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FlightZone: Sparks Shuts the Door in NHL Debut

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Winnipeg best be ready for his awesome goalie pads on Wednesday.

Claus Andersen/Getty Images

It was a story combining the best elements of Michael Hutchinson and Connor Hellebuyck. Garret Sparks, a 7th round Leafs draft pick playing in the ECHL last season, earned his 1st career NHL shutout in his NHL debut. After helping vanquish the Edmonton Oilers 3-0 yesterday, he was understandably emotional:

Damien Cox of Sportsnet perhaps put it best: "Goalie’s parents sit in the stands watching. Goalie gets a shutout. Makes history. Goalie cries when interviewed." As both the video above and Damien Cox mentioned, the history made was rather impressive:

And how is this all relevant, you might ask? Winnipeg might want to check the game tape and make notes, seeing as how Sparks is likely to play against them Wednesday:

And now the news at noon (and change).

Central Division

  • In the aftermath of a two fight November, one Chicago wordsmith believes the Blackhawks should tell Jonathan Toews "that under no circumstance is he to drop the gloves again." Considering how I wince every time I see Ladd or Byfuglien do anything of mild concern, I can understand his worry for the 8 year, $84 million dollar man. (Chicago Sun-Times)
  • Speaking of large contracts, there is some concern over in Chicagoland that the team may be somewhat top-heavy. Consider this: next season, the team will have almost 49 million dollars dedicated to three forwards (Toews, Kane, Hossa), three defencemen (Seabrook, Keith, Hjalmarsson) and one Corey Crawford. Those are all solid to great players, but Blackhawks fans had better get used to the top-heavy, underwhelming depth narrative. (Chicago Sun-Times)
  • Unbelieveable as it sounds, Kevin Cheveldayoff isn't the only GM with pending UFAs on his plate. As Mike Heika points out, Dallas Stars GM Jim Nill has some important d-corps questions to be answered. Now don't mind me, I'm just going to go daydream about LHD Alex Goligoski wearing a Winnipeg Jets uniform. (Dallas Morning News)
  • Sporting a 10-2-0 away record, the Stars have been absolutely lights out on the road, led by Tyler Seguin's 20 points at rinks other than the American Airlines Center. Meanwhile, Winnipeg is 6-8-1 on the road. (Dallas Morning News)
  • Minnesota has been slumping of late, and as coaches often do in trying times, Wild head honcho Mike Yeo engaged in a bit of line shuffling. The real story is Ryan Suter's subsequent grumbling over being separated from 4'11" 5'9" stud Jared Spurgeon, including but not limited to: "I don’t know what’s going on there. He decided to change things up". (StarTribune)
  • In case you missed it, after plucking Petter Granberg off the waiver wire from Toronto, the Nashville Predators will send #7 d-man Victor Bartley down to Milwaukee:
  • As if playing in the Central Division wasn't pressure enough, the St. Louis Blues have "played 24 games this season and 17 of them have either been decided by one goal, or two goals with an empty-netter." That kind of stress can't be good long term. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
  • Sticking with the Blues for a moment, they have an odd power play dynamic going on right now. Over their last ten tilts, the team has a 40% success rate on their first PP of the game, but only a 14.2% on every man advantage thereafter. Or as head coach Ken Hitchcock put it, "If you look at our power plays right now, our first power play is always our best power play and then our energy drops a little bit from there". (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

And A Few Scattered Others

  • Another night, another questionable performance from Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward. On a night where he allowed 4 goals on 22 shots, good for a .818 SV%, this was perhaps the "highlight":

And by highlight, I mean moment of shame. Our friends from the Tar Heel State have more on the 4-3 loss to New York, including thoughts on bright spot Victor Rask: (Canes Country)
  • On the flipside of Garret Sparks' magical debut was a generally inept and miserable performance from the Edmonton Oilers. Surprise, I know. At least Leon Draisaitl continues to look like the real deal, and just imagine what the team will look like with Auston Matthews next season. (Edmonton Journal)
  • Dave Bolland, he of the five year, $5.5 million AAV contract, has now been benched for three consecutive games. GM Dale Tallon is fond of his former Blackhawks, and with both Brian Campbell's $7.1 million and Willie Mitchell's $4.25 million coming off the books, he'll have some wiggle room to overpay Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd. And don't try to tell me about making sense, because Dave Bolland barely made any sense at all. (Miami Herald)
  • Backstopped by a 25 save performance from John Gibson, the Anaheim Ducks rolled over the Vancouver Canucks 4-0. Funnily enough, "Two of John Gibson’s three career shutouts have come against Vancouver." Still only sporting a 9-11-5 record, the Ducks will need more of this kind of dominant performance against Pacific Division rivals if they're to have any playoff hopes. (Orange County Register)
  • And it was good news for one of those Pacific Division rivals yesterday, with both Justin Braun and Logan Couture participating in practice. While Couture especially still seems a little ways away from game action, the Sharks have to be looking forward to having him back in the lineup, though at 14-9-0 they've done a pretty good job of holding the fort. (CSN Bay Area)
  • And finally, Artem Anisimov and Artemi Panarin at least had the good sense to realize they're a little too big to sit on Santa's lap: