Boston Bruins v Buffalo Sabres

Golf-swing taunt backfires for Brad Marchand, Bruins vs. Maple Leafs

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As an up-and-coming pest in his rookie season in the NHL, Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand is still trying to fight the right balance between agitation and self-destruction.

Last night’s shootout loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs revealed the live-by-the-sword, die-by-the-sword approach, as Marchand scored a beautiful shorthanded goal but also fueled Toronto’s fire by pantomiming a golf swing.

It was a regrettable moment that yielded a reprimand from Bruins coach Claude Julien, according to Joe Haggerty of CSN Boston. Marchand is making a solid case for Calder Trophy consideration this season, as Haggerty points out he’s in the top 10 in the following categories: goals (fifth place with 21), points (six with 40) and plus/minus (second with +26). He’s also dangerous on the penalty kill, as he’s tied for second place among rookies with New York Islanders speed demon Michael Grabner with five shorthanded goals.

It’s shocking that Marchand – not high draft pick Tyler Seguin – is the Bruins forward earning such a great debut year, but he still needs to find the right balance between pushing buttons and lighting the wrong fires. Haggerty captures Marchand’s thoughts on the ill-fated golf swing motion.

The golf jibe is the traditional put-down for NHL teams that aren’t going to qualify for the playoffs, and that seemed to be the message the mischievous Marchand was relaying to the Leafs players. Unfortunately Marchand’s golf-inspired taunts along with a few third period gaffes by the Bruins led to overtime with the resilient Leafs, and eventually fell in a shootout loss.

Julien read Marchand the riot act between the second and third period about his bush actions toward the Toronto bench, and the Bruins agitator admitted he’d gone a little too far this time.

“I think in games like this, really high intensity, guys [are] getting into it a bit,” said Marchand. “Sometimes you’re going to draw penalties. They’re trying to get on the power play, and I think that was part of it for both teams.

“Kessel punched me in the mouth and I was a little rattled. I thought he was calling a penalty for it. Then, they we’re saying some stuff and I was just yelling back. [The golf swing] was a little immature of me. I shouldn’t have done that. I got a little bit of an earful, so it won’t happen again.”

As Haggerty points out, it’s better than Marchand learns a lesson like this now rather than during the playoffs, a time in which such an act could be a real goat-like moment. If Marchand truly regrets the moment and learns from it, he could eventually develop his annoying but effective game to an Alexandre Burrows level. If not, he might be stuck in a glass half-full/half-empty space like Sean Avery.

Either way, Marchand probably won’t evoke his inner Johnny Carson again anytime soon.

Matthews to sit out preseason tilt versus Sabres, as Maple Leafs give him ‘a little break’

BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 24:  Auston Matthews poses for a portrait after being selected first overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs in round one during the 2016 NHL Draft on June 24, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Jeffrey T. Barnes/Getty Images)
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The Toronto Maple Leafs play the Buffalo Sabres on Friday. But No. 1 overall pick Auston Matthews won’t be in the lineup, according to multiple reports.

“Sooner or later, he’s going to get in, but not tonight,” said assistant coach Jim Hiller, as per the Toronto Sun.

“The lineups are day by day. They (World Cup players such as Matthews, Milan Michalek, Leo Komarov and James van Riemsdyk) went through a solid three weeks. It’s a little break, a little down time. There are tons of games coming. They’ll get a lot of ice time. They’ll get in shortly.”

(The report also notes that Matthews is not dealing with a health issue, which is obviously good news for the Leafs.)

On a night when the No. 2 overall selection Patrik Laine is slated to make his preseason debut for the Winnipeg Jets, fans wishing to see Matthews don a Maple Leafs jersey in his anticipated debut will have to wait.

Matthews played for Team North America at the World Cup held in Toronto. He had two goals and three points in three round robin games, but the young North American team was unable to advance to the semifinal round.

The Maple Leafs play the Montreal Canadiens at home on Sunday.

