Ryan Miller, Alex Ovechkin

Hockey Day Preview: Sabres and Capitals try to re-gain last season’s magic

Before the lockout, the Buffalo Sabres were high on the list of NHL teams who faced extinction. Since then, they’ve gotten new owners, enjoyed a “golden age” of sorts with the high octane Daniel Briere/Chris Drury editions, lost those players and then fully committed to building the team around Ryan Miller.

They haven’t been able to put much star power around Miller, though, leading in some part to his difficulty producing a sequel to his smash-hit 2009-10 season. Their off-the-ice problems might be a thing of the past soon, though, as deep-pocked hockey fan Terry Pegula’s ownership is supposed to become 100 percent official on Tuesday.

Now, the Sabres just need to make it clear to Pegula and their front office that they should be a buyer during the trade deadline. Buffalo is tied for ninth place with the Atlanta Thrashers at 60 points, which parks them four points behind the Carolina Hurricanes for the East’s final playoff spot. The good news is that they do hold three games in hand against Carolina and Atlanta, though.

The bad news is that they are on a four-game home losing streak, which won’t be able to break even if this edition of the Washington Capitals isn’t quite as frightening as the 09-10 model. The Capitals lost four of their last five games to keep them five points behind the Tampa Bay Lightning for the top spot in the Southeast Division.

Despite that doom and gloom, there is a silver lining: Russian star Alex Ovechkin is starting to look like his all-world self again. Ovechkin scored three goals and two assists during the team’s last four games, including another highlight reel entry.

Both teams hope to regain their 09-10 momentum and improve their playoff chances with a win here today. Will the Capitals regenerate their mojo or will the Sabres get back on track at home? Tune into NBC to find out.

For another look at this game, check out the Associated Press preview.

Veteran NHLer Moss signs in Swiss league

David Moss
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Another journeyman has been forced to find work overseas.

David Moss, who had four goals as 12 points in 60 games for Arizona last season, has signed with EHC Biel of Switzerland’s National League A, the club announced on Tuesday.

Moss, 33, is a veteran of over 500 games, split between the Coyotes and Calgary Flames. He nearly landed in Switzerland last season, reportedly agreeing to a deal before utilizing his one-week out clause to catch on in Arizona.

After playing out his one-year, $800K deal, Moss failed to land a contract in free agency and eventually signed a PTO with Milwaukee, the AHL affiliate of the Nashville Predators.


Chara isn’t satisfied with Bruins’ recent success

Zdeno Chara
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The Boston Bruins didn’t get off to a great start in October or November, but in both instances, they were able to turn things around in the back half of the month.

Right now, everything seems to be going right for Boston, but if you think they’re satisfied with their current five-game winning streak, guess again.

“We did some things well, and we did some things that we need to improve, keep working on and keep getting better,” captain Zdeno Chara told CSN New England. “ It’s nice to win games, and it’s nice to be getting points. But I think we also want to improve our play systems-wise, and be better in certain areas.”

A big reason for their success comes from their improvement on special teams, specifically on the penalty kill.

Boston still has the 27th ranked penalty killing unit in the league, but they’ve killed 15 of their opposition’s last 16 power plays during their recent winning streak.

They’re power play is clicking at a mind-boggling 32.5 percent, which is tops in the NHL this season.

The Bruins will get their first crack at former GM Peter Chiarelli’s new team when they take on the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday night.

Does Columbus have a fitness problem?

John Tortorella

Interesting note from the Dispatch this morning regarding Monday’s Blue Jackets practice, in which head coach John Tortorella put his players through some rigorous skating drills.

Especially interesting, given what Scott Hartnell had to say.

“You can tell by the way we practiced today that [Tortorella] wants us in better shape so we’re not fading at the end of games,” he explained.

Fitness, or lack thereof, has been a recurring issue in Columbus this season.

In late October, Tortorella called out All-Star center Ryan Johansen for being out of shape — coincidentally, Johansen was “singled out” for extra skating on Monday — and, in a recent conversation with NHL.com, Torts again brought up the team’s conditioning problems.

“I think it’s a team with a number of different mental and physical bad habits that we’re trying to turn into good habits to where it becomes an instinct, but we’re a ways away,” he explained. “These are mental habits that have nothing to do with X’s and O’s.

“It’s a pretty young team, and quite honestly it’s about what it is to be a pro and doing the little things.”

So, does Columbus have a fitness problem?

It’s hard to say.

Back in October, GM Jarmo Kekalainen told the Dispatch all players passed their training camp conditioning tests and, when asked, said “I don’t think anybody can say we’re out of shape.”

But it stands to reason one of Kekalainen’s objectives in making the coaching change from Todd Richards to Tortorella was to light a fire under the team, and get them back to playing “Blue Jackets hockey” — the hard-working, hustle-filled style with a decided lunch bucket approach.

And in order to play that brand of hockey, the team has to be in shape.

NHL on NBCSN Doubleheader: Wild vs. ‘Hawks; Pens vs. Sharks

Scott Darling, Charlie Coyle
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NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2015-16 campaign tonight with a pair of interesting games. It all gets underway when the Chicago Blackhawks host the Minnesota Wild at 8:00 p.m. ET. If you want to watch the game online, you can do so here.

The Wild come into this game having lost three in a row and six of their last seven games to close out the month of November.

The good news for Minnesota is that Zach Parise returned to their lineup last Friday after missing eight games because of a knee injury.

He has no points and minus-2 rating since coming back.

Besides the two teams Parise’s played for (New Jersey and Minnesota), there isn’t a team in the league he’s produced less against than the ‘Hawks.

The 31-year-old has three goals and seven points in 20 games against Chicago.

The Blackhawks are off to an average start, but they’ve proven that they’re still tough to beat at home.

Chicago is 8-2-1 at the United Center this season.

This will be the Hawks’ first home game since Nov. 15. They closed out their six-game road trip with a 3-2 OT loss to the Kings on Saturday.

Following that tilt, NBCSN will broadcast the late game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and San Jose Sharks at 10:30 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online by clicking here.

The Penguins closed out the month of November with a pair of disappointing losses to the Blue Jackets (OT) and Oilers (SO).

Pittsburgh hasn’t won a game in regulation since Nov. 19 when they defeated Colorado 4-3.

You can’t blame Evgeni Malkin for the Penguins’ recent struggles.

The 29-year-old has scored each of Pittsburgh’s last four goals and he has 10 points in his last three contests.

November was very kind to the Sharks.

The team set a new franchise record by sweeping a six-game road trip that saw them win in Detroit, Buffalo, Boston, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Columbus.

They lost their first game back home to Chicago, but they closed out the month with a 5-2 win over the Flames on Saturday.

Sharks defenseman Brent Burns scored a pair of goals when these two teams met on Nov. 21. San Jose won that game by a score of 3-1.