James O'Brien

Antoine Vermette, Teuvo Teravainen

Antoine, again: Blackhawks take 2-1 lead over Bolts (Video)

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All Antoine Vermette does is score big goals, at least during these playoffs.

Coming into Game 5 of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, two of his three postseason goals were game-winners. He provided the go-head goal so far tonight, although Kris Versteeg deserves most of the credit for creating havoc and that rebound opportunity:

To some, it hasn’t been that great of a contract year for Vermette. Traditional types might label him “clutch” and give him big money anyway, though.

Report: Contract talks could get tricky between Sabres, Grigorenko

Carolina Hurricanes v Buffalo Sabres
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Mikhail Grigrenko’s development process has been a bumpy one, to say the least. In fact, it sounds like there’s some reason to believe that it will continue with a KHL team rather than in the Buffalo Sabres’ system.

TSN’s Bob McKenzie reports that the Sabres told Grigorenko that they’d like to sign the RFA, but there’s a sticking point; Buffalo may prefer to give him a two-way deal rather than a one-way contract.

Theoretically, an offer from a KHL team could potentially be difficult to refuse because a) there’s a chance he could make a lot more money and b) he may face an easier road to significant playing time. (With a two-way deal, he’d be fighting to merely land a roster spot with the Sabres, and may instead linger in the AHL.)

Notice this phrasing from McKenzie before panicking too much, though:

The Buffalo Sabres are waiting to see if there’s validity to the speculation that soon-to-be restricted free agent Mikhail Grigorenko is signing a contract in the KHL.

In other words, it isn’t a guarantee that he’d consider (or is weighing) any KHL offers. Still, it’s difficult to argue against the potential of a better and more lucrative opportunity, although the offense-starved Sabres could always fork over a one-way deal after all.

At least one Sabres observer points to a silver lining if he does go overseas:

There’s also the possibility of an everyone wins scenario. Perhaps the 21-year-old would enjoy some confidence-boosting development in the KHL and then return to Buffalo a more finished product?

It’s plausible that there’s serious light at the end of the tunnel, even if with some bumps in the road. Either way, it’s an interesting situation to watch during an important summer for the Sabres.

Another cloudy injury situation: Lightning balk on Kucherov update

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Stop the presses: the Tampa Bay Lightning aren’t being particularly up-front about an injury situation in the 2015 Stanley Cup Final. This time around, we’re left to speculate about the status of winger Nikita Kucherov.

At this point, you might as well stick with what’s happening, and all you need to know is that Kucherov hasn’t been on the ice since he crashed into Chicago’s net in the first period. He missed all of the middle frame thanks to this violent fall:

Right now, the only updates are non-updates:

Perhaps we’ll find out more after Game 5? Maybe he’ll grit through it in the third period? We’ll keep an eye out for updates going forward, but details are slim right now.

Video: Filppula connects on brilliant pass to tie Game 5

Things look awfully tenuous for the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 5, especially with Nikita Kucherov still MIA. A tying goal can really allow some sunshine to sneak through, though.

The Bolts’ aggressiveness paid off against the Chicago Blackhawks in the second period, as Jason Garrison eventually sent this outstanding pass to Valtteri Filppula, who managed to settle the puck down enough to tuck it in:

Just like that, the game is tied 1-1; the Lightning drew a penalty that didn’t result in a goal, yet it feels like the tenor of Game 5 just changed. At least for a stretch.

Manchester Monarchs, Kings’ AHL affiliate, win 2015 Calder Cup

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While we get closer to deciding a Stanley Cup champion, the 2015 Calder Cup winner has already been determined, as the Manchester Monarchs beat the Utica Comets 2-1 to win the series in Game 5.

The Monarchs are the Los Angeles Kings’ AHL affiliate while the Comets serve that role for the Vancouver Canucks.

Vincent LoVerde and Adrian Kempe found the net for the Monarchs while Patrik Bartosak ended up being the winning goalie. Meanwhile, Jacob Markstrom & Co. couldn’t get the job done for the Comets.

Cal O’Reilly scored for Utica with an empty net and 14 seconds remaining, but the Comets’ comeback attempt ultimately fell short on Saturday night.