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Smith’s hat trick caps, 6-2, win for Boston over Buffalo

Craig Smith scored half of the goals in a, 6-2, win for the Boston Bruins over the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday afternoon at TD Garden, while Jeremy Swayman (6-2-0, 1.62 goals-against average, .942 save percentage in eight games played) made 17 saves on 19 shots against in the victory.

Smith’s hat trick was just his second career hat trick (previous, Feb. 13, 2020 with Nashville in, 5-0, win vs. N.Y. Islanders) and his first in a Bruins uniform.

Sabres goaltender, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (1-3-0, 3.89 goals-against average, .906 save percentage in four games played) stopped 26 out of 29 shots faced before sustaining a lower body injury at the end of the second period that kept him out of the final frame.

Luukkonen was replaced by Dustin Tokarski (2-8-2, 3.46 goals-against average, .904 save percentage in 13 games played) turned aside 11 out of 14 shots against for no decision in his relief appearance.

Boston improved to 30-14-6 (66 points) on the season and moved into 3rd place in the MassMutual NHL East Division temporarily as the New York Islanders were in action against the New York Rangers later Saturday night at the time of this writing.

Buffalo fell to 13-32-7 (33 points) overall and remained in last place (8th) in the same division as the B’s finished 7-1-0 in their regular season series with the Sabres.

Boston was without the services of Ondrej Kase (upper body), John Moore (hip) and Brandon Carlo (oblique) on Saturday, though Carlo is expected to return to the lineup next week in New Jersey.

Chris Wagner and Trent Frederic were scratched in favor of Jake DeBrusk and Karson Kuhlman, who served as Curtis Lazar’s wingers on the fourth line.

Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, promoted Nick Ritchie to the third line left wing with Sean Kuraly at center and Charlie Coyle on right wing, while Jaroslav Halak backed up Swayman– giving Tuukka Rask the afternoon off as the B’s navigate a three-goaltender rotation.

On defense, Matt Grzelcyk was paired with Charlie McAvoy on the first pairing with Mike Reilly alongside Kevan Miller and Jeremy Lauzon with Connor Clifton to round out the blue line.

Boston’s long list of healthy scratches, taxi squad members and injured players included Frederic, Wagner, Greg McKegg, Carlo, Moore, Kase, Rask, Steven Kampfer, Jakub Zboril, Callum Booth, Anton Blidh and Jarred Tinordi.

Later this month (May 10th), limited seating capacity at TD Garden will increase to 25% (up from 12%) in accordance with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ COVID-19 reopening plans.

Smith (11) opened the scoring at 1:21 of the first period on a redirected shot pass from David Krejci while on the doorstep to make it, 1-0, Boston.

Krejci (27) and Taylor Hall (21) had the assists as the Bruins struck first for the ninth time in their last 10 games.

Midway through the opening frame, Riley Sheahan was penalized for holding, presenting the afternoon’s first power play to Boston at 10:28.

The Bruins had one second of a 5-on-3 advantage when Mattias Samuelsson tripped Coyle at 12:27, but the B’s power play was powerless as Buffalo’s penalty kill converted on a shorthanded goal off the ensuing faceoff.

As Sheahan (4) was freed from the box, Jacob Bryson connected with his teammate on a tape-to-tape pass, leading No. 15 for the Sabres into the attacking zone on a breakaway before he fired a shot past Swayman on the short side– tying the game, 1-1, in the process.

It was the sixth shorthanded goal against allowed by Boston this season, while Bryson (7) and Casey Mittelstadt (10) tallied the assists on Sheahan’s fourth goal of the season at 12:35 of the first period.

Moments later, Kuraly (3) golfed a loose puck into the back of the twine after Ritchie’s initial shot was blocked by a Sabres defender.

Ritchie (11) had the only assist on Kuraly’s first goal in 31 games at 16:38 and the Bruins led, 2-1.

After one period on Saturday, Boston led, 2-1, on the scoreboard and, 17-4, in shots on goal. The Bruins also held the advantage in blocked shots (3-1), takeaways (3-2), hits (12-8) and faceoff win percentage (56-44).

Both teams had five giveaways each, while only the B’s had seen any action on the power play– and were 0/2 in that regard– heading into the first intermission.

Lauzon threw a shot towards the goal that Patrice Bergeron (19) deflected, then backhanded a tap-in on his own rebound past Luukkonen while falling to give Boston a two-goal lead, 3-1, at 5:36 of the second period.

Lauzon (7) and Brad Marchand (34) had the assists on Bergeron’s goal.

A few minutes later, Kuraly slashed Bryson and cut a rut to the penalty box, presenting the Sabres with their first power play of the afternoon at 8:34 of the second period.

The B’s penalty kill stood tall as Buffalo’s power play units could not capitalize on the skater advantage.

Dylan Cozens was sent to the sin bin for slashing Miller at 19:09, but the Bruins weren’t able to convert on the ensuing power play, despite several zone entries.

Meanwhile, Luukkonen made a save late in the period, then struggled to get up and was helped off as the horn sounded to signal the start of the second intermission.

He did not return to Saturday afternoon’s action and was replaced by Tokarski for the third period.

Through 40 minutes of action, the Bruins led, 3-1, on the scoreboard and, 29-11, in shots on goal, including a, 12-7, advantage in the second period alone.

The Sabres led in giveaways (8-6) and faceoff win% (55-45), while Boston held the advantage in blocked shots (7-5) and hits (23-19).

Each squad had six takeaways apiece, while Buffalo was 0/1 and the B’s were 0/3 on the power play heading into the final frame.

Ritchie (13) deflected a shot from the point by Grzelcyk over Tokarski to give Boston a three-goal lead, 4-1, at 3:18 of the third period.

Grzelcyk (12) and Miller (3) had the assists on Ritchie’s goal as the Bruins winger picked up his second point of the afternoon.

Shortly thereafter, Reilly worked the puck deep into the zone before sending a quick pass from behind the goal line to Smith (12) for the redirection goal– his second of the game– that made it, 5-1, Boston.

Reilly (25) and Krejci (28) notched the assists on Smith’s goal at 5:31 of the third period, giving the Bruins back-to-back goals in a span of 2:13.

Less than two minutes later, Arttu Ruotsalainen (5) scored on a rebound from the doorstep through Swayman’s five-hole to cut Boston’s lead to three goals.

Rasmus Asplund (4) and Mittelstadt (11) had the assists on Ruotsalainen’s goal as the Sabres trailed the Bruins, 5-2, at 7:02 of the third period.

Less than a minute later, Rasmus Dahlin cross checked David Pastrnak and delivered a swift cross check to Marchand thereafter, though only the initial cross check on Pastrnak was called as a scrum ensued between both lines on the ice at 7:45.

Marchand and Pastrnak received roughing minors, thereby giving the Sabres a power play, despite losing Dahlin to a cross checking infraction.

Buffalo’s power play was unsuccessful, however.

Midway through the third period, William Borgen was penalized for interference at 13:39.

It didn’t take Boston’s power play long for Smith (13) to send another redirected shot pass into the twine behind Tokarski for a power-play goal to extend the lead back to four goals for the B’s.

Krejci (29) and Coyle (11) tabbed the assists on Smith’s third goal of the afternoon and the Bruins led, 6-2, at 14:05 of the third period.

According to 98.5 The Sports Hub‘s Bruins beat reporter, Ty Anderson, Smith’s hat trick was the first for a player not named Bergeron, Marchand, Pastrnak or Krejci since Jimmy Hayes recorded a hat trick in a, 7-3, win against the Ottawa Senators on Dec. 29, 2015.

At the final horn, the B’s sealed the deal on a, 6-2, victory over the Sabres, finishing the afternoon leading in shots (43-19, including a, 14-8, advantage in the third period alone), blocked shots (8-7) and hits (31-25).

