Richard Bachman

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Goalie nods: Leafs start McElhinney with chance to clinch playoffs

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.

Goalie nods: Markstrom makes season debut for Canucks

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The NHL’s busiest netminder will get a rest tonight.

The Vancouver Canucks — who have played Ryan Miller an NHL-high 851:38 this season — will give their No. 1 a break in Columbus, opting to give backup Jacob Markstrom his first start of the season.

Markstrom has been sidelined for most of the year with a hamstring injury, forcing journeyman Richard Bachman, No. 3 on the organizational depth chart, into backup duty. The Canucks only used Bachman once over the first 15 games of the year, though — a 4-3 win over the Coyotes two weeks ago — opting instead to give the 35-year-old Miller all he could handle.

While he’s yet to play an NHL game this season, Markstrom did get a conditioning stint with the Canucks’ affiliate in Utica, going 1-0-1 with a 2.40 GAA and .909 save percentage.

For the Blue Jackets, Sergei Bobrovsky is in goal.

Elsewhere…

— St. Louis will continue to ride Jake Allen‘s hot hand in New Jersey. The Devils will counter with Cory Schneider, who returns to the net after Keith Kinkaid beat the Canucks on Sunday.

Henrik Lundqvist is back in goal for the Rangers after Antti Raanta beat the Coyotes on Saturday in Arizona. No confirmed Carolina starter yet, but Cam Ward is likely to go.

— Battle of the backups in Philadelphia tonight, as the Avs will go with Reto Berra while the Flyers counter with the red-hot Michal Neuvirth.

— Calgary will give Karri Ramo his fifth straight start after being recalled from AHL Stockton. The Panthers will go with Roberto Luongo.

Chad Johnson for Buffalo in Tampa Bay. The Bolts will give an unlucky Ben Bishop the night off, and start Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Braden Holtby, who’s won three of his last four, starts for Washington. Detroit counters with Petr Mrazek, who stopped 32 of 33 shots in a win over Toronto on Friday.

Craig Anderson returns to the Sens’ net after Andrew Hammond started over the weekend. The Preds are going with Pekka Rinne, who’ll have a new backup in Marek Mazanec. Carter Hutton was put on IR today.

Ondrej Pavelec, with a 1.97 GAA and .922 save percentage in his last five starts, goes for Winnipeg. Minnesota will start Devan Dubnyk, as per usual.

James Reimer will look to replicate his success against Dallas, after stopping 43 of 44 shots in a win over the Stars last week. Lindy Ruff will give Antti Niemi another crack at the Leafs.

Mike Smith‘s in for Arizona, one night after Anders Lindback played very well in an OT win over the Ducks. No confirmed Kings starter yet, but Jonathan Quick is expected to play.

Martin Jones goes for San Jose, while Thomas Greiss starts in goal for the Islanders.

Backup plan: Canucks recall Markstrom from conditioning assignment

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The Vancouver Canucks finally have their No. 2 goalie back.

Jacob Markstrom, who’s yet to play this season after suffering a hamstring injury on Oct. 6, has been recalled from his conditioning assignment with AHL Utica, the Canucks announced on Monday.

In a corresponding move, the team sent down No. 3 netminder Richard Bachman to the Comets.

Markstrom, 25, posted a record of 1-0-1, a 2.40 GAA, and a .909 save percentage during his brief stint in the American League.

There’s no doubt the Canucks are glad to get him back.

With Markstrom sidelined, the club has been forced to rely on Ryan Miller heavily in the early stages of the year, playing Bachman just once. As a result, the 35-year-old Miller currently leads the NHL in games played (14), games started (14), minutes played (851:38, the only goalie over 800) and shots faced (387).

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Miller has sagged a bit recently. Here’s a look at his last five games played, including a back-to-back set this weekend in Buffalo and New Jersey:

miller2

As for when Markstrom might make his season debut? The Canucks have five more games left on their current, and lengthy, seven-game road swing: Tuesday in Columbus, Thursday in Ottawa, Saturday in Toronto, Monday, Nov. 16 in Montreal and Wednesday, Nov. 18 in Winnipeg.