Pacioretty abruptly leaves Swiss league team

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After three weeks, five games and a flurry of rumors, Montreal Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty has bolted the Swiss league.

The 23-year-old left struggling club side Ambri-Piotta on Tuesday and was expected to fly into his native Connecticut on Wednesday.

According to Dave Stubbs of the Montreal Gazette, the “tidiest” explanation for the departure is that Swiss league training and practice regimens simply couldn’t match what Pacioretty — a notorious workout fiend — had built up over the summer.

Stubbs also notes Pacioretty had a long commute from his residence to the rink, and that strength-training facilities fell short of what he expected.

As for the less tidy explanation? Right here:

Pacioretty never tasted victory, arriving in the tiny village with his club two losses into what would be a 10-game losing streak, Ambrì sinking into the 12-team league basement.

Pacioretty sat out his final three games, said to have been suffering from the flu in the first two – though that might not be entirely true.

He then was a healthy scratch in last Saturday’s match, the victim, it was reported by multiple sources, of Switzerland’s import quotas; only four import players can suit up for a club for any game, and Ambrì Piotta coach Kevin Constantine used two forwards and two defencemen from outside that night.

The club reported that Pacioretty never fully recovered from his flu and asked to be released, saying he’d be welcome to return at any time. The club also said he was suffering from inflammation of an elbow.

Pacioretty’s agent, Alex Schall, told the Gazette his client is nursing a few nagging injuries, but none that would’ve prevented him from starting the NHL season on time.

So make of the elbow diagnosis what you will.

Pacioretty was Ambri-Piotta’s lone NHL lockout signing, though the team does have a number of ex-NHLers — Richard Park, Jason Williams, Nolan Schaefer and Constantine, the former head coach in San Jose, Pittsburgh and New Jersey.

Sens prospect White signs ATO, contract talks moving in ‘positive direction’

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It hasn’t moved along as quickly as Clayton Keller-to-Arizona or Brock Boeser-to-Vancouver, but the Colin White-to-Ottawa transaction is slowly churning along.

Last night, White — the Senators’ first-round pick (21st overall) at the ’15 draft — sign an amateur tryout offer with the club’s AHL affiliate in Binghamton, while his agent continues to work with Sens GM Pierre Dorion on an entry-level deal.

“We are excited to see Colin make the next step in his development in turning professional after a great college career,” Dorion said in a release. “We have spoken to Colin and his advisors at length and we are all in agreement that getting him on the ice to play games in the AHL is what is best for his growth at this moment.

“While our ongoing contract discussions are moving in a positive direction, we all know there is a small window left this season for Colin to gain professional experience.”

Unlike Boeser, who made his NHL debut on Saturday, or Keller — who projects to make his tonight — White appears primed to travel a similar road as U.S. world junior teammate Luke Kunin, who last week left the University of Wisconsin to join the Wild organization.

Like White, Kunin signed an ATO and headed directly to the American League. Unlike White, Kunin also inked his ELC at the exact same time (it will kick in next year).

White, 20, has had a terrific last couple of years. He’s been a point-per-game player at BC and was a major catalyst at the world juniors. He finished second in the tournament in goals, with seven in seven games, and was a force in the U.S.’s gold medal win over Canada.

There was some thought White, like Boeser and Keller, could play in the NHL this year. But the Sens don’t have extra minutes at forward after picking up the likes of Alex Burrows, Viktor Stalberg and Chris DiDomenico at the deadline.

That said, Stalberg is currently sidelined with an injury.

NHL on NBCSN: Banged-up Lightning continue push for playoff spot against ‘Hawks

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NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2016-17 campaign tonight when the Tampa Bay Lightning host the Chicago Blackhawks at 7:30 p.m. ET. If you want to watch the game online, you can do so here.

Despite the crazy amount of injuries that the Lightning have suffered (Steven Stamkos, Tyler Johnson, Ryan Callahan, Cedric Paquette and Jason Garrison are all out), they find themselves within striking distance of a post-season berth.

Coming into tonight’s tilt against the ‘Hawks, the Bolts are three points behind Boston for the final Wild Card spot in the East. The Lightning have a game in hand on the Bruins, but Boston has five more regulation/overtime wins.

After dropping a 5-3 decision to Arizona on home ice last Tuesday, they rebounded by beating the B’s and Wings on the road on Thursday and Friday.

One of the big reasons why the Lightning have been able to stay in the race, is because of  the way Nikita Kucherov has played this season.

