Are the Sharks looking to go young in goal? If so, here are some options

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Interesting tidbit today on the future of San Jose’s goaltending from Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, appearing on Edmonton’s CHED 630 radio:

“I think they’re looking for a 25-year-old goalie who can play for a few years for them. They’re going to let [Antti] Niemi’s contract run out. [Alex] Stalock they just don’t believe has grabbed the net.

“I think they’re in the market for a guy who can play net for them for a few years. I would guess that’s as high on their list of things to do as anything else.”

Niemi, 31, is a UFA on July 1 and it sounds increasingly unlikely he’ll return to the Bay Area. Stalock, 27, will be a UFA after the 2015-16 campaign.

All of which leads to some interesting speculation about who could be in goal for the Sharks next year — and beyond.

In terms of goalies that are 25 at the time of writing, Chicago’s Antti Raanta, Vancouver’s Jacob Markstrom and Los Angeles’ Martin Jones jump to mind. Raanta appears to be in play, based on this latest report from the Chicago Sun-Times, as Scott Darling looks to have passed him on the organizational depth chart.

Markstrom, currently enjoying a bounce-back campaign in AHL Utica, could be viewed as expendable by the Canucks, who also have Eddie Lack — who, it should be mentioned, only just turned 27 and has one year left on his deal — and Ryan Miller, signed through 2017.

Jones, who’s served as Jonathan Quick’s backup in L.A. for each of the last two seasons, has great career statistics — .925 save percentage, 1.95 GAA, seven shutouts — but those numbers have come in a small sample size: 30 NHL appearances, and just 27 starts.

Moving out of the 25-year-old window ever so slightly, there are others to consider.

Like 26-year-old Jonathan Bernier, for example. At this point, it’s safe to assume no Leaf is safe as Toronto goes through a full-scale rebuild and, what’s more, Bernier’s a proven commodity, having appeared in nearly 100 games over the last two seasons.

Michal Neuvirth, also 26, could be a candidate. He’s been a No. 1 before (in Washington) and has really turned in on lately for Buffalo, posting a .942 save percentage in eight games in February (numbers that coincided with Jhonas Enroth being shipped off to Dallas.)

So, more than a few options here for the Sharks. And what makes their search really interesting is that, as Friedman notes, they’ll have money to play with this summer — at a time where other clubs could be hamstrung by a salary cap that might not rise all that much, if at all.

“They have a lot of cap room,” he explained. “And I could see them, in the summer, taking a look at some of these teams that need to clear room and saying, ‘What are you going to do for us?’”

Sabres GM Murray: I got a trade call on a player ‘I never thought I would get’

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If David Clarkson can get traded, anybody can get traded.

That message was delivered on Thursday and re-iterated shortly thereafter, when Sabres GM Tim Murray told WGR 550 Radio one of the trade calls he recently received caught him completely off guard.

“I had a call like that today that I never thought I would get on a guy,” Murray explained. “He actually said, ‘Can you believe I’m calling you on this guy?’

“I said, ‘No, I can’t. But let’s talk.'”

It’s easy to see why someone would ring up Murray with this kind of offer, as the Buffalo GM has established himself as one that’s willing to orchestrate a big move. Since coming aboard, Murray has pulled off two major deals — the Ryan Miller-to-St. Louis trade, and the Evander Kane blockbuster — and a series of smaller, but still significant moves, including Matt Moulson to Minnesota and Jaroslav Halak to Washington.

It’s also worth noting that, as the rental market becomes depleted with all these pre-deadline deals, the potential for actual “hockey trades” rises. There’s also the potential for names that haven’t been bandied about to surface by Monday, like the one Murray discussed.

“You’re supposed to have an idea of who you may be dealing with because of previous conversations, but you never know,” he explained. “Some team could come out of the blue, whether that’s because of an injury or your guy happens to be playing very well and their opinion changed on them.

“There’s multiple reasons why you might get a call from somebody that you hadn’t previously thought was a fit for a guy.”

