Briere on Leino’s struggles in Buffalo: “I’m very, very surprised”

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Daniel Briere has seen the best of Ville Leino. The two were paired together in Philadelphia and their chemistry was obvious — Leino scored 21 points in 19 games en route to the 2010 Stanley Cup finals, Briere had 30 in 23.

Now, Briere’s seeing the worst of Leino — he has just four goals and 15 points in 45 games for Buffalo — and is shocked at the decline in production.

Seriously shocked.

“I’m very, very surprised with that, especially with the amount of offensive guys they have on that team,” Briere told the Buffalo News. “I thought it would have clicked with a few of their players at least. I always felt that myself and Ville were kind of on the same page as far as the way we saw the game offensively when we were on the ice.

“I know when I was in Buffalo I had some great years as well playing with [Jason] Pominville and Jochen Hecht, so I thought for sure at least those two guys would click well with him.”

While it’s too early to write him off entirely, Leino’s one of the biggest 2011 free agency busts and, if things stay like this, he’ll go down as one of the biggest all-time.

Leino’s six-year, $27 million deal has an albatrossian feel to it, mostly because the Sabres can’t find anyone for him to play with. They tried playing him on a wing with Derek Roy, but that didn’t work. They tried putting him at center between Pominville and Thomas Vanek, but that didn’t work. They even bumped him down to the third line…but no, that didn’t work either.

Briere thinks he might know what’s wrong.

“Chemistry is a funny thing,” he explained. “You just never know, and you never know from year to year just how things are going to come back. It’s one of those things you can’t take for granted.”

As for Leino, he admits to feeling the heat — but also thinks things are turning around.

“There’s always more pressure if you’ve got a good contract and people are looking at you to contribute,” he said. “I think I finally feel a lot more comfortable in the system and playing my own game. The last five, six games, I’ve been feeling good and been playing my own game pretty much the first time this year.”

Ducks take control of second in Pacific after edging Oilers

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Connor McDavid was fantastic on Wednesday, but the Anaheim Ducks overcame his strong showing for a significant win in the Pacific.

McDavid scored a goal and two assists, yet Ryan Getzlaf was right there with him with three assists, helping the Ducks win 4-3.

With that, Anaheim is clearly ahead of Edmonton for second in the Pacific. The Ducks would hold home-ice over the Oilers if the playoffs began today, and better yet for them, a division title isn’t out of the question:

1. Sharks – 91 points in 73 games played
2. Ducks – 89 points in 73 GP
3. Oilers – 87 points in 73 GP
4. Flames – 86 points in 73 GP

As you can see, the Oilers aren’t exactly far ahead of the Flames for third, either.

Going forward, the Oilers have an interesting schedule: a mix of games against cellar dwellers (two apiece against the Canucks and Avalanche) plus two games apiece versus the Kings and Sharks.

The Ducks’ schedule includes two matches against the Flames, one against the Kings and one more match at Edmonton on April 1.

Long story short, the jockeying for position is far from over, but this was a pretty significant win for the Ducks.

Video: Connor McDavid shows off speed and skill (again)

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Connor McDavid‘s 26th goal of 2016-17 was a lot like many others: an impressive display of skill and speed. He didn’t blaze past the Anaheim Ducks like has against opponents on other occasions, but his rare wheels still came in handy.

Maybe more than sheer speed, this tally is a reminder that McDavid could do impressive things while losing little or no momentum. It’s one thing to have straight-line speed, but he has the hands and hockey IQ to take advantage of his swift skating.

McDavid already has two points in this one, pushing him to 84 points. He also extended his point streak to five games (three goals, six assists if he stays at one of each on Wednesday).

Islanders grab precious points by beating Rangers

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The goal posts might move from time to time – now they’re chasing the Boston Bruins more than the Toronto Maple Leafs – but the bottom line is that the New York Islanders need to get it done to make the playoffs.

They still have some climbing to do, but Wednesday represented a step in the right direction with a tough 3-2 win against the New York Rangers.

The Rangers built 1-0 and 2-1 leads in the second period as John Tavares struggled with a “hat trick” of penalties, but Tavares & Co. wouldn’t give up. They managed two power-play goals in the third (one by Nikolay Kulemin, the winner by Andrew Ladd) to turn things around for a significant win.

Anders Lee was also a big part of the win, grabbing a goal and an assist. The biggest difference-maker may very well have been Thomas Greiss, who stopped 34 of 36 shots (including all 11 in the third) as the Rangers created a lot of offense.

The Islanders now have 80 standings points, placing them two behind the Bruins for the East’s final wild card spot.

The Rangers’ hold over the first wild card seems quite secure, but they do have to worry ever so slightly about their play at home. With this defeat, they’ve now lost seven straight (0-5-2) at Madison Square Garden.

Video: Rick Nash scores 20th goal in sprawling style

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Rick Nash has his critics stemming from his playoff struggles in the past, but for those who support him, moments like these are satisfying.

Why? Because you’d be absurd to discredit how hard he tries when Nash scores goals like he did for the New York Rangers against the New York Islanders on Wednesday.

Nash went all-out for his 20th goal of the season, sprawling after scoring against Thomas Greiss. It’s quite a sight, and Getty Images really was on top of that one.

via Getty Images

The Rangers may need more from him tonight, however, as the Islanders just went up 3-2. Watch the remainder of the contest on NBCSN.