Off The Draw
It's been a week of hard luck and second chances for NHL goaltenders.
Just days after Martin Brodeur was recruited to replace the injured Brian Elliott in St. Louis word came down that Ilya Bryzgalov is being brought in from the cold by the Anaheim Ducks. The 34-year-old space enthusiast signed a tryout deal with the club on Wednesday. If he impresses, Bryzgalov could sign a one-year deal before the weekend to provide some veteran insurance for the team where he started his NHL career back in 2001.
It's a perfectly reasonable solution to a tough situation in Anaheim, where John Gibson is out indefinitely with a groin injury and Jason LaBarbera broke his hand in Saturday's loss to San Jose. In 32 appearances last season for Edmonton and Minnesota, Bryzgalov posted a 12-9-8 record with a .909 save percentage and 2.68 goals-against average. Not world beating numbers, but probably better than they could ask of fourth-stringer Igor Bobkov.
Frederik Andersen will continue to carry the load, but having an experienced hand on deck, at what's likely to be a minimal cap hit, will add a layer of much-needed security for a team that considers itself a viable Stanley Cup contender.
Speaking of contenders, the red-hot Blackhawks will be without starter Corey Crawford for two to three weeks after—get this—he hurt his foot at a concert.
“I was on the way out and missed a step and I didn't think it was that bad,” Crawford told the Chicago Tribune. “I woke up the next day and it was worse than I thought.
“I'm pretty embarrassed about it, frustrated. Things were going really well. Right now I'm just thinking about trying to get back as quickly as possible and make sure I'm right back where I was [where] I left off.”
The Hawks managed to survive their first game without him—Antti Raanta stopped 40 of 41 shots in last night's 4-1 win over the Blues—but they have to be grateful that the injury wasn't more serious. Crawford was huge on the recent circus road trip, going 5-1 with a 1.84 GAA and .929 save pct. Losing him for a longer period than three weeks would be a real blow.
Meanwhile in Dallas, the struggling Stars have finally cut their losses with backup Anders Lindback and called on Jussi Rynnas to try to salvage their season.
Rynnas, the former Maple Leafs flop, dominated the Finnish league last season (1.51 GAA and .939 save pct.), but has found the sledding a bit tougher in the AHL. He's posted a .913 save pct. and 2.58 GAA with the Texas Stars, going 5-1-4 in the process, but he's won points for his enthusiasm between the pipes.
It might not take long to crush that out of him once he hits Dallas, though. As bad as Lindback and starter Kari Lehtonen have been—the Stars have the worst goals-against average in the league (3.52) and the second-worst save percentage (.893)—it's clear that the team's problems begin long before the keepers get a chance to make a play on the puck. Dallas is criminally negligent with the biscuit in its own zone and guilty of poor decisions and worse gaps that lead to turnovers and scrambled coverage. It's a team-wide issue that needs to be addressed at the coaching level, but it's been exacerbated by the inability of the goaltenders to mix in the occasional big stop.
It's too big a problem to expect Rynnas to address on his own, but he'll get his chance.
And if that doesn't work out, Tomas Vokoun is waiting by the phone ...
What to watch tonight
You will never in your life see more attention paid to a pre-game skate than you will tonight.
Daniel Alfredsson is set to sign a one-day contract with the Senators this morning and then announce his retirement after 17 glorious NHL seasons. He'll then take to the ice in that red sweater he wore better than anyone before him and make one last twirl around Ottawa's rink with the boys prior to their contest against the Islanders. After that? Well, there are surprises promised. You might want to tune in.
After playing 1,259 games for the New Jersey Devils, Martin Brodeur will get the start tonight for St. Louis as the Blues take on the Predators in Nashville. It was expected that the future Hall of Famer would see action at some point on this trip, but after Jake Allen was lit up last night in Chicago it was clear the Blues needed Brodeur sooner than later. Given the importance of this Central Division showdown this will be anything but a soft opening, but Brodeur should come into this one with confidence. He led the Devils to a 5-0 victory the last time he faced Nashville, earnin his 123rd career shutout. The Preds have won six straight at home this season, but the Blues have dominated in Nashville. They'll be looking for their sixth consecutive victory at Bridgestone Arena.
The Bruins seem intent on focusing on the positives in their recent efforts, but with their losses mounting—and just 16 goals to show for their past 10 games—those moral victories won't suffice for much longer. GM Peter Chiarelli has already made in-person visits to Buffalo and Chicago this week and could be on the verge of pulling a significant trade to shake up the club. A loss tonight in San Jose might force his hand. The Sharks come into this one having won two in a row, but could be without Logan Couture. San Jose's leading scorer (10-12-22) suffered an apparent head injury in Tuesday's 2-1 win over the Flyers and did not practice on Wednesday.
Rest of the schedule: Canucks at Penguins (7 p.m. EST; SN360, ROOT); Capitals at Hurricanes (7 p.m. EST; CSN-DC, FS-CR); Devils at Maple Leafs (7:30 p.m. EST; MSG, TSN4); Stars at Red Wings (7:30 p.m. EST; NHLN-US, FS-SW, FS-D); Sabres at Lightning (7:30 p.m. EST; MSG-B, BELL TV, SUN); Blue Jackets at Panthers (7:30 p.m. EST; FS-O, FS-F); Avalanche at Flames (9 p.m. EST; SN1, TVA2, ALT); Kings at Coyotes (9 p.m. EST; FS-W, FS-A)
What you missed last night
The numbers game
• Daniel Alfredsson is retiring as the Senators' all time leader in goals (426), assists (682), points (1,108) and games played (1,178).
• Wayne Simmonds’ goal at 19:57 of the third period against Anaheim last night was the closest to the final horn that a game-tying score has come this season, and 2014-15's seventh tying tally in the final minute of regulation. The others: Detroit's Niklas Kronwall (19:21, Oct. 23 vs. Pittsburgh) and Tomas Tatar (19:52, Nov. 5 vs. the Rangers); San Jose's Patrick Marleau (19:26, Nov. 20 vs. the Panthers); Florida's Nick Bjugstad (19:29, Nov. 22 vs. the Predators); Calgary's Curtis Glencross (19:55, Nov. 22 vs. the Devils) and Ottawa's Alex Chiasson (19:19, Nov. 25 vs. the Blues). Of the seven, three (Kronwall, Glencross, Chiasson) ended up winning the game.
• Anaheim's Jakob Silfverberg remains golden in the skills competition. He leads the NHL with five shootout goals (5-for-7; 71.4%) and at 10-for-17 leads all active players with a career 58.8% conversion rate (minimum: 15 attempts).
Must reads: Jean Béliveau edition
• The passing of Jean Béliveau on Tuesday inspired Dave Stubbs to retrieve this excellent piece on the magical friendship between Le Gros Bil and Mr. Hockey. An absolute must-read.
• Stubbs also got to play 20 Questions with Béliveau back in 2001. Some of his answers will astound you.
• If you missed Keith Olbermann's take on Béliveau and legacy, or you really like to see impressions of Bill Chadwick, you need to check it out here.
• Hall of Fame writer Red Fisher came out of retirement to share his memories of his old friend.