Where do the Sabres go from here?

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As we wrote this morning, Tim Murray is considered one of the top talent evaluators in the game. Suffice to say, the new general manager of the Buffalo Sabres will need to use all his evaluating expertise to take the NHL’s last-place team and turn it into a Stanley Cup contender.

The draft is obviously going to be important.

“You build a team through the draft,” said Murray. “Good drafting allows you to trade well, and then you use free agency to put you over the top.”

But there are other pressing issues for Murray. Such as…

What does he do with Ryan Miller?

The club’s 33-year-old franchise goalie is a pending unrestricted free agent who said in December that he’s “not going to sit around and let promises get thrown around” by management.

When asked about Miller this morning, Murray said he first needed to get a feel for the trade market before making any decisions about the club’s list of pending UFAs, which also includes captain Steve Ott, Matt Moulson, and Henrik Tallinder.

“The market dictates that,” said Murray. “I can’t go out and tell you right now I’m going to trade all the pending UFAs if there’s no market to trade them. If there’s a market and it makes sense…this team’s in last place right now; everybody could be traded.”

The market for Miller is a tough one to predict. Typically, Stanley Cup contenders are already set in goal. There’s been speculation (much of it ours) that St. Louis could be a potential landing spot for Miller prior to the March 5 deadline, but if there’s no guarantee of re-signing him beyond this season, the market for a rental goalie will be limited.

What does he do with Mikhail Grigorenko?

“You can draft a guy in the first round. If you don’t develop him right…you can lose him.”

That was Murray this morning, and it wasn’t hard to picture Grigorenko while he was saying it. The Sabres selected the talented 19-year-old in 2012 with the 12th overall pick. In hindsight, they shouldn’t have kept him with the big club last season. They did eventually send him back to junior, but not until the first year of his entry-level contract had been triggered.

In 43 NHL games, Grigorenko has just three goals and five assists. Right now he’s in limbo, unable to go to the AHL and possibly unable to go to junior. Obviously, Murray needs to figure out a better development plan than the one that’s gotten the situation to this point.

What does he do with Ted Nolan?

Murray was non-committal when asked about the Sabres’ head coach.

“There’s no preconceived notions,” he said. “He’s the coach of the hockey team and I’m looking forward to getting to know him, getting to know the staff, and getting to know the style of coaches they are and the style they want to play…It’s a clean slate here.”

The consensus opinion is that Murray will hire his own bench boss when all’s said and done. But while that may well be the case, it’s not unheard of for a new GM to stick with the coach.

Off the top of my head, when Mike Gillis was hired as the new GM in Vancouver, it seemed likely that Alain Vigneault would be fired. Instead, Gillis stuck with Vigneault and nearly won the Stanley Cup a few seasons later.

In fact, here’s what Gillis said after he got the job: “I haven’t made any predisposed decisions…This is a clean slate moving forward.”

Sound familiar?

So it looks like Mike Ribeiro is a healthy scratch for the Predators

Nashville Predators' Mike Ribeiro (63) gets off a pass as he lies on the ice during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Pittsburgh, Thursday, March 31, 2016. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
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Mike Ribeiro isn’t playing in Game 3 for the Nashville Predators against the San Jose Sharks, and it doesn’t appear to be for health reasons.

Well, his production hasn’t been very healthy.

The polarizing playmaker has only mustered a single assist and zero goals in nine playoff games; Ribeiro hasn’t scored a point against the Sharks so far.

Ribeiro isn’t exactly known for his offensive acumen, either, so there’s not much motivation to keep him in the lineup if he isn’t producing offense. Ultimately, it’s easy to see why he’s a healthy scratch.

Pontus Aberg looks to make his NHL debut via this big playoff game while Craig Smith is believed to play.

It should be interesting to see how Nashville responds to this challenge.

WATCH LIVE: Game 3 of Sharks – Predators, Stars – Blues

Dallas Stars left wing Jamie Benn (14) skates with the puck against St. Louis Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk (22) during the first period of Game 2 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Western Conference semifinals, Sunday, May 1, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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The Nashville Predators hope to get back in their series now that the San Jose Sharks are visiting “Smashville.” Meanwhile, the Dallas Stars and Blues jostle for a 2-1 lead in St. Louis.

You can keep up with Game 3 of the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Islanders (which is in progress) right here and on NBCSN.

Game 3 of Sharks – Predators is on USA Network and can be streamed via the link below.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Finally, Game 3 of Stars – Blues airs on NBCSN. Keep an eye out for notes if there’s overlap with Bolts – Isles (which would bump it temporarily to NHL Network), but either way, you can stream the action below.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Video: Jonathan Drouin shaken up by huge Thomas Hickey hit

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Jonathan Drouin‘s strong playoff play has been a big story for the Tampa Bay Lightning, but his health is in question after taking a huge hit on Tuesday.

As you can see from the video above, Drouin was shaken up by an enormous check from New York Islanders defenseman Thomas Hickey. It’s believed that Drouin went to “The Quiet Room” to see if he suffered a concussion; PHT will pass along whatever information becomes available.

(NHL teams aren’t exactly forthcoming with this information.)

The Islanders actually ended up with a power play from the fallout, as Hickey’s hit didn’t earn a penalty. The general reaction is that it wasn’t a dirty hit, yet some might disagree with that sentiment.

Update: Drouin didn’t come out during the beginning of the third period. He did, however, return midway through the final frame.

2016 Foundation Player Award finalists: Giordano, Martin, Subban

Montreal Canadiens defenceman P.K. Subban walks away after taking with reporters during an end of season availability at the team training facility Monday, April 11, 2016 in Brossard, Quebec. None of the seven Canadian NHL teams was good enough this season to reach the Stanley Cup playoffs, a dismal milestone in the home of modern hockey and the first time it has happened since the 1969-70 season. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press via AP)
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The NHL named the three finalists for the 2016 Foundation Player Award on Tuesday: Calgary Flames captain Mark Giordano, New York Islanders forward Matt Martin and Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban.

The awarded is handed to “an NHL player who applies the core values of hockey — commitment, perseverance and teamwork — to enrich the lives of people in his community.”

The winner gets to hand $25K to the charity of his choice.