InGoal Update: Shutouts Up but Goalies Going Down
Islanders almost lose a fourth goalie to attack from Senators’ rookie; Brodeur tweaks knee; Hiller, Ducks deny concussion despite sitting out with ‘lightheadedness and fatigue’ and more in the Feb. 5 Daily Update.
Saturday Night was all right for shutouts, with no fewer than five posted around the NHL, but the more alarming number involving goaltenders is the number who aren’t able to play coming out of the weekend because of injuries.
It’s a list topped by the hard-luck Islanders, who since trading away durable veteran Dwayne Roloson just over a month ago have lost Nathan Lawson for two to four weeks with a knee injury and will now be without would-be starter Rick Dipietro for four to six weeks after scans revealed he basically broke his face when Pittsburgh’s Brent Johnson dropped him with a hard left hand during a rare goalie fight last week.
The Islanders called up massive Finnish project Mikko Koskinen to back up top prospect Kevin Poulin, but with so many goalies hurt (Koskinen also missed time recently) were also forced to sign Joel Martin, a 10-year minor-league professional who started the season with the Odessa Jackalopes in the fourth-tier Central Hockey League, to a two-way NHL contract.
The way things are going on Long Island, the team should probably count its blessings that they didn’t also lose Poulin to the thuggery of Swede Robin Lehner, the 19-year-old Ottawa Senators’ top puck-stopping prospect who seemed to have a real bee in his bonnet during Saturday night’s game. After engaging with New York forwards after a whistle in front of his net earlier, Lehner, who replaced a struggling Brian Elliott, elbowed Poulin to the ice as the teams skated past each other on their way to the locker rooms at the end of the second period, sending the Islanders goalie sprawling – and as any goalie who has hit the back of their poorly protected head on the ice can attest – just ask Atlanta’s Ondrej Pavelec – putting him at risk of injury (video courtesy The Score):
Lehner also earned a penalty that put the Islanders on a 5-on-3 on fresh ice and resulted in New York scoring the game-winning goal but despite video evidence to the contrary, Lehner blamed Poulin for sparking the melee, according to the Ottawa Sun, and even seemed to question his counterpart’s toughness after he skated to the blueline during Lehner’s first scrum before thinking better of creating another New York goalie fight:
“I’ve thought about it a little and I looked at it on the Internet, too,” Lehner told The Sun a day later. “I’m going right alongside the boards, I’m going my way, and he angles me and he starts chirping me. Basically what happens is I put my forearm to his shoulder and he falls and glides like three yards … either you get into it or you don’t. You don’t go halfway and mess around. He got the penalty on me and I’m really upset I did that for the team, but that’s not hockey, going the first step and then just back off and dive. I saw when there was a scrum with Michalek, (Poulin) was up there and screaming a little bit at me too, so when I saw him coming and angling me, I thought he was going to drop them. It was dumb of me, I took the bait, and they got the win … Unfortunately we lost on my mistake.”
At least Lehner survived, which is important given the constant health issues of Ottawa’s supposed No.1 Pascal Leclaire and General Manager Bryan Murray’s insistence the struggling Senators won’t, even though Lehner is the only puck-stopper they have under contract for next season.
Lehner surviving intact is also a lot more than can be said for many of his puck-stopping peers lately.
Martin Brodeur was the latest to drop, leaving just 20 minutes into Sunday’s game against Montreal with what first appeared to be a bruise, but was later identified as a “tweaked” right knee.
Brodeur suffered the injury on a sharp angle shot with a little less than five minutes left in the first period (video below), but despite some awkward moments and movements right after managed to finish the period before pulling himself (against the wishes of head coach Jacques Lemaire, it seems) for the rest of the game.
Popular backup Johan Hedberg finished off the 4-1 victory for the Devils.
Brodeur told NorthJersey.com he didn’t think the injury was serious, had no additional tests scheduled, and doesn’t think he will be out long (though he skipped practice Monday) which is good considering how well he and the team are playing right now:
“I just kind of tweaked my knee when my leg got caught up under me there in the first,” Brodeur said. “When I got up I kind of felt a little twinge under my knee. So (Monday) we’ll see how it feels and we’ll go from there. I don’t know what I’m going to have to go through, but I don’t think it’s something that’s major at all. It was tough (to come out), but I think you have to make the right decision. You don’t want to get hurt more. I definitely didn’t feel 100 percent after I tweaked it.”
