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Coyotes’ Kuemper leaves game after taking stick blade through mask

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Allowing a go-ahead goal in a must-win game and losing your goalie to a freak injury is the definition of a double whammy and a nightmare realized for the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday night.

Trevor Lewis broke a 1-1 tie with a backhand goal past Darcy Kuemper early in the third period, and while he was getting ready to lift his stick to the heavens in celebration, the blade of it caught one of the eye holes in Kuemper’s mask.

The result sent Kuemper, a godsend for the Coyotes after losing Antti Raanta to injury, sprawling to the ice. The 28-year-old netminder laid face down on the ice for a while as a trainer tended to him. He managed to get to his feet, holding a towel over his right eye area as he skated off to a standing ovation from Coyotes fans.

Calvin Pickard, who has played since March 11, took Kuemper’s place.

The Coyotes ruled out Kuemper for the rest of the game with an upper-body injury.

UPDATE: Well, sort of. There wasn’t really one after the game.


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

Talbot to help Flyers make NHL history as eighth goalie used this season

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Exactly two weeks after the Philadelphia Flyers acquired Cam Talbot from the Edmonton Oilers, the 31-year-old netminder will finally debut for his new team.

Talbot was the odd-man out after the deal, sitting in the pressbox for his first three games as a Flyer. Since Carter Hart’s injury, he’s been backing up Brian Elliott. Friday night he’ll finally get a start and help make NHL history in the process.

When the puck drops against the New Jersey Devils with Talbot in net, the Flyers will become the first NHL team to use eight  goalies in one season. They had been stuck on seven since Mike McKenna‘s start in early January and tied with the 1989-90 Quebec Nordiques, 2002-03 St. Louis Blues and the 2007-08 Los Angeles Kings.

Flyers interim head coach Scott Gordon was one the seven who got a turn in goal for that Nordiques team.

Here’s a look at the games played for each of the eight goalies the Flyers have used this season:

Carter Hart – 22
Brian Elliott – 19
Anthony Stolarz – 12
Calvin Pickard – 11
Michal Neuvirth – 7
Alex Lyon – 2
Mike McKenna – 1
Cam Talbot – 0

The opportunity for Talbot arose because Friday’s game is the second game of a back-to-back following Thursday’s 4-3 overtime loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Philadelphia is still clinging to slim playoff hopes with a six-point gap between them and the Carolina Hurricanes, who hold the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.

Talbot hasn’t played since Feb. 9, but is certainly eager to get back between the pipes again. Hart is expected to return soon, so who knows when Talbot will get another look after Friday. In the meantime, enjoying making history!

“I don’t know if it’s something you really want to be a part of as a goalie or not,” Talbot said on Thursday via the Inquirer. “But here we are.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Flyers tie NHL record as McKenna becomes 7th starting goalie

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The Philadelphia Flyers tied an NHL record by starting their seventh different goalie in the same season, and the netminder and coach involved make it an even better story.

(Granted, McKenna would have preferred avoiding a 5-3 loss while allowing four goals on 24 shots, but oh well.)

Journeyman goalie Mike McKenna has been tabbed for the start. The 35-year-old is suiting up for his third NHL team so far in 2018-19; he didn’t play a game for the Vancouver Canucks, while he appeared in 10 for the Ottawa Senators and is about to play for Philly. McKenna also played six games in the AHL this season. McKenna’s played for seven NHL teams overall, according to NHL.com’s Tom Gulitti.

[This post is worth it just for the gallery of Flyers goalies alone.]

As Sam Carchidi reports for the Philadelphia Inquirer, the goalie is well-traveled (just look at his hockeydb page), and McKenna has a good sense of humor about it.

“There’s probably a lot of punch lines associated with what I’ve done,” McKenna said. “You have to be able to laugh at yourself. I take my profession really serious, but there is some inherent dark comedy in this, too.”

From dark comedy to irony (or at least Alanis Morissette irony?), consider the coach involved. NHL.com’s Adam Kimelman notes that interim Flyers coach Scott Gordon was the sixth of seven goalies used by the 1989-90 Quebec Nordiques, the team the Flyers will share this record with.

That’s an almost spooky coincidence, right? Here’s a shot of Gordon as a Nordiques goalie, via Getty:

via Getty

Of course, the Flyers would probably argue that this is less funny and more sad/employment-threatening. It shouldn’t be lost on you that the Flyers have already tied this league record with almost half of the season remaining, as this is just their 43rd of 82 games.

Here’s a breakdown of how the other six goalies have fared over the first 42 games of the Flyers’ season:

Brian Elliott: 6-7-0, 2.59 GAA, .911 save percentage (14 games, 13 starts)
Calvin Pickard: 4-2-2, 4.01 GAA, .863% (11 GP, 8 GS)
Anthony Stolarz: 2-3-2, 3.90 GAA, .880% (9 GP, 7 GS)
Michal Neuvirth: 1-4-1, 4.27 GAA, .859% (7 GP, 6 GS)
Carter Hart: 2-4-1, 2.68 GAA, .909% (7 GP, 7 GS), giving some hope.
Alex Lyon: 0-1-0, 5.08 GAA, .806% (2 GP, 1 GS)

Well, at least the bar is low for this being a quality start.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Please welcome Mike McKenna to the Flyers’ goalie carousel

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Six goalies have played for the Philadelphia Flyers this season and there may very well soon be a seventh.

The Flyers plucked Mike McKenna off waivers on Friday, two days after the netminder was traded from the Ottawa Senators to the Vancouver Canucks. Just another day in the crease for that organization.

