Jonas Gustavsson

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Talbot embracing busy workload with the Oilers

At some point, Cam Talbot will get the night off to sit on the bench and watch somebody else tend goal for the Edmonton Oilers.

But it won’t be tonight when his Oilers host Florida. Talbot will make his fifth start in the last nine days. No NHL goalie has played more minutes (2,459) than he has this season. No goalie has made more saves (1,115), either.

“This is what you work your whole career towards,” Talbot told reporters today. “I was working my butt off day in, day out, in New York, hoping to get this opportunity at some point behind (Henrik Lundqvist). And Edmonton, I was lucky enough (they gave) me an opportunity last year. You’ve just got to be ready for it when you get it. … I feel great doing it.”

He’s been playing pretty great, too. The 29-year-old is 23-12-6 with a .918 save percentage. He’s won his last three starts while allowing just four goals combined.

And that’s partly why Todd McLellan keeps running Talbot out there — the head coach is riding the hot hand.

The other part relates to the Oilers’ backup. It’s currently Laurent Brossoit, a 23-year-old with just six games of NHL experience. Brossoit was called up from the AHL to replace Jonas Gustavsson, who simply wasn’t getting the job done as Edmonton’s No. 2.

The Oilers, you may have heard, haven’t made the playoffs in over a decade. They desperately want to break that drought, and Talbot has helped put them on pace to do it.

Still, this situation will be worth monitoring. Talbot has never started more than 53 games in an NHL season, and he’s already started 41 in 2016-17. As great as he feels today, there’s absolutely a risk that fatigue sets in down the stretch.

At least the Oilers have the All-Star break and their bye week (Feb. 6-10) on the horizon. Talbot wasn’t selected to participate in Los Angeles later this month; Mike Smith and Martin Jones will represent the Pacific Division instead.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, Brossoit is 0-4-1 with an .873 save percentage in those six games with the big club. It’s possible the youngster could start Friday at home to Nashville, as the Oilers also play Saturday in Calgary on Hockey Night in Canada.

Talbot has been busy, but he’s yet to play on consecutive days this season.

The 10 busiest goalies this season

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The Gustavsson signing has been a predictably bad one for the Oilers (Updated)

AP

The decision by Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli to sign Jonas Gustavsson is looking more and more like the bad one many felt it would be.

Gustavsson, 32, fell to 1-3-1 with an .878 save percentage after allowing four goals on just 17 shots in last night’s 5-3 loss at Ottawa. It was his first start since Dec. 8, when he allowed six goals in a 6-5 loss to Philadelphia.

Gustavsson’s struggles as a backup have forced Cam Talbot to make 37 starts, the most in the NHL. And there’s not much in the way of help down on the farm, where the only goalie with NHL experience, Laurent Brossoit, is 8-8-0 with a .909 save percentage for Bakersfield.

Read more: Uncertainty about the Oilers’ goaltending remains

Chiarelli signed Gustavsson on July 1, bringing aboard a goalie that had already put up below-average numbers in Toronto, Detroit, and Boston. Gustavsson’s career save percentage in the NHL now sits at just .901.

Edmonton’s next game is Tuesday against San Jose.

Update:

Gustavsson was placed on waivers this morning.

Goalie nods: Fleury looks to push Pens’ winning streak to five games

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The Pittsburgh Penguins have a luxury they probably won’t be able to afford much longer, but they’ll take it while they can get it.

The Pens are without starting goalie Matt Murray, again, except unlike other teams, they have a backup goalie who could be a starter on many other teams.

Marc-Andre Fleury will make his 25th appearance of the season, as the Penguins try to push their winning streak to five games.

They’ll look to do so in a rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Pittsburgh hasn’t played since they beat Montreal 4-3 in OT on Dec. 31, so it’ll be interesting to see if they come out of the gate rusty or fresh.

As for the Bolts, their 4-2 loss to the Flyers yesterday afternoon was their third straight defeat.

Andrei Vasilevskiy will get the nod for the Bolts.

Elsewhere…

–Zane McIntyre will start for the Bruins, while the ‘Canes have confirmed that they’ll go with Cam Ward.

Michal Neuvirth made a successful return to the Flyers’ lineup yesterday afternoon, so Steve Mason is expected to get the start tonight. Sergei Bobrovsky should be between the pipes for the Blue Jackets.

–The Chicago Blackhawks will start Corey Crawford against the Predators. Nashville has yet to name a starting goaltender for this game.

–The Oilers are looking for their third straight win, and they’ll do so with backup Jonas Gustavsson in goal. The Senators will give Mike Condon a second start in two nights.

Devan Dubnyk will likely be between the pipes for the Minnesota Wild. John Gibson will look to win his fourth straight game for the Ducks. You can watch this game on NBCSN or you can get an online feed by clicking here.