Buffalo wrapped up Saturday afternoon, leading in giveaways (10-7) and faceoff win% (53-47), while the Sabres went 0/2 and the Bruins went 1/4 on the power play.

Boston is now 22-5-3 (11-0-2 at home) when scoring the game’s first goal, 18-0-2 (9-0-1 at home) when leading after the first period and 21-0-2 (13-0-2 at home) when leading after the second period this season.

The Sabres fell to 6-27-2 (3-12-1 on the road) when allowing the game’s first goal, 3-21-0 (2-9-0 on the road) when trailing after one period and 1-27-2 (0-12-1 on the road) when trailing after two periods in 2020-21.

Next week, the Bruins travel to New Jersey for back-to-back games against the Devils on Monday and Tuesday before hosting the New York Rangers on Thursday and Saturday.

Boston’s last home game of the regular season is May 10th against the New York Islanders and the B’s will finish the regular season on May 11th in Washington, D.C. against the Capitals.

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Bruins rout Sabres, 5-1, in Buffalo

Five different scorers led the Boston Bruins over the Buffalo Sabres in a, 5-1, victory at KeyBank Center on Thursday night as the B’s extended their winning streak to six games.

Jeremy Swayman (5-1-0, 1.65 goals-against average, .943 save percentage in six games played) made 29 saves on 30 shots against in the win for the Bruins.

Sabres goaltender, Dustin Tokarski (2-7-2, 3.23 goals-against average, .914 save percentage in 11 games played) turned aside 33 out of 38 shots faced in the loss.

Boston improved to 27-12-6 (60 points) on the season and remained in command of 4th place in the MassMutual NHL East Division, while Buffalo fell to 12-28-7 (31 points) overall and stagnant in last place in the same division.

The B’s are now 5-0-0 against the Sabres this season.

The Bruins were without Ondrej Kase (upper body), John Moore (hip), Brandon Carlo (upper body), Trent Frederic (non-COVID protocol related illness) and Kevan Miller (undisclosed) on Thursday, while Jaroslav Halak returned from the league’s COVID protocol and served as Swayman’s backup goaltender for the night.

Tuukka Rask, as a result, was made a healthy scratch for the evening, joining the likes of Frederic, Greg McKegg, Carlo, Moore, Kase, Rask, Jack Ahcan, Urho Vaakanainen, Jakub Zboril, Callum Booth, Anton Blidh, Karson Kuhlman, Jarred Tinordi and Miller on the long list of healthy scratches, taxi squad members and injured players.

Meanwhile, Steven Kampfer was reinserted in the lineup in place of Zboril on the third defensive pairing. Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, made no other changes to his lineup on Thursday.

Rasmus Ristolainen kicked off the game’s action on the event sheet with a boarding minor at 8:13 of the first period, presenting the Bruins with the game’s first power play as a result.

Boston was not successful on the ensuing skater advantage, however.

Moments later, Brad Marchand (25) flipped the puck into the open net on a catch and release pass from Patrice Bergeron through the slot while Tokarski lunged across the crease in desperation but couldn’t come up with the save.

Bergeron (23) and Mike Reilly (23) had the assists as the Bruins took a, 1-0, lead at 12:36 of the first period.

About a couple minutes later, Charlie McAvoy hooked Dylan Cozens and cut a rut to the penalty box, yielding a power play to Buffalo for the first time on Thursday at 14:25.

The Sabres weren’t able to convert on the resulting power play, however.

The two teams finished the first period at 4-on-4 as Marchand and Casey Mittelstadt received matching roughing minors at 18:18, extending the 4-on-4 action into the second period as a result.

Through 20 minutes of action in Buffalo, the Bruins led the Sabres, 1-0, on the scoreboard and, 14-7, in shots on goal.

Boston also held the advantage in blocked shots (5-2), giveaways (4-3) and faceoff win percentage (53-47), while Buffalo led in takeaways (3-0) and hits (11-4) heading into the first intermission.

Entering the middle frame, both teams were 0/1 on the power play.

Ristolainen kicked off the second period’s action with a holding infraction at 1:49, but the B’s couldn’t score on the resulting power play.

Moments later, Arttu Ruotsalainen (3) tied the game, 1-1, on a one-timer from Anders Bjork at 5:27 of the second period.

Bjork (6) and Cozens (8) tallied the assists as the Sabres had a small shift in momentum in the grand scheme of things.

Less than a minute later, David Pastrnak was penalized for boarding at 5:48, but Buffalo couldn’t score on the ensuing power play, nor could the Sabres take advantage of Kampfer’s interference minor at 8:56.

Midway through the middle frame, the Bruins won an attacking zone faceoff and worked the puck around the blue line to Matt Grzelcyk (4) for a wrist shot off of Tokarski’s glove and into the net for the eventual game-winning goal.

McAvoy (20) and Pastrnak (23) were credited with the assists on Grzelcyk’s goal as Boston went ahead, 2-1, on the scoreboard at 12:50 of the second period.

Less than a minute later, Bergeron was sent to the sin bin after hooking Sabres forward, Tobias Rieder, at 13:11.

Buffalo couldn’t convert on Bergeron’s minor, nor McAvoy’s slashing infraction at 16:26, as Boston entered the second intermission ahead on the scoreboard, 2-1.

The Bruins held the advantage in shots on goal, 26-20, despite trailing the Sabres in shots on net in the second period alone, 13-12.

Boston led in blocked shots (9-5) and giveaways (5-4), while Buffalo dominated in takeaways (5-1), hits (14-9) and faceoff win% (59-42) after two periods.

As there were no penalties called in the final frame, the Sabres finished the night 0/5 on the power play, while the B’s went 0/2.

Pastrnak (18) extended Boston’s lead after working his way around Rasmus Dahlin prior to sniping a shot past Tokarski’s blocker side to give the Bruins a two-goal lead.

Marchand (32) and Grzelcyk (11) tallied the assists on Pastrnak’s goal as Boston led, 3-1, at 4:54 of the third period.

About a minute later, Nick Ritchie (11) notched his first goal in 13 games on a short side shot to make it, 4-1, and give the B’s a three-goal lead.

Jake DeBrusk (6) and Charlie Coyle (10) had the assists– marking 300 career points for Coyle with the secondary assist in the process– on Ritchie’s goal at 6:01.

Late in the game, David Krejci (6) buried a rebound to assure Boston of a, 5-1, victory at 18:02 of the third period, while Jeremy Lauzon (6) and Taylor Hall (19) picked up the assists.

At the final horn, the Bruins had won, 5-1, and finished the night leading in shots on goal, 38-30, including a, 12-10, advantage in the third period alone.

The Bruins wrapped up Thursday night’s action leading in blocked shots (12-9) and giveaways (7-6), while the Sabres finished the action leading in hits (18-17) and faceoff win% (51-49).

Boston improved to 19-4-3 (10-4-1 on the road) when scoring the game’s first goal, 16-0-2 (8-0-1 on the road) when leading after the first period and 18-0-2 (7-0-0 on the road) when leading after two periods this season.

Buffalo fell to 5-23-2 (2-15-1 at home) when allowing the game’s first goal, 3-18-0 (1-12-0 at home) when trailing after one period and 1-24-2 (1-15-1 at home) when trailing after the second period in 2020-21.

The Bruins face the Sabres again on Friday before venturing to Pittsburgh next week and hosting Buffalo to close out the month of April. Boston is 2-0-0 on their current five-game road trip.

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Rask earns 51st career shutout in, 2-0, win in Buffalo

Brad Marchand and Connor Clifton scored the only goals while Tuukka Rask (11-4-2, 2.22 goals-against average, .916 save percentage in 18 games played) made 32 saves in a, 2-0, shutout win for the Boston Bruins over the Buffalo Sabres Tuesday night at KeyBank Center.

