Avalanche ride two goalies into Stanley Cup Final

Matt Murray stepped on the ice on the first day of the 2017 NHL playoffs ready to lead the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins to the Stanley Cup once again. He didn’t make it to puck drop.

An injury during warmups sidelined him for a month and turned the job over to Marc-Andre Fleury. Murray returned more than a month later and backstopped the Penguins to another title.

Five years later, Murray watches the Colorado Avalanche knowing how it feels to be Darcy Kuemper, who could be in net for the Stanley Cup Final after missing most of the third round and giving way to backup Pavel Francouz.

One of just five teams in league history to have two different goaltenders win at least five games during a playoff run, the Avalanche are attempting to join Murray’s Penguins, the 1972 Boston Bruins and 1969 Montreal Canadiens as the only champions that split duties in the crease.

“I know from firsthand experience how difficult it can be to jump in when you haven’t played in a while and when you weren’t necessarily expecting to play that much,” Murray said. “What Kuemper was doing is obviously very impressive but also extremely impressive what Francouz has done, as well. You just try to be ready as much as you can.”

Much like Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia in 2010, Colorado’s situation has been determined by injuries. Kuemper took an inadvertent stick to the eye through his mask during the first round and was again replaced by Francouz midway through the opener of the Western Conference Final when he didn’t feel right.

Kuemper and Francouz have now each won six games this postseason. The Avalanche need four more victories for the franchise’s third championship and first since 2001, and coach Jared Bednar won’t tip his hand on who’s starting Game 1 of the final next week.

“It’s a tough decision,” Bednar said.

Needing to decide between Kuemper, Colorado’s starter all year, and Francouz, who’s a perfect 6-0, is one of the drawbacks to a two-goalie rotation in the playoffs.

“It’s a good situation to have two goalies, but it’s a bad situation to be thinking, ‘Which goalie should we start?’” said Michael Leighton, who won eight games to Brian Boucher’s six during the Flyers’ run to the final in 2010. “That’s a tough situation for the coaches and for the team because sometimes a team is playing better in front of one goalie and not the other, so you’ve got to make the right decision on putting the goalie in that’s going to help you win.”

Leighton helped Philadelphia complete the rare comeback from being down 3-0 in a series to knock off Boston after missing eight weeks with a high ankle sprain. “When I jumped into that game my knees were shaking,” he said.

Boucher made two more relief appearances the rest of the playoffs despite playing on two bad knees with a sprained ligament in each.

“I was not even close to 100%,” Boucher said. “But I just so badly wanted to be a part of something that I wanted to see out to the end.”

They look at Francouz and consider it a benefit the 2018 Olympic star for the Czechs saw some action against Nashville in the first round before he got thrown into a series against Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and the Edmonton Oilers.

“If he goes months without playing, it’s a totally different story,” Boucher said. “You’re trying to catch a moving train that’s going at 100 mph, and that’s hard. Now at least he’s in motion. He’s in motion catching this train as opposed to standing still.”

For goalies like Francouz watching the entire St. Louis series in the second round and then Kuemper missing much of the West final, practice becomes essential. At a time when full team practices are rare and banged-up players often opt not to skate, those who have done this before know it takes a focused approach to be ready.

“It’s just about taking practice extremely seriously and playing as if it were a game: Competing on every single puck and bringing a game-like mentality to practice,” said Murray, now with Ottawa. “That’s the best way to go about it because it’s maybe a little bit less of a transition to the game. And really, at that point of the season, it’s all about your mentality.”

Francouz stayed mentally ready and soaked in chants of “Frankie! Frankie!” from fans in Denver. “I’m just trying to enjoy this moment,” he said, “because it’s something you work for your whole life.”

Colorado’s next opponent will be a team that has gotten there with the far more traditional path of starting one goaltender in every playoff game. The Tampa Bay Lightning have ridden Andrei Vasilevskiy to back-to-back championships, and the New York Rangers reached the East final on the back of Vezina Trophy finalist Igor Shesterkin.

The Avalanche have made do, but having one elite netminder is still the preferred option.

“Any head coach would rather have that, knowing that every time he puts his name on the lineup card that he’s going to give him an A-plus quality start, as opposed to two guys that you’re just not sure of,” Boucher said. “If you don’t have goaltending, you got nothing.”

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    Sharks goalie James Reimer declines to wear Pride jersey

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    San Jose Sharks goalie James Reimer won’t take part in pregame warmups Saturday night, saying the team’s decision to wear Pride-themed jerseys in support of the LGBTQ community runs counter to his religious beliefs.

    Reimer said in a statement Saturday that he made the decision based on his Christian beliefs, adding that he “always strived to treat everyone with respect” and that members of the LGBTQ community should be welcome in hockey.

    “In this specific instance, I am choosing not to endorse something that is counter to my personal convictions, which are based on the Bible, the highest authority in life,” Reimer said.

    Reimer is the second NHL player this season to refuse to take part in warmups with Pride-themed jerseys, with Philadelphia’s Ivan Provorov declining to in January. Reimer was not slated to start in Saturday night’s home game against the New York Islanders, which is Pride night.

    Additionally, the New York Rangers opted not to wear Pride jerseys or use Pride stick tape as part of their night in January despite previously advertising that plan.

    The Sharks said in a statement that they are proud to host Pride Night, saying the event reinforces the team’s commitment to inclusiveness.

    “As we promote these standards, we also acknowledge and accept the rights of individuals to express themselves, including how or whether they choose to express their beliefs, regardless of the cause or topic,” the team said in a statement. “As an organization, we will not waver in our support of the LGBTQIA+ community and continue to encourage others to engage in active allyship.”

    The You Can Play Project, which works to promote inclusiveness in sports, said the organization was disappointed in Reimer’s actions.

    “Religion and respect are not in conflict with each other, and we are certainly disappointed when religion is used as a reason to not support our community,” the organization said. “Wearing pride jerseys, like any celebration jersey worn, is not about the personal feelings of an athlete; rather the communication from the team that a community is welcome in the arena and the sport.”

    AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/nhl and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

    Panarin, Shesterkin lead Rangers to 6-0 rout of Penguins

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    NEW YORK (AP) Mika Zibanejad had a goal and two assists, Artemi Panarin scored twice and Igor Shesterkin made 33 saves as the New York Rangers routed Pittsburgh 6-0 on Saturday night for their second win over the Penguins in three days.

    Vladimir Tarasenko, Chris Kreider and Jacob Trouba also scored for the surging Rangers, who have won nine of their last 11 home games and are 12-4-0 in their past 16 at Madison Square Garden.

    Shesterkin won his fifth straight and posted his second shutout this season. He nimbly denied Pittsburgh forward Mikael Granland with a sprawling save five minutes into the third period to preserve the shutout, the 10th of his career. His other one this season was a 1-0 home win over Philadelphia on Nov. 1.

    “When you put in hard and honest work, miracles happen,” Shesterkin said through a translator. ”We played wonderfully today – scored many, many goals. Honestly, I hope the fans loved it. We’re playing for them.”

    The Penguins lost their third straight and trail the Rangers by 12 points for third place in the Metropolitan Division. Pittsburgh, still in wild-card position, is trying to reach the playoffs for the 17th straight time.

    “Tonight was a humbling experience for all of us,” coach Mike Sullivan said. ”At this time of year, you have to have a short memory. We still have control of our destiny.”

    Patrick Kane and defenseman K’Andre Miller also had two assists apiece as New York improved to 7-1-1 in its last nine home games against Pittsburgh. The Rangers are five points behind the second-place New Jersey Devils, who lost at Florida on Saturday.

    “This was a big game for our goalie and our team,” Panarin said. “If you work at playing the right way, you have opportunities for goals.”

    Since Dec. 5, when they turned around their season with a 6-4 comeback win at home over St. Louis, the Rangers are 29-9-5.