Tonight in Columbus, a chance for the Oilers to prove their doubters wrong

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People are still skeptical about the Edmonton Oilers.

That’s only natural, given the Oilers haven’t made the playoffs in a decade and, in that time, have drafted four times with the first overall pick.

They’ve been a pretty, pretty bad team over the last little while.

And to be sure, the Oilers are still losing games that good teams normally win. Like Saturday’s 3-2 shootout loss to Vancouver, a home game against a non-playoff side that had played the night before.

“We were flat, our execution was poor, we played the game standing still,” head coach Todd McLellan told reporters after that one. “We didn’t go after and skate against a team that played an overtime game the night before. When you stand around and try to do it the easy way, it doesn’t work.”

So when it comes to the Oilers, the skepticism is understandable. In fact, it’s wholly warranted.

Which leads us to their upcoming road trip, starting tonight in Columbus against a Blue Jackets side riding a 15-game winning streak.

If the Oilers would like to prove their doubters wrong, now would be a great time to do it. And to help them, they’ll get Andrej Sekera back after the veteran defenseman missed a couple of games due to illness.

“It’s a good opportunity to play the best team in the NHL right now,” said captain Connor McDavid.

At 19-12-7, the Oilers are still comfortably in a playoff spot, six points up on Dallas and Vancouver. But as mentioned, they have yet to earn the benefit of the doubt that they can hold on. The Oilers could still be caught by Calgary, Los Angeles, or even Vancouver for third place in the Pacific Division. And if that happens, they’d also have to fend off Dallas, Nashville, or even Winnipeg for a wild-card spot.

Oh, and one more thing about this Oilers team — their starting goalie, Cam Talbot, has made 34 starts, against just four for Jonas Gustavsson, who’s gone 1-2-1 with an .893 save percentage.

Talbot has played well, going 18-10-6 with a .919 save percentage, but no goalie has come close to matching his workload, which could make for an interesting stretch drive.

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It could also make for some criticism of GM Peter Chiarelli, if things go sideways.

After all, Gustavsson was a curious signing. His career save percentage in the NHL is just .902, the lowest among the 33 active netminders with at least 150 games of experience. Heck, it was Chiarelli’s former team, the Bruins, who didn’t feel confident enough to bring the goalie back for another season in Boston.

In other words, it’s no real surprise that McLellan doesn’t seem to have any confidence in his backup.

So it’s going to be fun to watch, as these Oilers try to make the playoffs for the first time since 2006. Lots of questions remain. Lots of doubters, too.

“You’ve got to look forward to the challenge,” winger Milan Lucic said ahead of tonight’s big game. “You have to embrace it. That’s the fun in being a competitor and on a competitive team. It’s playing the best of the best.”

And hopefully, for the sake of the Oilers and their loyal fans, coming out on top.

Khudobin hasn’t solved the Bruins’ backup goalie problem

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When we last checked in on Anton Khudobin, he’d just delivered an encouraging performance for the Boston Bruins, stopping 29 of 30 shots in a 2-1 shootout victory over Carolina.

Unfortunately for Khudobin and the B’s, his last two starts have been decidedly discouraging. Last Thursday, he allowed four goals on 22 shots in a 4-2 loss to Colorado, and last night, it was four goals on 27 shots in a 4-3 loss to Anaheim.

“Obviously, it’s disappointing. I’m not really happy,” said the 30-year-old netminder, per WEEI in Boston. “But I’m not going to put my head down and say that I’m done.”

With last night’s loss, Khudobin’s record fell to 1-5-0 with an .882 save percentage. In stark contrast, Tuukka Rask is 15-5-3 with a .930 save percentage.

After missing the playoffs the past two seasons with Niklas Svedberg and Jonas Gustavsson in the backup role, the Bruins were hoping for much better from Khudobin, who played so well for them in 2013, when he went 9-4-0 with a .920 save percentage.

Read more: ‘Really happy’ to be back in Boston, Khudobin will be key for Bruins

But signing him to a two-year, $2.4 million contract was a gamble by GM Don Sweeney, considering Khudobin had struggled in his previous two NHL seasons, going a combined 11-20-6 with a .902 save percentage for Carolina and Anaheim. He spent most of last season in the AHL.

In case you’re wondering, there is no great third option behind Rask and Khudobin. Zane McIntyre has been good in the AHL, but he’s 0-2-0 with an .859 save percentage for the big club. Malcolm Subban, a first-round draft pick in 2012, doesn’t even have good AHL numbers this season (2-6-5, .903), lest we forget his two disastrous NHL starts, neither of which he finished.

So it may be up to Rask to carry the B’s into the playoffs. Boston is currently three points clear of Tampa Bay for third place in the Atlantic, but the Bolts have two games in hand.