Rask picked up his first shutout of the season and 51st of his career, while Dustin Tokarski (2-6-2, 3.05 goals-against average, .918 save percentage in 10 games played) stopped 39 out of 41 shots faced for a .951 save percentage in the loss for Buffalo.

The Bruins improved to 26-12-6 (58 points) on the season and in command of 4th place in the MassMutual NHL East Division, while the Sabres fell to 12-27-7 (31 points) overall and in last place in the same division.

The B’s also improved to 4-0-0 against Buffalo this season.

The Bruins were without the services of Ondrej Kase (upper body), John Moore (hip), Brandon Carlo (upper body), Trent Frederic (non-COVID protocol related illness), Kevan Miller (undisclosed) and Jaroslav Halak (COVID protocol) on Tuesday.

Kase and Carlo did not travel with the team for their five-game road trip, while Miller traveled with the club and is “better” according to head coach, Bruce Cassidy.

After missing 18 games this season, most recently due to an upper body injury sustained on April 10th in Philadelphia, Matt Grzelcyk returned to the lineup on defense.

Jakub Zboril was back too after missing a game due to a non-COVID protocol related illness.

Cassidy made no changes among his forwards, while slotting Grzelcyk in on the left side of the first defensive pairing with Charlie McAvoy and moving Jeremy Lauzon to the third pairing with Zboril.

Mike Reilly and Clifton remained paired on the second defensive pairing while Jarred Tinordi and Steven Kampfer joined Frederic, Greg McKegg, Carlo, Moore, Kase, Halak, Jack Ahcan, Urho Vaakanainen, Callum Booth, Anton Blidh, Karson Kuhlman, Tinordi and Miller on Boston’s long list of healthy scratches, taxi squad members and injured players.

Ahcan and Vaakanainen were recalled to the taxi squad depending on your source for American Hockey League transactions (CapFriendly, the AHL transactions page itself, TSN or CBS Sports), meanwhile Zach Senyshyn was sent to the Providence Bruins (AHL) over the weekend with Dan Vladar.

Editor’s note: Also apparently McKegg’s been erroneously forgotten from the taxi squad in these lineup notes/recaps since early April. My bad. Please forgive me, Greg.

Midway through the opening frame, Marchand (24) backhanded a rebound over Tokarski while the Sabres goaltender reached to trap the loose puck.

David Pastrnak (22) and Reilly (22) had the assists on Marchand’s goal as the Bruins jumped out to a, 1-0, lead at 8:06 of the first period.

Moments later, Jake DeBrusk cut a rut to the penalty box for hooking former teammate turned newest skater in Buffalo, Anders Bjork at 11:17.

The Sabres weren’t able to convert on the ensuing skater advantage, however.

There were no more goals or penalties as the first period came to a close with Boston ahead, 1-0, on the scoreboard and both teams tied, 9-9, in shots on goal.

Buffalo held the lead in takeaways (3-1) and giveaways (3-2), while the B’s had the advantage in hits (7-3) and faceoff win percentage (69-31) after one period.

Both teams had five blocked shots each, while the Sabres were 0/1 on the power play and the Bruins had yet to see time on the skater advantage.

Early in the middle frame, Clifton (1) threw a shot on goal from the point that trickled through Tokarski and was kicked in by the Buffalo netminder, giving Boston a two-goal lead.

Sean Kuraly (3) and Curtis Lazar (5) had the assists on Clifton’s first goal since Nov. 19, 2019, and the Bruins led, 2-0, at 3:03 of the second period.

Midway through the middle period, Marchand elbowed Henri Jokiharju and received a minor infraction at 11:04 as a result.

Buffalo’s power play was short lived, however, as Rasmus Ristolainen laid out Lauzon in front of the net for no apparent reason at 12:10, resulting in 4-on-4 action for about 56 seconds before the B’s had an abbreviated power play.

Through 40 minutes of action on Tuesday, Boston led Buffalo, 2-0, on the scoreboard, as well as in shots on goal, 27-15, including an, 18-6, advantage in the second period alone.

The Bruins held the advantage in hits (13-6) and faceoff win% (65-35), while the Sabres led in blocked shots (11-9), takeaways (7-4) and giveaways (6-4).

Buffalo was 0/2 and Boston was 0/1 on the power play entering the second intermission.

There were no goals scored in the third period, though there were plenty of chances to score on the skater advantage as multiple penalties were called on both clubs in the final frame.

Drake Caggiula interfered with Pastrnak and presented Boston with the first power play of the third period at 1:05, but the Bruins were unsuccessful in assuring themselves of complete dominance over the Sabres.

Instead, McAvoy roughed Jeff Skinner at 8:03, but Buffalo’s power play was cut short when Sam Reinhart tripped Clifton and sent the Bruins defender face first into the boards as a result.

The two squads skated at 4-on-4 for a little under 90 seconds as Reinhart cut a rut to the sin bin at 8:30 of the third period.

Moments later, Craig Smith caught Mattias Samuelsson with a high stick at 12:41, but Buffalo couldn’t muster anything on the power play.

Nor could the Sabres score when Nick Ritchie slashed Jacob Bryson at 16:59 and Lauzon followed his teammate in the box at 17:26 for roughing Victor Olofsson along the wall.

No, Buffalo, despite having a 6-on-3 advantage– having pulled Tokarski for an extra attacker– could not establish much of an attacking zone presence while on the power play late in the game.

The team looked all but defeated before they were, in fact, actually defeated.

At the final horn, not only had the Bruins killed off their minors, but they actually were on the power play as time expired since the Sabres had seven skaters on the ice while in possession of the puck at 19:06– yielding an automatic delay of game penalty for too many skaters.

At the final horn, Boston shutout Buffalo, 2-0, on the scoreboard and finished the night leading in shots on goal, 41-32, as well, despite the Sabres leading in shots in the third period alone, 17-14.

Buffalo finished the action leading in blocked shots (15-11), while the B’s wrapped up Tuesday night leading in hits (15-9) and faceoff win% (61-39).

Both teams had seven giveaways aside, while the Sabres were 0/6 and the Bruins were 0/4 on the power play.

Boston improved to 18-4-3 (9-4-1 on the road) when scoring the game’s first goal, 15-0-2 (7-0-1 on the road) when leading after the first period and 17-0-2 (6-0-0 on the road) when leading after two periods this season.

Buffalo dropped to 5-22-2 (2-14-1 at home) when allowing the game’s first goal, 3-17-0 (1-11-0 at home) when trailing after one period and 1-23-2 (1-14-1 at home) when trailing after the second period in 2020-21.

The Bruins take on the Sabres in Buffalo on Thursday and Friday before venturing to Pittsburgh next week and hosting Buffalo to close out the month of April. Boston is 1-0-0 on their current five-game road trip.

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Coyle & DeBrusk lift B’s over Sabres in shootout, 3-2

Charlie Coyle and Jake DeBrusk had the only shootout goals as the Boston Bruins defeated the Buffalo Sabres, 3-2, at TD Garden on Tuesday night.

Jeremy Swayman (3-1-0, 2.21 goals-against average, .926 save percentage in four games played) made 21 saves on 23 shots faced in the win for Boston.

Buffalo goaltender, Linus Ullmark (9-6-3, 2.63 goals-against average, .917 save percentage in 20 games played) made three saves on three shots against prior to exiting the game early in the first period due to an undisclosed injury.

Dustin Tokarski (0-4-2, 3.55 goals-against average, .905 save percentage in six games played) replaced Ullmark and stopped 29 out of 31 shots faced in the shootout loss for the Sabres.

The Bruins improved to 22-12-6 (50 points) on the season and remained in 4th place in the MassMutual NHL East Division, while the Sabres fell to 10-26-6 (26 points) overall and stuck in last place in the division.

The B’s are now 3-0-0 against Buffalo this season.

