Terry Pegula

Sabres owner criticizes goaltending (or lack thereof)

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Saturday night’s 8-3 loss to Pittsburgh was a tough one for Buffalo netminders Ryan Miller and Jhonas Enroth. Miller allowed three goals on the first seven shots he faced (including a 60-foot slapper from Jason Williams) before being replaced by Enroth, who promptly allowed a soft Evgeni Malkin backhand to get past him. Miller then returned for the start of the second period — only to be yanked again — before Enroth returned for the final frame.

That brutal performance drew the ire of Buffalo owner Terry Pegula.

“We saw some great goaltending tonight, didn’t we?” Pegula said outside the dressing room. “If they think they played well, we’ve got more problems.”

After spending huge in the offseason — Pegula committed nearly $140 million in player salaries this summer — you can’t blame the owner for being pissed. Sure, the Sabres are still in a playoff position, but they’re also 8-9-3 at home this season, have suffered a rash of injuries and had their team toughness called into question after the Miller-Milan Lucic incident.

Speaking of Miller, he wasn’t pleased with his performance either.

“It’s a little disheartening for the guys,” Miller said. “They weren’t very good goals. I’d like to be better for them.

“We’ve got to find a way to get the right energy. From my side I didn’t provide any. Actually, I probably took some away from the guys not making the right reads or the right plays.”

Miller’s fall from grace this season is stunning. Normally atop most statistical goaltending categories, his goals-against average of 3.12 ranks 37th in the league while his save percentage of .902 is 32nd. Enroth, meanwhile, has cooled off considerably since his outstanding start to the year. He’s lost eight of the last 10 games he’s appeared in and his save percentage over the last three is a meager .873.

If the goalies are expecting words of encouragement, they’d better not look to head coach Lindy Ruff. His assessment of both guys’ performances from Saturday night was pretty blunt.

“There’s no secret. It was a tough night for Ryan, starting with the first goal,” Ruff said. “I didn’t like Jhonas, the goal he lets in, obviously. Every shot starts going in it’s tough on the team.”

Stanley Cup Final referees: McCauley, O’Halloran, O’Rourke, Sutherland

BUFFALO, NY - DECEMBER 13:  Referee Dan O'Halloran #13 holds up a face-off between the Buffalo Sabres and the Ottawa Senators during their NHL game at First Niagara Center on December 13, 2011 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Dave Sandford Getty Images)
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From the NHL:

refs

Pretty veteran crew, including three returnees from last year’s final.

Per the NHL, O’Halloran and O’Rourke will call tonight’s series opener from Consol.

After advancing to Cup final, DeBoer had Sharks fans coming up to him with ‘tears in their eyes’

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 29: Head coach Peter DeBoer addresses the media during the NHL Stanley Cup Final Media Day at Consol Energy Center on May 29, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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PITTSBURGH — When Pete DeBoer was hired to coach the San Jose Sharks, he wasn’t totally cognizant of how much heartbreak the fan base had experienced throughout the years.

Now he knows.

“First year in the community, I didn’t realize kind of the baggage that was carried around,” DeBoer said this morning ahead of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. “Twenty-five-year season-ticket holders coming up to you with tears in their eyes and crying.”

The Sharks, of course, have never been this far in the playoffs. Prior to this year, they’d made it three times to the Western Conference Final, losing each time.

More painful were the first-round exits. Like in 2009 when they won the Presidents’ Trophy and got knocked out by the Ducks, and two years ago when they led the Kings 3-0 before dropping four straight.

It was only after the Sharks beat the Blues that DeBoer fully realized the “gravity of what they’ve been through” as fans in San Jose, and “how important this is to them.”

Not that he’s satisfied with getting this far.

“The business at hand now is to get off on the right foot, plant the right seeds for this series, impose our game,” he said. “Every series is the same — it’s whatever team can impose their game on the other team the quickest and for the longest. That’s our goal here tonight.”

Related: For Pete DeBoer, San Jose was the perfect landing spot

Kopitar will play for Slovenia in Olympic qualifiers

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 13: Anze Kopitar #11 of Slovenia skates against Russia during the Men's Ice Hockey Preliminary Round Group A game on day six of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Bolshoy Ice Dome on February 13, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar will spend part of his offseason trying to help Slovenia qualify for the Olympics.

RTV Slovenia has the story here.

The qualification games will be played September 1-4 in Minsk. Slovenia is in a group with Belarus, Denmark and Poland. The winner of the group will qualify for the Olympics.

The NHL reportedly has no issue with Kopitar’s participation, even though the league has yet to commit to sending its players to Pyeongchang.

Slovenia made its Olympic debut in ice hockey at the 2014 Games in Sochi.

Kopitar will also represent Team Europe at the 2016 World Cup later in September.

Related: Slovenia beats Slovakia for historic win

Zubrus in, Nieto likely out for Sharks in Stanley Cup Final opener

ST LOUIS, MO - MAY 15:  Dainius Zubrus #9 of the San Jose Sharks skates against Alexander Steen #20 of the St. Louis Blues in Game One of the Western Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scottrade Center on May 15, 2016 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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PITTSBURGH — Matt Nieto is healthy, and ready to go.

But it doesn’t look like he’ll go tonight.

The San Jose Sharks are unlikely to make any lineup changes for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final in Pittsburgh — at Monday’s optional morning skate, Nieto stayed out late with the extras while the guy he’d (presumably) replace in the lineup, Dainius Zubrus, told NHL.com he was in.

Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer wouldn’t reveal any lineup decisions during his morning media availability, instead talking up both Nieto (for his speed) and Zubrus (for his “heavy” game), adding he liked the versatility the two give the club on a night-by-night basis.

Nieto suffered an upper-body injury in Game 6 of the Nashville series, and missed all of the Western Conference Final.

Prior to getting hurt, he had three points in 11 games — this after a regular season in which he scored eight goals and 17 points in 67 games.