Zack Kassian

Buffalo Sabres sign 2009 first round pick Zack Kassian to entry-level deal

When a guy points to Todd Bertuzzi as his favorite player, chances are that person is either: a) a Vancouver Canucks fan who came of age during Bertuzzi’s brief brush with stardom or b) a bit of a ne’er do well.  In fact, that person might be both.

Either way, Buffalo Sabres prospect Zack Kassian is a troubled young player. Yet considering the fact that he was the 13th pick of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, he might just be worth the headaches.

The Sabres signed Kassian to  three-year entry level deal today, according to the team.

Now in his fourth year of junior hockey, the 19-year-old Kassian (1/24/1991, 6’3”, 226 lbs.) currently leads the Ontario Hockey League’s Windsor Spitfires in scoring with 20 points (7+13) through 11 games. Kassian, who missed the start of the OHL season after an extended stay at Sabres training camp, is among the league leaders in scoring and has already posted a pair of four-point games this season.

The Windsor, Ont.-native has 135 points (52+83) in 168 career OHL games with Windsor and Peterborough. Kassian was traded to Windsor last season, and played a key role in the team’s Memorial Cup championship run. He finished with 16 points (7+9) in 19 playoff games, and added another five points (2+3) during the Memorial Cup tournament. The hard-hitting winger has also amassed 365 PIM’s during his four years in junior.

If Kassian can harness his “hard-hitting” tendencies the right way, he can bring the kind of power forward presence that Buffalo has been sorely missing for ages. From the days of Pat LaFontaine to that short but sweet post-lockout run spotlighted by the undersized duo of Danny Briere and Chris Drury, the franchise often lacked a menacing forward in their ranks.

Of course, Kassian using his powers for good (or at least the good of his team) ranks as a pretty big “if.” Much like another troubled but talented prospect Patrice Cormier, Kassian comes with a few marks against him before even landing on the NHL stage. Whether it’s dirty hits on the ice like the one that earned him a 20-game suspension or a bar altercation that garnered him some negative attention off the ice, Kassian won’t be fitted for angel’s wings anytime soon.

But, again, that might not matter if he can keep his nose relatively clean and provide the Sabres with that rare combination of grit, talent and nastiness.

Latest way the Wild lost? Killed by penalty kill

Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk sits on the ice after giving up a goal to St. Louis Blues' Jori Lehtera, of Finland, during the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
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It’s said that variety is the spice of life, yet it seems to be the spite of the Minnesota Wild.

As head coach Mike Yeo said, this struggling team appears to find a new way to lose virtually every night. That couldn’t have happened once again on Saturday, when they fell 4-1 to the St. Louis Blues, could it?

Actually …

If you ask Jarret Stoll, the latest problem was the penalty kill.

Honestly, Stoll may have been too specific, likely trying to throw his own unit under the bus. Instead, it might be more accurate to say that Minnesota’s special teams let them down.

Indeed, the Wild struggled to limit the Blues’ power play, which went an unsettling 3-for-6. That said, Minnesota had a chance to trade blows with St. Louis. Instead, the Wild managed one power-play goal on seven opportunities.

The silver lining is that the Wild believe that they showed more fight than this fragile bunch had been generating before.

On the other hand, with Jonas Brodin on IR and Jared Spurgeon apparently hurt, that silver lining may not be so easy to see.

Statement in Blackhawks’ blowout of Stars? Coach Q says they’re even

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Worry (if you’re pulling for the Stars) or gloat (if you’re a Blackhawks fan) all you want, but the bottom line is that the Central Division’s No.1 spot is clearly in Chicago’s control after Saturday night.

The Blackhawks earned a decisive 5-1 win against the Dallas Stars, giving them a five-point standings lead over Dallas for the Central Division lead.

You may feel like that’s more of the same, but consider this: things would look a lot closer if Dallas won or gained points, as they hold three games in hand on the ‘Hawks.

At least one Blackhawks player admits this game means a little more than your average W.

Indeed, while Antti Niemi was pulled from the game and Kari Lehtonen faced his own struggles in Dallas’ net, Corey Crawford ranked as one of the big reasons why the score was so lopsided.

(Artem Anisimov had a big say in that, too.)

As a wise coach with 1,000+ games of experience would do, Joel Quenneville didn’t go overboard in assessing the victory.

Was this a statement game? Who knows, but a certain statement is that the Blackhawks now have a five-point standings lead.

Brad Marchand wins it … on a penalty shot … in overtime

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Looking at the standings, beating the Buffalo Sabres was pretty important for the Boston Bruins. The Atlantic Division’s run for spots appears particularly congested out East.

Of all the Bruins to get a chance to win it all, the team might have wanted Brad Marchand to have that opportunity. He’s on pace to destroy his previous career-highs for scoring, and Marchand’s been particularly hot lately.

Either way, Marchand came up big indeed, scoring the rare overtime game-winner on a penalty shot. Check out the drama below:

That can be a big extra point and ROW (regulation/overtime win) when the regular season is finished.

Note: Many believe that Marchand should not have received a penalty shot on the play.

Crosby kills the Cats: Penguins end Panthers’ winning streak

Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby (87) collides with Florida Panthers' Connor Brickley (86) during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Pittsburgh, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
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For quite some time, it looked like the Florida Panthers would keep the Pittsburgh Penguins under wraps.

Florida nursed a 1-0 lead into a 2-0 margin almost halfway through the third period, looking to win its sixth consecutive game. That looked great … and then Sidney Crosby + Kris Letang happened.

Let’s put it this way: this GIF of Crosby being frustrated is amusing, yet it doesn’t exactly tell the story of Saturday’s 3-2 overtime win for the Penguins:

Instead, Crosby grabbed his 900th point assisting on a Letang goal, and finished the night with 902 by collecting the game-tying goal and grabbing a helper on Letang’s overtime game-winner.

Crosby crossing that barrier is indeed special, even if it prompts “What if?” questions about No. 87’s health.

The resurgence of Crosby and Letang already played a big role in the Penguins going from disjointed and frustrating to sneaky and scary, so it  shouldn’t be that surprising to see them play so well. Doing so in such brisk order is a little bewildering, however.