Sabres survive in battle of Eastern heavyweights

The new-look Sabres wasted no time recovering from their first defeat of the season as they traveled to Pittsburgh and beat the Penguins 3-2. Saturday’s game was the second game of a back-to-back situation that started with a 4-3 loss at home to the Carolina Hurricanes. Against the Penguins, the Sabres wasted no time as they jumped out to 2-0 lead by the end of the 1st period. The teams traded a pair of goals before Jordan Staal shaved the lead to a single goal with about five minutes left. The Penguins threw everything but the kitchen sink at the Sabres goal in the final minute, but Buffalo narrowly escaped with the regulation win.

The win improves the Sabres’ record to 3-1 on the young season—all three wins coming away from the First Niagara Center in Buffalo. This game was big for a few different reasons for the Sabres though. They wanted to get back to their winning ways, wanted to beat a team that should be battling with them at the end of the season for playoff positioning, as well as taking advantage of a shorthanded opponent. Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff shared after the game:

“We wanted to win this game bad. You get an opportunity to play a team without a couple of their star players, you’ve got to start taking advantage of it.”

Not a bad result for a team playing their back-up netminder.

On the other side of the rink, the loss dropped the Penguins to 3-1-2 on the young season. The first regulation loss certainly had its positives though. James Neal’s second period goal was his 5th of the season putting him in a tie for the league’s lead. The lucky bounce off of defenseman Robyn Regehr’s stick is just the latest in a charmed week for the former Stars forward. This is the goal scoring power forward GM Ray Shero thought he was getting when he acquired Neal from Dallas for promising defenseman Alex Goligoski. What will he be able to do when Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are back in the lineup?

The game was the final contest of an underwhelming 3-game homestand. Next, the Pens head back to Canada for their fourth game above the border in the early part of October. At least they’ll be able to rack-up those frequent flier miles and pack away the passports early in the season.

Isles sign Northeastern captain Stevens

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John Stevens, who just wrapped a four-year career at Northeastern University, has signed a two-year, entry-level deal with the Islanders, the club announced on Monday.

Stevens, 22, went undrafted but emerged as a valuable player for the Huskies, culminating with a senior season in which he served as captain and averaged better than a point per game (28 in 25 contests).

Stevens is the son of longtime L.A. Kings associate coach John Stevens, who formerly served as the bench boss in Philly.

A third member 0f the Stevens clan, Nolan, also played this season at Northeastern — his junior campaign — and was taken by St. Louis in the fifth round of last year’s draft.

McElhinney to start for Leafs tomorrow

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Curtis McElhinney will start in goal for the Maple Leafs when they host Florida tomorrow.

Which means Toronto’s regular starter, Frederik Andersen, will not.

Andersen, hurt Saturday in Buffalo, only lasted 20 minutes of practice this morning. The Toronto Star, citing a Leafs source, is reporting that Andersen “took a blow to his jaw from a player in Saturday’s 5-2 loss to the Sabres.”

McElhinney is 4-5-0 with a .919 save percentage in 10 appearances for the Leafs this season. He told reporters that tomorrow will be the biggest start of his NHL career.

It remains to be seen who will back up McElhinney against the Panthers. The Leafs have recalled goalie Garret Sparks from the AHL on an emergency basis. All three netminders were on the ice today.

Update:

Expect Sparks to be the back-up tomorrow.

Toronto has a three-point playoff cushion, with eight games remaining.

The Leafs also recalled forward Kasperi Kapanen, the 22nd overall draft pick in 2014. Kapanen, 20, has 18 goals and 25 assists in 43 games for the Marlies this season. He’s expected to replace Ben Smith on the fourth line, alongside Brian Boyle and Matt Martin.

Habs sign d-man Mete, who ‘does everything’ for junior team

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Victor Mete, Montreal’s fourth-round pick at last year’s draft, has signed his three-year, entry-level deal, the club announced on Monday.

Mete, 18, is in his third year with OHL powerhouse London, and finished this season with 15 goals and 44 points in 50 games. He’s developed a reputation as a terrific skater, and often plays alongside fellow Knights d-man Olli Juolevi, who the Canucks took fifth overall at last year’s draft.

London assistant coach Dylan Hunter had high praise for Mete this season.

“When it comes to little nuances of his game, stick on puck, knowing when to make a play and when there isn’t a play to just get it out, he’s one of the best there is right now,” Hunter said, per the London Free Press.

“He does everything for us.”

Mete has one year of junior eligibility remaining, so it’s likely he’ll be back in London next season. At 5-foot-10 and just 180 pounds, he’s undersized and could use another year of development before turning pro.

 

After ‘great’ senior year, Pens sign Union standout Taylor

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Pittsburgh wasted little time in getting Jeff Taylor in the mix.

Taylor, the Union College senior defenseman who had his collegiate career end over the weekend, signed a two-year, entry-level deal on Monday, and also inked an ATO to join the club’s AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

Taylor, the club’s seventh-round pick in 2014, enjoyed a career year at Union, helping the Dutchmen advance to the NCAA Tournament by setting career highs in goals (9) and points (33) in 38 games.

Back in December, Pens assistant GM Bill Guerin spoke glowingly about Taylor’s last collegiate campaign, saying he was in the midst of a “great” senior season.

“This is a kid we’ve been looking forward to getting since we drafted him,” Guerin said, per the Post-Gazette. “I remember his first development camp, everybody was like, ‘Oh, wow, look at this kid. He can move the puck, he can skate, he’s quick. He thinks the game well.’ And it hasn’t stopped.

“He’s an undersized guy, but he has the ability to get himself out of trouble because he’s got great feet and he thinks the game well.”