NHL Buzz: Rittich makes Maple Leafs debut against Flames after trade

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Toronto Maple Leafs

David Rittich is making his Maple Leafs debut against the Calgary Flames, his former team (TVAS2, SNO, SNW, NHL.TV).

The goalie was traded to the Maple Leafs by the Flames on Sunday for a third-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft.

“I had a conversation with Dave yesterday, just to really get a sense of where his head was at being sensitive to the circumstances,” Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe said Tuesday. “But he didn’t hesitate at all, he wanted to play.”

Rittich was 4-7-1 with a 2.90 goals-against average, .904 save percentage and one shutout in 15 games (12 starts) this season.

Toronto (28-11-3) leads the seven-team Scotia North Division and is six points ahead of the second-place Winnipeg Jets. The top four teams will qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. — Dave McCarthy

 

New Jersey Devils

Nico Hischier is playing for the Devils against the New York Rangers (MSG+, MSG, NHL.TV) after missing 24 games with a frontal sinus fracture.

The center, who will wear a full face shield the remainder of the season, returned to practice April 7 for the first time since he was struck in the visor with a deflected puck during a 5-2 loss to the Washington Capitals on Feb. 27.

Hischier was placed on injured reserve March 4 and had surgery March 15.

“It feels good to be out there with the guys, getting back in battle shape, because when you’re in a game it’s battle after battle,” Hischier said. “These extra practices with the team and having those battles brings me back into battle shape and the confidence in going 1-on-1 with a guy in the corner.”

The Devils captain has scored three points (two goals, one assist) in five games this season. He missed the first 11 games because of an offseason foot injury and NHL COVID-19 protocol. — Mike G. Morreale

 
Montreal Canadiens

Carey Price is expected to practice Wednesday for the first time since he aggravated a lower-body injury April 5.

The Canadiens goalie has been out the past four games.

“The information we have tonight is that Carey will be on the ice Wednesday,” Canadiens coach Dominique Ducharme said after a 4-2 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday. “We don’t expect he will be ready to play (against the Calgary Flames) Wednesday night, but in the days to follow Carey should be ready to return. Could it be Friday (against Calgary) or Saturday (against the Ottawa Senators)? We’ll see. But starting Wednesday, he’ll be on the ice.”

Jake Allen has started the past four games. He made 23 saves against the Maple Leafs to end a three-game losing streak.

“We need ‘Pricer’ to come back when he’s ready to come back and be healthy and ready to perform and be the best he can be,” Allen said. “So whenever he’s ready, you know, I’ll be here to fill the gap until then. So nothing new for me, it’s just one day at a time, one practice, one game at a time, and we’ll welcome him back with open arms whenever he’s ready to come back.”

Cayden Primeau dressed as the backup for all four games but has not played since he was recalled from Laval of the American Hockey League on April 6.

Forward Joel Armia likely will play against the Flames on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET; SN, RDS, NHL.TV). It would be his first game since March 20 because of NHL COVID-19 protocol. Armia was removed from protocol Sunday.

The Canadiens (18-12-9) are fourth in the seven-team Scotia North Division, eight points ahead of the fifth-place Calgary Flames. The top four teams will qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. — Sean Farrell

 
Nashville Predators

Mattias Ekholm was mentioned prominently in rumors ahead of the 2021 NHL Trade Deadline on Monday, but Predators general manager David Poile said he had no interest in trading the defenseman.

Ekholm has one season remaining on a six-year, $22.5 million contract. Poile expressed his desire to keep Ekholm beyond that contract, and said he has a plan in place to keep Ekholm from being chosen by the Seattle Kraken at the NHL Expansion Draft in July.

“In terms of expansion, we have that covered,” Poile said. “I mean, I’m not losing Mattias Ekholm in expansion if that’s what you’re asking me. I’ve got that covered. Again, Mattias has been a good player for us. His name got thrown out there a lot in trade baits and different things, but my next conversation with Mattias will be after this year about how he thinks he fits into the future of this hockey club and whether he would like to be here longer, not whether we want to trade him.”

The Predators (23-19-1), who are playing the Tampa Bay Lightning at home (ESPN+, BSSO, BSFL, NHL.TV), are fourth in the eight-team Discover Central Division, two points ahead of the fifth-place Chicago Blackhawks. The top four teams will qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. — Robby Stanley

 
Pittsburgh Penguins

Frederick Gaudreau is week to week with a lower-body injury.

The forward was injured late in the second period of a 5-2 win against the New Jersey Devils on Sunday. Gaudreau has scored four points (one goal, three assists) in 13 games this season.

Pittsburgh hosts the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; ATTSN-PT, NBCSP, NHL.TV).

Gaudreau joins a list of injured forwards that includes Evgeni Malkin (lower body), Kasperi Kapanen (lower body) and Brandon Tanev (upper body). Malkin, Kapanen and Tanev are considered week to week. 

Malkin continues to skate on his own, and general manager Ron Hextall said the expectation is Malkin will return before the end of the regular season.

Kapanen skated on his own for the first time Tuesday, coach Mike Sullivan said. Hextall said Kapanen could play in the next 10-14 days.

Tanev is not expected to return before the end of the regular season, according to Hextall. 

Forward Jeff Carter, acquired in a trade with the Los Angeles Kings on Monday, will start with the Penguins at center.

“I think our first inclination is to try Jeff at the center position,” Sullivan said. “So that’s a direct need we think can help us right away. So my sense is we’ll probably start there.”

The Penguins (27-13-2) are third in the eight-team MassMutual East Division, two points behind the Washington Capitals and New York Islanders. The top four teams will qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. — Wes Crosby

 
Florida Panthers

Anthony Duclair will be in the lineup for the Florida Panthers at the Dallas Stars on Tuesday (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+, BSSW, BSFL, NHL.TV).

The forward has missed six games because of a shoulder injury sustained when he crashed into the boards during a game against the Detroit Red Wings on March 30.

“It feels like forever,” Duclair said. “I’m just happy to be back. It’s always not ideal being on the sidelines watching the boys, but I’m glad that I’m back and ready to get going in a bounce-back game tonight.”

Coach Joel Quenneville said Florida would use 12 forwards and six defensemen against Dallas. The Panthers used 11 forwards and seven defensemen the previous 10 games.

Duclair has scored 16 points (four goals, 12 assists) in 29 games this season.

Florida (26-12-4) is third in the eight-team Discover Central Division, two points behind the Tampa Bay Lightning and Carolina Hurricanes. The top four teams will qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. — Alain Poupart

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