Lack, not Markstrom, to start for Canucks in Buffalo

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Willie Desjardins is playing it safe. Instead of giving Jacob Markstrom his first NHL start of the season tonight in Buffalo, the Canucks’ coach is sticking with Eddie Lack.

From play-by-play man Jon Abbott:

Lack is coming off a 40-save win Tuesday in Boston.

Markstrom, recalled from the AHL in the wake of Ryan Miller’s injury, has been enjoying an excellent season with the Utica Comets. As such, Vancouver hockey fans are curious to see what he can do at the NHL level.

And tonight is only Buffalo, right?

But the Canucks can’t take the Sabres, even without Zemgus Girgensons and Tyler Ennis, lightly. Vancouver has some significant injuries as well, and losing to the worst team in the NHL would be a disappointing end to what’s been a successful road trip.

At any rate, with Miller expected to miss 4-6 weeks, Markstrom should get his opportunity eventually. The Canucks’ next back-to-back set is March 21-22 in Los Angeles and Arizona, respectively.

Related: Canucks ‘confident’ in Lack

Canucks GM Benning confirms Miller out 4-6 weeks with sprained knee

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Vancouver Canucks head coach Willie Desjardins noted the other day this is now Eddie Lack’s team, with the injury to Ryan Miller.

There is now an official diagnosis and timetable for how long Miller will be out of action.

Canucks general manager Jim Benning confirmed to TSN 1040 radio that the veteran starting goalie is expected to miss four to six weeks — which had been previously reported — with a sprained knee

Miller suffered the injury Sunday, when his teammate Jannik Hansen slid hard into the net on the backcheck, and underwent an MRI done earlier in the week. Lack was forced to enter that game against the Islanders and made 27 saves as the Canucks came away with a shutout victory.

“We’ll just keep looking at it as we go through the process here,” said Benning on the Vancouver sports radio station Wednesday evening.

“But we won’t bring him back and he won’t be playing until he’s 100 per cent healthy. Right now it looks like it’s going to be that long, so we’ll see where it goes.”

The Canucks are facing Miller’s old team, the Buffalo Sabres, on Thursday.

Now the debate is whether the Canucks will go back to Lack, who was also sensational in Boston, or give Jacob Markstrom, called up from the AHL, the start.

Get your game notes: Penguins at Capitals, Rivalry Night

Tonight on NBCSN, it’s the Washington Capitals hosting the Pittsburgh Pengins on Rivalry Night at 8 p.m. ET. Following are some game notes, as compiled by the NHL on NBC research team:

TOP STORYLINES

• Last game: Both last played on Sunday…PIT won at home over FLA, 5-1…WSH lost at PHI, 3-2.

• WSH sits in the 1st wild card spot in the East, 9 points ahead of BOS (2nd WC).

• PIT won its division the last 2 seasons, but has never won 3 straight division titles (currently in 47th season).

• PIT: 7-11-4 vs. Metropolitan Division teams this season

• No other team currently in a playoff position has below a .500 points% within its own division.

• Caps dominating Pens this season (Potential Playoff Meeting?): This is the 4th and final meeting of the season; Washington has beaten Pittsburgh in all 3 previous meetings this season, scoring 3+ goals in each game and outscoring the Pens 10-1 including 2 shutouts…PIT was last swept by WSH in season series in 2009-10 (0-2-2).

• 3 of the top 6 scorers in the league will be on display in this one, including the league’s top goal scorer, Alex Ovechkin, who leads the NHL with 38 goals.

• Since Nicklas Backstrom entered the league in 2007-08, his teammate Alex Ovechkin leads the league in goals & points – Evgeni Malkin & Sidney Crosby rank 2nd & 3rd (Crosby 2nd in points; Malkin in goals – the other 3rd in each)…Backstrom ranks 8th in both goals & points.

• However, Crosby leads all NHLers in points/game since ’07-08 (Malkin – 2nd, Ovi – 3rd).

• 4 of 10 players with 550+ points since ’07-08

• Feb. for both clubs…WSH has gone 8-4-0 in the month…PIT is 6-4-1 in Feb.

