Carolina Hurricanes v Atlanta Thrashers

Around the rink – February 13; Sabres look to keep rolling, Pacific Division races heat up

12:30 p.m.

Boston @ Detroit

It’s NBC’s Game of the Week and the Bruins are looking to get one back after being humbled by Detroit on Friday night 6-1. Detroit’s offensive breakout was as much of a surprise as Boston getting lit up as the B’s have been one of the stingiest teams in the league this year. One thing working in Boston’s favor is that Detroit has been inconsistent the last month and a half so getting it back today might happen. Of course, Detroit’s getting healthier and have virtually their entire normal starting forward corps back on the ice.

3:00 p.m.

NY Islanders @ Buffalo

Well, well, well… Looks who’s back in the mix for the playoffs. The Sabres are just three points behind Carolina and Atlanta who are tied for the eighth spot in the East and with a win today their climb back into the mix will be legitimate. They’ve gone 9-2-0 in their last 11 games and when you go on a tear like that in the East, all things are possible. Sadly for the Sabres, they were so down and out of it before that that run only gets them back into the discussion for the playoffs. The Islanders will be looking to save some face after their embarrassing win over Pittsburgh on Friday which saw them collectively lose their minds and saw them have two players receive lengthy suspensions. We’re figuring the fisticuffs will be put away for this one, but the Sabres of late have found ways to get under everyone’s skin.

Pittsburgh @ NY Rangers

The Penguins hellish trip into New York this weekend that’s seen them get jumped by the Islanders to the tune of 346 penalty minutes and then end up in a bus accident yesterday winds up with a game against a Rangers team they haven’t seen eye-to-eye with at all this year. The fun never ends it seems and they’ll deal with a desperate Rangers team that’s seen their losing streak reach six games in a row. Apparently the Rangers were a team better off without all of their starters on offense as the returns of Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan, and Vinny Prospal have netted them nothing. Things will turn around eventually, but after New York’s gutbusting loss on Friday to Atlanta, heads are down and wondering for the Rangers.

Columbus @ Dallas

The Stars are treading water of late and they’re holding on to the slimmest of leads in the Pacific Division. They’ve got the Sharks, Ducks, and Coyotes nipping at their heels and for the Stars, the problems have been on defense. Losing six of their last eight games, they’ve allowed 34 goals in those eight games. Giving up just over four per game isn’t going to win you much in the league aside from the approval of your opponents. Columbus has won three of their last four games, a run that has inched them closer to the pack trying to find a spot in the playoffs. Steve Mason has played better of late and getting consistent goaltending out of him is just what the Jackets need. Their forward groups have played better of late and getting better goaltending serves to be a rallying point.

Los Angeles @ Philadelphia

The Flyers are hot. They’ve gone 13-3-0 in their last 16 games and have won five of their last six games. Dealing with a Kings team coming fresh off a sound 4-1 beating of the Capitals should give them a healthy test as the Kings are loaded with tough players worthy of bringing it at any time. Just ask the Caps what happens when you go into a game ill prepared with L.A. The Kings are in the middle of their 10 game road trip which they’ve gone 3-0-2 on to this point. Earning points in each game on a season-long road swing is quite the accomplishment but continuing that run against the East’s best team won’t be easy.

5:00 p.m.

Carolina @ Atlanta

A huge game in February? You better believe it. These two teams are tied for the eighth spot in the East and for Atlanta they’re looking to keep the good mojo going. Their comeback win over the Rangers on Friday might serve to be the rallying point they’ve been looking for. It’s no coincidence that they pulled out a win in the game they got Tobias Enstrom back in the lineup either as the puck-moving defenseman is key to their success this year. The Hurricanes’ youth has shown its colors of late with the team having lost five of their last six. Bouts of inconsistency are bound to happen, but for Carolina it has come at a bad time as the team could’ve taken control of the eighth spot with Atlanta floundering of late. Of course, without that mutual mess-making we wouldn’t have what sets up to be a great and desperate tilt today.

San Jose @ Florida

The Sharks will be hoping to put their frustrating loss to New Jersey behind them going up against a similarly tough Panthers squad in Sunrise. Florida may not win every game, but they’ve got the nasty habit of making everyone they play against earn it. It’s a yeoman effort for the Panthers to pull this off and their trading of Michal Frolik means that each game will be a bit tougher physically. San Jose though continues to press and put the heat on the Stars to stay ahead of them in the Pacific Division and going 9-1-1 in their last 11 games will do that. Coincidentally enough, the Panthers have lost nine of their last 11 games and their defense and goaltending has been mediocre at the very least.

8:00 p.m.

Anaheim @ Edmonton

We’re not going to say it’ll be an easy game for the Ducks, but considering the Oilers are coming off a disturbing loss to the fellow cellar-dwelling Senators yesterday, the minds of the Oilers are collectively about as low as they can go. When you have four wins in your last 24 games, being down about life will happen. For Anaheim, they’ve won seven of their last nine and are coming off an incredible comeback victory against Calgary on Friday night.

Eaves to stick with Benn, Seguin on Dallas’ top line

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Patrick Eaves‘ cameo alongside the dynamic duo of Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin looks like it’ll continue at least one more game.

