James O'Brien

Ryan O'Reilly, Nikita Kucherov
AP

WATCH LIVE: Buffalo Sabres at Tampa Bay Lightning

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Buffalo Sabres vs. Tampa Bay Lightning is suddenly a more even, intriguing matchup.

Admittedly, part of that comes from Tampa Bay’s struggles, as their offense is struggling and Ondrej Palat is banged up.

That said, the happier part is that the Sabres are vastly improved from 2014-15; in fact, the two squads are separated by just four standings points, and the Sabres hold two games in hand.

There are plenty of talented players to see, from a national appearance for Jack Eichel to another chance to watch Steven Stamkos.

You can watch the game on NBCSN and also stream it via the link below.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Is Jake Allen breaking through for the Blues?

Jake Allen
AP
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Despite Brian Elliott‘s sometimes All-Star caliber work, it seems like the St. Louis Blues have always been looking for “their guy” in net. Is Jake Allen making a statement that they chose the right guy?

Saturday really might have stood as his magnum opus, as he stopped a whopped 45 shots while the St. Louis Blues managed a 4-0 win against the Nashville Predators.

It left just about all of his teammates and Ken Hitchcock in awe.

Indeed, it really was a near-historic night.

Being a successful goalie isn’t just about one big win, obviously. The good news is that Allen is playing exceptionally well lately.

Still, it’s nonetheless a small sample size.

Goalies are an odd breed, producing unpredictable results that can leave your head spinning (and predictions/criticisms looking silly).

With that in mind, PHT caught up with Justin Goldman, the founder of “The Goalie Guild.”

(Note: these are snippets of what Goldman had to say about Allen. Read the full Q & A here.)

PHT: Explain some of the characteristics that give Jake Allen “elite” potential.

Goldman: “When making a basic breakdown of Jake Allen’s game, I think most scouts realize that his elite potential begins and ends with his skating ability and footwork. Ever since his major-junior days, he’s always been known as a tremendous skater, and those skills continue to evolve to this very day …”

” … Beyond his elite skating ability and tremendous footwork, I believe you are looking at a tremendously well-rounded athlete who clearly understands what he needs to do to be physically, mentally, and most importantly, emotionally prepared for the rigors of being in a tandem with Brian Elliott.”

PHT: Conversely, are there any weaknesses he can work on?

Goldman: “Jake’s hands have really improved in the past few seasons and beyond. I know that there was a short period of time where it was something he targeted as an area he wanted to improve, mainly when he was in his second and third year with the Chicago Wolves. Every goalie is always continually refining all aspects of their game, so I think you have to give the Blues and Allen a lot of credit for trusting the process and not allowing one or two weaknesses to damage his long-term value.”

PHT: What sort of changes have you seen to his technique and/or approach over the last couple years? Does anything stand out in the games you’ve observed in 2015-16?

Goldman: ” … What I’m noticing from him right now is that he’s holding his edges a bit longer, showing more patience on his skates, playing with a bit more of a conservative positional approach, and really mastering his game plan. This improved edge control is allowing him to slow down the game around him and giving him more time. Everything is coming together nicely, and since he’s seeing the puck so well right now. Finally, his traffic management skills have improved. He’s shifting into shot lanes with less holes, he’s looking around traffic with more poise, and he’s finding loose pucks quicker. He’s a treat to watch right now and he’s still getting better.

***

Perhaps it all comes down to Allen making like a leathery steak, though?

Goalie nods: Howard, Lehtonen battle to gain more reps

Kari Lehtonen
AP

You know when goalies often warm up and stretch alongside each other before games?

One cannot help but wonder if Kari Lehtonen and Jimmy Howard may share some nostalgic feelings if they do those painful-looking splits side by side on Sunday.

Simply put, they’ve both seen better days where they were the unquestioned workhorses for the Dallas Stars and Detroit Red Wings respectively.

Antti Niemi has the edge – however slight or substantial it may be – on Lehtonen while Petr Mrazek is the upstart pushing Howard in Detroit.

The two are trying to make an impression and get more starts. While that can happen for each via a “goaltending duel,” there’s also the possibility that only one goalie may benefit from this game.

Elsewhere …

Canucks: Ryan Miller at Devils: Keith Kinkaid

Bruins: Likely Tuukka Rask at Islanders: Likely Jaroslav Halak

Oilers: Cam Talbot at Blackhawks: Corey Crawford

No fine or suspension for Nathan Beaulieu

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The Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins engaged in a testy affair, and at least one of the hanging threads has been taking care of.

People were wondering what might come of Nathan Beaulieu‘s match penalty for the hit above on Zac Rinaldo.

Apparently it will stop there, as no fine or suspension is coming for Beaulieu, according to both TVA’s Renaud Lavoie and Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.

If the league announces otherwise, this post will be updated.

Apparently Duncan Keith won the Conn Smythe while injured

Duncan Keith
AP
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The Chicago Blackhawks seem like they’re getting a lot healthier going forward.

Most immediately, Marian Hossa and Artem Anisimov are back in the mix against the Edmonton Oilers on Sunday, according to CSNChicago.com’s Tracey Myers. (Ryan Garbutt may also be in the lineup.)

The more interesting aspect of the morning skate was Duncan Keith‘s presence, his admissions about his injury issues and the possibility that he may return fairly soon.

In fact, the ideal situation would be him returning as soon as he can for IR reasons: next Saturday.

The most startling – if not surprising – revelation was that Keith was injured during the 2015 Stanley Cup Final.

Yes, that time he played about half of every game and rightly won the Conn Smythe Trophy.

/waits for you to add this to your “hockey players are tough” files.

Keith expands on that situation, which you can read about from these sources.

“It’s just one of those things where you kind of deal with a lot of different little injuries and pains and you don’t think too much of it, really,” Keith said, via the Chicago Sun-Times. “When all of a sudden you get back on the ice [and] it’s not better, you’re kind of wondering what the heck happened.”

Even with Keith possibly getting back, the Chicago Tribune reports that the Blackhawks are shopping for defense.