Sidney Crosby, Steve Ott

NHL on NBCSN: Sabres-Penguins, Sharks-Kings doubleheader

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NBCSN continues its coverage of the 2013-14 campaign tonight when the Pittsburgh Penguins host the Buffalo Sabres at CONSOL Energy Center at 7:30 p.m. ET and the San Jose Sharks host the Los Angeles Kings at the SAP Center at 10:00 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

It’s a doubleheader night on NBCSN and the night begins in Pittsburgh where Sidney Crosby and the Eastern Conference-leading Penguins host the league’s worst team in the Buffalo Sabres.

The Pens are coming off a 3-0 defeat at the hands of the Dallas Stars. Shutting out Pittsburgh this season has been a rarity (it’s happened two other times) with how much Crosby and Chris Kunitz have produced (52 goals combined). Evgeni Malkin being third on the team in points behind those two goes to show how well things are clicking.

Pittsburgh is atop the East for a good reason and an integral part of that equation is how well Marc-Andre Fleury has played. With a .915 save percentage and a 2.35 goals-against average, he’s been strong this season. That said, things have cooled off a bit of late allowing nine goals in his past three games (two losses).

For the record, the last time the Pens lost two in row was Nov. 23 and 25 on the road to Boston and Montreal and they’ve won 21 of their past 27 games.

Don’t let the Sabres’ current status fool you though, this is a different team with Ted Nolan at the helm. The team plays a more sound defensive game and the Washington Capitals have said the Sabres will “put you to sleep” with their style of play.

After a miserable start to the season offensively, the Sabres have started scoring goals and are averaging over three goals per game in their past six games. They’ve gone just 1-3-2 in those games, however, and have seen the hot play from both Ryan Miller and Jhonas Enroth in goal cool off. They’ll be looking for Cody Hodgson to stay on a roll to lead the way.

Editor’s Note: Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a $2,500 Fantasy Hockey league for Monday’s NHL games. It’s just $10 to join and first prize is $500. Starts Monday at 7pm ET. Here’s the FanDuel link.

Out west, any time the Sharks and Kings get together it’s going to be a good one. L.A. is 2-0-1 this season against San Jose.

source: Getty ImagesAll hasn’t been well of late for the Kings, however, as they’re winless in their past five games and have three wins in their past 15 games. Offense has been the problem as they’ve scored 28 goals in those 15 games. Scoring less than two per game is a good way to guarantee losses. All it’s meant lately is that Jonathan Quick or Martin Jones have had to stand on their head.

Now’s the time for Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards, and Dustin Brown to step it up so Jeff Carter doesn’t have to do all the scoring.

Having to face off against the Sharks won’t help matters much. San Jose has won six in a row and 13 of their past 17. Joe Pavelski has been on fire of late with seven goals in his past five games. He’s second to Joe Thornton on the team in points and tops the Sharks in goals with 28.

With the Sharks able to score goals with seeming ease and the Kings struggling to do that, it’s not lining up well for L.A. to snap their losing streak. That said, these match-ups bring the best out of both teams.

Devils’ Merrill undergoes shoulder surgery, out four months

NEWARK, NJ - JANUARY 04: Jon Merrill #7 of the New Jersey Devils skates against the Detroit Red Wings at the Prudential Center on January 4, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey. The Red Wings defeated the Devils 1-0.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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New Jersey d-man Jon Merrill, who struggled through an injury-riddled campaign, has undergone successful shoulder surgery with an expected recovery time of four months, the club announced on Wednesday.

Merrill, 24, only appeared in 47 games this year, first missing time with an arm injury, then suffering a shoulder ailment late in the year.

There was no clear indication if the two ailments were related, but Merrill’s arm injury was on the right side, and surgery was on his right shoulder.

A former University of Michigan standout taken 38th overall in 2010, Merrill enjoyed solid rookie and sophomore campaigns in New Jersey. His second year was especially solid — 14 points in 66 games, averaging over 20 minutes per night — and he boasts good size, going 6-foot-3, 205 pounds.

Based on the four-month timetable for recovery, Merrill will likely miss parts of New Jersey’s training camp and preseason action.

Max Talbot mulling European options for next season

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After a 10-year career with over 700 games played and one Stanley Cup, Maxime Talbot could be done in the NHL.

Per RDS, Talbot — who’ll hit unrestricted free agency on July 1 — has “some options in Europe” for next season, and is contemplating a move overseas.

In his prime, Talbot was a gritty, hardworking forward with decent touch around the net. He scored double-digit goals four times, including a career-high 19 in ’11-12.

The 32-year-old split last season between Boston and its AHL affiliate in Providence, scoring seven points in 38 games at the NHL level.

Talbot did acquit himself very well with the P-Bruins — 21 points in 26 games — and has some experience playing abroad, having suited up for Finnish League club Ilves Tampere during the lockout.

Based on how things went last year in free agency, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Talbot land in Europe.

The likes of Maxim Lapierre, Curtis Glencross and Marcel Goc all failed to score NHL contracts last summer — Lapierre and Goc proceeded to sign overseas, while Glencross opted to retire.

 

Ex-‘Hawks coach Suhonen takes Austrian national team job

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 13:  Thomas Raffl #5 of Austria celebrates with his teammates after Thomas Hundertpfund #27 scored a goal in the first period against Tuukka Rask #40 of Finland during the Men's Ice Hockey Preliminary Round Group B game on day six of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Bolshoy Ice Dome on February 13, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Alpo Suhonen, who became the first European-born NHL coach in over 50 years upon taking the Chicago gig in 2000, has been named the new bench boss of the Austrian men’s national team, per IIHF.com.

Suhonen, 67, takes over from former NHL defenseman Dan Ratushny, who was splitting duties between Team Austria and Lausanne of the Swiss League.

Suhonen takes over the national team at a critical juncture. Austria finished a disappointing fourth at the 2016 World Hockey Championship Division 1 tournament — meaning the country finished 20th overall. As the IIHF websites notes, that’s the worst finish for Austria in 86 years of WHC competition.

Looking forward, Austria does have a chance to make amends this summer, when it will play a series of contests to prep for Olympic qualification.

Suhonen inherits a roster with decent NHL pedigree as Thomas Vanek, Michael Raffl and Michael Grabner are all eligible to participate.

That said, Vanek was named to Team Europe’s initial 16-man roster for the World Cup of Hockey, and it remains to be seen how that will impact his national team commitments.

Datsyuk’s agent acknowledges offer from KHL’s SKA, but no deal yet

Detroit Red Wings center Pavel Datsyuk (13) celebrates his empty net goal against the Edmonton Oilers in the third period of an NHL hockey game in Detroit Monday, March 9, 2015. Detroit won 5-2. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
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Gennady Timchenko, the billionaire chairman of KHL club SKA Saint Petersburg, reportedly believes there’s a “good chance” that Pavel Datsyuk will be playing for his team next season.

But according to Datsyuk’s agent, Dan Milstein, there’s only been an offer from SKA. Nothing has been signed yet. There could still be offers from other KHL teams for his client to consider.

And at any rate, Milstein insisted once again that Datysuk won’t be making any decisions until he speaks with the Detroit Red Wings in mid-June, after the 37-year-old returns from a family vacation.

Milstein passed along that update to Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press, plus a few other Wings reporters.

Related: Datsyuk ‘wants to make sure the Wings have options’