Jack Eichel

Pre-game reading: ‘Assume we are not going’ to Olympics, says Bettman

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— In what might be his most definitive statement on Olympic participation to date, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman on Tuesday told Reuters people shouldn’t expect players to participate in the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang.

“There are no negotiations ongoing,” Bettman said, while at the Sport Business Summit in New York. “We were open to having discussions on a variety of things that might mitigate the damage to our season but that had no resonance.

“As things stand now people should assume we are not going.”

These remarks come after Bettman’s comments during All-Star weekend in Los Angeles, when he was sharply critical of the IOC’s decision to stop covering out-of-pocket expenses for NHLers to attend the Games.

“What I think has happened…you know, there were probably some owners over time who always thought the Olympics were a good idea, there were some owners who always hated it,” said Bettman, “and there were probably a bunch of clubs that really didn’t give it much thought until the IOC said we weren’t going to pay the expenses. And then I think it caused a number of clubs to say, ‘Well, wait a minute, if that’s how they value our participation, why are we knocking ourselves out?’”

Today, Bettman re-iterated Olympic participation was terribly disruptive for NHL business, adding “we have been unable to quantify any benefit from it.”

For more from Reuters, including info on which sponsors are trying to help broker a deal, click here.

Meanwhile, here’s what NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly had to say on the matter:

— In what’s been a disappointing year for the Sabres, sophomore sensation Jack Eichel is playing exceptionally well. He rebounded from a severe high ankle sprain, one that cost him the first 21 games of the year, and was one of the league’s highest-scoring players over the last few months.

From NHL.com:

Since making his season debut, Eichel is tied for eighth in the NHL in scoring with 50 points (21 goals, 29 assists) in 52 games and is first in shots on goal with 207. Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid, the player selected ahead of Eichel in the 2015 draft and the League’s leading scorer, has 53 points (15 goals, 38 assists) in that time.

Since Feb. 1, Eichel is second in the NHL with 29 points (nine goals, 20 assists) in 24 games, one point behind Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane, who won the Hart Trophy as most valuable player and the Art Ross Trophy as scoring champion last season.

Yet to hear Eichel explain it, the personal achievements don’t mean much.

“Frustrating more than anything,” Eichel said of this season. “Want to be a playoff team. Want to play in the playoffs, get a taste of it. It’s tough when you don’t get there.”

Over at ESPN, Craig Custance, Scott Burnside, Pierre LeBrun and more discuss who’s the best current fighter in the league. About the only thing the writers agreed on is that it’s a difficult question to answer, which is a testament to today’s NHL.

Sabres’ power play makes difference against Red Wings

The 2016-17 season will likely serve as a disappointment for most involved with the Buffalo Sabres, but at least there was that power play.

It’s been a strength of the team for much of this year, and it made the difference for the Sabres in their final visit to Joe Louis Arena, as they beat the Detroit Red Wings 2-1.

Both of the Sabres’ goals came on the power play, with Jack Eichel opening the scoring and Matt Moulson collecting what would end up being the game-winner. The Eichel goal was an especially authoritative moment:

Of course, the number one thing Buffalo should be happy about is … probably Jack Eichel, in general.

WATCH LIVE: Buffalo Sabres at Detroit Red Wings

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The Buffalo Sabres will make their final visit to Joe Louis Arena to face the Detroit Red Wings on Monday, airing on NBCSN.

The Sabres are closing off a four-game road trip, having beaten the Ducks in a shootout on Friday (just their third win since Feb. 19). Meanwhile, the Red Wings aim for their third consecutive victory.

You can watch Jack Eichel & Co. take on Henrik Zetterberg and the Red Wings on NBCSN, watch it online and also via the NBC Sports App.

Click here to watch the livestream.

NHL On NBCSN: Red Wings host Sabres, go for third win in a row

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2016-17 NHL season continues on Monday night with the Detroit Red Wings hosting the Buffalo Sabres. Puck drop is at 7:30 pm ET and you can catch all of the action on NBCSN or via our Live Stream.

Entering the night 12 points out of a playoff spot with only 12 games to play, the Red Wings’ run of consecutive playoff appearances looks as if it is going to come to an end this season. But they are still looking to salvage something from the year with a strong finish. The Red Wings enter the night having won back-to-back games.

Henrik Zetterberg has been one of the bright spots in Detroit this season, still going strong even at age 36, with a team-high 59 points in 70 games.

He has been on fire in recent weeks, entering the game with 19 points in his past 15 games. That stretch includes seven multiple point games, including three of his past five and each of the past two.

From the Buffalo side, it’s been another frustrating year for the Sabres as the organization has yet to take a significant step forward in its rebuild. The Sabres are on pace to finish with roughly the same number of points as last season and haven’t been able to find any sort of consistency. They have shown flashes of being a playoff contender, but those almost always get followed by a lengthy stretch of poor play, including their current run that has seem then lose 11 of their past 13 games.

On the bright side for Buffalo, Jack Eichel, the No. 2 pick in 2015, continues to have the look of a franchise player and has been close to a point-per-game player this season when he has been in the lineup. That production, along with his knack for making highlight reel plays, has made him one of the must-see young stars in the NHL. The team itself may not have progressed the way anybody wanted to see them this season, but Eichel continues to give hope that better days might soon be ahead, as long as they can find a way to build around him.

Hobey Baker finalists include unsigned draftees Butcher, Kerfoot

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The Hobey Baker Award, given to the top college hockey player, announced the 10 finalists for the 2017 award.

The list is headlined by the nation’s leading scorer and recent Pittsburgh Penguins signing Zach-Aston Reese, as well as unsigned draft picks Will Butcher of Denver and Alexander Kerfoot of Harvard.

Here is the complete list of the 10 finalists. The winner will be announced on April 7 in Chicago during the Frozen Four.

  • Zach Aston-Reese, Northeastern
  • Michael Bitzer, Bemidji State
  • Anders Bjork, Notre Dame
  • Will Butcher, Denver
  • Spencer Foo, Union
  • Tyler Kelleher, New Hampshire
  • Alexander Kerfoot, Harvard
  • Tyler Sheehy, Minnesota
  • Mike Vecchione, Union
  • Charles Williams, Canisius

Some of the notable names on the list with NHL ties include Aston-Reese, who is coming off of a monster year at Northeastern that saw him record 63 points in 38 games, just signed a two-year entry level contract with the Penguins on Monday.

Kerfoot, a four-year player at Harvard, was a fifth-round draft pick by the Devils in 2012 that did not sign with the team.

Butcher, a smaller, puck-moving defenseman that has put up some big numbers at Denver, was selected in the fifth-round by the Colorado Avalanche in 2013, but team has shown little interest in signing him in the past.

Bjork, having just wrapped up his junior year at Notre Dame, was drafted by the Bruins in the fifth round of the 2014 draft and led the team in goals and points.

The past three winners of the award are Jimmy Vesey, Jack Eichel and Johnny Gaudreau, all of whom have gone on to find immediate success in the NHL.