Flames keep pushing Backlund to prove himself

Back in July, we wrote about Mikael Backlund’s opportunity to step up and prove the Flames were right to draft him 24th overall in 2007.

With six goals and five assists in 24 games this season, we’re not sure the 24-year-old center has made the most of his opportunity; however, it doesn’t sound like the organization is ready to give up on him quite yet.

“I want to help him realize what he needs to keep doing,” coach Bob Hartley said, per the Calgary Herald. “He’s tougher in puck battles. He’s going harder at the net. I want him to play as a centerman. You need to be able to play the game in the three zones. He’s a great skater. He’s got great vision. I want to help him expand his role and believe in himself.”

Given the dearth of centers in the NHL, high draft picks that play the middle will usually get multiple chances to prove themselves. And based on what Hartley said, the still-young Swede is improving.

Backlund is a pending restricted free agent that’s finishing out a one-year, $725,000 contract.

“Obviously, the better I play, the better contract I’ll get — that’s how it works,” said Backlund. “So I’m trying to do my best and show them that I want to be a part of this team, I want to be part of the future of this organization.

“Hopefully, I’d like to stay here.”

Video: Mike Fisher ends Nashville’s nasty goal drought

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No, the Nashville Predators did not forget how to score goals … or at least they were lifted from that amnesia on Wednesday.

Mike Fisher lifted the curse 13:52 into the first period of tonight’s game against the Buffalo Sabres. You can watch that rare beast in the video above.

They had been shut out for three straight games and pretty close to four in pure game time.

On this subject, PHT’s Jason Brough asked Predators GM David Poile if he was considering moving a defenseman to improve in another area earlier today.

Struggling Sabre Tyler Ennis out with upper-body injury

Tyler Ennis, James Wisniewski
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Tyler Ennis can probably relate with the Buffalo Sabres’ opponent on Wednesday, as he’s struggling almost as much as the Nashville Predators.

Perhaps some of that has to do with health?

Whether that’s the case or not, Ennis is out for the Sabres tonight, as the team announced that he’s dealing with an upper-body injury.

The Buffalo News discussed Ennis’ struggles in this article.

“I’d say he’s pressing too much. You can’t make those plays in every situation and in every point you touch the puck,” Dan Bylsma said to the Buffalo News. “ … He’s just got to simplify his game. He is a special player who can make those plays, but he can’t be trying to do it every time he touches the puck.”

He’ll need to wait a while to start getting things together, anyway.

WATCH LIVE: Wednesday Night Rivalry (Flyers-Islanders; Blackhawks-Sharks)

Ryan White, Matt Martin
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You can check out tonight’s Wednesday Night Rivalry doubleheader on NBCSN, and you can also stream them online.

Here are the handy links for the two contests.

First, the New York Islanders host the Philadelphia Flyers.


After that, the Chicago Blackhawks visit the San Jose Sharks.


Braun out with upper-body injury; Zubrus to make Sharks debut

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The San Jose Sharks will be missing a top-4 defenseman tonight when they host the defending champs from Chicago.

Justin Braun has an upper-body injury. His status is considered day-to-day.

“Brauny has been one of our unsung heroes here through the first quarter of the season,” coach Peter DeBoer told CSN Bay Area. “He’s played some outstanding hockey. So, we’re going to miss him, but it’s a great opportunity for Mueller and Tennyson and one of these guys to establish themselves. It’s a great opportunity for us to reward Dillon for how well he’s played.”

Against the Blackhawks, Brenden Dillon will take Braun’s spot on the top pairing alongside Marc-Edouard Vlasic; Paul Martin and Brent Burns will stay together on the second pairing; and 20-year-old Mirco Mueller will skate with Matt Tennyson.

Mueller has played just four games for the Sharks this season. In his last game, Thursday in Philadelphia, he received only 9:13 of ice time.

Also tonight, new Shark forward Dainius Zubrus is expected to debut on the fourth line.

Related: Sharks sign Zubrus, because DeBoer