It sounds strange to say that a game between the Buffalo Sabres and Winnipeg Jets from MTS Centre in Winnipeg comes with great importance. Tonight’s tilt between the two (8:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN) does just that as the Jets hold the eighth spot in the East while the Sabres have crawled out of the basement and sit two back of Winnipeg.
The Sabres rise from the depths comes thanks to their all-world goaltender Ryan Miller. Miller has won six of his last seven starts and has two shutouts in that span while the loss came in overtime to the East-leading Rangers. With how poorly the teams in the race for eighth have played, the Sabres climb has been easy to make, relatively speaking. Perhaps the Sabres trading his friend Paul Gaustad has lit a fire under him.
Making life easier offensively for Buffalo has been newcomer Cody Hodgson. Hodgson’s addition is helping to bring Tyler Ennis and Drew Stafford out of their respective shells. Whether Hodgson asked to be dealt is still a mystery, but the Sabres are reaping the benefits. If Buffalo can get their top line of Thomas Vanek-Derek Roy-Jason Pominville back on track, that gives the Sabres two potent scoring lines. Amazing what having two skilled centers can do. Heck, even Ville Leino broke out of his slump with two goals against Vancouver on Saturday night.
The Jets story, meanwhile, is another centered around stellar play of a goalie. In this case it’s Ondrej Pavelec that has often been the show-stealer for Winnipeg. Pavelec has four wins in his last six starts including a shutout in his last game against Florida. Pavelec has had his work cut out for him this season but has played strong.
Offensively, the Jets are getting a big season out of Blake Wheeler. Wheeler leads the team in points and has been a key setup man for breakout goal scorer Evander Kane. Kane’s 26 goals leads the team, six ahead of Andrew Ladd.
Winnipeg is even getting more of that offensive pop from the blue line thanks to Dustin Byfuglien whose 42 points in 50 games has him as a constant threat. They’ll have to go about it without Zach Bogosian though as he’s still saddled with a bum wrist. To say the least, however, the Jets are all in for a playoff push.
Home ice advantage: If there’s one thing that gives Winnipeg a big edge in tonight’s game it’s playing at MTS Centre. The Jets are 20-10-4 at home and they’re finding that having the smallest building in the league has its advantages with a raucous crowd that overwhelms opponents. Just think of what a pain they’d be if they made the playoffs.
After the Boston Bruins squandered a 3-0 lead against the Detroit Red Wings and ultimately lost 6-5 via a shootout, plenty of fans and commenters had enough. Many called for Claude Julien’s head.
They might not be alone.
During the latest edition of TSN’s Insider Trading on Thursday, Bob McKenzie didn’t say that Julien was definitely going to be fired, but he said there’s a “credible threat” to the long-standing Bruins bench boss’ job security.
The phrase “impending doom” came up, too.
So … yeah, it sure sounds like Julien is on thin ice.
McKenzie indicates that Julien should be behind the bench on Friday and could improve his situation if he reels off some wins. That’s where things get extra interesting.
The Bruins play three of their next four games and seven of their next nine contests at home. Most of those games are against playoff-caliber teams, however, so it wouldn’t necessarily be “easy.” Still, the opportunities are there for the Bruins to solidify their spot in the East playoff picture.
Still, it sure sounds like the margin of error is pretty small for Julien, just as it might be for Boston in this playoff race.
Want more coaching hot seat talk from McKenzie? He also discussed Paul Maurice’s situation with the Winnipeg Jets on Wednesday:
New York Islanders fans probably needed a moment like this, even ones who are more than happy that Jack Capuano was let go.
It’s no surprise that John Tavares provided such a moment.
Watch in the video above as he makes an obscene move against Dallas Stars defenseman John Klingberg, and then finishes with some really nifty timing. Wow.
Tavares now has 17 goals this season, reinforcing the thought that the team’s struggles aren’t on him.
Now catch up on all of the drama surrounding the team:
Bob McKenzie updates on the fuzzy future for the Isles
Liam McHugh grills Garth Snow on a variety of burning questions
It’s been a tough season for both Anthony Duclair and the Arizona Coyotes. Even so, it’s still startling to see that he was demoted to the AHL on Thursday.
GM John Chayka explained the team’s logic for the demotion:
“Anthony is a good young player,” said Chayka. “Unfortunately, he has struggled this season. We felt this was a good time to send him to Tucson to work on a few things and hopefully regain his scoring touch. We hope to have him rejoin our team soon.”
Duclair’s been the subject of more than a few trade rumors, but this is probably the low point of a rough 2016-17 season for the 21-year-old.
It’s worth taking a second to consider the very different luck Duclair’s experienced in his breakout season last year vs. this one.
His shooting percentage was 19 in 2015-16, helping him score 20 goals on just 105 shots. By comparison, he’s only converted on 5.2 percent of his shots this year, nabbing three on 58.
In other words, Duclair’s work is probably somewhere between those extremes … but he’s also at that age where a player can make big leaps forward. So, it’s understandable that the Coyotes want to try to repair their prospect’s confidence, and it’s also reasonable that other teams might believe that they can get more out of him.
A trip to the AHL really might be good for his confidence but … still, wow.
Roman Josi told Swiss Hockey News.ch that he suffered a concussion from that Anton Blidh hit you can see in the video above, according to a translation passed along by the Tennessean.
So, that’s the bad news for the Nashville Predators. The good is that he also told that outlet that he might be able to return for the Preds sometime next week.
Josi, 26, has dealt with concussion issues before, making this report a concern for the long-term. Still, the possibility of a return so soon is definitely a positive.
Here’s what the next week and change looks like for Nashville:
Tonight: at Flames
Friday: at Oilers
Sunday: at Wild
Tuesday, Jan. 24: vs. Sabres
Thursday: vs. Blue Jackets
The Predators aren’t out of the West picture altogether, but they need to make the most of their opportunities. Much like the Bolts with Victor Hedman, Nashville’s hanging in there OK without one of their key guys, but every point counts. Getting Josi back would be huge.