Curtis McElhinney has started two games in a row for the Ducks, but it is not a cause for concern for Jonas Hiller owners. Hiller started the first seven games of the season for the Ducks, who were playing a condensed schedule. The Ducks have now played nine games in 16 days, so Hiller needed some rest. McElhinney was busy, facing 40-plus shots in both games, winning one and losing one. On Saturday, he allowed five goals on 41 shots in a 5-4 loss at Detroit. Hiller’s 2-4-1 record and 3.45 GAA will get better, and he should still start around 60 games (last year he started 58). But McElhinney also proved he is a capable backup, starting ten games going 5-1-2 for the Ducks last season after being acquired from Calgary.
You might think it’s odd for me to write about the Oilers when Nikolai Khabibulin has started all six of their games, but that will change shortly. After winning his first two games while allowing just two goals, Khabibulin allowed 17 in his past four games- all losses for the Oilers. According to the Edmonton Journal, Jeff Deslauriers and Devan Dubnyk have been alternating as backups this season is after taking care of the goaltending after Khabibulin’s back injury last season. The Oilers play three games in four nights starting on Tuesday, so Deslauriers could start on Thursday against Columbus.
San Jose Sharks
Antero Niittymaki has given up six goals in three starts. He had to come into the game in relief for Antti Niemi on Sunday against Calgary after Niemi allowed three goals on five shots in the game’s first nine minutes. Niittymaki allowed just one goal on 25 shots the rest of the way. He now has a 1.41 GAA and a .932 SV%. Niemi, on the other hand, has given up three or more goals in each of his past three starts and has a mediocre 4.50 GAA and .854 SV%. It seems pretty clear which goalie will be getting the nod more often than not in the coming weeks.
The Canucks were right when they said Roberto Luongo would rest more often this season. Cory Schneider has started two of the past four games for the Canucks, allowing just two goals while winning both games. In seven periods of work, he has stopped 61 of 63 shots for a .968 SV%. Luongo’s numbers aren’t that bad, but he has only one win in six games, having allowed 15 goals in his past four starts. In past seasons he has started 70+ games, but this season may be different especially if Schneider continues to play well when called upon.
Semyon Varlamov, who spent three weeks on the IR with a groin injury, managed to last just one start (and two games) before being sidelined again with an undisclosed injury. He allowed four goals on 34 shots in a 4-1 loss to the Bruins last week. Michael Neuvirth will continue to get the starts in his absence. He has won five of his past six starts, allowing an average of two goals a game. If Varlamov misses significant time again, Braden Holtby could see a start or two as the Caps’ most recent callup in net.
Other situations to monitor
Atlanta Thrashers: Ondrej Pavelec activated from IR; could see a start this week as Atlanta has three games in four days.
Nashville Predators: How much will Anders Lindback play now that Pekka Rinne is back?
Philadelphia Flyers: Brian Boucher has started two in a row; Sergei Bobrovsky has lost two games in a row.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Mike Smith and Dan Ellis have each started four of the team’s first eight games.
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