BUFFALO, NY - JANUARY 20: Thomas Vanek #26 of the Buffalo Sabres moves in to score buffalo's second goal on Ilya Bryzgalov #30 of the Philadelphia Flyers at First Niagara Center on January 20, 2013 in Buffalo, United States. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)

Vanek’s 5-point game starts Sabres’ quest for redemption


It’s easy to draw some parallels between the 2011-12 Buffalo Sabres and 2013 Minnesota Wild.

Buffalo had a mediocre 2010-11 campaign, but was optimistic about its future thanks to a new owner in Terrence Pegula and some noteworthy off-season additions including Ville Leino and Christian Ehrhoff to compliment its core of great veterans and rapidly developing youngsters.

While it remains to be seen how Minnesota’s even bigger spending spree will impact the team in the immediate future, the Buffalo Sabres ended up faltering last season and are looking to redeem themselves in 2013.

Thomas Vanek played a key role in starting the Sabres’ campaign off on a high note with his two-goal, three-assist performance against the Philadelphia Flyers. Buffalo went on to open the season with a 5-2 victory.

Vanek’s biggest moment was beating Flyers goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov one-on-one to even the score late in the second period. You can watch that goal below:

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With five points, Vanek now leads the NHL scoring race. His debut surpassed Jaromir Jagr and Teemu Selanne’s impressive four-point opening-game efforts.

Lucic: If I wanted to hurt Couture, ‘I would have hurt him’


Last night in Los Angeles, Kings forward Milan Lucic received a match penalty after skating the entire width of the ice to give San Jose’s Logan Couture a two-hand shove to the face.

Lucic didn’t hurt Couture, who had caught Lucic with an open-ice hit that Lucic didn’t like. Couture’s smiling, mocking face was good evidence that the Sharks’ forward was going to be OK.

This morning, Lucic was still in disbelief that he was penalized so harshly.

“I didn’t cross any line,” Lucic said, per Rich Hammond of the O.C. Register. “Believe me, if my intentions were to hurt him, I would have hurt him.”

While Lucic knew he deserved a penalty, he said after the game that he didn’t “know why it was called a match penalty.” His coach, Darryl Sutter, agreed, calling it “a borderline even roughing penalty.”

And though former NHL referee Kerry Fraser believes a match penalty was indeed warranted, Lucic said this morning that he hasn’t heard from the NHL about any possible supplemental discipline.

Nor for that matter has Dustin Brown, after his high hit on Couture in the first period.

In conclusion, it’s good to have hockey back.

Related: Sutter says Kings weren’t ‘interested’ in checking the Sharks

Torres apologizes to Silfverberg and Sharks


A statement from Raffi Torres:

“I accept the 41-game suspension handed down to me by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety. I worked extremely hard over the last two years following reconstructive knee surgery to resume my NHL career, and this is the last thing I wanted to happen. I am disappointed I have put myself in a position to be suspended again. I sincerely apologize to Jakob for the hit that led to this suspension, and I’m extremely thankful that he wasn’t seriously injured as a result of the play. I also want to apologize to my Sharks teammates and the organization.”

A statement from San Jose GM Doug Wilson:

“The Sharks organization fully supports the NHL’s supplementary discipline decision regarding Raffi. While we do not believe there was any malicious intent, this type of hit is unacceptable and has no place in our game. There is a difference between playing hard and crossing the line and there is no doubt, in this instance, Raffi crossed that line. We’re very thankful that Jakob was not seriously injured as a result of this play.”

Silfverberg says he expects to play Saturday when the Ducks open their regular season Saturday in San Jose.