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Sabres hurting at the wrong time; Vanek, Hecht, Grier, and Kaleta out tonight vs. Pittsburgh

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Buffalo has found their way back into the top eight of the Eastern Conference. After spending the majority of the season out of the mix for the playoffs, the Sabres are very much back into it. The Sabres have been able to do it without last year’s leading scorer Derek Roy for most of the season but with the games dwindling and the pressure on to get into the playoffs, times are getting tougher health-wise.

Tonight’s crucial game against Pittsburgh will see the Sabres going to battle without a number of key players. Leading scorer Thomas Vanek (flu), Jochen Hecht, Patrick Kaleta, and Mike Grier are all out for tonight with other nagging injuries. Taking their spots in the lineup are Mark Mancari and today’s call-ups from the AHL Luke Adam and veteran Mark Parrish.

These issues pop up from time to time for any team, but when you’re caught in the midst of a playoff race against a difficult team like the Penguins, it can feel like the stars are aligning against you to keep you out of the playoffs. Coach Lindy Ruff has done well with his team of late as they’ve been resilient and a pain in the neck for opponents to deal with.

Making it all the more amazing is that superstar goalie Ryan Miller hasn’t been other-worldly good this season, just pretty damn good. While Miller was busy leading Team USA and winning the Vezina Trophy last year, his numbers this year are still good but not quite what you’d hope for out of the guy you’re asking to start virtually every game for you. With a .914 save percentage and a 2.66 goals against average Miller ranks tied for 24th in save percentage and 31st in goals against average.

If Miller can show what he’s capable of while these injuries keep the Sabres shorthanded the confidence boost it’ll give to the team could be enough to keep them locked into a playoff spot.

Max Talbot signs in KHL

Calgary Flames v Boston Bruins
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Earlier this week, we passed along word that veteran NHLer Max Talbot was contemplating a move to Europe.

On Friday, that move was made official.

KHL club Lokomotiv Yaroslavl announced that Talbot has agreed to a one-year contract. The deal comes after the 32-year-old split last season between Boston and its AHL affiliate in Providence, scoring seven points in 38 games at the NHL level.

Over the course of his 10-year NHL career, Talbot appeared in over 700 games and established himself as a gritty, hardworking forward with decent touch around the net.

He scored double-digit goals four times — including a career-high 19 in ’11-12 — and will always be remembered in Pittsburgh for scoring both goals in a 2-1 Game 7 win over Detroit at the 2009 Stanley Cup Final.

 

 

Jets assistant Vincent named AHL Manitoba head coach

DENVER, CO - APRIL 09:  (L-R) Assistant coach Pascal Vincent, head coach Paul Maurice and assistant coach Charlie Huddy and the Winnipeg Jets look from the bench against the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center on April 9, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Avalanche defeated the Jets 1-0 in an overtime shootout.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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Winnipeg didn’t have to look far to find Keith McCambridge’s replacement for its AHL affiliate in Manitoba.

Pascal Vincent, who’s served as an assistant coach with the Jets for the last five years, will become the eighth head coach in Moose history, the club announced on Friday.

Vincent, 44, was one of the original hires when the franchise moved to Winnipeg from Atlanta in 2011. He’s worked under two different head coaches — Claude Noel and Paul Maurice — and is held in high regard by the organization.

That said, he did face some critiques this year. Jets fans were displeased with the Vincent-led power play, which posted a league-worst 14.8 percent success rate, tying Ottawa for the fewest power play goals in the NHL (38).

With today’s reshuffling, there appears to be a spot now open on Maurice’s staff. The Winnipeg Sun reports that Jeff Daniels — former head coach of the AHL’s Charlotte Checkers — could be one to keep an eye on.

Daniels played for Maurice in Carolina, and the pair went to the Stanley Cup Final together in 2002.

Sweden gets Pittsburgh flair as Hagelin, Hornqvist make World Cup roster

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 22:  Patric Hornqvist #72 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates with Sidney Crosby #87 and Carl Hagelin #62 after scoring a goal on Andrei Vasilevskiy #88 of the Tampa Bay Lightning during the second period in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Consol Energy Center on May 22, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Matt Kincaid/Getty Images)
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Pretty good 24 hours for Carl Hagelin and Patric Hornqvist.

Last night, the pair helped Pittsburgh advance to its first Stanley Cup Final in seven years.

This morning, both made Team Sweden’s roster for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.

Hagelin and Hornqvist joined Buffalo’s Robin Lehner, Nashville’s Mattias Ekholm, Chicago’s Marcus Kruger, Anaheim’s Jakob Silfverberg and Colorado’s Carl Soderberg as the final seven players named to the Swedish roster on Friday.

The updated 23-man list, in full:

G Robin Lehner, Buffalo Sabres *
G Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers
G Jacob Markstrom, Vancouver Canucks

D Mattias Ekholm, Nashville Predators *
D Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Arizona Coyotes
D Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning
D Niklas Hjalmarsson, Chicago Blackhawks
D Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators
D Niklas Kronwall, Detroit Red Wings
D Anton Stralman, Tampa Bay Lightning

F Nicklas Backstrom, Washington Capitals
F Loui Eriksson, Boston Bruins
F Filip Forsberg, Nashville Predators
F Carl Hagelin, Pittsburgh Penguins *
F Patric Hornqvist, Pittsburgh Penguins *
F Marcus Kruger, Chicago Blackhawks *
F Gabriel Landeskog, Colorado Avalanche
F Daniel Sedin, Vancouver Canucks
F Henrik Sedin, Vancouver Canucks
F Jakob Silfverberg, Anaheim Ducks *
F Carl Soderberg, Colorado Avalanche *
F Alexander Steen, St. Louis Blues
F Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit Red Wings

* named to roster today

As far as “snubs” go, the biggest is probably Dallas blueliner John Klingberg. Klingberg, second only to Karlsson among Swedish d-men scorers this year, was passed over in favor of Ekholm.

Other notable omissions include Ottawa’s Mika Zibanejad, Detroit’s Gustav Nyquist, Washington’s Marcus Johansson, Carolina’s Victor Rask, Anaheim’s Rickard Rakell and Hampus Lindholm, Vancouver’s Alex Edler and Winnipeg’s Tobias Enstrom.

In goal, Lehner beat out a host of competitors for the No. 3 gig behind Lundqvist and Markstrom. Jonas Gustavsson, Anders Nilsson, Jhonas Enroth and Eddie Lack — who used to play with Markstrom in Vancouver — were likely challengers for the spot.

PHT Morning Skate: What superstition? Crosby, Malkin, Kunitz grab the Prince of Wales Trophy

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Sidney Crosby decided to buck the trend and touch the Prince of Wales Trophy. (Top)

–Former NHLers look back at their Game 7 battles. (Sports Illustrated)

–A Q&A with the newest Panther Jared McCann. (NHL)

–Watch the highlights from last night’s game between the Penguins and Lightning:

Joe Pavelski went from not being able to skate and not being big enough to becoming a Conn Smythe Trophy favorite. (TSN)

Bryan Rust accomplished something pretty rare this postseason:

–Some teams still need to sign some of their prospects or risk losing them.