Derrick Pouliot

Johnston believes Pouliot’s ready for NHL


If there’s one player within the Penguins’ organization that Mike Johnston didn’t need to get to know after becoming the team’s head coach, it’s Derrick Pouliot. The 20-year-old already spent four-plus years working with Johnston as a member of the WHL Portland Winterhawks.

The question going into Pittsburgh’s training camp is if Pouliot is ready to make the leap to the NHL along with Johnston.

“Yeah, I do (think Pouliot’s ready). For sure,” Johnston told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “Not only his play in Portland, but the thing that convinced me the most was last year at the World Juniors.

“I really thought Derrick was the best defenseman in the tournament. If you can play at that level on the world stage, yeah, you’re ready.”

Pouliot was selected by Pittsburgh with the eighth overall pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. Since then he’s shown off his offensive skills, scoring 17 goals and 70 points in 58 WHL contests in 2013-14, but Johnston feels that he’s also smart defensively.

All the same, it’s worth noting that Pouliot underwent shoulder surgery in May and his availability for the start of training camp is still up in the air. Even if he does recover in time for the preseason, he’ll be in for an uphill battle as he would likely have to win a roster spot over Simon Despres or Robert Bortuzzo, unless the Penguins decide to go with eight defensemen or someone suffers an injury. On a related note, Olli Maatta, who also underwent shoulder surgery in May, is about two weeks ahead of Pouliot in his recovery.

Sabres place Lehner on IR; Recall Lieuwen

Connor Brown, Robin Lehner
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They’re just one game into their regular season, but the Buffalo Sabres have already had to shift things around in their crease.

The Sabres announced that they have placed starting goaltender Robin Lehner on injured reserve after he was knocked out of Thursday’s game with a lower-body injury.

In a corresponding move, the club has recalled Nathan Lieuwen from their AHL affiliate in Rochester.

The 24-year-old didn’t play in the NHL last season, but he did have a 1-4-0 record with a 2.98 goals-against-average and a .906 save percentage in seven games during the 2013-14 season.

Lieuwen was Buffalo’s sixth round pick, 167th overall, in the 2011 draft.

The Sabres also announced that they have loaned defenseman Jake McCabe and goaltender Linus Ullmark to the Rochester Americans (AHL).

McCabe was a healthy scratch in Thursday’s game against Ottawa, while Ullmark is being activated off I.R. after having double hip surgery during the off-season.



Chara ‘doubtful’ for game against rival Canadiens

Brad Marchand, Zdeno Chara
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It looks like the Boston Bruins will be without their captain again on Saturday night.

Head coach Claude Julien told members of the media that Zdeno Chara is considered doubtful for tonight’s game against the Montreal Canadiens.

Chara suffered an upper-body injury during the preseason and he’s already been forced to miss Boston’s season opening loss to the Jets.

Per CSN, Chara says he’s improving but he won’t return to the lineup until he’s as close to 100 percent as possible.

“Every area of the injury is improving,” said Chara. “Hopefully it’s not long before I’m free of any kind of discomfort. That’s what we’re doing right now…we’re being patient. For sure you don’t want to come back, and be half of what you are…and basically hurting yourself and the team. And you’re putting yourself in a position where you could be missing more time. At this time of the season, I think it’s important to be as close as you can be to 100 percent.”

Based on the number of defensive mistakes they committed on Thursday, the Bruins need Chara back as soon as possible: