Tonight on NBCSN: Double your pleasure with Boston-Buffalo and San Jose-Calgary

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When last we saw the Sabres and Bruins get together, Paul Gaustad was duking it out with Milan Lucic and defending Ryan Miller’s honor a game too late as the Bruins stormed back to win in a shootout. When the two face off in Buffalo tonight (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN) cooler heads might prevail, but with the Sabres trying to get back in the playoffs and the Bruins looking to fully get back on track, don’t bet on it.

The Sabres are winners of three of their last four and are hoping to claw back into the Eastern Conference playoff race. With how jumbled things are at the bottom, Buffalo is 11 points back of Ottawa for eighth. Unfortunately for them, they get to deal with Boston tonight without Thomas Vanek who continues to be out with an upper body injury.

Boston, meanwhile, is coming off an impressive win over Washington on Sunday and hoping to keep their game up to continue righting the ship. A loss to Buffalo would mean all the good will they built up after that win on Sunday would be gone. The Bruins don’t want to go back to square one and with how Tim Thomas has played since the White House kerfuffle, the Bruins are in good shape.

source: APIn tonight’s nightcap, the Sharks and Flames face off in San Jose (10:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN) as a pair of teams playing streaky hockey. The Sharks recently have lost three in a row followed by winning three in a row but are coming off a bad 5-3 loss to Phoenix.

The trio of Joe Thornton, Logan Couture, and Patrick Marleau have been keying the Sharks offense while Antti Niemi has played strong in goal. If the Sharks can find consistency they’ll be able to handle their brutal second half schedule a bit easier. They’ll need all they can get against a Flames team that is back in the hunt for the playoffs.

Jarome Iginla’s team has been alternating wins and losses like a true playoff bubble team this season. With the sort of roller coaster they’ve been on you’d think they would be more frustrated, instead they’re keeping their heads up. Miikka Kiprusoff has been looking like the guy we’ve always remembered in goal while Iginla and Olli Jokinen have been leading the way offensively. Taking a chunk out of the Sharks could prove to be inspiring for Calgary as they’re just three points out of the eighth spot in the Western Conference.

Caps re-sign Copley, who could be Holtby’s future backup

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Pheonix Copley, who returned to Washington this season as part of the Kevin Shattenkirk trade with St. Louis, has signed a two-year extension worth $1.3 million, the Caps announced on Wednesday.

The key wrinkle in the deal is that year one is of the two-way variety, while year two is of the one-way.

It’s worth mentioning because Philipp Grubauer — Washington’s current backup to starter Braden Holtby — is currently a restricted free agent, and believed to be have No. 1 potential.

The 25-year-old has capably served under Holtby for the last two years. He’s coming off an excellent campaign — 13-6-2, .926 save percentage, 2.05 GAA — and sounds like he’s ready to make the next step in his career.

“I would like to stay here; Washington is awesome and the whole organization’s been awesome the last couple of years,” Grubauer said, per the Post. “But I’m ready if the opportunity comes to make the next step and try to be a starting goalie somewhere.”

Grubauer was made available to Vegas at the expansion draft, but Golden Knights GM George McPhee opted to take blueliner Nate Schmidt instead. There are still rumblings that Washington might dangle Grubauer in trade talks.

Copley has a very small NHL resume — just two games, both with St. Louis — but fared very well with AHL Hershey last year. In 16 regular-season games he went 11-5-0 with a .931 save percentage and 2.15 GAA and, in the playoffs, went 5-4 with a .933 save percentage and 2.13 GAA.

Report: Ryan Miller may land in Anaheim

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The Anaheim Ducks might be getting a former Vezina Trophy winner as their backup.

According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, “there is a lot of expectation of Ryan Miller to Anaheim for approximately $1 million, although I’m not sure if bonuses will be added to that.”

Miller, an unrestricted free agent, has spent the last three years in Vancouver. The Canucks would like to keep him; however, his wife, Noureen DeWulf, is an actress, so Southern California has always been a potential landing spot.

Also, let’s face it, Miller would have a much better shot at winning the Stanley Cup with the Ducks, and that’s something the 36-year-old has never done.

As for the Ducks’ motivations, signing Miller would give them a viable starting option should John Gibson struggle or get hurt again. Recall that Anaheim’s last backup, Jonathan Bernier, had a tough time after he was forced into action in the Western Conference Final.

Related: What does the future hold for Ryan Miller?

Jets have contacted Mason about goalie gig

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Though most signs point to Brian Elliott in goal for Winnipeg next season — see here and here — there are other options out there.

Per the Winnipeg Sun, the Jets have reached out to ex-Flyers netminder Steve Mason during the free agent interview window.

Mason, 29, just wrapped the last of a three-year, $12.3 million deal with a $4.1M average annual cap hit. He’s spent the last four-plus seasons with the Flyers but, over the last two, had been part of a platoon with Michal Neuvirth.

Mason played 58 games to Neuvirth’s 28 this year, but didn’t fare especially well, finishing with a .908 save percentage.

We bring this up because whoever signs in Winnipeg will likely have to concede some starts to Connor Hellebuyck, the one-time goalie of the future that struggled mightily through ’16-17. Hellebuyck is still only 24 and the hope is that last year can be spun as a positive learning experience.

“We went through a growing period and the goaltenders were exactly like that,” head coach Paul Maurice said of Hellebuyck’s campaign, per the Free Press. “Put them back in the net after a tough night, yanked [Hellebuyck] early a bunch of times.”

The Sun reports that Winnipeg was “one of several teams that inquired about Mason,” which isn’t surprising. He’d make for a high-caliber backup and a likely upgrade in a number of markets.

 

Bruins re-sign Acciari — two years, $1.45 million

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Looks like Noel Acciari will be around Boston for the foreseeable future.

Acciari, who has spent most of his career shuttling between AHL Providence and the NHL, has signed a two-year, one-way deal worth $725,000, the B’s announced on Wednesday.

Acciari’s contract comes after he appeared in 29 games for the Bruins last year, scoring five points. He also appeared in four of the club’s opening-round playoff games against Ottawa, scoring once.

The former Providence standout, who went undrafted, caught on with Boston in ’15-16 and quickly worked his way into the mix at the NHL level.

There’s a pretty decent chance he’ll eclipse the 29 games played last year, especially if the club doesn’t return veteran forwards Dominic Moore and Drew Stafford, both of whom become unrestricted free agents on Saturday.