Dustin Byfuglien scores in OT to help Thrashers beat Habs

The Atlanta Thrashers enjoyed a start to 2011 that resembled many of their games late in 2010: Dustin Byfuglien and Ondrej Pavelec came through in a big way to help them win. This time around, the two powered the team to a 4-3 overtime win over the Montreal Canadiens.

Atlanta 4, Montreal 3 (OT)

Pavelec made 47 saves in a superlative overall effort while Byfuglien scored the game winner in overtime on the power play. Bfyuglien leads NHL defenseman with 16 goals and 41 points in 42 games, a near-point per game output that is truly unusual in this era of hockey. The Thrashers brass must feel awfully bright for putting so much faith in these two young athletes.

Rich Peverley, Evander Kane and Andrew Ladd scored the other goals for Atlanta while Tomas Plekanec, P.K. Subban and Brian Gionta produced Montreal’s tallies. Both power plays were efficient, with the Thrashers going 1 for 2 and the Canadiens going 2 for 3. Tobias Enstrom earned three assists for the Thrashers.

The Thrashers moved up to sixth place in the conference, although the Rangers only need one point to leapfrog over Atlanta. That being said, their spot in the playoffs seems safe at the moment.

Carey Price (24 out of 28 saves) and the Habs are struggling greatly as of late, losing four of their last five and a 3-8-1 record in their last 12 games. While they are only one point behind the Northeast Division leading Boston Bruins, their division opponents hold three games in hand. They’re struggling at eighth place in the East, although they do have a five point lead over ninth place Carolina.

Here are video highlights from that game.

After years of hype, McDavid to play first NHL game

Connor McDavid
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The hype surrounding Connor McDavid couldn’t be much greater, but finally expectations will start to give way to results.

The NHL career that’s been talked about for years will begin tonight when his Edmonton Oilers face St. Louis.

“It’s something that you dream of for so long,” McDavid told NHL.com. “The draft is one thing, but to finally be in this situation is another, so I’m really excited. It’s been a long road; it’s been a lot of hard work. I think a lot of guys’ stories are different in how they get here, but the one common theme is hard work and my story is not any different that way.”

McDavid has transformed the Oilers with his mere presence. Its breathed fresh optimism into a city that have watched this team struggle in its efforts to dig out of the NHL basement. One also has to wonder if Peter Chiarelli would be the team’s new general manager and Todd McLellan its new head coach if Edmonton hadn’t won the draft lottery.

But where will he lead Edmonton? Will he be just the sixth 70-point rookie of the salary cap era? Will he struggle out of the gate, putting the hype into question? Perhaps he’ll draw comparisons to Steven Stamkos, who had a modest rookie campaign by the standards of a highly regarded top pick, but has nevertheless gone on to become a superstar.

That would surprise Stamkos as the Lightning captain feels McDavid is better than he is currently. Just further proof that those lofty expectations are coming from all sides.

“You don’t want to put too much weight on his shoulders; he’s an 18-year-old kid,” Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli said. “I don’t care how good he is or how good he’ll be, it’s a lot to shoulder if you’re supposed to be the guy and you’re the only guy. Fortunately we have a lot of high-pedigree players that are high picks who have gone through similar situations that he’s going through.”

Edmonton certainly has no shortage of first overall picks, but none as highly regarded as McDavid. But then, few ever are.

Related: There’s ‘a real positive vibe’ in Buffalo, where Eichel will make NHL debut tonight

There’s ‘a real positive vibe’ in Buffalo, where Eichel will make NHL debut tonight

Connor McDavid
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Jack Eichel didn’t disappoint in the preseason, finishing with six points in four games, including two shorthanded goals.

Tonight in Buffalo, his NHL career will start for real when the Sabres host the Ottawa Senators in regular-season action.

“It’s something I’ve dreamed of my whole life, stepping foot on that ice and making the NHL,” Eichel said, per NHL.com. “It’s kind of been a whirlwind, but you’re finally playing hockey for a living and everything you’ve done your whole life is to get to this point. It’s pretty special.”

The 18-year-old’s debut was front-page news this morning in Buffalo, where the Sabres have been among the NHL’s worst teams since last making the playoffs in 2010-11.

Eichel front page

Granted, even with the additions of Eichel, Ryan O'Reilly, Evander Kane, Robin Lehner and Cody Franson, expectations for 2015-16 remain modest for the new-look Sabres. Certainly, a spot in the playoffs would count as a surprise.

But for the fans of a team that’s barely possessed the puck the past couple of years, it’s night and day.

“People are excited,” GM Tim Murray said earlier this week. “It’s great. They think we’ve improved, and there’s a real positive vibe, I believe.

“That’s what I said to our coaches, ‘I want everybody to be positive. I’m the only guy in the organization allowed to be negative.’ That’s the way I wanted it. If I’m the most negative guy in the city about the team, that’s pretty good.”