Ryan Miller

Dramatic highs and lows dominate Buffalo’s difficult schedule

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With the 2011-12 season rapidly approaching, the gang at PHT decided to take a look at all 30 NHL teams’ schedules. Each team’s highs and lows will be studied in detail to give you an idea of what the future might hold for each squad.

Note: Mileage figures via On the Forecheck’s “Super Schedule.”

Buffalo Sabres schedule analysis

Total mileage: 35,911 (eight lowest total in NHL, second highest in Northeast)

Back-to-back games: 21

Toughest stretches

The first thing that pops out about the Sabres’ schedule is that they’ll play an astounding 21 back-to-back games. Let’s see if that makes for some especially brutal stretches, then.

Buffalo starts the season with back-to-back games in Helsinki, Finland (Oct. 7 against Anaheim; Oct. 8 vs. Los Angeles). After one home game against Carolina on Oct. 15, they’ll begin a four-game road trip in Pittsburgh the next night. Luckily, things get awfully friendly to close that first month, but it’s a challenging start for a team with high expectations.

Things run smoothly until mid-December, when the Sabres will face two tough runs very close together. They play three away games (Pittsburgh on Dec. 17, Ottawa on Dec. 20 and Toronto on Dec. 22), with a home game against Washington wedged between two more road contests.

That’s nothing compared to the doom and gloom in the first month of 2012, though:

Jan. 3: home vs. Edmonton
Jan. 6: at Carolina
Jan. 7: home vs. Winnipeg
Jan. 10: at Toronto
Jan. 13: home vs. Toronto
Jan. 14: at Islanders
Jan. 16: at Detroit
Jan. 18: at Chicago
Jan. 19: at Winnipeg
Jan. 21: at St. Louis
Jan. 24: at New Jersey
Jan. 31: at Montreal

Wow, that’s harsh – nine of 12 games away from Buffalo, with three sets of back-to-back games. Things start off acceptably on paper, but if the Blues and Islanders end up improved as many expect, that’s a cruel seven-game road trip. At least the Sabres get a week between the Devils and Canadiens’ games, though.

Things look nice in February until March approaches. They’ll play seven of eight games on the road from Feb. 25 to March 10. The rest of March is neutral with rotating home and away games, not really doing them any favors. Fittingly, three of their final four contests are on the road.

Easiest stretches

Things aren’t all bad for Buffalo, though. They’ll play eight of nine games at home from Oct. 22 to Nov. 11. November is solid overall, with nine of 14 in Buffalo (including some of that aforementioned stretch).

November bleeds into a positive December, as well. They’ll play an impressive 10 of 12 games at home from Nov. 19 to Dec. 16. So, in summation, the Sabres should see some nice gains from mid-October to mid-December.

The last great month of this remarkably up-and-down schedule comes in February. The Sabres play nine of 11 games in the first chunk of games that month, with two four-game home swings.

Overall outlook

While the New York Rangers make an excellent case of their own, the Sabres’ 2011-12 schedule ranks among the most manic depressive in the NHL. Buffalo must be a little worried about that trip to Finland, especially considering their league-leading run of back-to-back contests.

For all the negatives, they have plenty of opportunities to rack up points, especially in the first half of the season. If you’re narrowing down your Northeast Division champion between the last two title winners (Boston and Buffalo), then schedules shouldn’t help much because they both face difficult ones.

Given the choice, I’d take Boston’s, though.

Blues aim to raise money for victims of Fort McMurray fires

An evacuee puts gas in his car on his way out of Fort McMurray, Alberta, as a wildfire burns in the background Wednesday, May 4, 2016. The raging wildfire emptied Canada's main oil sands city, destroying entire neighborhoods of Fort McMurray, where officials warned Wednesday that all efforts to suppress the fire have failed.  (Jason Franson /The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
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Fires devastated the Canadian city of Fort McMurray, and the St. Louis Blues are doing their part to help those who were affected.

Here’s what the team is doing to raise money during Game 4 against the Dallas Stars:

Proceeds raised through the team’s 50/50 raffle and the Blues for Kids silent auction will benefit families who have been misplaced by the fires.

Blues forward Scottie Upshall shared his thoughts with the Associated Press regarding several family members being among those evacuated from the area.

“It’s been a great city, a city that’s survived for many years through some tough times and for me, growing up there doesn’t seem too long ago,” Upshall said. “Places that probably aren’t standing anymore will be really, really tough to take. But as long as everyone’s OK, that’s the main thing.”

Other people from around the hockey world weighed in on the scary scene, including Ottawa Senators defenseman Chris Phillips, who told the Ottawa Citizen that “it hurts a lot.”

People shared some scary sights from the evacuation.

Video: Beagle’s perfect shot dogs Murray for early Caps lead

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Matt Murray was just on another level in Game 3, giving the impression that the Washington Capitals would only beat him with perfect shots.

Jay Beagle got that memo … and maybe added a little element of surprise on top of that.

As you can see from the video above, Beagle beat Murray from an unexpected angle with a pretty resounding goal. It was one of those “Wait, did that just happen?”-type moments.

The Capitals saw their lead go away moments before this post was completed, so it’s now 1-1.

WATCH LIVE: Washington Capitals at Pittsburgh Penguins – Game 4

Washington Capitals T.J. Oshie (77) tries to slide the puck past Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Matt Murray (30) during the third period of Game 3 in an NHL hockey Stanley Cup Eastern Conference semifinals in Pittsburgh, Monday, May 2, 2016. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
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The Pittsburgh Penguins won Game 3 thanks to Matt Murray‘s heroics, but now they must face the Washington Capitals without Kris Letang in Game 4.

(And the Penguins were overwhelmed for much of that last contest with their best blueliner.)

The Capitals, meanwhile, acknowledge the baggage – perceived or not – of the past as they try to tie this series.

It should be a fascinating Game 4, and you can soak in all the drama and action on NBCSN and also stream it via the link below.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

To be young: Coyotes to hire 26-year-old as GM, give Tippett more say

Arizona Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett watches his team play the Detroit Red Wings during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Detroit, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015.  (AP Photo/Jose Juarez)
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It sounds like the Arizona Coyotes’ youth movement won’t merely be seen on the ice.

ESPN’s Craig Custance reports that the Coyotes will promote 26-year-old assistant GM John Chayka to GM. The team teased a major press conference for Thursday, when that news is likely to be made official.

The presser could be useful for more than the usual quotes and mission statements, as the Coyotes seem like they may parallel the Toronto Maple Leafs in combining an experienced executive, a young up-and-coming thinker and a more empowered head coach.

Dave Tippett is expected to have more of a say in personnel decisions while the Coyotes hope to bring in a Lou Lamoriello-type to assist Chayka, according to Custance.

(Custance’s ESPN Insider article [subscription required] goes in much greater depth, including a comparison to the NBA’s Golden State Warriors rather than the Maple Leafs.)

It’s possible that Dallas Stars assistant GM Les Jackson might come in to help Chayka, although an earlier report suggests that Jackson might stay in Dallas.

Multiple reporters including Puck Daddy’s Josh Cooper back up Custance’s report.

Considering Chayka’s age – he’s primed to become the youngest GM in NHL history – it’s no surprise that people are churning out jokes.

(This post’s author comes with six more years of [life] experience and a resume stacked with impressive video game and fantasy hockey team-building, by the way.)