    As he did on Thursday when the Rangers beat the Penguins 4-2, Zibanejad opened the scoring. He got his team-leading 36th goal at 5:10 of the first, beating Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry. Trouba and Miller assisted.

    Panarin made it 2-0 at 19:49 on the power play, whipping the puck past Jarry from the left circle off a pass from Adam Fox.

    Tarasenko increased the lead at 3:54 of the second with his fifth goal since joining the Rangers in a trade with St. Louis on Feb. 9. Tarasenko has points in 10 of his first 18 games with the Rangers.

    Kreider made it 4-0 at 6:43 with his 31st goal and third in two games against the Penguins. Kane and Vincent Trocheck assisted on Kreider’s 260th career goal, which moved the Rangers forward within two of Vic Hadfield for fifth place on the franchise list.

    New York won Thursday when Kreider scored the go-ahead goal in the third and added an empty-netter.

    After Casey DeSmith replaced Jarry in net following Kreider’s goal, Trouba beat the replacement with a sharp-angle shot at 8:39 for his eighth to increase the margin to 5-0. Trouba has points in six of his last eight games.

    Panarin scored again at 16:38 of the second – his 22nd goal of the season – to make it 6-0, with assists to Kane and Filip Chytil.

    “We’re building chemistry, building every day and every game,” Kane said.

    Panarin has points in eight of his last 10 games and leads the Rangers with 77 points overall, while Kane has seven points in his last six games.

    “It’s nice to see that many great players on your team,” added Panarin, whose first two NHL seasons were played alongside Kane with the Chicago Blackhawks. “We’re happy tonight.”

    Zibanejad assisted on goals by Tarasenko and Trouba and has 25 points – including 14 goals – over his last 20 games.

    “It was just one of those nights when the puck goes in for us,” Zibanejad said. “And obviously Igor gives us a boost making all those saves.”

    NOTES: The Penguins were missing defenseman Jeff Petry after he was hit with an unpenalized elbow from Rangers forward Tyler Motte on Thursday. … Pittsburgh also scratched defenseman Jan Rutta and forward Dalton Heinen and played defenseman Mark Friedman for the first time since Feb. 11. … The Rangers were without injured defenseman Ryan Lindgren for the 10th straight game.


    Penguins: Host the Ottawa Senators on Monday.

    Rangers: Host the Nashville Predators on Sunday night.

    AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

    Coyotes sign Shane Doan’s son to entry-level contract

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    TEMPE, Ariz. — Josh Doan is following his father’s footsteps into professional hockey.

    The Arizona Coyotes signed the 21-year-old forward to a three-year entry-level contract, beginning with the 2023-24 NHL season. He will report to the Tucson Roadrunners of the AHL and play his first game against the Calgary Wranglers.

    Doan’s father, Shane, played 21 seasons with the franchise, many of those as captain, and followed it from Winnipeg to the desert in 1996. Shane Doan now serves as Arizona’s chief hockey development officer.

    The Coyotes drafted Josh Doan in the second round of the 2021, but he opted to play for the hometown Arizona State Sun Devils.

    Josh Doan set school records for goals (12) and assists (25) as a freshman last season. He had 16 goals and 22 assists in 39 games with Arizona State this season.

    The 6-foot-1, 183-pounder also played two seasons for the Chicago Steel of the USHL.

    Blackhawks forward Cole Guttman has shoulder surgery

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    CHICAGO — Chicago Blackhawks forward Cole Guttman had surgery on his right shoulder.

    The team said the operation was performed in Los Angeles. Team physician Michael Terry said the 23-year-old Guttman is expected “to be out of hockey activities for approximately four months.”

    Guttman had been a pleasant surprise for rebuilding Chicago. He made his NHL debut last month and finished the season with four goals and two assists in 14 games.

    Guttman was selected by Tampa Bay in the 2017 draft. He agreed to a two-year contract with Chicago in August 2022 that had a $950,000 salary cap hit.