Howard

Alfredsson praises ‘outstanding’ Howard after shutting out B’s

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Jimmy Howard’s 25-save shutout in Game 1 of the Detroit-Boston series earned plenty of praise, perhaps none higher than the stuff Daniel Alfredsson heaped on.

“Our goaltender was outstanding,” Alfredsson said, per MLive.com. “Theirs was really good. It was one individual effort that made the difference today.”

Howard’s shutout, the third of his playoff career, came in a game where goals and scoring chances were at a premium. Afterward, players from both sides remarked on how tight-checking and suffocating the style of play was at times — following an opening period in which the two teams combined for 20 shots, both the Wings and Bruins tightened up over the final 40 minutes and combined for a mere 29 shots on goal in the second and third periods.

“There weren’t any secrets in tonight’s game,” Bruins head coach Claude Julien said. “Both teams played tight — don’t think there was any surprise out there today. Everybody’s got to find a way to create more, and that’s going to be the challenge in this series.”

Another challenge, at least following Game 1, is figuring out how to beat Howard.

While a 25-save shutout behind a tight-checking unit isn’t the stuff of legend, Howard’s play is still a positive development for Detroit. One, the team will be pleased to see him playing well after a so-so regular season in which his GAA ballooned to 2.66 — this after going 2.13 and 2.12 in each of the last two seasons — while his save percentage dipped to .910 (after a career-best .923 in 2013).

Two, it could be a return to the playoff form.

Howard was a major catalyst for Detroit’s run to the Western Conference semis, pushing eventual Cup champs Chicago to overtime of Game 7. He actually bettered his regular-season save percentage in the playoffs (.924) and, despite facing an average of 33 shots per game against the ‘Hawks, only allowed 15 goals over the seven games and finished with a .937 save percentage.

Wings head coach Mike Babcock alluded to Howard’s history of postseason success in the post-game presser.

“He’s done it for us in the past in playoff time,” Babcock said. “We just expect it.”

Leon Draisaitl continues hot streak with silky smooth goal (Video)

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Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk has been the most difficult goalies to score against this season. Leave it to a high-level player like Leon Draisaitl to make it look this, well, “easy.”

Draisaitl scored his 13th goal of 2016-17 by capping this pretty give-and-go play with Benoit Pouliot. You can see the frustration from Dubnyk at the end of the tally, as if he was saying “How was I supposed to stop that?” (though probably with more colorful language).

Draisaitl came into Friday with five goals and three assists in his last five games, so he’s been almost unstoppable lately.

Read more about his rise here.

Video: Kuznetsov sets table for Vrana’s first NHL goal

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JUNE 27:  Jakub Vrana of the Washington Capitals poses for a portrait during the 2014 NHL Draft at the Wells Fargo Center on June 27, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
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In his fifth NHL game, intriguing Washington Capitals prospect Jakub Vrana scored his first NHL goal (and point).

Let’s be honest, though; Evgeny Kuznetsov deserves plenty of the credit, as he sent a fantastic pass for Vrana’s tap-in tally.

See it for yourself:

Even if that was mostly Kuznetsov, Vrana has been getting his chances so far.

He generated four shots on goal in two separate occasions so far in his four games of NHL action, so maybe he was due for a chance like this.

Considering he’s just 20 years old, the Capitals could get used to Kuznetsov to Vrana.

Update: The Capitals won 4-1, and Vrana’s first goal wasn’t the only noteworthy “first.” After piling on shots, John Carlson finally scored his first goal of the season:

Kulikov returns to increasingly healthy Sabres lineup

CALGARY, AB - OCTOBER 18: Dmitry Kulikov #77 of the Buffalo Sabres in action against the Calgary Flames during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on October 18, 2016 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
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No one’s going to confuse Dmitry Kulikov with Jack Eichel, but the Buffalo Sabres are likely happy to have him back after a long absence, too.

The Sabres have been on an upward trend lately (5-2-2 in their last nine games), and now they get a key defenseman back against the Washington Capitals on Friday night.

Kulikov last played on Nov. 9 and hasn’t recorded a point in 12 games, making for a tough start to his stint with the Sabres. Maybe he’ll begin to get a little more traction with his new team tonight?

He’s far from the only returning Buffalo player, either, as Josh Gorges and Nicolas Deslauriers are also back in the mix. Kulikov is slated to be on the Sabres’ second pairing with Cody Franson.

Buffalo sent Brendan Guhle to the AHL to make room for these tweaks.

With Foligno out sick, Columbus gives Bjorkstrand another shot

COLUMBUS, OH - OCTOBER 13:  Oliver Bjorkstrand #28 of the Columbus Blue Jackets lines up for a face-off during the game against the Boston Bruins on October 13, 2016 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
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The Columbus Blue Jackets will be without captain Nick Foligno because of an illness on Friday, opening up an opportunity for interesting prospect Oliver Bjorkstrand.

The team tweeted out his linemates as Matt Calvert and Lukas Sedlak as a solid fourth line facing the Detroit Red Wings.

He failed to generate much (zero points, two shots on goal) in three games so far with Columbus this season, receiving about 25 minutes of ice time over that span.

With eight goals and 12 points in 19 AHL games so far in 2016-17, there’s the thought that he could eventually make the next step to becoming a decent contributor for the Blue Jackets.

Perhaps this will constitute his first real step in that direction?

Apparently this is a pretty abrupt situation for the 21-year-old: