Ryan Miller

Buffalo’s Miller-Vanek conundrum

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Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek have been Sabres their entire career and both players are unrestricted free agents at the end of the season. Both players have been stars in Buffalo but now head into this season with a lot of uncertainty.

Buffalo appears ready to move ahead in goal with Jhonas Enroth and Matt Hackett (acquired in the Jason Pominville trade). With Miller on the brink of free agency, some thought GM Darcy Regier would deal Miller to a team in need of a starting goalie.

Instead, Regier played it close to the vest and held onto Miller, making the situation in goal a bit crowded.

Enroth showed during World Championships in May he may be ready to see more starts and even challenge for the starting job. With Hackett waiting in the wings, it would seem Miller’s future in Buffalo isn’t long. That doesn’t play out well to make a solid trade.

Vanek, meanwhile, is a player the Sabres love. If he had a long-term deal he’d be a candidate to be the new team captain. Instead, his current deal and fat salary cap hit made him nearly impossible to deal this summer and puts him in a position he’s not exactly comfortable with.

Regier and Pegula might want to extend Vanek, but he’d likely be the top free agent available this summer and could fetch a huge return at the trade deadline. For a team that’s hoping to win their first Stanley Cup, this isn’t the kind of talk that comes off as encouraging.

It might take the Sabres pushing for a playoff spot in the new Atlantic Division to keep Vanek interested in staying but that could also hurt their ability to deal Miller during the season if need be. Being between a rock and a hard place like this isn’t enviable to anyone, least of all Darcy Regier.

Crosby, Karlsson and Trocheck are NHL’s three stars of the week

Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby celebrates his goal during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Carolina Hurricanes in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2016. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
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Penguins center Sidney Crosby, Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson, and Panthers center Vincent Trocheck have been named the NHL’s three stars for the past week.

From the NHL:

Crosby led the League in goals and points (5-3-8) in three games as the Penguins (26-18-7, 59 points) earned four of a possible six points to secure the second Wild Card position in the Eastern Conference.

Karlsson led the League in assists and ranked second in points (0-7-7) in three games as the Senators (24-23-6, 54 points) won one of three starts for the week.

Trocheck notched six points (3-3—6) in three games, helping the Panthers (31-15-6, 68 points) widen their lead atop the Atlantic Division to six points.

Related: Red-hot Crosby could make Pens a flawed (but dangerous) dark horse

Malkin to miss third straight game with lower-body injury

Evgeni Malkin
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Evgeni Malkin‘s “nagging” lower-body injury will keep him out at least one more game.

Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said this morning that the star center will sit out tonight at home against the Ducks. Malkin already missed two contests this weekend in Florida. His status is day-to-day.

The Penguins lost, 6-3, in Tampa on Friday, but rebounded Saturday with a 3-2 OT win over the Panthers.

Pittsburgh’s next game after tonight’s is Wednesday at home versus the Rangers.

McDonagh out with concussion after Saturday’s altercation with Simmonds

Ryan McDonagh
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The New York Rangers will be without Ryan McDonagh tonight at home to New Jersey, the club announcing this morning that the defenseman is out with a concussion.

McDonagh left Saturday’s game in Philadelphia following an altercation with the Flyers’ Wayne Simmonds that ended with McDonagh taking a punch to the face from Simmonds.

Simmonds received a match penalty and was thrown out of the game, but did not receive any supplemental discipline.

Given the standings, the Rangers can ill afford to lose McDonagh for long. They play in Pittsburgh Wednesday, followed by three home games against Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Chicago.

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Lucic’s plan is to ‘remain a King’ for remainder of career

Milan Lucic, Alex Burrows, Dan Hamhuis
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Tuesday night, Milan Lucic will play his first game in Boston as a member of the Los Angeles Kings.

It should be an emotional return for the big 27-year-old winger. In an interview with the L.A. Times, he recalled his time with his former club fondly, saying how great it was to be a “part of one of the best-ever eras to be a Bruin.”

A pending unrestricted free agent, Lucic also commented on his contract negotiations with the Kings.

“Nothing to get excited about,” he said. “There’s been two or three little talks here and there. My plan is to remain a King and hopefully finish off my career here. Like I said, I go day by day and you never know what tomorrow is going to bring.”

Lucic has 12 goals and 18 assists in 50 games this season. Though the Kings reportedly want to keep him, the question is whether they can find the cap space to make it happen.

Los Angeles already has Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, Dustin Brown, Marian Gaborik, Kyle Clifford, Drew Doughty, Jake Muzzin, Alec Martinez, and Jonathan Quick locked up long term. Plus, Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson will require new deals after next season.

Related: Why Lucic is an interesting pending UFA