NHL on NBCSN: Wild’s Pominville returns to Buffalo amid Sabres’ descent

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NBCSN continues its coverage of the 2013-14 campaign tonight when the Buffalo Sabres host the Minnesota Wild at the First Niagara Center at 7:30 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

It wasn’t long ago that Jason Pominville was the Sabres’ captain. That ended when Buffalo dealt him to the Minnesota Wild in April as part of its efforts to kick start the rebuilding process.

Now Pominville will return to Buffalo for the first time since the trade. Early on in his 578-game stint in Buffalo, the Sabres made it all the way to the Conference Finals in back-to-back campaigns. Now they are dead last in NHL after scoring just six goals in six games.

If Buffalo continues its current descent, then it might not be long before Pominville’s friend, Thomas Vanek, and goaltender Ryan Miller follow in his footsteps. Both are in the final campaign of their respective contracts and have been two of the bright spots in Buffalo’s otherwise dreary start.

“[Miller’s] basically at this point one of the best players in the league in terms of influence on their hockey team,” Sabres coach Ron Rolston told the Buffalo News. That should underscore just how bad things have gotten when even Miller can’t buy a win despite his 2.29 GAA and .941 save percentage in four starts.

When Buffalo has scored, Thomas Vanek has usually played a hand in it. He has two goals and two assists, making him one of just three Sabres players to have multiple points so far this season.

While the Sabres try and put their nasty beginning behind them and show that it’s not a sign of things to come, the Wild will compete for their third straight win.

Expectations have increased in Minnesota since signed forward Zach Parise and defenseman Ryan Suter in the summer of 2012. The Wild ended their playoff slump in 2013, but didn’t get past the first round. The pressure is on for them to do better this season, but first they’ll need to secure a spot in the tough Central Division.

So far they have a respectable 2-1-2 record and have gotten some needed production out of their younger forwards. They’ve also been the best team on the draw while the Sabres are among the worst.

Just another one of the hills the Sabres will need to climb as they get things ready for the return of their former captain.

Uh oh, Marian Hossa might be injured after awkward fall

Chicago Blackhawks right wing Marian Hossa, left, talks to center Jonathan Toews during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Dallas Stars Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
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The Chicago Blackhawks are on edge on Saturday, and it’s not because of what’s currently a close game against the Anaheim Ducks.

(Not that they’re indifferent toward a match against their opponents from last year’s conference final match, mind you.)

Instead, the Blackhawks are quite concerned about the health of Marian Hossa, who needed help off of the ice following an awkward, scary-looking crash into the boards. (Hampus Lindholm delivered the hip check that sent Hossa sprawling, in case you’re wondering.)

Video isn’t yet available, but My Regular Face’s GIF captures that troubling moment:

It’s too early to tell if Hossa will bounce back or miss some time from this. Stay tuned for potential updates.

Understatement: Saturday was a rough night for Panthers

Nashville Predators center Colin Wilson (33) checks Florida Panthers center Jonathan Huberdeau (11) during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
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If it weren’t for Mike Yeo and the Minnesota Wild, you could argue that the Florida Panthers suffered from the worst night so far.

You can see that Saturday was unpleasant merely from looking at the scoreboard: the Nashville Predators pummeled the Panthers by an unkind score of 5-0.

The pain goes beyond that … literally so.

For one thing, Quinton Howden suffered an upper-body injury and did not return. That’s no good, but if you want to feel sick to your stomach, footage of Brandon Pirri‘s likely lower-body injury (ankle maybe?) may do the trick.

(Seriously, you may be happier if you don’t look.)

The Panthers didn’t make an announcement about Pirri one way or another, so we’ll see if he somehow avoided anything significant.

Either way, it was a night this team would like to forget.

Fractured jaw from fight sidelines Chris Stewart for 4-8 weeks

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It’s unlikely that Chris Stewart will generate another 30-goal season in the NHL, but he still might be missed by the Anaheim Ducks.

The team announced that the ornery forward is expected to miss four-to-eight weeks with a fractured jaw. If that’s the recovery window, Stewart may go into the playoffs a little rusty (if he can get in any regular season games at all).

The Ducks didn’t elaborate, but the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline believes that the injury happened during a fight with Dalton Prout of the Columbus Blue Jackets. You can see that brawl in the video above.

One bright side for Anaheim: if they believe that they need to replace what Stewart brings to the table (rugged play with a dash of offense), then at least this injury happened before the the Feb. 29 trade deadline.

Report: Wild will tab John Torchetti as interim head coach

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As many expected, the Minnesota Wild will make John Torchetti their interim head coach, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Michael Russo.

(He’s not the only one to report as much, as TSN’s Bob McKenzie also stated that he’s likely to take the job.)

The team itself hasn’t made an official announcement about Torchetti, and the reasoning is probably simple enough: he’s coaching their AHL affiliate the Iowa Wild on Saturday night.

Torchetti is no stranger to the NHL, although he’ll probably be frustrated if this opportunity doesn’t turn into a full-time gig. He was also an interim head coach for the Los Angeles Kings and Florida Panthers.

As of this writing, the Wild are in a three-way tie for the first spot outside of the West’s wild card mix, although they could sink a bit depending upon how Arizona and Vancouver handle the one game they have in hand on the Wild.

More importantly, Minnesota’s currently three points behind Nashville for the final wild card spot.

That’s not an impossible goal for Torchetti. For whatever it’s worth, Sports Club Stats gives Minnesota a 34.7 percent chance to make the playoffs.

(Note: photo via the Iowa Wild.)