Brodeur’s injury came one day after the Anaheim Ducks announced they were shutting down No. 1 Jonas Hiller for a few days due to “fatigue and lightheadedness.” Despite denials all around that it was caused by the shot he took off the mask in last weekend’s All Star Game and the similarity of the symptoms, Hiller and the Ducks insist the goaltender is not suffering from a concussion.
But they also weren’t offering up any alternative theories for the injury, and Hiller, who skipped practice Friday after feeling (and by most accounts looking) out of sorts in a game Wednesday, still wasn’t feel much different Saturday night and “sounded a little discouraged about the situation,” according to the Orange County Register:
“(I’m) a little worn down, a little lightheaded,” Hiller told The Register after sitting out Saturday’s game in Colorado. “It’s weird. I don’t know. It doesn’t seem right. I was hoping it would get better from one day to the next but it didn’t happen, so unfortunately I hope it’s going to be good soon. All I can do is get my rest and we’ll see what happens.”
While Hiller sounded adamant it wasn’t the All Star shot that caused his problem, he knows as well as anyone the damage pucks off the noggin can cause, having suffered an injury himself in the playoffs years ago and watching partner Curtis McElhinney, who shut out the Avalanche in his place Saturday, get dropped in a pool of blood by a high, hard one earlier this season. But St. Louis starter Ty Conklin (while Jaroslav Halak is out with a minor injury, of course) provides the latest scare from a high shot:
As for the Ducks, they called up Timo Pielmeier from Syracuse on an emergency basis to back up McElhinney and are widely reported as close to signing Ray Emery for some third-goalie insurance though he’ll need time in the AHL after missing an entire year (update: Emery signed Monday morning, but must first clear waivers before reporting to Syracuse). Anaheim also re-assigned goalie Marco Cousineau from Elmira of the ECHL to Syracuse.
Their California counterparts up the coast must be wishing it could be that easy, because San Jose is running out of goalies.
Since Antero Niittymaki injured himself during a game-day skate in Vancouver back on Jan. 20, the Sharks have twice used emergency backups (first a local college kid named Jordan White and then junior goalie J.P. Anderson) before finally getting their top prospect, Alex Stalock, called up from Worcester of the American Hockey League to back up Antti Niemi. But with Worcester also short on goaltending and Nittymaki looking close to a comeback, the Sharks sent Stalock, who won his NHL debut in relief, back down between games, and he promptly suffered a season-ending skate cut that resulted in a sliced nerve, according to the Worcester Telegram:
“This is my first major injury ever,” Stalock told The Telegram from his hospital bed. “He just stepped on me — it was completely accidental, one of those freak things that can happen in the game of hockey. At first, I thought maybe his knee landed on me, but when I tried to get up and my ankle was just dangling, I knew it was more than that.”
Naturally Niittymaki re-tweaked his groin shortly after that, forcing the Sharks to call up first-year pro Carter Hutton. But he too was sent back between games to split AHL duties with Tyson Sexsmith, who has been called up from ECHL Stockton. Unless Niittymaki, who did practice Sunday, is ready to go in time for Tuesday’s game in Washington, Hutton will likely be called back up. At least the Sharks are travelling on the east coast and close to their minor-league affiliate, rather than at home on the other side of the country.
According to the San Jose Mercury News, Finnish goalie Harri Sateri could be added to the mix from Europe, but only in the NHL because the AHL doesn’t allow overseas transfers this late in the season. And Thomas Greiss, who was loaned to the Swedish Elite League after signing Niemi and Niittymaki (and despite being the Sharks best preseason goalie), would have to clear waivers a la Evgeni Nabokov before coming back, which given all the above-mentioned injuries seems highly unlikely. Junior goalies like Anderson and Thomas Heemskerk are also theoretically possible, The Mercury News reported:
“Then we’ve got the guy in UBC,” General Manager Doug Wilson joked. “I talked to him. He said it was one of the great experiences. He’s a king on campus now.”
The Sharks aren’t alone in the shortage.
In Hershey, the Bears were already without Braden Holtby on the weekend, though fortunately for parent-club Washington given how often he has had to fill in for either Michael Neuvirth and/or Semyon Varlamov already this season, the knee injury is only classified as “day to day.” If only Hershey backup Dany Sabourin could say the same. Sabourin requires knee surgery that is expected to keep him out for two to three months, prompting the recall of both guitar-playing goaltender Todd Ford and Jared DeMichiel from the ECHL over the weekend.