Shaone Morrisonn eager to prove he can stay in Buffalo lineup

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When Buffalo signed Shaone Morrisonn before last season as a free agent, he was brought in to give the Sabres a physical presence on their blue line and provide stability there. Instead, Morrisonn struggled a bit with injuries and didn’t quite fulfill what he’d hoped to do for the team.

After a wild offseason for the Sabres that saw owner Terry Pegula open up the vault and allow GM Darcy Regier to go wild and fill the team and their payroll up, Morrisonn sees a newcomer in Christian Ehrhoff join the team. He also sees younger guys like Mike Weber and Marc-Andre Gragnani step up late in the season and push for starting jobs on the blue line.

With the Sabres over the salary cap by more than $3.5 million according to CapGeek.com, Morrisonn and his $2.075 million cap hit this season could be bound for another city via trade or for Rochester and the AHL. Morrisonn is out to prove that he can still play well and make it worth the Sabres while to keep him around as he told Bill Hoppe of the Niagara Gazette.

“There’s going to be some competitiveness in training camp, and you’re going to have to earn a spot. I think that’s great.”

Has Morrisonn thought about playing in the AHL for the first time since the 2004-05 lockout?

“Anything can happen — trades, getting moved,” Morrisonn said. “We’re over the cap, obviously. They got to make some moves. But I can’t really focus on that. I got to just focus on playing on the ice and competing and showing them what I got, and that’s all I can control.”

Morrisonn, who arrived in town Wednesday, said he hasn’t spoken to Ruff or general manager Darcy Regier yet. Clearly, though, Morrisonn wasn’t expecting this situation when he signed with the Sabres last August.

“I’m a gritty defenseman,” Morrisonn said. “I’m not afraid get physical and use my body and use my wheels. That’s what they got me in (for) last year. It’s just exciting to be here. (We’ll) see what happens. I want to be a part of this.”

Morrisonn’s main competition in training camp, if his salary isn’t his biggest road block that is, would be 23 year-old Mike Weber. Weber plays a similar sort of game. He’s tough defensively, physical, and has a big shot from the point as well. Morrisonn will have to show that he’s capable of doing more than Weber and the other defensive-defensemen in camp to keep his job. With the Sabres needing to get under the cap, Morrisonn is going to have to do a lot of big things in a short amount of time.

At the very least, if Morrisonn can prove himself worthy of a starting job, he could draw interest from teams in need of a guy like him. While he wants to see things through in Buffalo, staying in the NHL would be preferable to being sent to the AHL in salary exile. The battle for him to stay in Buffalo’s lineup will be worth watching.

Rangers make changes after loss in Anaheim

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The scuffling New York Rangers — coming off a 6-3 loss Sunday in Anaheim, and with just two wins in their last seven — are expected to have a slightly different lineup tonight in San Jose.

Up front, winger Matt Puempel is likely to replace rookie Pavel Buchnevich. And on the back end, Dan Girardi will come in for Kevin Klein.

The Girardi-for-Klein switch is no huge surprise. Both d-men have been battling injuries, with Klein only returning Sunday after an extended absence due to back spasms. Head coach Alain Vigneault told reporters that he “didn’t want to put two injured defensemen in at the same time,” so Klein gets the night off tonight.

As for the potential scratching of Buchnevich, that decision would be slightly more controversial. The 21-year-old has two goals and three assists in his last 11 games, but clearly has not gained the full trust of his coach.

Henrik Lundqvist is expected to start in goal after a tough return to the net against the Ducks.

Canucks hint at shutting down injured Markstrom

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It doesn’t sound like Jacob Markstrom will play any more games for the Vancouver Canucks this season.

The 27-year-old goalie has been trying to recover from a knee injury suffered in the Canucks’ skills competition on Feb. 26.

“I don’t think things are great,” head coach Willie Desjardins said today. “We’ve got to make a medical decision on him.”

It has to be frustrating for Markstrom, who was hoping to challenge Ryan Miller for the starting job this year. The tall Swede played well at times, going 10-11-3 with a .910 save percentage — but in the end, he only made 23 starts.

“He’s a good goalie,” Desjardins said of Markstrom. “He can challenge for the number-one spot. Every time he goes in net, I’ve got lots of confidence in him. He’s left his mark this year.”

Markstrom is signed through 2019-20, while Miller is a pending unrestricted free agent.

It’s possible that the Canucks will re-sign Miller and come back with the same netminding tandem next season.

Oilers sign Walter Brown Award winner Gambardella

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Joe Gambardella, the UMass-Lowell senior that scored 52 points in 41 games this year, has signed a two-year, entry-level deal with Edmonton, the club announced on Monday.

Gambardella, 23, captured this year’s Walter Brown award as the top American-born collegiate player in New England. He beat out the likes of Clayton Keller, Colin White, Charlie McAvoy and Tage Thompson for the honor, and joined a distinguished list of past winners.

Rangers forward Jimmy Vesey won the Walter Brown in ’16 and ’15, while Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau won it in ’14.

Gambardella is the first UMass-Lowell player to ever win the award, which has been given out annually since 1953. It capped off a nice year in which he also paced the River Hawks to the NCAA tournament.

An undrafted free agent, Gambarella’s ELC will kick in next season. It’s also worth noting that one of his UMass-Lowell teammates, defenseman Michael Kapla, signed with the Devils earlier today.

 

 

Coyotes to honor Cunningham for his ‘tremendous courage’

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The Arizona Coyotes will honor Craig Cunningham with a ceremonial puck drop on April 8 before their final home game of the season against the Minnesota Wild.

From the team press release:

Cunningham, who survived a medical emergency prior to the Tucson Roadrunners game on November 19, has made a remarkable recovery. Fans will have an opportunity to congratulate him on the tremendous courage, willpower and perseverance he’s demonstrated throughout his rehabilitation.

Cunningham was recently honored by the Roadrunners.

The 26-year-old’s hockey career is unfortunately over after doctors were forced to amputate part of his left leg due to concerns over infection.

True to form, though, he’s maintained a positive attitude.

“Obviously I miss playing every single day, and I miss the atmosphere around the locker room,” Cunningham said, per the Arizona Daily Star. “The guys have been great. From Day 1, they’ve been to see me every day. It’s been pretty incredible.”