The Buffalo Sabres are a banged-up bunch, but some of the team’s smaller maladies might be clearing up. John Vogl of the Buffalo News reports that head coach Lindy Ruff is “cautiously optimistic” about explosive winger Jason Pominville’s chances of playing through flu-like symptoms, but that’s not the only positive update.
Today marked the first day that embattled free agent addition Ville Leino managed to skate with the team since breaking his foot while blocking a shot on Dec. 13. Leino even brought up the idea of coming back on Saturday, although he admitted that a window of next week is probably more realistic.
Hot-and-cold scorer Brad Boyes’ status is a little bit more of a mystery for tonight’s game against the Edmonton Oilers, as Boyes is dealing with a “stinger” to his injured ankle.
Roy needs to turn things around
Derek Roy might be the player affected most by Pominville’s coin-flip status. He’s been relatively disappointing this season with 23 points in 38 games, but skated with high-flying winger Thomas Vanek and Zack Kassian in practice today. That might give him a needed boost, but he could get bumped off that top line if Pominville plays.
Then again, Ruff told Vogl that it’s up to Roy – not his linemates – to get things going again.
“I look at how many inside opportunities a player gets and it’s not whether somebody else can get him going. You’ve got to get yourself going,” Ruff said. “And that’s by getting to the inside. That’s when you’ve got to get down on your knees and stick the puck in your teeth and crawl into the net. That’s how dirty you’ve got to get when it isn’t going as good as you want it to go.”
That doesn’t sound very legal or sanitary, but I like the spirit (and the mental image). Either way, it sounds like the Sabres are gradually getting a little healthier, which is great news for a team that needs it.
It doesn’t get much better than a player making the type of save you’d only expect from a goalie. OK, how about this: when it happens amid the high stakes of the Stanley Cup Playoffs?
Pittsburgh Penguins forward Jake Guentzel had already been distinguishing himself with a red-hot scoring start to the postseason, but he made a big difference in a way that won’t show up in the box score (aside from maybe as a blocked shot) for Game 1 against the Washington Capitals.
In one of the few golden opportunities in a notably tight first period, Guentzel made a “kick save” to keep it 0-0. He also managed to avoid giving the Capitals a penalty shot in the process, so this was quite the effort from the impressive rookie.
Video will be added soon. Here’s the moment in GIF form first:
You know how goalies claim they prefer to be busy rather than risking rust in seldom seeing shots? If that’s true, Henrik Lundqvist was really, really happy in the first period.
The Ottawa Senators generated chance after chance in a busy opening frame of Game 1, generating a 21-12 shot differential against the New York Rangers. The game remains 0-0 in large part because Lundqvist has carried over his momentum from the Montreal Canadiens series so far.
As you can see from the video above, Lundqvist made some absolutely fantastic saves, especially in somehow stopping Mark Stone.
In a duller game, 21 shots on goal could a team’s entire output.
That’s impressive stuff from what appears to be a “vintage” Lundqvist. We’ll see how much more the Rangers lean on him as this one goes along.
Oh, and here’s a GIF of the best stop of the bunch, because seriously.
The Pittsburgh Penguins get a familiar face back in the lineup, as Chris Kunitz is good to go against the Washington Capitals in Game 1.
The 37-year-old has been sidelined since March 31, ending his regular season with just an assist in his final nine games. His last goal came on Feb. 16.
So, in other words … he’s not quite as big of a deal for this series as he had been in the past.
He’ll draw into a solid fourth line with Matt Cullen and Tom Kuhnackl, while Carter Rowney will be a healthy scratch. Check out the Penguins’ line combos heading into Thursday’s showdown:
The NHL announced the three finalists for the Mark Messier Leadership Award: Nick Foligno (Columbus Blue Jackets), Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim Ducks) and Mark Giordano (Calgary Flames).
In case you’re curious about the process, the league explains how it works (and how the buck stops with Messier):
Mark Messier solicits suggestions from club and League personnel as well as NHL fans to compile a list of potential candidates for the award. However, the selection of the three finalists and ultimate winner is Messier’s alone.
So, yes, it might come down to steeliness/60.
Anyway, the most fun part of this award is that Getzlaf and Giordano just engaged in a first-round series, with Getzlaf’s hit on Giordano (see above) being one of the standout moments.
Perhaps Giordano will at least get the best of Getzlaf in this one?