Goalie nods: Big tests (and opportunities) for backups

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All the latest from the blue paint…

Big challenges for backups

If a variety of NHL head coaches want to gauge how much they can truly trust their No. 2 options, then Saturday presents plenty of interesting tests.

No pressure, kid – Calvin Pickard looks primed to man the Colorado Avalanche’s net as Patrick Roy takes his struggling team to face Carey Price and the Montreal Canadiens. Those are some long odds for Pickard, 22. If Roy is providing any words of advice, it appears that they won’t be too specific, as he told NHL.com’s Arpon Basu that he’s actually very hands-off with goalies:

Jake finally gets his shot – Brian Elliott has made it really tough for Jake Allen to argue that the St. Louis Blues’ goaltending situation is a true 1A/1B situation, but Allen finally starts against Mike Smith and the Arizona Coyotes tonight. The Coyotes don’t have the most dangerous offense on paper, so the Blues probably expect impeccable work from their potential goalie of the future.

Goaltending coach Jim Corsi (yes, that Corsi) had glowing words for Allen:

Battle of backups – It looks like there will be at least two battles between backup goalies tonight. The Washington Capitals look primed to roll out Justin Peters against a Florida Panthers team starting Al Montoya after Roberto Luongo shut out the Buffalo Sabres on Friday. Robin Lehner gets a chance to work his way back into more of a platoon with the Ottawa Senators while the Columbus Blue Jackets must trust Curtis McElhinney considering the fact that they’re tied for the NHL lead with the most back-to-back games this season. Sergei Bobrovsky can only do so much.

Opportunities for Svedberg, Gustavsson – On paper, facing Jhonas Enroth and a Buffalo Sabres team coming off of a back-to-back is a golden opportunity for Boston Bruins backup Niklas Svedberg. If Friday’s game and the Toronto Maple Leafs’ struggles are any indication, Jonas Gustavsson gets a nice opportunity tonight, too. That said, Jonathan Bernier should be plenty motivated if he starts for Toronto, as expected.

To round out the No. 2 talk, Vancouver Canucks backup Eddie Lack faces a tough challenge in Ben Bishop and the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Elsewhere…

  • The San Jose Sharks are starting Antti Niemi in an interesting test against Cory Schneider and the New Jersey Devils.
  • Speaking of interesting tests, Jaroslav Halak gets another nod from the New York Islanders as they face the Pittsburgh Penguins, who are expected to continue starting Marc-Andre Fleury.
  • The Dallas Stars opt for Kari Lehtonen, most likely against the Philadelphia Flyers’ Steve Mason.
  • The Nashville Predators seem likely to go back to Pekka Rinne after last night’s shutout. He’ll face a big challenge in the Chicago Blackhawks, who are rolling with Corey Crawford.