Cam Tucker

Video: Girgensons sends McDonagh flying with heavy hit

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Zemgus Girgensons is nicknamed the ‘Latvian Locomotive’ — and with good reason.

There was no scoring to speak of between the Sabres and Rangers in the first period of Thursday’s game, but Girgensons had one of the highlights — a massive hit on New York’s Ryan McDonagh as the veteran defenseman went to move the puck out of his own end.

McDonagh looked up just in time to see Girgensons, but couldn’t avoid the collision.

Stamkos ‘progressing well’ from surgery, but it’s too early to pinpoint his return

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The Tampa Bay Lightning have been without their most prolific goal scorer since the middle of November.

Steven Stamkos was originally expected to miss at least four months after knee surgery, but with the calendar flipping to February and Tampa Bay facing an increasingly tall order of getting back into a playoff position, Bolts general manager Steve Yzerman isn’t yet committing to a specific return date for his captain.

From the Tampa Bay Times:

“It’s still, for Stammer, relatively early,” Yzerman said on the show. “Again, the procedure that he had — in the big picture — is very positive. They were able to repair the cartilage, and so far, every indication is that healing is right on course and it’s going to heal and he’s going to be fine. And that’s the best-case scenario is to repair the cartilage and you go on and you resume your career. So, that’s good. It’s still relatively early to have a date and say he’s going to be back — March 15, April 1 or whatnot. So, he’s progressing well.”

Stamkos had nine goals and 20 points in 17 games when the Bolts lost him to this latest injury. From there, the bad news for this team has continued.

Tampa Bay is in danger of missing the playoffs after making it to the Eastern Conference Final last year and the Stanley Cup Final two years ago. From injuries to difficulties on offense and defense this season, the Lightning now sit with a record of 22-23-6.

Sports Club Stats is giving the Bolts only a 6.1 per cent chance of making the post-season. Only four teams — New Jersey, Detroit, Arizona and Colorado — have less of a chance of qualifying for the playoffs, according to that site.

The Lightning host the Ottawa Senators tonight.

With time ticking in the regular season, the Bolts need to make a move up the standings, and they need to do it soon. Very soon.

“We’re really in playoff mode every night,” Yzerman said, per NHL.com. “You know how it is in the playoffs: You win a game, you’re sky-high. You lose a game, it’s the end of the world but you get ready for the next one. That’s the mode we’re in right now.”

Tampa Bay faces a very busy summer. But if they keep dropping down the standings, Yzerman and the Lightning may have to confront those difficult decisions a lot sooner than they intended.

WATCH LIVE: Rangers at Sabres

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The Buffalo Sabres host the New York Rangers on Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET), as both teams look to snap their respective two-game losing skids and gain ground in the Eastern Conference standings.

You can check out the action on NBCSN or online with the NBC Sports’ Live Extra.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Here are some links to check out for tonight’s game:

NHL on NBCSN: Rangers, Sabres both need to bounce back after ugly losses

Lundqvist gets early hook as Rangers fall to Blue Jackets

Amid trade rumblings, Gionta wants to ‘continue the job’ in Buffalo

Chicago Wolves, AHL affiliate of struggling Blues, sign veteran NHL d-man Wisniewski

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James Wisniewski, a veteran of 552 NHL games, has signed a standard contract with the Chicago Wolves, the minor league affiliate of the St. Louis Blues.

The deal was announced Sunday.

Wisniewski had a PTO with the Tampa Bay Lightning but was released in October, before he signed in the KHL. In 16 games with Vladivostok Admiral, he had one goal and four points.

“We are excited to have James as part of the Wolves organization,” said Wolves general manager Wendell Young in a release. “He brings a wealth of experience and skill to our team. He will be a great enhancement for an already outstanding group.”

The move to bring Wisniewski into the Wolves is interesting given their affiliation with the Blues — a team struggling this season and by no means a lock to make the Western Conference playoff bracket — and the fact he’s a right-shooting defenseman that has been productive at the NHL level.

Kevin Shattenkirk, also a right-shooting defenseman capable of producing from the blue line, has been subject to trade speculation for some time now.

He’s an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season and general manager Doug Armstrong didn’t really quell any speculation with recent comments, saying: “If we’re stumbling along like this, then all bets are off. We don’t want to keep players here, hope to sneak into eighth place and get hammered in the first round.”

The entire situation in St. Louis is one to keep an eye on over the next few weeks and months.

But for now, Wisniewski’s deal with the Wolves is an AHL-only deal, per Sportsnet.

Kings play-by-play broadcaster Bob Miller suffered mild stroke

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L.A. Kings play-by-play broadcaster Bob Miller suffered a mild stroke on Saturday, the club announced.

Miller, 78, was hospitalized Saturday after feeling discomfort prior to a live broadcast before the NHL All-Star Skills Competition in L.A.

“Bob Miller suffered a mild stroke on Saturday and was admitted to USC Keck Hospital where he currently remains,” said the Kings in a statement. “He is under the care of a team of specialized physicians, and he is doing well and in good spirits.”

Last January, Miller took a medical leave of absence to undergo quadruple bypass heart surgery.

He has been the voice of the Kings since 1973, and was honored in 2000 with the Foster Hewitt Award in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the game of hockey throughout his broadcast career.