larsellergetty

Habs’ Eller at ease with new deal

After signing a new four-year contract with the Canadiens in July, center Lars Eller enters his fifth season in Montreal at ease with his situation.

Eller came to terms on a new deal, which will pay him $14 million over the next four seasons, just ahead of arbitration.

“I’m happy to be here for the next four years and looking forward to keep building on what we’re building here in Montreal,” Eller said last week. “I’m very excited for the future and I hope the organization is as well.”

Eller figures to be team’s third line center behind Tomas Plekanec and David Desharnais. With the depatrues of forwards Thomas Vanek, Brian Gionta and Daniel Briere, more will be expected from the 25-year-old, who scored 12 goals and 26 points in 77 games last season.

“(They’re) guys that have been here for… right from when I came in and even before that they were here, but its’ the natural course of sports,” said Eller speaking of Georges and Gionta. “Changes are going to be made. New groups are going to be formed and it’s going to happen sooner or later. It’s going to be fun to see where this team is going to be heading.”

In the hockey hotbed of Montreal, where the Canadiens got to the Eastern Conference final last season, expectations are high heading into the 2014-15 season.

Eller knows signing a new contract will mean more expectations from the Habs’ faithful.

“I know the more money you make, the more pressure there’s going to be from the fans and the higher the expectations are going to be,” he said. “I always have a high expectation of myself. It’s not something I really think about. I’m just happy I’m set for the next four years.”

Eller did show he could produce at the NHL level when he had eight goals and 30 points in 46 games during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season.

This season Eller will likely paired with some combination of Rene Bourque, Brandon Prust or Michael Bournival as head coach Michel Therrien finds the right mix among his forward group.

With the new deal, and knowing where he’ll call home for at least the next four years, Eller admitted to having piece of mind heading into the new season.

“You can certainly make that argument and it’s different for every individual,” he said.  “For me, it’s very important, and nice, to know that you have the organization behind you, you have their trust and they have confidence in you. That’s something that’s very important to me and hopefully going to make me the best out there that I can.”

General manager Marc Bergevin and the Canadiens organization will have piece of mind if Eller can help replace the scoring lost with Gionta, Vanek, Briere departing.

Related: Under Pressure: P.K. Subban

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.