘Yotes in 2012.

On the bright side, the Coyotes are stacked with quality young players. Max Domi, Tobias Rieder, Clayton Keller, Lawson Crouse, Brendan Perlini, Christian Dvorak, Anthony Duclair,  Jakub Chychrun and Anthony DeAngelo all have terrific upside. Unfortunately for veterans like Smith, Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Shane Doan, we don’t know how long it’ll take before those youngsters come together to form a competitive team.

Adding quality veterans could help speed up the rebuilding process.

“We need to add some more veteran pieces,” added Smith. “It’s tough to compete in this league, especially in our division against veteran clubs that have been together for a long time. You throw a lot of kids in the lineup, even though they have improved drastically over the season, it’s tough to win on any given night with as many young players we have in the lineup.”

With captain Shane Doan still undecided about his playing future and Radim Vrbata set to become an unrestricted free agent in July, GM John Cheyka may have to invest a good amount of coin to bring in older players from other teams.

Goalie nods: Marc-Andre Fleury will try to keep Maple Leafs from clinching

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There is only one playoff spot still up for grabs in the NHL, and the Toronto Maple Leafs can take care of that on Saturday night if they can beat the Pittsburgh Penguins.

They will have to go through Marc-Andre Fleury to do it.

With Matt Murray getting some rest before the start of the postseason, Fleury will get the call for the Penguins on Saturday night in what could be one of his last starts in a Penguins uniform, depending on what happens over the summer with the expansion draft situation.

When we last saw Fleury in the Penguins’ net he allowed five goals in an ugly loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, but before that had played some of his best hockey of the season. Since the beginning of March (just after the NHL trade deadline when that distraction was removed from the equation) Fleury has a .931 save percentage for the Penguins.

The Maple Leafs will go with Frederik Andersen in net as he tries to get them into the playoffs for the first time since the 2012-13 season.

Elsewhere on Saturday…

— In the afternoon games it was Henrik Lundqvist vs. Craig Anderson in the New York Rangers-Ottawa Senators game, Sergei Bobrovsky vs. Steve Mason in the Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Philadelphia Flyers game, and Philip Grubauer vs. Anton Khudobin in the Washingtno Capitals vs. Boston Bruins game.

Corey Crawford gets the start for the Chicago Blackhawks when they visit the Los Angeles Kings, who will counter with Jonathan Quick.

Jaroslav Halak starts the must-win game for the New York Islanders against the New Jersey Devils. The Devils will go with Keith Kinkaid.

— It will be Carter Hutton vs. Cam Ward when the St. Louis Blues visit the Carolina Hurricanes.

Robin Lehner and James Reimer get the start for the Buffalo Sabres and Florida Panthers respectively.

Charlie Lindgren will make his second start for the Montreal Canadiens when they visit the Detroit Red Wings. Petr Mrazek is in for the Red Wings.

— The Nashville Predators will start Pekka Rinne in Winnipeg against Conor Hellebuyck and the Jets.

— The Colorado Avalanche will send Jeremy Smith out against the Dallas Stars. The Stars will go with Kari Lehtonen.

Devan Dubnyk gets the night off as the Minnesota Wild will start Darcy Kuemper against Mike Smith and the Arizona Coyotes.

Cam Talbot makes his league leading 73rd appearance for the Edmonton Oilers when they visit the Vancouver Canucks. Ryan Miller starts for the Canucks.

Brian Elliott will start for the Calgary Flames when they visit the San Jose Sharks. Aaron Dell gets the call for the Sharks.

Goalie nods: Leafs start McElhinney with chance to clinch playoffs

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Toronto can secure a postseason berth with a win over the Caps tonight, and some help on the out of town scoreboard.

And they’ll look to do it with Curtis McElhinney in goal.

McElhinney, who came up huge last week in relief of the injured Frederik Andersen, will get the call on Tuesday as the leafs host the Caps at the ACC. The start comes exactly one week after McElhinney stopped 25 shots in a 3-2 win over Florida, a game that kicked off the Leafs’ current four-game unbeaten streak.

Calling the Panthers game the biggest start of his career, the veteran backup did very well. But tonight is certainly a more difficult task.

The Caps come into Toronto boasting the NHL’s second-best offense and third-best power play. They’re also on the verge of clinching the Presidents’ Trophy, so plenty at stake for them as well.

Washington is going with Philipp Grubauer in goal.

(For more on Toronto’s playoff-clinching and Washington’s Presidents’ Trophy-clinching scenarios, click here).

Elsewhere…

— In a game the Leafs will be paying close attention to, the Lightning are going with Andrei Vasilevskiy in Boston. No confirmed B’s starter yet, but chances are Tuukka Rask will be in goal, as the Bruins can clinch a postseason berth with a regulation win.

Matt Murray goes for Pittsburgh, who hosts Columbus in a likely first-round playoff preview. No word yet on a Blue Jackets starter.

— No confirmed starters from Detroit and Ottawa, who played each other last night. Petr Mrazek and Craig Anderson were the goalies of record, so we could see Jimmy Howard and Mike Condon. (Update: It’s Anderson for Ottawa.)

— It’s Cam Ward versus Devan Dubnyk as the ‘Canes visit Minnesota.

— The Isles’ playoff hopes are hanging by a thread, and they’re hoping Jaroslav Halak can keep them alive in Nashville. The Preds have yet to announce a starter.

— The Jets continue to give Michael Hutchinson late season looks, and he’ll start tonight in St. Louis. Jake Allen starts for the Blues, as expected.

— It’s Mike Smith versus Antti Niemi as the Coyotes take on the Stars in Dallas.

— Like Hutchinson in Winnipeg, Devils backup Keith Kinkaid is getting more and more looks down the stretch, including tonight’s home date against the Flyers. Steve Mason goes for Philly.

Scott Darling gives Corey Crawford the night off, and gets the start in Colorado. He’ll be up against Calvin Pickard.

— Speaking of nights off, Brian Elliott gets one for Calgary as the Flames look to snap an 11-year (yes, year) losing streak in Anaheim. Chad Johnson gets the call, and no word yet on who he’ll face.

Jonathan Quick gets another start for the Kings, as he was first off the ice at this morning’s skate. Edmonton hasn’t unveiled its starter yet, but Cam Talbot literally plays every game, so….

— In San Jose, Martin Jones gets to face the visiting Canucks. He’ll be up against Richard Bachman.