McLellan: Maroon’s lower-body injury not considered serious

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It appears Patrick Maroon‘s injury from Wednesday’s preseason game against the Vancouver Canucks looked worse than it is.

The Edmonton Oilers forward was in obvious pain immediately after he went hard into the boards from an awkward hit delivered by James Sheppard just past the midway point of the third period. Maroon needed help to the bench and was unable to put much, if any, pressure on his left leg.

He left the game and didn’t return.

Good news, however, from the Oilers: Head coach Todd McLellan told reporters on Friday that the injury — lower body — is not serious, as per the team’s Twitter account.

According to Mark Spector of Sportsnet, the 28-year-old Maroon is expected to be ready for Edmonton’s season opener against the rival Calgary Flames on Oct. 12.

The Oilers acquired Maroon at last season’s trade deadline, a move that certainly added size and an element of grit to their group of forwards.

In 16 games with Edmonton, he scored eight goals and 14 points. In 56 games with Anaheim that same season, he registered only 13 points before the trade.

Patrik Laine to make highly anticipated preseason debut for Jets

BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 24:  Patrik Laine gives an interview after being selected second by the Winnepeg Jets during round one of the 2016 NHL Draft on June 24, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Jen Fuller/Getty Images)
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Anticipation has been building since the Winnipeg Jets officially took Patrik Laine with the second overall pick in this year’s NHL Draft.

On Friday, Laine, the highly coveted Finnish forward, will make his preseason debut for the Jets when they play the Edmonton Oilers in Winnipeg, as the home fans get the chance to take in the occasion.

The Jets have done a nice job of amassing good young forwards in their organization. Laine, who has the gifts to be a prolific scorer in the NHL, is at the top of that prospect list.

Winnipeg’s roster tonight also includes forward prospects Kyle Connor, Nic Petan and Brandon Tanev, not to mention more NHL experienced forwards like Alex Burmistrov, Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele.

Laine enters this season with high expectations placed on him from fans and media, after coming to the NHL following a standout career in Finland as a teenager. He’s aware of the expectations, but toned down the hype with the usual statements of just playing his game.

“Just be brave on the ice and show everybody I will earn my spot on the team,” he told reporters.

Laine has already seen game action this month. Not with the Jets, but with Finland’s entry at the World Cup of Hockey.

Following offseason knee surgery, Laine wasn’t happy with his performance in Finland’s first pre-tournament game. In three tournament games, Laine failed to register a point, despite a team-best 10 shots on goal, as Finland was quickly eliminated in the round robin.

Related:

Looking to make the leap: Patrik Laine

Murray: Ristolainen’s good-faith gesture unlikely to sway talks with Sabres

BUFFALO, NY - JANUARY 22: Rasmus Ristolainen #55 of the Buffalo Sabres makes a pass during the game against the Detroit Red Wings on January 22, 2016 at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Tom Brenner/Getty Images)
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BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) Buffalo Sabres general manager Tim Murray tells The Associated Press he doesn’t believe defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen‘s decision to join the team for practice without a contract will have any effect on thawing negotiations.

With a big laugh, Murray on Friday said the only way Ristolainen could speed up contract talks is if “he got all lovey-dovey” and elected to take the Sabres’ latest offer.

Ristolainen is a restricted free agent whose rights were retained by the Sabres in June. After representing Finland in the World Cup of Hockey, Ristolainen reported to the Sabres on Thursday in what was regarded as a sign of good faith.

Though he’s not allowed to play because he’s not under contract, Ristolainen is practicing with the team and also taking part in meetings. Ristolainen is not making himself available to reporters.

Murray says he didn’t see anything wrong with allowing Ristolainen to practice, saying he’d rather the player be in Buffalo than working out elsewhere.

Murray says the two sides are still negotiating.

In three seasons, Buffalo’s 2013 first-round draft pick has established himself as the Sabres’ top defenseman. Last year, Ristolainen led the team in averaging more than 25 minutes of ice time per game, and led Buffalo defensemen with 41 points (nine goals, 32 assists).