Where could Bill Guerin play next season?

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billguerin3.jpgNow that the Penguins have officially stepped away from Bill Guerin we can now start officially wondering about where the well-traveled veteran scorer will play next, if anywhere at all. The recon on Bill Guerin is simple. He turns 40 in November, he’s played for 18 seasons in the NHL with eight different teams. At one point, he was the NHL’s fastest skater but those years are behind him, as are his years of scoring 30-40 goals. Now he’s a 20 goal scorer at best and has the veteran savvy to get around.

Last season he appeared to struggle at times while on a line with Sidney Crosby and while most anyone in the NHL will find it hard to keep up with Sid the Kid, Guerin appeared to lag behind. Where does Bill Guerin’s future lie in the NHL? There are a few teams that could stand to use a guy like him, some that he might be familiar with already. By the way, any team with cap issues is being tossed aside so save your Bruins rumors for someone else. Here are five teams that could be a good landing spot for Bill Guerin.

Buffalo Sabres

Buffalo has been more than quiet this off-season. Aside from signing Jordan Leopold, Shaone Morrisonn and Rob Niedermayer the Sabres haven’t gotten much going for them in free agency. The Sabres are putting their hopes on Jason Pominville and Thomas Vanek returning to high levels of play as well as hoping for Tyler Ennis to emerge as a scoring threat as well as continued solid play from Derek Roy. Adding a veteran like Guerin to the team would give them more consistent depth on the wing and provide yet another guy that can score. Getting Ryan Miller all the help he can can only turn out to be a great thing for a team that seemed like they would make a run last year only to see the goals dry up in the playoffs.

St. Louis Blues

Admittedly this is a huge long shot as the Blues appear to be done in free agency and their lines all appear to be squared away. What the Blues are is very young and a veteran who is familiar with St. Louis (he played there for half of the 2006-2007 season scoring 28 goals in 61 games) could be a difference maker. Guerin could give the Blues that one added dose of scoring and leadership, something could help put them in the playoffs in the very difficult Western Conference. He wouldn’t necessarily have to be on the top two lines in St. Louis and that kind of veteran depth would be huge for a team that has just four players over the age of 30.

New York Islanders

The Islanders are another one of Guerin’s former haunts, playing there in the 2007-2008 season and half of the 2008-2009 season before being dealt to Pittsburgh. The Islanders need… A lot of things and a winger that can score is definitely one of them. Once you get past Matt Moulson and Kyle Okposo, the Islanders situation on the wings is sketchy to say the least. The Islanders seemed to enjoy having Guerin on Long Island and even made him captain while he was there. Guerin could slot in as a second line wing which might be pushing the soon-to-be 40 year-old’s limits for use. That said, Guerin’s 21 goals last year for Pittsburgh would’ve put him third on the Islanders.

Colorado Avalanche

All right so this is a real stretch but hear me out. The Avs are still dealing with getting two of their restricted free agents signed (Peter Mueller and Chris Stewart) so dipping into the unrestricted free agent pool isn’t on their mind. The team will be getting power forward David Jones back from injury but they’re losing Marek Svatos. While Svatos’ drop in offensive output was a source of frustration for the Avs the last few years, Guerin would provide them with a veteran presence on a team that is extremely young at forward. Guerin would also provide consistent production regardless of what line they had him play on, something that this young team could definitely use going into a season where success might be harder to come by now that they’re not flying under anyone’s radar.

Atlanta Thrashers

I didn’t really think of the Thrashers as a possibility initially. Then we found out about how GM Rick Dudley wants to use newly acquired Dustin Byfuglien on the blue line and turn him into an offensive force from the blue line instead of from the front of the net. While that puts a lot of hope on the Thrashers youth to step up in camp and win a job to fill out the forward spots, Guerin could jump in right away and provide instant production and consistency. With all sorts of young talent in Atlanta, Guerin’s presence could work out huge for a team that could be an instant threat for the playoffs with all the changes they’ve made in the off-season.

As always, this is just a guessing game for now but it’s fun to scout around and see if there’s anything that immediately jumps out as a possibility. Of course, it’s also possible that Guerin will take the struggling free agent season to mean that it’s time for him to hang it up and retire. Judging from what we’ve seen from him, he can still make things happen out on the ice, just at a bit of a slower pace.

Ducks deny rally, end Penguins’ winning streak

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When Ondrej Kase cashed in on another breakaway opportunity for the Ducks to make it 4-1 in the second period, it looked like that goal would be icing on the cake for Anaheim. Even if it would be especially pretty frosting.

Instead, that stylish goal ended up being critical, as the Pittsburgh Penguins nearly rallied in the third period to at least send Wednesday’s game to overtime. John Gibson ended up holding down the fort, and with an empty-netter in the dying seconds, the Ducks ended up beating the Penguins 5-3.

