Thomas Vanek

Vanek leaves Austrian team, returns to Buffalo

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Thomas Vanek is coming home — and ready to play in the NHL again.

That’s the word out of Austrian on Monday as Vanek left the Graz 99ers after his monthlong contract expired.

The Sabres sniper notched 15 points in 11 games for the 99ers and praised the level of play in the Erste Bank Eishockey Liga, calling it “good, fast hockey” — yet was noncommittal about returning, saying he’s hopeful CBA negotiations have taken a turn for the better.

“I get asked if I’ll return after the international break all the time,” Vanek said on his website. “That may well be, but certainly not right after the break. I want to wait how the negotiations between league and PA are going.

“It seems as if things are going forward a bit.”

The international break covers the first two weeks of November and is often used by a number of NHLers to return home (like Boston’s Tyler Seguin.)

That said, most go home with the intention of returning to Europe.

Oh, and since we profiled Matt Duchene’s displeasure with Swedish League officiating earlier, here’s an interesting note — Vanek took time to rip Austrian league referees in his farewell post.

“What I certainly will not miss are the referees,” he said. “Their performance was… well, let’s just say that I’d rather forget about them.”

Now, this isn’t meant to be a “grass isn’t always greener” post. Far from it. Vanek was hugely complimentary of his time in Austria, calling it a once in a lifetime experience — but at the same time, it’s hard to ignore successive complaints about poor European officiating…from two fairly noteworthy NHL stars.

It’s just another reminder that, at the end of the day, these guys clearly miss playing in the best league in the world.

Despite tough fight, Stars hand Wild their sixth straight loss

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The Minnesota Wild put together the kind of effort that would beat a lot of NHL teams on Tuesday. Unfortunately for that beleaguered group, it wasn’t enough to edge the Dallas Stars.

Despite generating 40 shots on goal and generating 1-0 and 2-1 leads, the Wild lost to the Stars 4-3 in overtime. With that, they’ve lost six straight games.

(The view doesn’t get much prettier if you pull away a little further, either, as Minnesota’s only won once in the last month, going 1-9-2 in their last 12.)

Ultimately, the Stars’ big guns were too powerful. Tyler Seguin generated two assists and so did Jamie Benn, who set up John Klingberg‘s overtime game-winning goal.

Again, the effort sure seemed to be there for the Wild, even if they’re far beyond the point of accepting moral victories.

As frustrating as this must be, Minnesota’s not that far from a playoff spot. Still, it has to sting to see “Close, but not good enough” as a prevailing theme as of late.

Royal beating: Lucic, Kings crush Bruins 9-2

As Boston Bruins' Patrice Bergeron (37) looks on Los Angeles Kings' Milan Lucic waves to the crowd after a tribute to him was played on the screen during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Boston Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
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The Boston Bruins welcomed Milan Lucic back on Tuesday. Maybe they shouldn’t have extended such a warm welcome to the Los Angeles Kings overall, however.

You won’t see many games as lopsided as this one, at least in 2015-16, as the Kings walloped the Bruins by a humbling score of 9-2.

Lucic wasn’t just there, either, as he scored a goal and an assist in his quite triumphant return to Boston.

Tuukka Rask had a short night in Boston’s net, yet it wasn’t as if Jonas Gustavsson enjoyed his time. It was a pretty sound beating by all accounts.

This dominant win is a heck of a way for the Kings to begin an imposing seven-game road trip, which continues against the New York Islanders on Thursday. The Bruins probably want to burn the tape on this one themselves, as they’re about to head on a six-game road trip.

Video: Evander Kane believes he won his fights vs. Alex Petrovic

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The Florida Panthers are beating up the Buffalo Sabres where it counts – on the scoreboard – but Evander Kane was happy to highlight his perceived victories in a couple bouts.

Buffalo’s power forward fought Alex Petrovic twice on Tuesday, and Kane wasn’t shy about holding up a “2-0.”

You can watch the second fight above, and the first one below, via Hockey Fights by way of MSG:

This GIF might just say it all, really:

Update: Apparently they fought again moments after this post went up.

Probably safe to call it a rivalry between the two, right?

The Panthers ultimately won 7-4.

Fight video: Yes, a visor-breaking punch

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Some hockey players resist the urge to wear a visor, at least if they’re given that choice.

Perhaps a few will say “Hey, Nathan Beaulieu will just punch it off anyway.”

Maybe not, but Beaulieu provided a rather unique moment in his fight with Cedric Paquette during the Montreal Canadiens – Tampa Bay Lightning game. You can watch that bout in the video above, and see a cut on the Lightning pest’s face from that blow.

Want it in GIF form? OK then: