Carolina Hurricanes v Buffalo Sabres

Eastern playoff race: Caps take over top spot, Leafs look forward to next year


Eastern Conference playoff race

x-1. Washington – 105 pts
x-2. Philadelphia – 103 pts
x-3. Boston – 99 pts
x-4. Pittsburgh – 102 pts
x-5. Tampa Bay – 99 pts
x-6. Montreal – 93 pts
7. Buffalo – 92 pts
8. NY Rangers – 91 pts
9. Carolina – 87 pts

x – clinched playoff spot

Buffalo 4, Tampa Bay 2

At a time when the Buffalo Sabres need every point they can get to maintain their place in the standings, Thomas Vanek made sure they’d get the two points against Tampa Bay. Vanek scored his first hat trick this season and the 7th place Sabres lowered their “magic number” to 2 over the Carolina Hurricanes. The win also helped Buffalo keep pace with the 6th seeded Montreal Canadiens who are only a single point ahead of them in the standings.

For the Lightning, the loss snapped their 5-game winning streak. Worse than the loss on the scoreboard was when stud defenseman Viktor Hedman went down with a lower-body injury in the 2nd period. Head coach Guy Boucher hinted that it might have just been for precautionary reasons, but added, “We’ll have to see, we’ll have to wait.” Any extending period absence that potentially extends into the playoffs would be a huge loss for the Lightning. Hopefully for the Lightning and their fans, it’s a minor injury and the team is exercising caution.

Washington 3, Toronto 2 (SO)

Both the Capitals and Leafs made news in the Eastern Conference playoff race—although for much different reasons. The Capitals were finally able to catch and pass the Philadelphia Flyers behind the power of Mike Knuble’s lone goal in the skills competition. The Caps only have two games remaining, yet hold a two-point advantage over the Flyers and have clinched the Southeast Division. Not too bad for a team that was having a disappointing time this season.

For the Leafs, they were battling to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. Unfortunately for Leafs Nation, their fate was sealed even before the shootout was completed because the Sabres were able to beat the Lightning at home. The shootout loss hurt, but their season had already been decided. Leafs’ captain Dion Phaneuf captured the sentiment of the locker room (and probably a fair amount of fans as well):

“It’s probably the worst feeling in hockey, other than losing in the playoffs. Right now, [the run] still doesn’t make it any better. As players, we play to play in the playoffs.”


Ottawa 5, Philadelphia 2

Coming into the game against the lowly Ottawa Senators, the Flyers had the chance to clinch the Atlantic Division, a guaranteed top 3 seed that comes with the division crown. Instead, not only did they get pumped by the Sens and not only did they lose the top spot in the Eastern Conference standings, but they are now only a single point ahead of the Penguins to win the division (both have two games left). The Flyers have been the class of the East all season—but they’re playing their worst hockey of the season at the worst possible time. The loss to the Sens was the fourth straight defeat for the Flyers. Needless to say, Philadelphia isn’t exactly streaking towards the playoffs.

On top of the poor play, newcomer Ben Holmstrom did his best Matt Cooke impression in his first game in the league. Yeah, Chris Pronger can’t come back soon enough.

Pittsburgh 4, New Jersey 2

No Sidney Crosby, no Evgeni Malkin, no problem. People keep waiting for the Penguins to start slipping without their two superstars but they just keep winning. Now, instead of slipping down the standings, they’re seriously threatening the Flyers for the top spot in the Atlantic Division. Their magic number for clinching home ice advantage in the first round dropped to 2 with their win against the Devils and the Lightning’s loss in Buffalo.

Next up, a simple game in Long Island. Surely there won’t be any storylines to follow in that game, right?

Montreal 2, Chicago 1 (OT)

Some people may have said it was only a matter of time, but when a team clinches a playoff spot, a burden is invariably lifted. With their thrilling OT victory over the defending champs, the Habs officially sent in their RSVP for the 2010-11 playoffs. Carey Price was an absolute wall as he stopped 42 of 43 shots directed at him by the Hawks. Michael Cammalleri looked like he was ready for the playoffs to start today and PK Subban proved that he has a flair for the dramatic (Blackhawks fans may have a different take on his drama lessons). But if you truly like drama, keep this in mind: if the playoffs started today the Canadiens would face the Bruins in the first round.

Former first round pick Zach Boychuk signs in KHL

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 20:  Zach Boychuk #22 of the Carolina Hurricanes heads back for the puck during the game against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center on November 20, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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After spending the past eight years moving around the NHL, Zach Boychuk is moving overseas.

On Friday it was announced that the 27-year-old forward has signed a contract with HC Sibir of the KHL.

Boychuk was a first-round draft pick by the Carolina Hurricanes in 2008 and has also spent time with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators in his career.