Boston was without Ondrej Kase (upper body), Tuukka Rask (upper body), John Moore (hip), Brandon Carlo (upper body), Trent Frederic (non-COVID protocol related illness), Matt Grzelcyk (upper body) and Jaroslav Halak (COVID protocol) on Tuesday.

Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, informer reporters after morning skate that Rask practiced with the team on Tuesday morning and is expected to return on Thursday against the New York Islanders.

Meanwhile, Frederic skated on Tuesday and could be available on Thursday.

Charlie McAvoy and new acquisition, Curtis Lazar, were game-time decisions and in the lineup on Tuesday night against Buffalo.

Kevan Miller also returned to action after missing Sunday’s, 8-1, loss to the Washington Capitals.

After Sunday’s loss, Bruins General Manager, Don Sweeney, traded a 2022 3rd round pick to the Ottawa Senators for defender, Mike Reilly. Hours later, the Bruins dealt Anders Bjork and a 2021 2nd round pick to Buffalo for Taylor Hall and Lazar.

All three new Bruins members were in the lineup against the Sabres on Tuesday, as Cassidy reunited his regular first line centered by Patrice Bergeron and flanked by Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak on the wings.

Hall suited up on the second line left wing with David Krejci at center and Craig Smith on the right wing in his 700th career NHL game.

Coyle centered the third line with Nick Ritchie on his left and DeBrusk on his right, while Lazar was slotted into the fourth line center role with Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner on his wings.

On defense, McAvoy was paired with Jeremy Lauzon on the first defensive pairing, while Reilly suited up alongside Miller.

Jarred Tinordi took part in his 100th career NHL game alongside Connor Clifton on the third pairing.

Boston’s long list of healthy scratches, taxi squad members and injured players included Frederic, Zach Senyshyn, Carlo, Moore, Kase, Rask, Halak, Steven Kampfer, Grzelcyk, Jack Ahcan, Jakub Zboril, Callum Booth, Anton Blidh and Karson Kuhlman.

B’s newcomers Reilly, Lazar and Hall will wear No.’s 6, 20 and 71 respectively.

Former Bruin defender, Colin Miller (4) blasted a one-timer from the point with Bjork screening Swayman– beating the Boston netminder and hitting the twine in the process to make it a, 1-0, game at 1:52 of the first period for the Sabres.

Dylan Cozens (4) and Bjork (4) recorded the assists on Miller’s goal as Buffalo jumped out with the first lead of the night.

About five minutes into the action, however, Tokarski replaced Ullmark after Ullmark made a save on a shot from the point by Reilly then appeared to be in discomfort while getting up.

Midway through the first period, Krejci (3) pocketed a rebound on a shot by Lauzon from the point to tie things up, 1-1, at 13:20.

Lauzon (5) and Smith (15) tallied the assists on Krejci’s goal as the Bruins surged in momentum, but not for long.

Ritchie boarded Rasmus Dahlin at 14:32 and presented Buffalo with the night’s first power play.

Shortly after making the kill on Ritchie’s minor, DeBrusk cut a rut to the penalty box for hooking Sam Reinhart at 16:51.

The Sabres earned an abbreviated 5-on-3 advantage when Lazar caught former teammate, Tage Thompson, with a high stick at 18:23 for his first penalty of the season in just his 34th game of the 2020-21 56-game regular season.

Buffalo did not convert on the advantage, however.

Entering the first intermission, the score was tied, 1-1, despite the Bruins outshooting the Sabres, 11-5, in shots on goal.

Boston held the advantage in blocked shots (6-4), takeaways (3-2) and hits (7-6), while Buffalo led in giveaways (4-3).

Both teams were 50-50 in faceoff win percentage, while the Sabres were 0/3 on the power play and the Bruins had yet to see any action on the skater advantage heading into the middle frame.

Ritchie dropped the gloves with Matt Irwin at 2:46 of the second period in what was Boston’s 11th fight of the season and first since Wagner fought Brenden Dillon on April 11th against Washington.

Smith (9) sent a loose puck past Tokarski’s stick side off of a botched pass that was broken up by a Sabres defender at 5:29 of the second period and the Bruins took their first lead of the night, 2-1.

The goal was unassisted, though Hall had entered the zone and intended a pass for Krejci through the slot, but Smith was in the right place at the right time after Buffalo had inadvertently knocked the rubber biscuit to his blade.

Moments later, Miller fought Thompson in the second scrap of the night after Miller caught Rasmus Asplund with a bit of a high hit in Boston’s defensive zone.

Miller and Thompson received fighting majors in what was the 12th fight of the season for the B’s at 9:14 of the second period.

Late in the period, Irwin was called for holding, but Boston couldn’t muster anything on the power play at 16:29.

Through 40 minutes of action, the Bruins led the Sabres, 2-1, on the scoreboard and, 24-12, in shots on goal, including a, 13-7, advantage in the second period alone.

The B’s held the advantage in blocked shots (11-9) and faceoff win% (53-48), while Buffalo led in giveaways (9-6) and hits (18-16).

Both teams had seven takeaways, while the Sabres remained 0/3 and the Bruins were 0/1 on the power play entering the second intermission.

Dahlin (4) tied the game midway through the third period with a shot from the point that took a wacky bounce off the ice in front of Swayman and might have deflected off of the Bruins netminder’s blocker into the twine.

Henri Jokiharju (4) and Jeff Skinner (4) had the assists on Dahlin’s goal and the game was tied, 2-2, at 11:53 of the third period.

There were no more goals scored, nor any penalties called in the final frame of regulation as the two sides needed overtime, at least, to determine a winner.

With the scoreboard reading, 2-2, the Bruins led the Sabres in shots on goal, 31-22, despite Buffalo outshooting Boston, 10-7, in the third period alone.

The Sabres led in takeaways (11-10), giveaways (14-9) and hits (27-25) entering overtime, while the B’s led in faceoff win% (54-46).

Both teams had 16 blocked shots each, while Buffalo remained 0/3 and Boston remained 0/1 on the power play.

Sabres interim head coach, Dom Granato, elected to start Casey Mittelstadt, Skinner and Dahlin in the overtime period, while Cassidy countered with Bergeron, Marchand and McAvoy to begin the 3-on-3 action.

Cozens thought he had scored a last minute overtime goal, but the ref waved it off immediately and a quick review confirmed that the Sabres forward had batted the puck out of mid-air with a high stick over the crossbar.

The game went on with end-to-end action, but neither team could score as Hall made a last second defensive effort to breakup a play for Buffalo and was tripped by Mittelstadt in the process.

Though Mittelstadt was charged with a minor infraction at 5:00 of the overtime period, Boston would not get another power play in the action as the game was headed to a shootout with the score still tied, 2-2.

The Bruins finished the night leading in shots on goal, 34-23, including a, 3-1, advantage in overtime alone.

Meanwhile, the Sabres wrapped up Tuesday night’s game action leading in giveaways (14-9) and hits (27-26) as both teams had 16 blocked shots aside.

Buffalo finished 0/3 on the skater advantage and Boston went 0/1.

Granato elected to send Victor Olofsson out to lead the shootout, but Olofsson was denied by Swayman with a glove save.

Coyle countered with a shot off of Tokarski’s stick paddle and through the Sabres goaltender’s five-hole to give Boston a, 1-0, advantage in the best-of-three shootout.

Thompson skated in to take the second shot for Buffalo, but was turned aside with another routine glove save for Swayman.

DeBrusk skated down the ice with a chance to win it for Boston and lobbed a shot top-shelf over Tokarski’s blocker to give the Bruins the, 2-0, advantage in the shootout and secure the, 3-2, win for the B’s on the final scoreboard.

Boston improved to 4-2 in shootouts and 7-6 past regulation this season, while Buffalo fell to 3-3 in shootouts and 3-7 past 60 minutes.

The Bruins also improved to 8-8-3 (5-6-1 at home) when allowing the game’s first goal, 6-4-2 (3-3-2 at home) when tied after the first period and 13-0-2 (8-0-2 at home) when leading after two periods this season.

