The Buffalo Sabres (a.k.a. the NHL’s worst team) announced major changes today. Longtime general manager Darcy Regier has been fired, as has head coach Ron Rolston. Hired are Pat LaFontaine as president of hockey operations, a newly created position, and Ted Nolan as interim head coach.
Both LaFontaine and Nolan have ties to the Sabres and have worked together in the past. The former starred for the club from 1991 to 1997; the latter coached the team for two seasons, from 1995-97. (Click here for more on that.)
Sabres owner Terry Pegula announced the changes at a press conference.
“Why now? I guess I just decided it was the time,” he said, per NHL.com. “Sometimes you get to the point where a change is needed.”
LaFontaine said he’ll be “actively searching for the next general manager” and already has a short list of candidates.
“I don’t have the experience right now in the general manager’s job,” he said. “But I know people and I know people out there who know how to do the job. I think putting together the right people to build that team and working together, that’s my strength. … I think my strengths are people and making sure everyone’s on board and doing their job. I told [Pegula], I said I could probably grow into that [GM] position but right now I think I could best serve you by building the hockey operations side of things.”
Nolan said the goal is to change the culture of the struggling team. He also confirmed that assistant coaches Teppo Numminen, Joe Sacco, Jerry Forton will remain on the staff.
The Sabres are 4-15-1 after 20 games and sit 30th in the NHL standings. Last February, they fired longtime head coach Lindy Ruff after a 6-10-1 start, replacing him with Rolston.
By just about any measure, Monday’s been lousy to Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy.
He was pulled with a few minutes remaining in the first period after Chicago Blackhawks built a 3-1 lead, scoring those three goals on just eight shots on net.
You could summarize Vasilevskiy’s awful start by those numbers, or by how rare the 3-1 goal was for the scorer.
Tomas Jurco failed to score a goal or an assist in 16 games with the Red Wings, then went pointless in nine more games with Chicago before finally scoring his first goal of the season on Monday.
Now, Jon Cooper didn’t pull Vasilevskiy because Jurco scored that tally. Still, it rubs a little extra salt in his wounds all things considered.
The bad news is that Artem Anisimov seems likely to miss all – or at least most – of the regular season for the Chicago Blackhawks with his lower-body injury.
The good? Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville believes that Anisimov will be ready once the playoffs swing into motion, as the Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Lazerus reports.
Anisimov was hurt when he got tangled up with Canadiens forward Alex Radulov on March 14:
The Blackhawks have been filling Anisimov’s typical spot alongside Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin with Ryan Hartman and Nick Schmaltz lately. There have been flashes of brilliance with Schmaltz, but Chicago would probably feel most confident with Anisimov back in his familiar place.
Chicago’s Central lead is pretty secure over the Minnesota Wild at the moment, which likely reduces motivation to rush Anisimov back before he’s truly ready. The Blackhawks close out their regular season on April 8, so there’s still time for him to heal up.
The Anaheim Ducks are flying high – er, waddling with some swagger? – right now thanks to Jonathan Bernier‘s somewhat shocking turnaround, but the pending return of John Gibson is promising.
(Especially since the Ducks will likely want him to shake off some rust before the playoffs begin.)
While it’s not clear if he’s exactly 100 percent healthy just yet, the Ducks sending Jhonas Enroth back to the AHL is a strong sign that Gibson is close.
Enroth actually never got a shot to start for the Ducks, as his last NHL appearance came on Nov. 30, closing off his ill-fated run with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Considering that Enroth was once a fairly hot commodity as at least a promising backup, it will be interesting to see how his 2017-18 season pans out. Will he get more or less of a chance than he received this season?
Bernier, meanwhile, is richly rewarding the Ducks for sticking with him.
He’s provided them with a Vezina-caliber March: 9-1-1, 1.71 GAA and .943 save percentage with one shutout. You almost wonder if there’s at least some potential for a goalie controversy if Gibson stumbles whenever he gets back into action … but hey, having two good goalies to choose from is better than none.
(Which was the scenario that must have scared the Ducks when Gibson got hurt in the first place.)
The Tampa Bay Lightning almost certainly haven’t faced the Chicago Blackhawks in a game this important since the two teams were vying for a Stanley Cup.
While the Blackhawks have already punched their ticket to the postseason and are merely trying to pad their lead in the Central Division, the Bolts are fighting for their playoff lives. At the moment, they rank three points behind the Boston Bruins for the final spot in the East. With a game in hand, they can make up a lot of ground tonight.
With all of that in mind, it should be an entertaining contest. You can check it out on NBCSN, watch online or via the NBC Sports App.
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