Buffalo Sabres v New York Rangers

Sabres’ Stewart to enter season with a chip on his shoulder

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One could argue that power forwards are streaky by nature, yet Buffalo Sabres forward Chris Stewart still ranks as a stark example of “feast or famine.” The 26-year-old seems just as likely to suffer a penalty-minute-fueled meltdown as he is to score a tide-turning goal.

The storyline almost seems tired by now: the big winger hopes to silence his critics and find the consistency that’s escaped his grasp for basically his entire career. Even Stewart acknowledges those questions in an interesting interview with NHL.com.

“I definitely have a chip on my shoulder,” Stewart said. “I wasn’t happy with my year last year, either. I feel like I have a lot to prove and it’s just going out and doing it. I’m going to come in and I’m going to be consistent. I think that’s been a knock on me. I’ve been able to put together good stretches and then go cold, but I think we have a coach like Ted Nolan who believes in you. I think it’s going to be hard not to have the best season of my career so far.”

Nolan backed him up on that point, telling NHL.com that he’s a “Chris Stewart-type of hockey coach.”

Golden opportunity

Stewart has plenty of motivation to put forth his best effort with a contract that expires after the 2014-15 season and the Sabres’ experience-starved roster likely encourages Nolan to give the winger every chance to prove himself. While it’s unclear if Stewart will get the chance to build on chemistry he believes he began kindling with Cody Hodgson in his five-game cameo with Buffalo last season, it’s difficult to imagine Stewart outside of the Sabres’ top six very often.

(Then again, he found himself in such a position more than once with Ken Hitchcock in St. Louis.)

At this point, it’s difficult to emphatically state that we’ll know what kind of player Stewart really is after the 2014-15 season since he’s been such an unpredictable performer through 382 regular season games and 19 postseason contests. Still, he can stand to make himself a lot of money – in Buffalo or perhaps elsewhere – if he flirts with 30 goals once again.

If his career path is any indication, it wouldn’t be wise to bet for or against that happening.

Latest way the Wild lost? Killed by penalty kill

Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk sits on the ice after giving up a goal to St. Louis Blues' Jori Lehtera, of Finland, during the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
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It’s said that variety is the spice of life, yet it seems to be the spite of the Minnesota Wild.

As head coach Mike Yeo said, this struggling team appears to find a new way to lose virtually every night. That couldn’t have happened once again on Saturday, when they fell 4-1 to the St. Louis Blues, could it?

Actually …

If you ask Jarret Stoll, the latest problem was the penalty kill.

Honestly, Stoll may have been too specific, likely trying to throw his own unit under the bus. Instead, it might be more accurate to say that Minnesota’s special teams let them down.

Indeed, the Wild struggled to limit the Blues’ power play, which went an unsettling 3-for-6. That said, Minnesota had a chance to trade blows with St. Louis. Instead, the Wild managed one power-play goal on seven opportunities.

The silver lining is that the Wild believe that they showed more fight than this fragile bunch had been generating before.

On the other hand, with Jonas Brodin on IR and Jared Spurgeon apparently hurt, that silver lining may not be so easy to see.

Statement in Blackhawks’ blowout of Stars? Coach Q says they’re even

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Worry (if you’re pulling for the Stars) or gloat (if you’re a Blackhawks fan) all you want, but the bottom line is that the Central Division’s No.1 spot is clearly in Chicago’s control after Saturday night.

The Blackhawks earned a decisive 5-1 win against the Dallas Stars, giving them a five-point standings lead over Dallas for the Central Division lead.

You may feel like that’s more of the same, but consider this: things would look a lot closer if Dallas won or gained points, as they hold three games in hand on the ‘Hawks.

At least one Blackhawks player admits this game means a little more than your average W.

Indeed, while Antti Niemi was pulled from the game and Kari Lehtonen faced his own struggles in Dallas’ net, Corey Crawford ranked as one of the big reasons why the score was so lopsided.

(Artem Anisimov had a big say in that, too.)

As a wise coach with 1,000+ games of experience would do, Joel Quenneville didn’t go overboard in assessing the victory.

Was this a statement game? Who knows, but a certain statement is that the Blackhawks now have a five-point standings lead.

Brad Marchand wins it … on a penalty shot … in overtime

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Looking at the standings, beating the Buffalo Sabres was pretty important for the Boston Bruins. The Atlantic Division’s run for spots appears particularly congested out East.

Of all the Bruins to get a chance to win it all, the team might have wanted Brad Marchand to have that opportunity. He’s on pace to destroy his previous career-highs for scoring, and Marchand’s been particularly hot lately.

Either way, Marchand came up big indeed, scoring the rare overtime game-winner on a penalty shot. Check out the drama below:

That can be a big extra point and ROW (regulation/overtime win) when the regular season is finished.

Note: Many believe that Marchand should not have received a penalty shot on the play.

Crosby kills the Cats: Penguins end Panthers’ winning streak

Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby (87) collides with Florida Panthers' Connor Brickley (86) during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Pittsburgh, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
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For quite some time, it looked like the Florida Panthers would keep the Pittsburgh Penguins under wraps.

Florida nursed a 1-0 lead into a 2-0 margin almost halfway through the third period, looking to win its sixth consecutive game. That looked great … and then Sidney Crosby + Kris Letang happened.

Let’s put it this way: this GIF of Crosby being frustrated is amusing, yet it doesn’t exactly tell the story of Saturday’s 3-2 overtime win for the Penguins:

Instead, Crosby grabbed his 900th point assisting on a Letang goal, and finished the night with 902 by collecting the game-tying goal and grabbing a helper on Letang’s overtime game-winner.

Crosby crossing that barrier is indeed special, even if it prompts “What if?” questions about No. 87’s health.

The resurgence of Crosby and Letang already played a big role in the Penguins going from disjointed and frustrating to sneaky and scary, so it  shouldn’t be that surprising to see them play so well. Doing so in such brisk order is a little bewildering, however.