The Sabres dropped to 5-6-4 (3-5-1 on the road) when scoring the game’s first goal, 4-8-2 (2-4-1 on the road) when tied after the first period and 1-22-1 (0-10-0 on the road) when trailing after two periods this season.

The Bruins take on the New York Islanders on Thursday and Friday before wrapping up their five-game homestand (1-1-0) against the Washington Capitals on Sunday (April 18th).

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Preview: Game No. 28– Bruins @ Sabres

For the first time this season, the Boston Bruins pay a visit to KeyBank Center to take on the Buffalo Sabres for Hockey Fights Cancer Night in Buffalo.

Last season, Boston went 3-0-0 against Buffalo in the pandemic shortened 2019-20 regular season, winning all three of their matchups, 3-2, on Nov. 21st in Boston, 3-0, on Dec. 27th in Buffalo and, 3-2, on Dec. 29th in Boston.

After Thursday night’s matchup, the two clubs will meet seven more times in 2020-21, including their next meeting on Saturday.

A couple of previous matchups against the Sabres were postponed to later dates in the season due to a plethora of Buffalo players in COVID protocol last month.

A coaching staff member for Buffalo and a Boston skater (Sean Kuraly) were placed in COVID protocol Thursday morning, resulting in both pregame skates being cancelled, but the game remains on schedule through contact tracing, etc.

The Sabres return home after a, 3-2, loss to the Devils in New Jersey and without their now former head coach, Ralph Krueger, who was fired on Wednesday.

Interim head coach Dom Granato was promoted from his position as an assistant coach in Buffalo, where he was hired in that role in 2019. He will be making his National Hockey League head coaching debut on Thursday.

Granato previously served as the head coach of the Columbus Chill (ECHL, 1997-99), head coach of the Peoria Rivermen (ECHL, 1999-2000), head coach of the Worcester IceCats (AHL, 2000-05), an assistant coach with the St. Louis Blues (2005-06), head coach of the Chicago Wolves (AHL, parts of two seasons, 2008-09 and 2009-10), head coach of the USA Hockey National Team Development Program (2013-16), assistant coach with the Wisconsin Badgers (NCAA, 2016), assistant coach with the Chicago Blackhawks (2016-19).

Buffalo, of course, is without their captain, Jack Eichel, due to injury.

Boston, meanwhile, is suffering from a plethora of injuries, rendering Tuukka Rask unavailable for the last five games, which meant that Dan Vladar got his first career NHL start on Tuesday after Jaroslav Halak was handed a, 4-1, loss in Pittsburgh on Monday.

Vladar made 34 saves on 35 shots to backstop the Bruins to a, 2-1, victory against the Penguins in his regular season debut in Pittsburgh on Tuesday night.

Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, is likely to tweak his lineup depending on player availability, as well as whether or not Rask will be good to go after missing six games this season due to an undisclosed injury.

Rask did travel with the team as part of their four-game road trip (1-1-0).

Boston will be without Ondrej Kase, Kevan Miller and Jeremy Lauzon, at least, as Kase has no timetable for a return, Miller is skating back in Boston and Lauzon is approaching one month since sustaining a fractured left hand, which takes four-to-six weeks recovery time.

Brandon Carlo, John Moore and Zach Senyshyn will also be out of the lineup for Boston, while Jarred Tinordi is likely to miss Thursday night’s game in Buffalo as well after sustaining an upper body injury on a hit from Pittsburgh’s Brandon Tanev that resulted in a boarding major, as well as a game misconduct and a five-minute power play for Boston.

Thursday marks the halfway point for the Bruins, who are 15-8-4 overall (34 points) and currently 4th place in the MassMutual NHL East Division, while the Sabres begin the second half of their season with a 6-18-4 record (16 points, last in the division).

Boston is 3-2 in overtime and 2-2 in shootouts (5-4 past regulation) this season, while Buffalo is 0-2 in overtime and 2-2 in shootouts (2-4 past regulation) thus far in 2020-21.

Boston is also 8-5-3 in 16 games on the road this season, including a 4-4-2 record in their last ten games, while Buffalo is 2-10-2 on home ice and 0-9-1 in their last ten games.

The B’s are 142-113-29-12 in 296 all-time regular season matchups against Buffalo with 949 goals for and 926 goals against in that span.

The Bruins are also 29-25-1-7 in 62 regular season games at KeyBank Center, though the Sabres have outscored Boston, 175-157, in that span.

Brad Marchand leads the Bruins in scoring with 12-21–33 totals in 27 games, while Patrice Bergeron is second with 25 points in 27 games and David Pastrnak is third with 24 points in 20 games, while leading his teammates in goals scored (13).

Marchand has a team-leading plus-nine rating in 27 games, while Chris Wagner is a minus-eight in 23 games this season.

Sam Reinhart and Victor Olofsson lead the Sabres in scoring with 19 points in 26 and 28 games, repsectively. Eichel (18 in 21 games) ranks third in scoring, while Reinhart leads the roster in goals scored with 11.

Jake McCabe is a plus-two in 13 games, while Rasmus Dahlin is a minus-27 in 28 games thus far.

If Rask gets the start for Boston, he is one win away from his 300th career NHL win, which would also make him the first goaltender in a Bruins uniform to reach the 300-win plateau.

David Krejci is one point away from his 700th career point and currently eighth all-time in scoring in a Bruins uniform with 699 career points.

Wayne Cashman (793 points) is seventh in all-time scoring with Boston.

Bruins captain, Patrice Bergeron (894 points) is four points away from tying Rick Middleton (898) for the fourth most points in a Boston uniform in franchise history.

The Bruins wrap up their four-game road trip with a Saturday matinee (1 p.m. ET puck drop) in Buffalo before returning home on March 23rd against the New York Islanders in what will be Boston’s first game at TD Garden to feature fans since the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic began last year.

TD Garden will be limited to a 12% seating capacity.

Expected lineups

Boston Bruins

63 Brad Marchand (A) 37 Patrice Bergeron (C) 88 David Pastrnak

74 Jake DeBrusk 46 David Krejci (A) 12 Craig Smith

21 Nick Ritchie 13 Charlie Coyle 62 Oskar Steen

11 Trent Frederic 18 Greg McKegg 83 Karson Kuhlman

48 Matt Grzelcyk 73 Charlie McAvoy

67 Jakub Zboril 75 Connor Clifton

54 Jack Ahcan 44 Steven Kampfer

41 Jaroslav Halak

80 Dan Vladar

Healthy scratches, injured and taxi squad members (officially TBA, below is only a prediction based on last game)

Jeremy Swayman, Anders Bjork, Chris Wagner, Greg McKegg, Zach Senyshyn (upper body), Brandon Carlo (upper body), John Moore (lower body), Ondrej Kase (upper body), Tuukka Rask (lower body), Sean Kuraly (COVID protocol), Jeremy Lauzon (fractured left hand), Urho Vaakanainen, Jarred Tinordi (upper body), Kevan Miller (right knee)

Buffalo Sabres

13 Tobias Rieder 12 Eric Staal 23 Sam Reinhart

4 Taylor Hall 15 Riley Sheahan 72 Tage Thompson

53 Jeff Skinner 27 Curtis Lazar 37 Casey Mittelstadt

68 Victor Olofsson 20 Cody Eakin 21 Kyle Okposo

78 Jacob Bryson 55 Rasmus Ristolainen

44 Matt Irwin 62 Brandon Montour

26 Rasmus Dahlin 33 Colin Miller

40 Carter Hutton

34 Jonas Johansson

Healthy scratches, injured and taxi squad members (officially TBA, below is only a prediction based on last game)

