Goalie nods: Hutchinson pushing for Jets’ starting gig

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News and notes from around the crease…

Winnipeg goes back to Hutch

Goalie controversy in Winnipeg?

Maybe. Just maybe.

Michael Hutchinson, who’s rotated starts with Ondrej Pavelec recently, will get the call tonight when the Jets take on the Stars in Dallas.

The decision comes after Pavelec allowed four goals on 25 shots in Sunday’s 4-3 OT loss to Anaheim. Hutchinson, meanwhile, has been excellent of late, stopping 124 of his last 132 shots faced — good for a .939 save percentage — and hasn’t lost in regulation in five straight games, with the Jets securing eight of a possible 10 points over that stretch.

Pavelec was great to start the season but has cooled off in recent weeks, and it wouldn’t be a shock if head coach Paul Maurice kept using Hutchinson extensively for the rest of this month. The Jets have some pretty big games on the horizon — from Dec. 13-31 they’ll face the likes of Anaheim, Boston, Chicago, Minnesota (x2) and the red-hot New York Islanders.

For the Stars, Kari Lehtonen is your likely starter.

Elsewhere…

‘Hawks at Devils: Scott Darling for Chicago, no word on a New Jersey starter.

Flyers at Jackets: Steve Mason vs. Sergei Bobrovsky

Caps at Bolts: Braden Holtby vs. Ben Bishop

Canucks at Habs: Ryan Miller vs. Carey Price

Flames at Leafs: Jonas Hiller vs. Jonathan Bernier

Kings at Sabres: Jhonas Enroth for Buffalo, Jonathan Quick likely for L.A.

Isles at Wild: Jaroslav Halak vs. Niklas Backstrom

Preds at Avs: Pekka Rinne vs. Calvin Pickard

Oilers at Sharks: Antti Niemi for San Jose, no word yet on an Edmonton starter.

Trade target Chris Stewart to be healthy scratch tonight

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By the sounds of it, Chris Stewart will be a healthy scratch tonight when his Sabres host the Kings.

If that’s indeed the case, nobody should be too surprised. Stewart has just three goals in 27 games and played a mere 7:48 in a fourth-line role Saturday in a 3-2 loss to Florida.

Stewart, 27, was once considered a rising star in the NHL. Selected 18th overall in the 2006 draft, the big winger scored 28 goals for the Avs in 2009-10.

Since then, however, he’s been traded twice, to St. Louis, then Buffalo. And given he’s a pending unrestricted free agent, he may well be traded once again by the March 2 deadline, if not considerably sooner.

The Bruins and Senators are among the teams reportedly interested. The question is, what would Stewart cost?

On the one hand, Stewart’s got 118 goals in 409 career games, and that puts him in the company of a guy like the Flyers’ Wayne Simmonds (122 goals in 475 games).

On the other hand, Simmonds has steadily improved his production since his early days with Kings, while Stewart has, well, if you’re a healthy scratch in Buffalo, it’s probably fair to call that bottoming out.

Teams will still be interested though. After all, a lot of players have bottomed out in Buffalo. The Sabres have by far the worst offense in the NHL. In a different situation, Stewart could thrive again.

At least, that’s the story GM Tim Murray will have to sell.

Update:

Yep, he’s scratched.

And he’s not too eager to talk about it.

Lecavalier shoots down retirement rumors

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Last week, TSN reported that Vincent Lecavalier — a repeat healthy scratch for the Flyers lately — was contemplating retirement in the wake of his demotion to the press box.

Today, Lecavalier refuted those reports. From the Daily News:

Lecavalier denied that claim and said he intends to honor his deal.

“No,” Lecavalier said bluntly. “I’m 34, I’m not 40. I feel good on the ice. I feel like I did 5 years ago. All of the sudden, I’m a healthy scratch. It’s frustrating. I know I have a lot in the tank. I know what I can provide on the ice, and I know what I bring off the ice with my teammates.”

General manager Ron Hextall gave Lecavalier’s agent, Kent Hughes, permission to negotiate a trade this summer for the former league scoring champion. The Flyers would like to move him and it’s clear Lecavalier, who holds a full no-movement clause, would accept an opportunity to play elsewhere.

The big question now is: Where do they go from here?

The situation in Philly seems unresolvable. Other Flyers that’ve been sent messages via the healthy scratch — Michael Del Zotto, Andrew MacDonald — have managed to work their way back into the lineup, but Lecavalier is going on three straight games with no signs of getting back in.

There are also few signs of him getting back in Craig Berube’s good graces. Lecavalier’s never been a favorite of the head coach, and now there have to be concerns about the damage done to Lecavalier’s standing and reputation across the league in terms of a trade. The Flyers could entice a possible move by retaining some of Lecavalier’s $4.5 million annual salary (up to half, so $2.25M), but it’s tough to say what the former Rocket Richard winner would be bringing to a new club, given his production and ice time have plummeted so severely.

Flyers owner thinks playoffs are ‘definitely’ still possible

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The Philadelphia Flyers managed just their second win since Nov. 8 on Saturday, yet owner Ed Snider still thinks they could be a playoff team.

“Yeah, I definitely do,” Snider said. “Of course. It’s early.”

Snider hopes that yesterday’s 2-1 win against the Los Angeles Kings ends up being a “turnaround.” He praised Steve Mason and threw his support behind GM Ron Hextall, as you can see from this interesting interview:

It’s a good time to show some confidence in the team, as they have an opportunity to improve their status. After Tuesday’s road game against the bruised Columbus Blue Jackets, they enjoy a four-game homestand against Eastern Conference teams.

That serves as a good opportunity to approach a .500 record (they’re currently 9-13-4) before they end 2014 with an intimidating eight-game road trip.

At the moment, Snider’s optimism might not seem very realistic, yet he’s seen his team dig itself out of big early-season holes before.

 

Steve Mason shuts the door, Flyers end losing skid at six games

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The Philadelphia Flyers got the lead. Then they had to hang on as the L.A. Kings pressed.

Goalie Steve Mason was certainly busy, making 37 saves as the Flyers managed to escape L.A. with a 2-1 victory over the Kings, despite getting outshot 38-16. Philadelphia, which snapped a six-game losing streak, got goals from Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds, taking a 2-0 lead. The Kings, so dominant at home this season, came close but couldn’t complete the comeback.

The Flyers, facing scrutiny for their struggles so far, managed to test Jonathan Quick only nine times in the final 40 minutes. Meanwhile, Mason faced a steady barrage of rubber for just his fifth victory of the season.

Busy as he was, his teammates in front of him did their best in putting up a protective, shot-blocking shield, too. The Kings had 22 shot attempts blocked.

“We didn’t get a lot through to him. A lot of really good chances that we had were either blocked or didn’t get all the way there. I don’t think it was goaltending that beat us,” said Kings’ head coach Darryl Sutter, as per LA Kings Insider.

The Flyers, with this win and a victory against L.A. on Oct. 28, complete the regular season sweep of the Kings.

“They’re Stanley Cup champs. That should do a lot for us. It shows that we can hang in there with the big boys,” said Simmonds, as per Curtis Zupke of NHL.com.