NHL News & Rumors: Panthers, Coyotes, Oilers, Maple Leafs, More

In today’s NHL news and rumors rundown, the Florida Panthers are making a change in goal for Game 2 versus the Tampa Bay Lightning. Meanwhile, in Edmonton, Oilers’ goaltender Mike Smith is looking forward to erasing the memory of last year’s play-in round. The Arizona Coyotes might be a team with interest in Jack Eichel and the Toronto Maple Leafs have some injury and roster news of note.

Panthers to Start Driedger

After a close loss in a tremendous game, the Panthers are making a change in goal for Game 2 versus the Lightning. Goaltender Chris Driedger was in the starter’s net at practice and he’s pegged to be the go-to guy on Tuesday night.

Chris Driedger Florida Panthers
Chris Driedger, Florida Panthers (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)

The 27-year-old has better numbers than Sergei Bobrovsky and probably should have gotten the start in Game 1. Driedger posted a record of 14-6-3 during the regular season, with an impressive .927 save %. Perhaps a lack of playoff experience is why Head coach Joel Quenneville went the direction he did as this will be Dredger’s first-ever NHL playoff game.

The Panthers need a win here, but will be without second-line center Sam Bennett who was suspended for one game after hitting Lightning forward Blake Coleman from behind.

Coyotes Could Be Interested in Eichel

According to Jimmy Murphy of Boston Hockey Now, an NHL source claims the Coyotes are interested in acquiring Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel. Of the many teams who have been listed as potential fits for Eichel if a trade does happen, the Coyotes have not really been mentioned prior to this.

Apparently, the source said Coyotes GM Bill Armstrong has had extended conversations with Sabres GM Kevyn Adams over what it would cost to land Eichel. They have the type of young players that the Sabres would be looking for — names like Clayton Keller, Christian Dvorak, Jakob Chychrun or Adin Hill — and Buffalo would be much happier to move him out west than in their own division.

Related: Maple Leafs News & Updates: Wickenheiser, Hutton, Bogosian & Hyman

Smith Not Worried About Last Season’s Play-Ins

Mike Smith is looking forward to a better playoffs than he had last year in the NHL bubble and he knows what happened last season won’t happen again. He’s pegged to be the starter for the Oilers throughout most of the team’s playoff games and he needs to have a good run for the Oilers to do well.

Mike Smith Edmonton Oilers
Mike Smith, Edmonton Oilers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Smith spoke with the media ahead of Wednesday’s series start with the Winnipeg Jets and he noted:

“Everyone wants to talk about the one game I played in the bubble. Last year was a unique situation where I left my family behind. “I’m not concerned on how this is going to go. I’m not comparing it at all to last year’s situation. Last year was a layoff, and we got back, and it was just a unique situation.”

There was some talk about Smith being in “dad mode” last year and his head wasn’t entirely in the series. It doesn’t appear that will be an issue this year.

In other Oilers news, defenseman Kris Russell will not be available for Wednesday’s game, notes Postmedia’s Jim Matheson. The veteran suffered a leg injury late last month against Calgary, and Matheson writes:

Tippett said defenceman Kris Russell (leg after Matthew Tkachuk check) won’t be ready to start the playoffs in the third pair with Ethan Bear so Caleb Jones gets the nod on left side for the opener Wednesday …

source -‘OILERS NOTES: Slater Koekkoek earned trust of coaches in return to lineup’ – Jim Matheson – Edmonton Sun – 05/16/2021

Maple Leafs Roster News

As per multiple reports, including one from TSN’s Kristen Shilton, Maple Leafs defenseman Ben Hutton isn’t injured but he’s not currently available due to a non-COVID-related medical issue. Hutton’s situation is currently being monitored by team doctors and it’s not entirely clear what’s going on. Hutton, 28, joined the Maple Leafs at this year’s trade deadline, but only played in four games after being acquired from Anaheim.

Also, as per a report from TSN insider Darren Dreger, the Maple Leafs have cleared defenceman Zach Bogosian for Game 1 of their Stanley Cup Playoff series. This doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll play, as head coach Sheldon Keefe said Bogosian is “not quite there yet,” but there is talk he could. It is believed, whether he plays Game 1 or not, he will see some time in the series against the Montreal Canadiens.

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