Jack Eichel, Henri Jokiharju, Dylan Cozens

Goaltending stats entering Thursday

Boston Bruins

1 Jeremy Swayman 0-0-0 in 0 GP, 0.00 GAA, .000 SV%, 0 SO

40 Tuukka Rask 8-4-2 in 14 GP, 2.46 GAA, .906 SV%, 0 SO

41 Jaroslav Halak 6-4-2 in 12 GP, 2.15 GAA, .918 SV%, 2 SO

80 Dan Vladar 1-0-0 in 1 GP, 1.00 GAA, .971 SV%, 0 SO

Buffalo Sabres

31 Dustin Tokarski 0-0-0 in 0 GP, 0.00 GAA, .000 SV%, 0 SO

34 Jonas Johansson 0-5-1 in 7 GP, 3.79 GAA, .884 SV%, 0 SO

35 Linus Ullmark 5-4-2 in 12 GP, 2.43 GAA, .919 SV%, 0 SO

40 Carter Hutton 1-9-1 in 11 GP, 3.43 GAA, .884 SV%, 0 SO

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New York Rangers 2019-20 Season Preview

New York Rangers

32-36-14, 78 points, 7th in the Metropolitan Division

Missed the postseason for the second straight year

Additions: F Phil Di Giuseppe, F Michael Haley (signed to a PTO), F Greg McKegg, F Danny O’Regan, F Artemi Panarin, D Adam Fox (acquired from CAR), D Jacob Trouba (acquired from WPG, then re-signed)

Subtractions: D Julius Bergman (SHL), D Chris Bigras (signed with PHI), D John Gilmour (signed with BUF), D Neal Pionk (traded to WPG), D Rob O’Gara (signed with San Antonio, AHL), G Dustin Tokarski (signed with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, AHL)

Still Unsigned: F Connor Brickley, F Brendan Lemieux, D Fredrik Claesson, D Tony DeAngelo, G Brandon Halverson, G Chris Nell

Re-signed: F Pavel Buchnevich, F Vinni Lettieri

Offseason Analysis: New York Rangers General Manager Jeff Gorton thought he won the lottery when he landed the 2nd overall pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft and selected Kaapo Kakko, but he actually won the lottery twice this offseason.

Gorton signed the biggest prize in free agency to the biggest contract among unrestricted free agents and nabbed Artemi Panarin for the next seven years at $11.643 million per season.

Panarin and Kakko are lightly to be centered on the same first line by the legendary DJ, Mika Zibanejad.

Head coach, David Quinn, has no shortage of options when it comes to testing out the new faces in The Big Apple, as Jacob Trouba and Adam Fox were box acquired by the club in addition to Panarin’s signing.

Trouba’s restricted free agency rights were acquired from the Winnipeg Jets and shortly thereafter re-signed in exchange for Neal Pionk and a 2019 1st round pick that originally belonged to Winnipeg and was previously acquired by New York in the Kevin Hayes transaction at the trade deadline.

The 25-year-old defender brings his skillset in its prime to stabilize the blue line for a team that is retooling on the fly and looking to shortened the lifespan on its rebuild. Trouba now carries an $8.000 million cap hit through 2025-26 with a no-movement clause set to kick in after this season and a modified no-trade clause for the final two years of the deal.

Fox, the 21-year-old protege from Harvard University, was originally sent to the Carolina Hurricanes by the Calgary Flames in the Dougie Hamilton and Micheal Ferland for Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin trade.

After declining to sign with the Canes, Carolina sent Fox to the Rangers for a 2019 2nd round pick and a conditional 2020 3rd round pick that may become a 2020 2nd round pick if he plays in 30 or more games this season.

What’s more, Gorton was still active in the trade market, making a minor move with the Buffalo Sabres, shipping Jimmy Vesey off to Buffalo for a 2021 3rd round pick.

Only Brendan Lemieux and Tony DeAngelo are still unsigned-RFAs with about $1.000 million in cap space available before New York makes any other transactions– with or without another team involved– to save a little more money.

The Rangers have eight contracts expiring at the end of this season, including backup goaltender Alexandar Georgiev’s current deal which runs a $792,500 cap hit.

With 37-year-old Henrik Lundqvist expected to retire in two-years time when his seven-year extension carrying an $8.500 million cap hit that he signed in December 2013 expires, Gorton may have to get creative to assure Georgiev of the starting role– and a starter’s salary– in the meantime for one more season of overlap with Lundqvist.

It’s not feasible for New York to keep Lundqvist past due as Georgiev and Igor Shesterkin could almost run the crease by themselves as things are today.

By season’s end, if the Rangers aren’t in a wild card spot, they will have at least significantly improved from their standing in 2018-19 and reduced their minus-45 goal differential from last season with a new-found defense.

At the very least, New York is improving and adapting to the game, while their counterpart on Long Island may be getting worse.

Offseason Grade: A

Things are tight with the salary cap for Gorton and Co., but the good news is Chris Kreider and Vladislav Namestnikov are both pending-UFAs at the end of the season. If the Rangers keep one (Kreider) over the other or let both of them go– via a trade or free agency– some much needed cap room will open up for the younger players that are projected to be or currently part of New York’s core.

Also, signing the biggest name in free agency, while fleecing another team in need of cap relief from one of their top-two defenders for next to nothing generally gets a GM high marks for an offseason’s worth of moves. The rebuild is right on track and on schedule.

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Philadelphia Flyers 2018-19 Season Preview

Philadelphia Flyers

42-26-14, 98 points, 3rd in the Metropolitan Division

Lost in the First Round to Pittsburgh (4-2)

Additions: D Christian Folin, LW James van Riemsdyk

Subtractions: C Valtteri Filppula, G Leland Irving, D Brandon Manning, RW Colin McDonald, G Petr Mrazek, G John Muse, D Johnny Oduya, RW Matt Read, G Dustin Tokarski

Re-signed: D Robert Hagg, G Alex Lyon, C Danick Martel, D Samuel Morin, G Anthony Stolarz

Offseason Analysis: Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: The Flyers could be seriously dangerous if they get some solid goaltending.

After a rough 2016-17 campaign, the Flyers struck gold in the draft lottery, snagging the No. 2 overall pick and using it to draft top-ranked prospect Nolan Patrick. This added yet another weapon to one of the more potent offenses in the league, but questions remained about the defense and, particularly, in net.

It took a rotation of four different goaltenders (Brian Elliott, Michal Neuvirth, Petr Mrazek and Alex Lyon) to get it done, but Philly managed to punch their ticket back to the playoffs mostly on the strength of unbelievable seasons from captain Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek, a breakout year from Sean Couturier, a rebound year from Shayne Gostisbehere and a ridiculous 10-1-2 month of February that took them from treading water in the Wild Card picture to solidly in third place in the Metro. A big push from Columbus nearly knocked the Flyers back into the Wild Card spot at the end of the year, but they managed to hang onto the Divisional spot by a single point.

Unfortunately, this only meant that they’d play in-state rival Pittsburgh, and while Philly would manage to take the Pens to six games, it was often a very one-sided series. Only a heroic nine-point-in-six-game effort from Sean Couturier even kept the series as competitive as it was.

With a few notable underperformers coming to the end of their contract and a fairly well-stocked prospect pool, GM Ron Hextall and crew decided to let a host of players walk into free agency, including longtime Flyer Matt Read, along with Valtteri Filppula, Brandon Manning, Johnny Oduya and Petr Mrazek, among others. Using the newly freed up cap space, they brought back former Flyer and perennial 30-goal man James van Riemsdyk, and brought in a solid defenseman in Christian Folin. JVR is certainly a known commodity, while Folin is a quiet, confident defender that has impressed under the radar over the past few years in Minnesota and LA.

Armed with yet another potent offensive weapon, and with improved depth on defense, the Flyers (yet again) look to the net in hopes of improvement. Though they boast on of the best pools of goaltending prospects in the league, they don’t want to rush the development of any of the youngsters, and will likely again turn to the tandem of Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth. While neither is a world-beating goaltender, they’re both more than capable of quality play.

