Today is not only the final day of 2019, but it is also the final day of the decade. The National Hockey League is sending the year out in style with a full day of action and 13 big games on the schedule. Before all the action gets started, we’ll look at a big return and an injury update in Columbus. A playoff hero gets two honors in one day while the All-Star goaltenders have been named.
Bobrovsky Returns to Columbus
One of the most intriguing games on today’s schedule is the Florida Panthers visiting the Columbus Blues Jackets. This will mark Sergei Bobrovsky’s first appearance at the Nationwide Arena since he signed his seven-year, $70 million contract with the Panthers on July 1.
Bobrovsky spent the previous seven seasons with the Blue Jackets where in won a pair of Vezina Trophies, for being the league’s top goaltender, in 2013 and again in 2017. He was also in net for their huge first-round upset of the Tampa Bay Lightning last spring, the only Stanley Cup playoff series win in franchise history.
This will be the second time Bobrovsky will face his former teammates this month. He made 33 saves in a 4-1 Panthers home victory back on Dec. 7. The current members of the Blue Jackets do not seem all too concerned with his return.
“This is a bigger story, I think, for our fans than for us,” Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno said Monday. “We’ve already played against [Bobrovsky]. That story’s been written for us. Now we look at it as we have to get a big win against a good team.”
Bobrovsky’s first season in Florida has not been a great one. While he has 14 wins, his 3.26 goals-against average (GAA) and .898 save percentage (SV%) is far below his career averages. He comes into this game struggling as he has given up 15 goals over his last three starts. Somehow, the Panthers managed to win two of those games.
The Panthers will not have to face Joonas Korpisalo, who spent four years as Bobrovsky’s backup. Korpisalo injured his right knee while facing Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews on Sunday. Head coach John Tortorella told the media his starting goaltender will be out “weeks.”
Binnington Gets Second Star Honors
On Monday, the NHL named their Three Stars from the previous seven days as they at the start of every week. Victor Hedman of the Lightning took home First Star honors for six assists and eight points in three games. Toronto Maple Leafs captain John Tavares was named the Third Star after scoring two goals and seven points.
St. Louis Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington was named the Second Star for a big week with the hottest team in the league. The defending Stanley Cup champions won all three of the games last week to extend their winning streak to eight games and Binnington earned the win in all of them.
He posted a 1.96 GAA and .929 SV% in one win against the Los Angeles Kings and back-to-back victories over the Winnipeg Jets. He is one a personal six-game winning streak and now leads all NHL goaltenders with 19 wins. He has won 43 games during 2019, which is a franchise record for the most victories in a calendar year.
All-Star Goaltenders Named
Second Star of the Week was not the only honor Binnington earned on Monday. He was also named to the Central Division team for the 2020 NHL All-Star Game. The Blues are hosting the event and he will be joined by teammates Ryan O’Reilly and Alex Pietrangelo. This will be Binnington’s first All-Star Game.
Connor Hellebuyck of the Jets will join Binnington on the Central Division team. Hellebuyck is tied for the league lead in shutouts with three and his .923 SV% is good enough for ninth among all goaltenders.
Marc-Andre Fleury of the Vegas Golden Knights and Darcy Kuemper of the Arizona Coyotes were named to the Pacific Division squad. The Atlantic Division will have a formidable duo in Tuukka Rask of the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs workhorse Frederik Andersen. Korpisalo and Braden Holtby of the Washington Capitals will represent the Metropolitan Division.
As we mentioned earlier, Korpisalo will be out weeks with a knee injury so he will miss the game on Jan. 25. Kuemper is currently considered week-to-week with a lower-body injury so it is doubtful he will play either. Possible replacements include Tristan Jarry of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Jacob Markstrom of the Vancouver Canucks.