He did not play in the NHL during the 2015-16 season, spending the year split between the Charlotte Checkers and Bakersfield Condors of the American Hockey League.

In 127 NHL games he has scored 12 goals and added 18 assists.

Boychuk was in camp in September with the Arizona Coyotes on a tryout contract but did not make the team.

Flyers’ Dale Weise suspended three games

GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 15:  Dale Weise #22 of the Philadelphia Flyers during the NHL game against Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on October 15, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  The Coyotes defeated the Flyers 4-3 in overtime.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The Philadelphia Flyers are going to be without forward Dale Weise for the next three games as a result of a suspension handed out by the NHL’s department of player safety on Friday evening.

The league announced that Weise has been suspended due to an illegal check to the head of Anaheim Ducks defenseman Korbinian Holzer during their game in Philadelphia on Thursday night.

Weise was not penalized for the hit.

The incident happened midway through the second period of the Ducks’ 3-2 win, and came just as Holzer was skating with the puck in his own zone.

Here is a look at the play, as well as the NHL’s explanation for the suspension.

Holzer was not injured as a result of the hit.

The Flyers have been hit hard by suspensions so far this season. They played the first three games of the season without forward Brayden Schenn as he served a suspension that carried over from the 2016 playoffs. Defenseman Radko Gudas is still sidelined as he serves a six-game suspension for a hit this preseason.

Weise has yet to record a point in four games for the Flyers this season. He scored 14 goals and added 13 assists a year ago for the Montreal Canadiens and Chicago Blackhawks.

This suspension will cost him $39,166.68 in salary.

He will be eligible to return to the Flyers’ lineup on Oct. 27 when they host the Arizona Coyotes. He will miss games against Carolina, Montreal and Buffalo.

Douglas Murray calls it a career


One of the more unique blueliners in recent memory is hanging up his skates.

Douglas Murray, the big-bodied Swedish rearguard that appeared in over 500 NHL contests, has decided to retire.

“Thirty general managers do not want me,” Murray told Alftonbladet (translation per Yahoo). “I know that I can still play, but it’s over now.”

Murray, 36, is best remembered for his time in San Jose, where he used his 6-foot-3, 245-pound frame to become one of the hardest hitters in the league.

His best years came between 2009-11, when he helped the Sharks advance to a pair of Western Conference Finals, and represented Sweden at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

Murray also spent time with Pittsburgh and Montreal, before joining German League side Kolner Haie in ’14-15. He also had a brief stint with the Calgary Flames, though things never progressed beyond the professional tryout stage.

As mentioned above, Murray was a pretty interesting guy. A late bloomer, he was 25 upon making his NHL debut but quickly endeared himself to Shark fans.

Ivy-league educated, Murray and friends also created a beer dispensing system called the UberTap while at Cornell University.

A few years ago, Murray was rumored to be dating Elin Nordegren, the ex-wife of Tiger Woods. Murray later shot down the reports, saying he and Nordegren were just friends.

Goalie nods: Domingue has ‘got to play better’ for Coyotes tonight in Brooklyn

Louis Domingue
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Pressure’s on, Louis Domingue.

Domingue, now Arizona’s No. 1 goalie with Mike Smith (lower body) shelved indefinitely, will get another chance to prove himself when the Coyotes visit the Isles at Barclays on Friday night.

Things haven’t gone great for Domingue thus far.

Since coming on in relief of Smith in Ottawa, the 24-year-old has allowed seven goals on 30 shots in just over 36 minutes of action — leaving him with a ghastly .767 save percentage and 11.35 GAA.

(Not a typo. Eleven. Point. Three. Five.)

“He’s gotta play better,” coach Dave Tippett said, per the Arizona Republic. “He’s gotta play better than these two games he’s played. We’ll give him another opportunity, and hopefully he responds.”

The Coyotes haven’t provided a health update on Smith, who was flown back to Arizona earlier this week to be examined by team doctors. Justin Peters was recalled from the minors to serve as Domingue’s backup and looked sharp in relief of Domingue last night in Montreal, stopping 23 of 24 shots faced.

As such, Domingue has plenty on the line tonight. Peters is a 30-year-old veteran with over 80 games of NHL experience, so the Coyotes could turn to him if Domingue struggle yet again.

For the Isles, Jaroslav Halak gets the call in goal.


Corey Crawford starts yet again for the Blackhawks, who are in Columbus to face the Blue Jackets. Sergei Bobrovsky will be in the opposing goal.

Pekka Rinne, sporting a 2.04 GAA and .934 save percentage thus far, gets the nod as the Preds head to Detroit. Petr Mrazek will be in goal for the Red Wings, after Jimmy Howard played well in a Wednesday win over the Rangers.