Well…at least they would be outside of the goalie-hell of Philadelphia. Not sure what it is about that city, but it seems capable of ruining the reputation of basically any goaltender that dons the orange and black. So, maybe hope to win every game 5-4, Philly fans?

Speaking of 5-4 victories, let’s take a look at that dangerous forward corps.

While the top-six are pretty well all shoe-ins, the bottom-six does have a few positions that are definitely up in the air. Down the middle there’s likely to be strong competition for the No. 3 and 4 center spots, as Jordan Weal, Scott Laughton, Jori Lehtera and former Union College standout Mike Vecchione will battle it out with youngsters German Rubtsov and Morgan Frost (Flyers’ first round picks in 2016 and 2017, respectively). Rubtsov and Frost have yet to play North American pro hockey, so they’ll have the steepest hill to climb to try and nab a spot, and will likely head back to Juniors or to Lehigh Valley for the year. While Vecchione has only two NHL games to his credit, and isn’t nearly as well-known to Flyers fans as the remaining three, he’s a very interesting option. Boasting a strong two-way game, as well as the ability to play center or right wing, he put up terrific rookie numbers in the AHL last year and could be a strong camp away from grabbing himself an NHL roster spot.

On the wings you’ll have veterans Michael Raffl and Dale Weise competing with some young talent in guys like Oskar Lindblom, Taylor Leier, Danick Martel, and Isaac Ratcliffe. Lindblom scored some time with the Flyers last year after impressing in the AHL. Martel is undersized but not afraid to play with an edge, and does bring some decent offensive skill with him. Ratcliffe is possibly the most intriguing option. At just 19-years-old, he can still continue to hone his game in Juniors, where he’s found his offensive stride over the past two seasons. But a 6-foot-6, sub-200 pound winger with some scoring touch and a mean streak might be hard to overlook for the big club.

My projected depth chart shakes out like this:
Giroux – Couturier – Konecny
JVR – Patrick – Voracek
Lindblom – Lehtera – Simmonds
Raffl – Laughton – Vecchione
Extra forwards Weise and Weal

On defense, the biggest problem facing the Flyers to start the season is injuries to veteran Andrew MacDonald (should only miss a few weeks of the season) and promising youngster Samuel Morin (likely out until February). Until MacDonald returns they’ll lack a true top pair reliable defender to partner Gostisbehere, so that could be of concern at least in the opening weeks. While the defense corps looks to be fairly set (particularly after MacDonald returns), there are a handful of names who could challenge for a depth spot. Philippe Myers was an undrafted signing out of Juniors, who blossomed late to catch the eyes of Flyers brass. At 6-foot-5 and approximately 210 pounds, he’s got no shortage of size, but also put up respectable offensive numbers as a rookie in the AHL last season. He’s also a right handed shot, something the Flyers are a tad short on. Veteran T.J. Brennan is definitely a reliable option to fill some minutes in MacDonald’s absence, as well.

Once MacDonald makes his return, I have the Flyers defense corps shaping up as:
MacDonald – Gostisbehere
Provorov – Gudas
Sanheim – Folin
Extra defender Hagg

In net, as previously mentioned, it’s likely the Flyers will head into the season with the Elliott/Neuvirth tandem. With both vets in contract years, Philly will likely give the trio of Alex Lyon, Carter Hart and Anthony Stolarz another full year of development if possible before potentially calling upon two of them to take the reigns as a tandem in the near future. Felix Sandstrom is a sleeper pick to find his way into the picture next year as well, after what will be his fourth season of SHL action in Sweden.

Offseason Grade: B-

On paper, it looks like the Flyers lost much more than they gained this year. But although there were some household names that departed, most had underperformed greatly in recent years. Hextall cleared cap space, grabbed a big fish in van Riemsdyk, and used the depth of his organization to fill the remaining holes.

The offense is deadly. The defense is young, but quite promising (particularly once it gets back to full strength). The goaltending is…well, Philadelphia goaltending. But the future in net looks incredibly bright, and Philly would be wise to not rush that future unless absolutely necessary.

A likely fringe playoff team this year, but in the next two or three years, we could see the orange and black making serious noise once again. Because the depth doesn’t stop in net, and I only mentioned about half of the recent first round picks still waiting in the wings.

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New York Rangers 2018-19 Season Preview

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New York Rangers

34-39-9, 77 points, 8th (last) in the Metropolitan Division

Additions: D Fredrik Claesson, G Dustin Tokarski

Subtractions: F John Albert (signed, DEL), F Paul Carey (signed with OTT), F Daniel Catenacci (signed, Austria), F David Desharnais (signed, KHL), F Carl Klingberg (signed, Switzerland), F Adam Tambellini (signed with OTT)

Still Unsigned: G Ondrej Pavelec, D Ryan Sproul

Re-signed: D Chris Bigras, F Steven Fogarty, D John Gilmour, F Kevin Hayes, F Cody McLeod, F Vladislav Namestnikov,  F Boo Nieves, D Rob O’Gara, D Brady Skjei, F Ryan Spooner, F Jimmy Vesey

Offseason Analysis: New York Rangers General Manager Jeff Gorton had a plethora of restricted free agents to re-sign this offseason and he successfully pulled off every single one.

Both Ryan Spooner and Vladislav Namestnikov are signed to matching two-year contracts worth $4.000 million per season. Kevin Hayes has a bridge deal that’s not too shabby either.

At 26, Hayes signed a one-year, $5.175 million extension with a lot to prove– to himself and to the watchful eye of diehard Rangers fans. At least he’s ahead of Jimmy Vesey in the depth chart– who only managed one-point better than his rookie campaign in his sophomore season (28 points in 79 games last season versus 27 points in 80 GP in 2016-17).

Gorton has bigger fish to fry this season as the Rangers re-tool on-the-fly.

New York’s defense is young and susceptible to making errors as Brady Skjei, Rob O’Gara and perhaps even Ryan Lindgren in the near future come into their own. Of those three defenders, Skjei’s been in the Rangers system the longest– given both O’Gara and Lindgren were acquired from the Boston Bruins in separate trades last season.

One season removed from the shutdown pairing of Marc Methot and Erik Karlsson in Ottawa, the Senators had another underrated good thing going in the pairing of Karlsson and Fredrik Claesson. But Sens GM Pierre Dorion moved on from the 25-year-old Claesson.

That’s where Gorton and crew swooped in on a make or break one-year, $700,000 offer.

Claesson has the potential to grow as an anchor in the defensive end while his teammates work the puck out of the zone. If nothing else, he has a lot to prove– along with his peers looking to follow the Bruins model of “rebuilding on-the-fly”.

Trade expendable pieces (Nick Holden), part with assets (Rick Nash, J.T. Miller, Ryan McDonagh), insert who you envision as the new prototypical Rangers players (Spooner, Namestnikov, Lias Andersson and other prospects) and maybe– just maybe– New York can turn things around sooner than expected.

How much longer does Henrik Lundqvist have to wait for another chance at his first Cup? Can he win it wearing a Blueshirts sweater? This is just pure speculation, as there’s nothing else to say about the Rangers.

Just kidding.

Dustin Tokarski could make a push for the backup role, but all roster decisions are up to first-year NHL head coach David Quinn.

Quinn’s coming off of a five-season tenure with Boston University as the head coach of its men’s hockey program. During his time, Quinn brought the then Jack Eichel led Terriers all the way to the NCAA championship game– only to be defeated by the Providence College Friars in 2015.

From 2013-18, Quinn amassed a 105-67-21 overall record at Boston University.

Like Dallas Stars head coach Jim Montgomery, one would expect an initial struggle from coaching college hockey straight to the National Hockey League, but luckily for the Rangers the timing is right as they can afford a little learning curve during their restructuring.

