RonRolston

Rolston: Next year’s Sabres a ‘playoff-caliber team’

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Shortly after dropping his interim tag and officially being named Buffalo Sabres head coach, Ron Rolston discussed what the future had in store.

The postseason, specifically.

“You’re looking at a team next year that’s a playoff-caliber team,” Rolston told the Buffalo News. “At the end of the day we want to be a playoff team that can make long runs and do what we want to do here [win a Stanley Cup].”

The Sabres have missed the last two playoffs and haven’t won a postseason round since 2007.

So the new coach has his work cut out for him.

That said, there were signs his coaching style worked with most of the current group. Buffalo rebounded from a 6-10-1 start under Lindy Ruff to go 15-11-5 under Rolston, including an 8-4-0 mark in April.

Young players seemed to thrive under Rolston as well.

Tyler Ennis finished the year with 31 points in 47 games — a 54-point pace over a full campaign — while Cody Hodgson finished with 15G-19A, nearly matching his career high in points (41 in 2011-12) despite playing in roughly half the amount of games.

Rolston acknowledged that, despite his optimistic outlook, there are still areas needing major improvement.

Buffalo finished 26th on the penalty kill last season and 29th on the power play. In today’s presser, he said he’s going to take his time in figuring out which direction the Sabres want to go with coaches for special teams.

One name worth keeping an eye on?

Rolston’s brother, Brian, who recently announced his retirement after 17 seasons in the NHL.

“I don’t know if [Brian’s] ready to move into that phase of things yet from player to coach, but he has certainly through this process provided a lot of great, great feedback in terms of players, coaches, systems,” Ron Rolston explained.

“He had the ability to play for some of the best coaches in this game whether it was Pat Burns or Jacques Lemaire, he played for some great coaches, so he was able to provide both a player’s perspective and what those great coaches, you know what made them great.

“Moving forward, he’s somebody that I’ll always have as a sounding board to communicate with.”

Another North Dakota junior goes pro as Blackhawks sign Luke Johnson

Quinnipiac forward Tommy Schutt, left, moves the puck as North Dakota forward Luke Johnson, middle, checks Quinnipiac forward Travis St. Denis during the first period of an NCAA college hockey tournament game Friday, March 27, 2015, in Fargo, N.D. North Dakota won 4-1. (AP Photo/Bruce Crummy)
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Another day, another University of North Dakota player deciding to enter the professional hockey ranks.

This time, it was 21-year-old forward Luke Johnson who turned pro following his junior year, as he signed a three-year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks, the team that selected him in the fifth round of the 2013 NHL Draft.

In 43 games with the NCAA champions this season, Johnson scored 11 goals and 21 points, three off his college career high set the previous year.

Johnson will forgo his senior year at North Dakota, bumping the number of players from that program’s junior class to turn pro to four since the end of the season. Keaton Thompson signed with the Anaheim Ducks, Troy Stecher inked with the Vancouver Canucks and Paul LaDue signed with the L.A. Kings.

Senior forward Drake Caggiula, now a free agent, has reportedly narrowed down his list of NHL suitors to six teams.

Brock Boeser, a 2015 first-round pick and coming off an impressive freshman year, will return to North Dakota for his sophomore year, as per Canucks general manager Jim Benning earlier this month.

Video: Black cat hits the ice before Sharks-Predators Game 1

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Perhaps it’s an ominous sign of bad luck to come, but for which team?

Prior to puck drop between the host San Jose Sharks and Nashville Predators in Game 1 on Friday, a black cat hit the ice at SAP Center, taking a nervous stroll along the boards.

Not sure exactly where it came from, although it’s possible someone was feeling extra superstitious before the start of this series.

Official update on the really important story of the evening:

Speed, skill help Stars score late victory to take series lead over Blues

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The Dallas Stars scored a late winner, held on in the final minute and eventually struck first in their best-of-seven second-round series with the St. Louis Blues.

Once again, it was the speed and skill of the Stars that proved to be the difference in the end. Radek Faksa scored with less than five minutes remaining in the third period, breaking the deadlock and giving Dallas a 2-1 victory and 1-0 series lead over their Central Division foes on Friday.

As he entered the zone on the rush, Faksa dished off to a flying Ales Hemsky, who was denied by Brian Elliott in alone. But Faksa followed up, jamming in the rebound to give the Stars the lead, as both St. Louis defensemen Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo were caught by the speed of the Dallas forwards on the rush.

The Stars held on from there, as the Blues made a late push to tie the game.

Kari Lehtonen stopped 31 of 32 shots for Dallas, while Elliott was busy throughout the night, stopping 40 of 42 shots.

Elliott was furious after the Stars opened the scoring in the second period, as Antoine Roussel tallied on a rebound after yet another nice Dallas passing play in the offensive zone.

Stars forward Patrick Eaves left the game early in the third period and didn’t play another shift after being hit in the lower part of his leg with the puck from a point shot.

 

Video: Roussel opens the scoring for Dallas and Elliott wasn’t happy about it

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The Dallas Stars grabbed the all-important first goal in Game 1 against the St. Louis Blues on Friday. And it was agitating forward Antoine Roussel who capitalized in the second period.

Roussel buried a rebound at the end of a pretty passing play from the Stars. Blues goalie Brian Elliott was furious, as defenseman Jay Bouwmeester slid into the crease in an attempt to block the shot.