Eaves, who along with Benn assisted on Seguin’s goal in Saturday’s loss to Chicago, practiced on Dallas’ top line today and should be there tomorrow when the Stars take on the Wild.

“Seguin, Benn and Eaves were in on 11 chances [Saturday against Chicago],” head coach Lindy Ruff explained, per the Stars’ website. They could have three or four [goals]. They should have had three or four. We missed too many good opportunities.”

This latest development is a positive in what’s been a tough year for Eaves. He was hurt early in the season after an awkward fall against the Oilers — a game in which he opened on the club’s top line, next to Benn and Seguin.

All told, he has just three goals and six points in 33 games.

Last year, Eaves was plagued with concussion issues but still managed to produce well, scoring 14 goals and 27 points in just 47 games.

After re-upping in Winnipeg, Byfuglien says leaving ‘never really crossed my mind’

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There was some speculation Dustin Byfuglien would be out of Winnipeg by the Feb. 29 trade deadline or, failing that, when free agency hit on July 1.

But according to him, leaving was never really an option.

“I’ve been here five years and from where we’ve started and where we’re at now, I don’t feel as an organization or a group that we’re far off,” Byfuglien told TSN 1290 on Monday, after inking a big five-year, $38 million extension with the Jets. “My family and I have found Winnipeg nice, and we’re very happy to stay here.

“It never really crossed my mind of going anywhere, and I’m excited to be a Jet.”

Prior to this extension, though, some thought leaving had definitely crossed Byfuglien’s mind.

Back in mid-December, the Free Press reported his initial ask was a whopping eight-year, $55 million deal. Some viewed that as his first potential step out the door.

It would’ve been big money and a lot of term for the Jets to commit, especially given 1) Byfuglien is 30, 2) the team still hasn’t signed captain Andrew Ladd, and 3) the club has some prized youngsters that need new deals this summer, specifically Mark Scheifele and Jacob Trouba. (In that same Free Press report, Trouba’s ask was $56 million over eight years.)

Then, there was Byfuglien at All-Star weekend.

When asked about his future — sign, trade or head to free agency? — Byfuglien said he had “no problem” with Winnipeg, adding “I just want to put on a jersey, to be honest with you.”

Some, like TSN’s Frank Seravalli, who was in attendance for the Byfuglien media scrum, noted the response “did not exactly sound like a ringing endorsement.”

Of course, Byfuglien later clarified his remarks following the All-Star Game.

“Yeah, I’d love to,” he told reporters when asked about re-signing in Winnipeg. “I’ve met a lot of good people and now some really good friends. I’ve been here for a long time. You never want to leave home. I’ve been here long enough; my family has been here and I’ve had two kids here.

“It’s somewhere you don’t want to leave.”

And now — well, for the next five years anyway — Byfuglien won’t have to.

Video: Jets’ Stafford suspended one game for ‘forceful, reckless’ high-stick

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The NHL has dinged Winnipeg forward Drew Stafford one game for his ugly high stick on Colorado’s Nick Holden over the weekend.

“While we accept Stafford’s assertion that he did not intentionally strike Holden in the face, he is responsible for the consequences of swinging his stick in such a forceful and reckless fashion,” the Department of Player Safety explained.

Stafford, who wasn’t penalized on the play, will now miss Winnipeg’s next game — tonight, in St. Louis — and will be eligible to return on Thursday when the Jets host the Bruins.

Stafford will also forfeit $23,387.10 in salary to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.

Big Buff, Big Bucks: Jets ink Byfuglien to five-year, $38 million extension

Dustin Byfuglien
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One of the most prized trade deadline targets is no longer.

On Monday, Winnipeg locked in pending UFA d-man Dustin Byfuglien to a five-year, $38 million extension, one that carries a $7.6M cap hit and makes him the highest-paid player on the team.

Byfuglien, 30, was in the last of a five-year, $26 million deal with a $5.2M average annual cap hit. One of the league’s most unique players — a 6-foot-5, 265 pounder that’s played forward and defense, and participated in this year’s fastest skater All-Star skills competition — his bio from the Jets’ release pretty much sums up how much he means to the club:

[Byfuglien] has recorded 32 points (15G, 17A) so far this season while appearing in all 52 games and sits in a tie for second amongst all NHL defencemen with his 15 goals.

Byfuglien leads the Jets so far this season in shots (163), penalty minutes (78) and ice time (24:14 per game).

The native of Roseau, MN, was named to the 2016 NHL All-Star Game in Nashville, TN where he recorded a goal and an assist for the Central Division team.

Byfuglien has been named to the All-Star Game in each of the last four seasons that the game has taken place (2011, 2012, 2015, 2016).

The deal keeps Byfuglien in Winnipeg through 2022 and is the latest long-term deal on the blueline: Tobias Enstrom is at $5.75M per through 2018, and Tyler Myers is at $5.5M per through ’19. Byfuglien’s deal also comes after some questioned how badly he wanted to stay in Winnipeg — at All-Star weekend, he raised eyebrows by responding “I just want to put on a jersey, to be honest with you,” when asked about his playing future.

The five-year term is also down from Byfuglien’s reported original ask, which was $55 million over eight years.

With this move done, Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff can now turn his attention to another prized pending UFA: Andrew Ladd, the club’s captain and another player that’s believed to have high interest around the league as a trade deadline rental.