You could call it a game of periods and close calls.

The Penguins entered the first intermission thanks to a 1-0 Evgeni Malkin goal, but the Ducks dominated the middle frame with their first four-goal period of 2017-18. The Penguins’ prolific power play helped them stay in the game (2-for-4, with both goals coming during that third-period comeback bid), but the rally fell short. Pittsburgh’s winning streak ended at four victories.

Some bounces went both ways, as Antoine Vermette nearly scored for the Ducks while Carl Hagelin suffered a near-miss. So maybe those missed opportunities cancel each other out?

From the Ducks’ perspective, this is the latest argument in favor of this team being a threat now that key pieces have returned to the lineup. This win begins what they hope is a successful five-game homestand, as Anaheim still needs to battle for its own playoff hopes.

The Penguins can’t ruminate on this loss for very long. They head to Los Angeles to face what must be a frustrated Kings team (four straight defeats, only two wins in their last eight games) on Thursday, with little reason to expect any mercy.

This last stretch of wins improved the Penguins’ outlook, but dropping games in back-to-back nights could make things tense again in a hurry. You can check out that Penguins – Kings game on NBCSN Thursday.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Willie O’Ree celebrates 60th anniversary of debut with Bruins

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BOSTON (AP) Hockey pioneer Willie O’Ree was honored in Boston on Wednesday on the 60th anniversary of the Bruins forward breaking the NHL’s color barrier.

At a news conference at the TD Garden before the Bruins game against the Montreal Canadiens, Mayor Marty Walsh declared Jan. 18, 2018 to be “Willie O’Ree Day”. O’Ree made his debut in 1958 during a 3-0 victory against the Canadiens at the Forum in Montreal.

Walsh called O’Ree a Boston legend who changed the city for the better and thanked him for his courage. As part of the celebration, the city dedicated a new street hockey rink in the Allston-Brighton neighborhood to be known as Willie O’Ree Rink.

A native of Canada, O’Ree, 82, had four goals and 10 assists in 45 games over parts of two NHL seasons. He spent a total of 21 years in pro hockey.

For the past two decades, O’Ree has served as the NHL’s Diversity Ambassador, spreading the message that hockey is for everyone.

More AP NHL hockey at https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey

Bruins cruise vs. Canadiens in Julien’s return to Boston

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Don’t blame Claude Julien if Wednesday made him think of better times, and not just because it was his welcome back night in Boston.

Coming into this one, it was a tale of two teams going in opposite directions, and the teams stuck to their scripts. The Boston Bruins remain red-hot with a 4-1 win, while the Montreal Canadiens are mired in mediocrity .. or worse?

When you’re as disappointing as the Canadiens have been, plenty of things are going wrong. It was a weak start even with a 1-0 lead and 1-1 first period in mind, and it obviously didn’t get any better.

Nights like these have to sting for Julien, a coach known for his sophisticated systems and eye for defensive detail.

There are questions about Max Pacioretty possibly being trade bait. People wonder if Jonathan Drouin or Alex Galchenyuk fit as centers, or if neither work that way. Yet, these performances make you realize that as exasperated as management must be, they may also appreciate more specific distractions.

Because, frankly, this was a team … non-effort.

Then again, the Bruins are a red-hot squad, so maybe they shine an especially harsh light on the Habs’ haplessness?

Boston generated a 32-22 shots on goal advantage in this one, with multiple contributors stepping up. Big guns came through (Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak were among the goal scorers, Patrice Bergeron collected two assists), while David Backes and others added to the fun.

It was the kind of effort Julien would have been very happy with, if it didn’t come at his expense.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

WATCH LIVE: Pittsburgh Penguins at Anaheim Ducks

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PROJECTED LINEUPS

Pittsburgh Penguins

Dominik SimonSidney Crosby — Daniel Sprong

Carl HagelinEvgeni MalkinPatric Hornqvist

Conor ShearyJake GuentzelPhil Kessel

Tom KuhnhacklRiley SheahanRyan Reaves

Brian DumoulinKris Letang

Olli MaattaJustin Schultz

Matt HunwickJamie Oleksiak

Starting goalie: Tristan Jarry

[NHL on NBCSN doubleheader: Canadiens vs. Bruins; Penguins vs. Ducks]

Ducks

Rickard RakellRyan GetzlafCorey Perry

Derek GrantRyan KeslerJakob Silfverberg

Nick RitchieAdam HenriqueOndrej Kase

Chris WagnerAntoine VermetteJ.T. Brown

Cam FowlerKevin Bieksa

Hampus LindholmJosh Manson

Francois BeaucheminBrandon Montour

Starting goalie: John Gibson