Are the Rangers a playoff team in 2018-19? No.

Can they get back into a playoff spot in 2019-20? We’ll see, but it’s certainly plausible. The pieces are there and time will tell. First things first, they have to clean up last season’s minus-37 goal differential. You can’t win games if you allow more goals than you score.

Offseason Grade: C

Perhaps Gorton could’ve pulled off one more signing or one more trade this offseason, but he took care of most of his work by the trade deadline last season with 2018-19 in mind.

Other than that, it’s been an average offseason for New York. Keep the new young core intact, re-sign their RFAs to quality bridge deals that might make for some tough decision making later or wizardry like that of the Tampa Bay Lightning nature in the salary cap era.

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2018 Offseason Preview: Philadelphia Flyers

Our offseason previews for all 31 National Hockey League teams continues with the Philadelphia Flyers and their outlook for the summer.

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The 2017-18 Philadelphia Flyers pulled themselves into 3rd place in the Metropolitan Division with a late season surge ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets and New Jersey Devils by one point.

Philadelphia’s 42-46-14 record lauded them 98 points on the season under the guidance of head coach, Dave Hakstol, and in a First Round matchup with their intrastate rival Pittsburgh Penguins.

Despite a breakout performance in the postseason by Sean Couturier and back-and-forth offense all series long (in games that weren’t lopsided), the Flyers succumbed to Pittsburgh in six games on home ice in their first playoff appearance since 2016 and first postseason meeting with the Penguins since the 2012 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.

As usual, goaltending was an issue with Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth sustaining injuries late in the season, leading General Manager Ron Hextall to acquire Petr Mrazek as an insurance policy down the stretch from the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for a conditional 2018 third round pick and a conditional 2019 fourth round pick.

2018 NHL Entry Draft

Hextall has two first round picks at his disposal with the 14th overall selection via the St. Louis Blues (thanks to last June’s Brayden Schenn deal for Jori Lehtera, a 2017 first round pick (Morgan Frost) and a conditional 2018 first round pick) and their own 19th overall selection in the 2018 Draft.

With two mid-round picks in the first round, Hextall can lay claim to two of the best available picks or go off the board in accordance with however his scouting department values talent– I’m not the expert here. Then again, he could flip one or both first round picks for assets.

But if you’re a Flyers fan, you likely could see Ty Smith, Bode Wilde, Barrett Hayton, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Joseph Veleno, Jack McBain, Grigori Denisenko, Serron Noel, Jared McIsaac or Ryan Merkley walking up the draft stage in Dallas in less than a week grabbing a hold of Philadelphia’s classic orange-and-black sweater.

Pending free agents

Philly has about $17.200 million to spend on free agents this summer and only a handful of pending UFAs and RFAs.

Matt Read, 32, and Valtteri Filppula, 34, are the club’s only current NHL roster pending-UFAs.

Read only appeared in 19 games for the Flyers this season, scoring one goal and recording 16 shots on net. After reaching the 40-point plateau twice in his career with Philadelphia in 2011-12 and 2013-14, his offensive production has only declined since 2014, yielding 30 points in 2014-15, 26 points in 2015-16 and 19 in 2016-17.

Filppula was traded to the Flyers by the Tampa Bay Lightning at last year’s trade deadline, served as an alternate captain this season and had 11-22–33 totals in 81 games. His numbers are respectable, though he hasn’t replicated his 58-point season with the Lightning in 2013-14.

A third round pick (95th overall) of the Red Wings in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft, Filppula should see more time in the City of Brotherly Love if there’s a mutual attraction. Just maybe not at the $5.000 million cap hit he had on his five-year contract he signed with Tampa in July 2013.

24-year-old Taylor Leier makes up the only pending-RFA forward on Philadelphia’s roster and played in 39 games with the Flyers this season (the most he’s been a part of since breaking into the league in 2015-16). Leier had one goal and four assists (five points) and is not an offensive threat by any means.

Hextall could let Leier walk without tendering a qualifying offer and that’d be fine.

It’s not so much about what the Flyers do this summer, but rather what Hextall and his front office is proactively planning to do next summer that makes a world of a difference (glancing at the current NHL roster alone and ignoring any potential additions via trade or free agency).

There’s six players currently on Philadelphia’s NHL club that could test the open market in July 2019, including Lehtera, Wayne Simmonds, Michael Raffl, Jordan Weal, Scott Laughton and Travis Konecny.

The obvious standouts of those names are Simmonds (who’ll be in the midst of his prime and entering his 30s) and Konecny (who will be coming off of his entry-level contract). Both are sure to expect a raise and long term deals if they see themselves attached to the city for a while.

And with only two roster players signed past the 2021-22 season in Jakub Voracek (2023-24) and Shayne Gostisbehere (2022-23), Hextall will soon have to start navigating the future of the new core in Konecny, Nolan Patrick and crew.

Perhaps Hextall would float the idea of moving 29-year-old forward, Dale Weise, and his $2.350 million cap hit through the 2019-20 season with the future in mind.

On defense, the Flyers have two pending-UFAs in Brandon Manning and Johnny Oduya and one pending-RFA in Robert Hagg.

Manning, 28, had his best season with 7-12–19 totals in 65 games played, while Oduya, 36, signed with the Ottawa Senators last July as a free agent and was claimed off waivers by Philadelphia on February 26th. The Swedish defender recorded four goals and four assists with Ottawa this season and played in one game for the Flyers.

Hagg, 23, played his first full-season with Philadelphia in 2017-18, amassing 3-6–9 totals in 70 games played in his rookie season.

Both Manning and Hagg are part of the solution on Philly’s blueline, while Oduya will more than likely test the waters of free agency once more in the NHL.

In goal, Elliott, 33, Neuvirth, 30, and Mrazek, 26, are currently listed on the NHL roster.

Elliott had one-year left on his two-year deal with a $2.750 million cap hit, while Neuvirth also has one-year remaining on his current contract at $2.500 million.

For the second year in a row, Elliott’s goals against average increased and his save percentage worsened as a starting goalie. In 43 games this season, he had a 2.66 GAA and .909 SV%.

Neuvirth improved from 2016-17 to 2017-18 in six fewer games as Philadelphia’s backup, finishing the year with a 2.60 GAA and .915 SV%.

Mrazek is a pending-RFA coming off his worst season. In 22 games with Detroit this season, the Czech goaltender had a 2.89 GAA and .910 SV%. That’s less than ideal, but considering the Red Wings ongoing rebuild… Mrazek didn’t do himself any favors with a playoff bound team in the Flyers, amassing a 3.22 GAA and .891 SV% in 17 games.

On the surface it may appear as though the annual revolving door of goaltenders in Philadelphia may continue, but there’s some promise in their goaltending prospects.

Philly could have a situation very much like their rival in Pittsburgh currently has where Matt Murray is the starter and Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith constantly battle for the backup role while all being close in age.

The Flyers should make Neuvirth their starter– in the meantime, as the search continues for a legitimate starter– with Alex Lyon and Anthony Stolarz (both pending-RFAs this July) competing for the backup role.

Other pending free agents throughout the organization include:

Reece Wilcox (RFA), Colin McDonald (UFA), Samuel Morin (RFA), Tyrell Goulbourne (RFA), Alex Lyon (RFA), John Muse (UFA), Dustin Tokarski (UFA), Danick Martel (RFA), Anthony Stolarz (RFA), Will O’Neill (UFA)

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NHL Podcasts

Down the Frozen River Podcast #77- Boo: A Very Merry Boone Jenner Halloween

Nick, Connor and Cap’n address the news and notes from the past week of NHL action, discuss the demise of Antti Niemi, as well as take a gamble on the Vegas Golden Knights. The Los Angeles Kings are good (and lucky, according to Cap’n) and the Montreal Canadiens are bad (very bad). Also, Dwayne Roloson was 42 in 2011 (not 39).

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