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The Buzzer: Merry Christmas Edition

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Players of the Night:

Mathew Barzal, New York Islanders: Barzal recorded his first career NHL hat trick against the Winnipeg Jets and took over the rookie scoring lead with 35 points. Not a bad day.

Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning, John Gibson, Anaheim Ducks, James Reimer, Florida Panthers, Marc-Andre Fleury, Vegas Golden Knights, and Martin Jones, San Jose Sharks: Each of these goaltenders recorded shutouts on Saturday night. Vasilevskiy got his fourth of the season, stopping 22 shots to tie Sergei Bobrovsky for the NHL lead in shutouts; Gibson made 29 saves, including one you will see below on Sidney Crosby; Reimer stopped all 38 shots sent his way by the Ottawa Senators; Fleury kept the Capitals in check, stopping 26 shots for his first shutout of the season; and Jones dethroned the Kings, stopping all 28 shots he faced.

Dallas Stars penalty killers: The Stars appeared dead in the water after Jamie Benn and Dan Hamhuis took penalties in overtime against the Nashville Predators, but Ben Bishop and Co. weathered the storm, which included 31 seconds of 5-on-3 time, and ended up taking the game in a shootout on Tyler Seguin‘s winner.

Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks: Kane became the fifth player in Blackhawks history to record his 300th NHL goal on Saturday.

Highlights of the Night:

John Gibson did this to Sidney Crosby tonight:

Barzal’s hatty deserves its spot here:

Taylor Hall scored on this ridiculous deke. Poor Anton Forsberg:

Alexander Radulov‘s shootout goal was pretty filthy:

Factoids of the Night: 

More Barzal:

Vegas keeps, well, Vegasing.

Brock Boeser smashes Pavel Bure’s record by 15 games:

“Merry Christmas to me,” Brock Boeser said, probably.

MISC: 

Scores: 

Bruins 3, Red Wings 1

Islanders 5, Jets 2

Oilers 4, Canadiens 1

Lightning 3, Wild 0

Panthers 1, Senators 0

Devils 4, Blackhawks 1

Ducks 4, Penguins 0

Hurricanes 4, Sabres 2

Blue Jackets 2, Flyers 1 (SO)

Golden Knights 3, Capitals 0

Avalanche 6, Coyotes 2

Stars 4, Predators 3 (SO)

Sharks 2, Kings 0

Blues 3, Canucks 1

Merry Christmas and happy holidays, everyone!


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

For the Florida Panthers, Michael Hutchinson could be the perfect fit

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If the Florida Panthers are in the market for a goaltender — and they are, according to reports  — Dale Tallon might want to give the Winnipeg Jets a call.

The Jets hold the keys to the top goaltender without a job in the NHL this season. His name? Michael Hutchinson (a man feared by Chicago Blackhawks fans).

If one thing has become abundantly clear early in this current NHL season, it’s that organizational goaltender depth is something every team should be grooming.

Many teams have, or are currently, figuring out where they stand in this department. The Vegas Golden Knights have been hardest hit, so much so they had to use an emergency recall on a goaltender still trying to find his way in the Western Hockey League earlier year.

But the likes of Carey Price, Matt Murray and, most recently, Roberto Luongo, have given their respective teams no option but to look within (or claim Antti Niemi off waivers, which two of those three teams have done this year). The Canadiens found relief in Charlie Lindgren and Tristan Jarry has been a stud for the Penguins.

But Luongo’s injury might just force the Panthers in a different direction. James Reimer hasn’t been the model of consistency this season and has failed to take the starter’s reins in Florida and run with them. With Luongo on the shelf for the long-term and the fact that looking within isn’t likely to help in the Sunshine State, perhaps a phone call to Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff could help turn the Panthers’ fortunes.

Hutchinson has been on a tear with the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League, where he ranks first in save percentage with a whopping .951 and is second only to Toronto Marlies netminder Garret Sparks in goals-against average with a 1.73. In 11 games played, Hutchinson has lost just once in regulation and holds a 9-1-1 record and his rich vein of form earned him AHL’s goalie of the month honours for November.

Hutchinson has played so well that when Steve Mason went down with a concussion last month, there was a low chance that Hutchinson would be recalled. He simply wouldn’t clear waivers when Mason makes his eventual return and the Jets would be out an asset that looks increasingly likely to garner a decent return.

‘Hutch’ certainly fits the Panthers’ criteria, suggested by TSN insider Bob McKenzie: He’s 27, a young netminder that comes with 99 games of NHL experience including some meaningful action when he helped the Jets secure a playoff spot during the 2014-15 season when Ondrej Pavelec went down with injury, winning 21 games in what was his coming out party.

