Hradek: Goalie issues in Buffalo, Vancouver on radar
So you want to be an NHL linesman? Just remember, there might be evenings like the one that Darren Gibbs had Thursday night in Minnesota.
The lanky Gibbs was doing the toughest part of his job, trying to break-up a scrap between Wild forward Cal Clutterbuck and Canucks center Maxim Lapierre late in the third period, when he took a stray Clutterbuck left to the face.
Fortunately, Gibbs, while briefly stunned, didn't suffer a significant injury. These things, while not everyday occurrences, can be part of the job.
I don't expect Clutterbuck will face any supplemental discipline for accidentally clocking Gibbs. It's pretty clear he didn't intend to hit the linesman. Either way, I would imagine it still hurt. And, I have to give the Edmonton native in stripes his due. He can take a punch!
Here are three things that I'll be watching during the upcoming weekend.
*How does Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff roll his goaltenders this weekend? Star stopper Ryan Miller got a real quick hook Wednesday night after allowing three goals in just 6:23 against the visiting Flyers. While he hasn't been “I'm lost in the woods," terrible, Miller has dropped four in a row.
I'd certainly be tempted to send backup Jhonas Enroth to the crease for Friday night's game against the visiting Flames. Against Philly, in relief, Enroth was solid, turning back all 15 shots. In fact, the Swedish-born goaltender has been very good in his three appearances, playing to a .955 save percentage.
With back-to-back games against the Flames and Senators (in Ottawa), I'm thinking Enroth will get a start in one of them. Why not Friday night?
*Can Edmonton make it seven? The Oilers ran their winning streak to six games with an impressive 3-0 win against the Kings in Los Angeles on Friday night. Tom Renney's guys have been committed to play better defense and it shows. The Oilers held the Kings to just 19 shots on goal.
When the Kings did get an opportunity, red-hot veteran Nikolai Khabibulin proved air-tight, recording his 45th career shutout. On the season, the 38-year-old Khabibulin is 6-0-2 with a microscopic 0.98 goals-against average and a silly good .963 save percentage. Fully healthy and having put an off-ice legal issue behind him, the 2004 Cup-winning goalie seems completely rejuvenated.
EJ's Instant Analysis
Analyst EJ Hradek shares his take on all the news around the National Hockey League.
Edmonton makes the second stop on its six-game road swing in Phoenix on Saturday. The Coyotes, who had their own three-game winning streak snapped Thursday by the visiting Predators, will be eager to get back on track.
*I'll definitely be watching Sunday night's meeting between the Canucks and Hawks at the United Center. After meeting in the postseason each of the past three springs, these two teams don't like each other.
I can remember interviewing Hawks center Dave Bolland after last spring's playoffs. He was pretty clear about not wanting to see the Canucks win.
This is the first meeting between the two clubs since the Canucks scored a Game 7 overtime win against the Hawks in April. In case you've forgotten, Vancouver's Alexandre Burrows netted the series-clincher with a seeing-eye shot over the blocker of Chicago goalie Corey Crawford.
This season, the Hawks have gotten off to the better start, improving to 8-2-2 with a 3-2 shootout victory over the Panthers. They'll face the Lightning on Friday before coming home to deal with the Sedin twins.
The Canucks also skate Friday night, challenging the Blues in St. Louis after an ugly 5-1 loss in Minnesota on Thursday night that left them 6-6-1 on the new season.
After starting sophomore Cory Schneider in Minny, Vancouver head coach Alain Vigneault will go back to No. 1 Roberto Luongo in St. Louis. If Luongo builds on the solid effort against the Flames earlier in the week, I have to figure he'll be staring down his old pals from Chicago on Sunday.