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.

Kings give another kid a look, recall AHL All-Star Brodzinski

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Last summer, Kings head coach Darryl Sutter stressed that some of the club’s young prospects needed to make an impact at the NHL level.

And now it’s happening.

Following the recalls and NHL debuts of Adrian Kempe and Paul LaDue, the Kings have brought up Jonny Brodzinski from AHL Ontario, the club announced on Thursday.

Brodzinski, 23, made the AHL All-Star team this year and leads the Reign in goals, with 25 through 56 games. The former St. Could State sniper left school early two years ago to join the Kings organization, after L.A. took him in the fifth round of the ’13 draft.

As mentioned above, this recall is in lockstep with what’s developed throughout the year. Kempe, 20, was the club’s first-round pick (29th overall) in ’14 and has fared well since joining the big club, with six points in 16 games.

LaDue, 24, was a sixth-round pick in ’12 that — like Kempe and Brodzinski — fared well in the American League before getting recalled in February. LaDue has appeared in 15 games for the Kings, scoring five points while averaging 16:25 TOI per night.

Los Angeles is still technically in the playoff race, but sits eight points back of Nashville for the final wild card spot in the Western Conference — with just 10 games to play. As such, the focus might now shift to giving some youngsters NHL experience.

Brodzinski will have to wait for his, however. Per LA Kings Insider, it doesn’t look like he’ll play tonight, when the Kings host the Jets at Staples.

 

 

Polak gets two games for boarding Bjorkstrand

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Roman Polak‘s hit on Oliver Bjorkstrand has drawn more than the ire of Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella.

Today, the NHL announced that Polak, a defenseman for the Toronto Maple Leafs, has been suspended two games for boarding Bjorkstrand Wednesday in Columbus.

In making the ruling, the league’s Department of Player Safety determined that Polak sent Bjorkstrand “violently” into the boards from behind, causing an injury. The DoPS also noted that the hit was avoidable, with the onus on Polak to “ensure that he avoids this hit entirely, or at the very least, minimizes the force of the impact.”

You can watch the full ruling below:

Wild prospect Kunin leaves Wisconsin, turns pro

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Minnesota is getting one of its prized youngsters in the mix.

Luke Kunin, the club’s first-round pick (15th overall) at last year’s draft, is leaving the University of Wisconsin following his sophomore campaign, per the Star-Tribune. Kunin will reportedly join Minnesota’s AHL affiliate in Iowa on an amateur tryout.

Kunin, 19, is coming off a pretty successful campaign. He was the first soph to captain the Badgers in over 40 years, and led the team in goals (22) and points (38). That came after he captained the U.S. to gold at the world juniors, scoring four points in seven games.

Per TSN’s Bob McKenzie, Kunin will play out this year in the minors, and his entry-level deal will kick in next season. That means he won’t be with the Wild at all this year — regular season or playoffs.

As mentioned, Kunin is just one of the many talented prospects Minnesota has in the fold. Russian Kirill Kaprizov, Sweden’s Joel Eriksson-Ek and Kunin’s U.S. junior teammate, Jordan Greenway, all showed extremely well at the worlds.

Hurricanes sign Finnish prospect Kuokkanen

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The Carolina Hurricanes have another talented, young Finn under contract.

The ‘Canes announced this morning that they’ve signed forward Janne Kuokkanen to a three-year, entry-level contract.

Kuokkanen was drafted in the second round, 43rd overall, in 2016. The 18-year-old is currently with the OHL’s London Knights. He finished the regular season with 26 goals and 36 assists in 60 games.

“Janne was outstanding in our rookie tournament in Traverse City in September, and stayed in North America to continue his development in the Ontario Hockey League,” said ‘Canes GM Ron Francis in a release. “He’s a smart, skilled forward and we look forward to the start of his professional career.”

The ‘Canes already have two Finnish forwards in Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen.

Aho and Kuokkanen were teammates in the Karpat (Liiga) development system in Finland.