• PIT comes in looking to win 3 straight for the first time since Dec. 15-20.

• WSH looks to win for the 5th time in the last 6 games (4-1-0 in last 5).

PITTSBURGH TEAM/PLAYER NOTES

• PIT power play: 0-for-the-month (0-20) until its last 2 games when it went 1-3 in each (2-26 on PP in Feb.).

• Sidney Crosby is one goal shy of reaching the 20-goal mark for the 8th time in his 10-season career.

• Crosby had 2 assists vs. FLA to improve his points/game to 1.09 (1st in NHL).

• Evgeni Malkin recorded his first 2goal-1assist game of the season vs. FLA.

• He has 5 points (3G-2A) during a 3-game point streak.

• Career vs. WSH: 39 points (9G-30A) in 28 games

• Kris Letang had an assist vs. FLA to continue his hot stretch. He is tied with CGY’s Mark Giordano for most points among defensemen (47) and leads all blueliners in assists (37).

• Letang is 1 goal & 3 pts away from tying his career high in both (11G last season, 50 pts in 2010-11).

• Patric Hornqvist posted 2 goals & 1 assist vs. FLA to match a career high for points in a game (last done on Nov. 8 at BUF). The 1st-year Penguin is 2 goals & 1 assist shy of his 4th career 20-20 season.

• Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 34 of 35 shots vs. FLA for his 27th victory of the season.

• Fleury has allowed no more than 2 goals in each of his last 7 starts dating back to Feb. 4:

• 4-2-1 record, 1.00 GAA, .964 SV%

• Career vs. WSH: 16-10-2, 2.48 GAA, .916 SV%

• Fleury leads the league in shutouts with a career-high/franchise-record 8 this season

• The Rangers (9), Wild & Canucks (both 8) are the only teams w/ as many clean sheets as Fleury

• Braden Holtby (WSH), Ryan Miller (VAN) & Devan Dubnyk (MIN) are t-2nd with 6 shutouts.

WASHINGTON TEAM/PLAYER NOTES

• Alex Ovechkin (goals) & Nicklas Backstrom (assists & pts) are at the top of the league rankings this season.

• Despite 0 points in his last 2 games, Ovi still has 11 points (6G-5A) in his last 8 games.

• Ovi leads the NHL in Feb. with 9 goals and 16 points.

• Backstrom’s 4-game point streak was snapped at PHI but he has 7 points (2G-5A) in his last 5 games.

• The highest Backstrom has ever finished in the scoring race is 4th when he had 101 points back in 2009-10 (Ovi finished t-2nd that season w/ 109)… The highest Backstrom has ever finished in assists was 3rd – done 4 times. His career high in both was set in the 2009-10 season (68A-101PTS).

• Last season Sidney Crosby (PIT) led the league in assists (68) & points (104).

• Ovechkin has won the Rocket Richard Trophy 4 times including each of the last 2 seasons.

• Six players have won the league’s goal-scoring title 5 or more times including Maurice Richard himself.

• Ovechkin has won the Art Ross Trophy once in his career (2007-08) – it is the only season a Capitals player has ever led the league in scoring.
Ovechkin was the last player to win both the Rocket Richard and Art Ross Trophy in the same season, doing so in 2007-08 with 65 goals and 112 points (both career highs)…Jarome Iginla in 2001-02 with CGY is the only other player to have won both awards in the same season.

• Ovechkin is a 3-time Hart Trophy winner (MVP) – 2012-13, 2008-09, 2007-08.

• No two teammates have more points this season than Ovechkin & Backstrom (125).

• Not since Joe Thornton (assists & points) & Jonathan Cheechoo (goals), in 2005-06 as members of the Sharks, had two teammates ended the season leading the league in each of those categories.

• Braden Holtby has started the Caps last 4 games and despite giving up 3 goals vs. PHI, he has allowed only 7 goals total in those 4 starts (1.73 GAA, .938 SV%)