Vigneault careful to praise Kevin Bieksa

Kevin Bieksa played his best game of the playoffs on Sunday night in
Chicago, an overall inspiring effort that his team will need more of as
the series heads back to Vancouver tonight. While Sami Salo hasn’t
exactly been ruled out for tonight’s game, you have to think he’s likely
out as he tries to recover from a direct shot to his tender area.

While
Alain Vigneault was quick to share his unabashed opinion early in the
series, he’s turned to a more tight-lipped approach as the team
approaches Game 6 tonight.

When asked about Bieksa’s big game, he
was quick to move on.

“He played under control, played real hard, gave us a good game,”
Vigneault said.

“Under control” is the key word here, especially for a player like
Bieksa who has succombed to his emotions one too many times during his
stint with the Canucks. He’s been labeled as inconsistent and a bit
hotheaded at times, but if Salo is indeed going to miss time the Canucks
will need more of the Bieksa they witnessed in Game 5.

You have to think that Vigneault is wanting to keep Bieksa hungry,
not ready to prop him up with too much praise just yet. If he continues
to play like he did on Sunday, there’s no doubt that Vigneault will be
more willing to sing the praises of who he hopes to be his best
defenseman.

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    Blues blaze through Devils, even in New Jersey

    NEWARK, NJ - DECEMBER 09: (L-R) Brad Hunt #77, Robby Fabbri #15 and Vladimir Tarasenko #91 of the St. Louis Blues celebrate Fabri's first period goal against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on December 9, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    The New Jersey Devils have been incredibly difficult to beat at home. Lately, the St. Louis Blues have been on a roll just about anywhere.

    On Friday night, the Blues were the hotter team, handing the Devils their first home loss in regulation in 2016-17. And it wasn’t particularly close, with St. Louis winning 4-1.

    It’s a convenient time to note that the Blues rank among the hottest teams in the NHL. Most recently, they’re 5-1-1 in their last seven games, but they’ve been especially impressive since they flirted with .500 at 7-6-3. Beginning with a 4-1 win against the Buffalo Sabres on Nov. 15, the Blues are on a 8-2-1 tear.

    That’s impressive stuff.

    This 4-1 win was quite the showcase for Robby Fabbri and Vladimir Tarasenko, in particular. Tarasenko collected three assists while Fabbri scored two goals on Friday night. His second goal was particularly slick:

    The Blues are right in saying that this was a pretty fitting opportunity to drop a “Holy Jumpin.”

    Leon Draisaitl continues hot streak with silky smooth goal (Video)

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    Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk has been the most difficult goalies to score against this season. Leave it to a high-level player like Leon Draisaitl to make it look this, well, “easy.”

    Draisaitl scored his 13th goal of 2016-17 by capping this pretty give-and-go play with Benoit Pouliot. You can see the frustration from Dubnyk at the end of the tally, as if he was saying “How was I supposed to stop that?” (though probably with more colorful language).

    Draisaitl came into Friday with five goals and three assists in his last five games, so he’s been almost unstoppable lately.

    Read more about his rise here.

    Video: Kuznetsov sets table for Vrana’s first NHL goal

    PHILADELPHIA, PA - JUNE 27:  Jakub Vrana of the Washington Capitals poses for a portrait during the 2014 NHL Draft at the Wells Fargo Center on June 27, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
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    In his fifth NHL game, intriguing Washington Capitals prospect Jakub Vrana scored his first NHL goal (and point).

    Let’s be honest, though; Evgeny Kuznetsov deserves plenty of the credit, as he sent a fantastic pass for Vrana’s tap-in tally.

    See it for yourself:

    Even if that was mostly Kuznetsov, Vrana has been getting his chances so far.

    He generated four shots on goal in two separate occasions so far in his four games of NHL action, so maybe he was due for a chance like this.

    Considering he’s just 20 years old, the Capitals could get used to Kuznetsov to Vrana.

    Update: The Capitals won 4-1, and Vrana’s first goal wasn’t the only noteworthy “first.” After piling on shots, John Carlson finally scored his first goal of the season:

    Kulikov returns to increasingly healthy Sabres lineup

    CALGARY, AB - OCTOBER 18: Dmitry Kulikov #77 of the Buffalo Sabres in action against the Calgary Flames during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on October 18, 2016 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
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    No one’s going to confuse Dmitry Kulikov with Jack Eichel, but the Buffalo Sabres are likely happy to have him back after a long absence, too.

    The Sabres have been on an upward trend lately (5-2-2 in their last nine games), and now they get a key defenseman back against the Washington Capitals on Friday night.

    Kulikov last played on Nov. 9 and hasn’t recorded a point in 12 games, making for a tough start to his stint with the Sabres. Maybe he’ll begin to get a little more traction with his new team tonight?

    He’s far from the only returning Buffalo player, either, as Josh Gorges and Nicolas Deslauriers are also back in the mix. Kulikov is slated to be on the Sabres’ second pairing with Cody Franson.

    Buffalo sent Brendan Guhle to the AHL to make room for these tweaks.