Hutchinson has cooled off over the past two seasons, playing second fiddle to Pavelec in 2015-16 and then Connor Hellebuyck last season. When the Jets signed Steve Mason on the first day of free agency in July, it was all but assured that Hutchinson would start the season in the AHL and ride out the final year of his contract.

It’s become clear in Winnipeg that Hutchinson didn’t like being sent down. Most don’t. He has yet to give an interview to scribes this season.

But despite being upset, he’s handled it (mostly) the correct way: take it on the chin and go out and be a professional on the ice.

It could end up being the right fit at the right time for both parties. The Panthers need someone to steady the ship. Hutchinson, in the final year of a two-year contract, needs some NHL games to make his case for a spot on an NHL roster next season.

And the Panthers aren’t bringing Niemi back.


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

Roberto Luongo out for ‘extended period’ as Panthers turn to Reimer

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A forgettable start to the season got even worse for the Florida Panthers when goaltender Roberto Luongo went down during Monday night’s loss to the New York Islanders. Head coach Bob Boughner announced Wednesday morning that the netminder is will miss an “extended period of time” with a lower-body injury. He did not give a specific timetable.

“Whether that’s three weeks, four weeks, five weeks, we’re going to see how his rehab goes, that kind of thing,” he said via the Sun-Sentinel. “Definitely out for a while.”

This is the second injury that’s sidelined Luongo this season after he missed six games while nursing a hand injury in October. James Reimer will once again step in with Harri Sateri recalled to back up. Reimer has made 12 starts this season and posted a .901 even strength save percentage, via Corsica.

“This is a pretty big loss for us. [Luongo’s] been awesome for his whole career with Florida,” Panthers forward Aleksander Barkov told Pro Hockey Talk on Tuesday. “Of course it kind of sucks, but that’s the luxury of having James Reimer as a second goalie for us. That’s a pretty good thing that we have two goalies that can be first goalies in the league.”

The Panthers are currently tied for the third-fewest points in the NHL with 24 and wrap up a homestand later this week before hitting the road for a five-game trip. They’ll also be facing a pair of back-to-backs over the next three weeks, and since Luongo won’t be returning any time soon it could be Sateri making his NHL at some point, or maybe general manager Dale Tallon dips back into the market for an option other than the 27-year-old Finn.

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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.

Babcock lays down the law — ‘Anything that’s been going on is going to get cleaned up’

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SUNRISE — Mike Babcock has yet to meet in person with any of the Toronto Maple Leafs players. While he did speak to all of them over the phone, first he wanted to “get through the draft and see who was on our team.”

For now, Phil Kessel remains a Maple Leaf. As do Dion Phaneuf, Joffrey Lupul, Nazem Kadri, Jake Gardiner, Jonathan Bernier, James Reimer, and all the other Leafs who’ve had their names raised in trade speculation.

Whoever ends up staying, their new coach has a message for them.

“The number-one characteristic of a Toronto Maple Leaf is a good human being. Period,” Babcock said. “So if you don’t fit that, you’re not going to be here. Anything that’s been going on is going to get cleaned up.

“We’re going to be a fit, fit team. We’re going to be a team that comes to the media everyday, after a win, after a loss, after practice, and owns their own stuff. Period.”

It should be noted that the media did not ask Babcock about the media. He was answering an open-ended question about his “expectations” for the players.

Related: Kessel admits ‘responsibility to talk’ to reporters…but ‘not every day’

Leafs file for arbitration on Bernier, contract talks ongoing

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The latest between RFA goalie Jonathan Bernier and the Toronto Maple Leafs, per ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun:

Bernier, 26, just wrapped a two-year, $5.8 million deal with an average annual cap hit of $2.9M. In case you’re wondering about the differences between team- and player-elected arbitration — aside from the obvious — a few things to pass along:

• A player can only be subjected to team-elected arbitration once in his career. A player can elect arbitration himself as many times as possible, so long as a qualifying offer has been made.

• Players can still receive offer sheets after being subjected to team-elected arbitration (deadline is July 5).

• Team-elected arbitration must be filed within 48 hours of the conclusion of the Stanley Cup Final.

For historical context, three players were subjected to team-elected arbitration last summer:

• Michael Frolik, Winnipeg. The two sides agreed to a one-year, $3.3 million deal before the hearing.

• Ryan O’Reilly, Colorado. The two sides agreed to a two-year, $12 million deal before the hearing.

• Vladimir Sobotka, St. Louis. Arbitrator awarded Sobotka a one-year, $2.725 million deal. Sobotka then proceeded to sign in the KHL.

Bernier went 21-28-7 for the Leafs last year, posting a .912 save percentage and 2.87 GAA. His counterpart in goal, James Reimer, is heading into the last of a two-year deal worth $2.3 million annually.