On Friday, with the Bolts trailing the Wings 1-0 in the third period, Kucherov helped set up Ondrej Palat‘s game-tying goal before adding the OT winner later on.

The 23-year-old is up to 38 goals and 40 assists in 67 games. He’s accumulated 29 of those points in his last 16 games and he’s put together four multi-point efforts in a row.

If the Bolts make it to the playoffs, is Kucherov the MVP?

Don’t expect the Blackhawks to be in a particularly good mood coming into this game. Not only did they drop Saturday night’s game in Florida, but they were absolutely annihilated, 7-0.

“There’s no reason we should be entirely satisfied at this point,” captain Jonathan Toews said after the loss, per the Chicago Tribune. “There’s always room to grow.

“We can’t expect it’s going to be easy hockey (the) last seven games. If we continue to play like that and think we’re going to turn it on come playoff time, we’ve got another thing coming.”

The Blackhawks had a bit of a rough week, as they lost 5-4 in OT to the Canucks on Tuesday before narrowly beating the Stars 3-2 in a shootout on Thursday. But overall, they’ve been on a pretty good run. In their last eight contests, they’ve gone 6-1-1, which is far from poor.

PHT Morning Skate: Is it time for the Bruins to move on from Tuukka Rask?

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Tuukka Rask has shown that he can be one of the top goalies in the NHL, but CSN New England’s Joe Haggerty thinks that his inability to deliver in big games is becoming a serious problem. Haggerty even suggests that the Bruins should consider shipping him out of town this summer. It’s an interesting thought. (CSN New England)

–Nolan Patrick is expected to go first overall in next June’s entry draft, but his draft year has been anything but ordinary. He missed the first 34 games of the season with an undisclosed injury, which must be pretty frustrating. But Patrick has gone through a similar situation before. When he was a young teenager, Patrick broke his collarbone twice. He was able to shake the injuries off and turn himself into a top prospect. (Sportsnet)

–Take a look at the top seven plays of the week in and around the NHL. If you’re fed up of seeing Sidney Crosby score ridiculous goals, do not watch this video. (NBC Sports)

–The Flyers got six goals from six different players in their win over the Penguins last night. You can check out the highlights from that game by clicking the video at the top of the page. Philly is now six points back of Boston for the final Wild Card spot in the East.

–Sabres forward Brian Gionta will be playing in his 1000th NHL game tonight. As you’d imagine, the 5-foot-7 forward didn’t have an easy path to the big show, but he was still able to carve out a great career for himself. “To be out there and part of his 1,000th game, it’s a proud moment for me,” teammate Josh Gorges said. “I know it’s a proud moment for him. We’ve talked about it before, and it’s an amazing accomplishment. … We’re all looking forward to it.” (Buffalo Hockey Beat)

–Did you really think that changing the goalies’ pants was going to result in more goals scored? Well, let’s just say it hasn’t worked out that way. Before the change, teams were scoring 2.73 goals-per-game. Since the change, that number is slightly down at 2.70. (The Score)

–Jets super fan Kiera Neal was diagnosed with cancer at the age of one, but Neal, now 10, is doing well and is cancer free. Her wish was to meet the Winnipeg Jets and her favorite player Dustin Byfuglien, and the people at Hometown Hockey made it happen:

Ducks cement Pacific lead as Getzlaf continues his mammoth March

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By the end of Sunday night, the Anaheim Ducks removed all doubt: they’re on top of the Pacific Division.

Now, it’s not the sort of substantial lead that the sliding San Jose Sharks squandered; Anaheim merely leads the Sharks and Edmonton Oilers by two standings points after beating the New York Rangers 6-3.

With everyone at 75 games played, it’s kind of nice to enjoy the clarity that comes with a clear lead (though the Sharks and Oilers will disagree):

Pacific top four (all teams with 75 games played)

1. Ducks – 93 points (38 ROW, 41 W)
2. Sharks – 91 poitns (40 ROW, 42 W)
3. Oilers – 91 points (37 ROW, 41 W)

Flames – 88 points (38 ROW, 42 W)

The Ducks are now on a four-game winning streak and managed an 8-1-1 mark in their last 10 contests.

With all due respect to Patrick Eaves‘ two goals, it’s Ryan Getzlaf who’s really playing outstanding hockey. He generated four assists in this one, giving him eight helpers in his past four games. He now has a whopping 20 points in March.