“Mike provides our organization added depth as we continue to battle injuries at the goaltending position,” said Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher. “He is a veteran goaltender with a tremendous amount of professional experience.”

Here’s an overview of the Flyers’ current goaltending situation:

Brian Elliott remains out with a lower-body injury but is “progressing pretty well,” according to Fletcher. He could be practicing again within the next two weeks.

Michal Neuvirth is dealing with a lower-body injury, according to interim head coach Scott Gordon. He’s set to miss Saturday’s game against the Calgary Flames and is considered day-to-day. He suffered the injury during Thursday night’s loss to the Carolina Hurricanes.

Anthony Stolarz may get back on the ice this weekend as he’s on the mend with a lower-body injury.

Carter Hart, who is healthy, has made five starts since being called up and posted a .900 even strength save percentage.

• Alex Lyon stays in the AHL and has helped the Phantoms win three of his last four starts.

• McKenna is a 35-year-old journeyman who’s played only 34 NHL games in his career while suiting up for nearly two dozen teams in The Show and the American Hockey League since 2006-07.

• Former GM Ron Hextall is still under contract with the team.

(Calvin Pickard was claimed on waivers by the Arizona Coyotes on Nov. 29.)

The Flyers became the 14th team in NHL history to start six goalies in a season when Hart made his debut. Could McKenna help them make more history as lucky No. 7?

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Can Coyotes keep playoff hopes alive without Raanta?

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One of the saddest phrases in sports is “[Player X] would really have been something, if only they could stay healthy.”

Some argue that avoiding injuries counts as a “skill,” and it’s plausible that certain players may simply be better at staying healthy than others, but there are still instances when the injury gods feel awfully cruel.

We’re rapidly approaching that point with Arizona Coyotes goalie Antti Raanta.

Even with a challenging start to 2018-19 (just a .906 save percentage over 12 games), Raanta’s been fantastic for the Coyotes so far … when he’s been able to actually play.

That caveat was frustrating last season, as Raanta missed crucial chunks of time – most painfully being unhealthy as the Coyotes went without a win in October 2017 – yet was essentially elite when he could play, generating a splendid .930 save percentage in 47 games.

Unfortunately for the Coyotes, it’s looking like 47 Raanta appearances would have been a gift compared to the likely reality. The team announced that the 29-year-old goalie is out “indefinitely,” while The Athletic’s Craig Morgan provided a more detailed (and more troubling) update: Raanta might miss the rest of this season.

Brutal.

It’s fair to wonder if this might become the story of Raanta’s career.

Again, the Finn fought nagging injuries last season, and this year’s been even worse. At 29, he’s not ancient, but Raanta isn’t exactly a spring chicken, either. (If you need a glum example of how quickly a goalie can start looking older-and-more-fragile, look at all of the injury headaches Carey Price has been dealing with at just 31.)

That said, Raanta’s limited starts pre-Arizona came from him being a backup, not necessarily from injuries. There’s the hope that, in hindsight, these past two years will look like speed bumps rather than Raanta’s promising career hitting a brick wall. If nothing else, Raanta is listed at just 6-0, so he’s not one of those prototypical towering goalies whose huge frames only increase odds of additional injuries.

Either way, Raanta’s lengthy absence deals an enormous blow to the Coyotes’ fledgling playoff hopes.

You could argue that they’d be in tough to land a spot in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs even with a keyed-in Raanta. As of this writing, Arizona’s record is 13-13-2 for 28 points in as many games, leaving them in 12th place in the West (five points behind Vegas for the final wild card spot, and seven behind Anaheim for the Pacific’s third seed).

Various projections aren’t totally dismissing the Coyotes’ chances of waging a comeback, but few give them much better than a 20-percent shot to pull that off … and those odds likely only drop once you factor in Raanta’s absence.

The Coyotes haven’t just been without Raanta, who’s been sidelined since Nov. 27. Backup goalie Darcy Kuemper has been hurt, too, making way for Adin Hill and waiver claim Calvin Pickard. To Hill’s credit, he began with a four-game winning streak and currently boasts a .939 save percentage, but his larger history indicates that he probably won’t be able to produce such results over the long haul.

All of this leaves Coyotes GM John Chayka in a tough spot.

If you’re the Coyotes, do you try to trade for a more seasoned goalie, particularly one on an expiring contract?

Or, do you do the uncomfortable and all-too-familiar, and punt on the season?

This Coyotes team is structured largely to compete, with an increasing number of longer-term contracts crowding the team’s salary cap.

Granted, the Coyotes have an interesting player or two. Would someone pay up some futures to land, say, Alex Galchenyuk? The 24-year-old’s endured a quiet first season with Arizona (just 11 points in 21 games), but there’s plenty of talent there. While Galchenyuk isn’t on an easy-to-move expiring contract, his deal doesn’t last much longer, as his affordable $4.9 million cap hit runs out after 2019-20. If you’re a contender, would you hand the Coyotes some futures to add some skill for Galchenyuk, particularly if the Coyotes absorbed a contract you wanted to get rid of (and/or retained some of Galchenyuk’s salary?).

It’s not pleasant to discuss who the Coyotes might sell off in a trade, and it’s even more unpleasant to wonder if Raanta will be injury-prone for the remainder of his career, but Arizona at least needs to ponder these scenarios. They might not have much of a choice, even if Raanta technically finds a way to play a bit toward the end of this season.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.