Jason Brough

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Embarrassed Sabres want to be better for their fans

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The Buffalo Sabres play their 41st and final home game of the season tonight, and they’re embarrassed that for a sixth straight year there won’t be any playoff dates.

“More than anything, it’s a bit disappointing, a bit embarrassing for us as players that we can’t be better for [the fans],” said Jack Eichel, per The Buffalo News. “You want to please the fans because of all they’ve been through and all they continue to put up with. You just want to be better.”

Ryan O'Reilly went even further, calling it “pathetic” that the Sabres didn’t “get any better” this year.

“I’m sick of losing, and it’s getting exhausting and it’s not fun,” O’Reilly said, per NHL.com’s Joe Yerdon. “It sucks the fun out of the game.”

On Monday, Buffalo lost, 4-2, to the visiting Maple Leafs — and the final score actually flattered the Sabres, who were outshot, 18-2, and outscored, 3-0, in the first period.

It was perhaps the worst loss of the year, especially given the opponent. The Leafs, the NHL’s worst team last season, are likely headed to the playoffs. The Leafs, unlike the Sabres, have improved dramatically.

“They were hungrier,” Eichel told reporters after the game. “They wanted it more than us.”

And that’s not acceptable, even if the Sabres only had pride to play for.

Related: Major roster holes remain in Buffalo

Letang to have neck surgery, out for the playoffs

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The Pittsburgh Penguins’ chances of becoming the first back-to-back champs in the salary-cap era took a huge hit today with the news that defenseman Kris Letang‘s season is over.

The Pens announced Wednesday that Letang will undergo surgery for a herniated disc in his neck. His recovery period is expected to be 4-6 months.

“Kris underwent an MRI in February that revealed a herniated disc in his neck,” GM Jim Rutherford said in a release. “Our neurosurgeons examined him and recommended conservative treatment in an attempt to correct the condition without surgery. Kris had been making progress and was hopeful of returning for the playoffs until about a week ago, when the progress plateaued. He underwent another MRI, and, at that point it was determined that surgery was needed.”

Letang played arguably the best hockey of his career in helping the Pens to the 2016 Stanley Cup. He had three goals and 12 assists in 23 playoff games while averaging a team-high 28:53 of ice time.

Analysis: No way to sugarcoat loss of Letang

‘Hawks recall Forsling from AHL

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The Chicago Blackhawks, with two games left in their regular season and first place in the Western Conference already wrapped up, have recalled defenseman Gustav Forsling from the AHL.

The ‘Hawks finish off their 82-game schedule in California. They play the Ducks Thursday and the Kings Saturday.

Recalling Forsling should allow some of Chicago’s veteran defensemen to get a game or two off before the playoffs.

Duncan Keith got the night off last night in Denver, where the ‘Hawks blew a 3-0 lead and lost, 4-3, in overtime to the Avalanche.

Niklas Hjalmarsson didn’t play either. He was back in Chicago to be with his expectant wife.

Okposo (illness) ruled out for Buffalo’s final three games

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Buffalo forward Kyle Okposo will miss the rest of the season with a mysterious illness that the Sabres aren’t saying much publicly about.

From yesterday’s Buffalo News, with a quote from head coach Dan Byslma:

“Kyle’s still dealing with sickness and illness,” Bylsma said. “He has gone through some testing with our docs just trying to get more information about it.”

Bylsma had no further information. He said earlier in the week it’s not mumps, which has hit several NHL players.

And now from today:

The Sabres only have three games left in the regular season. And given they’re not going to the playoffs, ruling Okposo out for the remainder of the schedule isn’t all that significant by itself.

Still, there’s naturally concern for the 28-year-old’s health.

Okposo will finish his first year in Buffalo with 19 goals and 26 assists in 65 games.

Senator surprise: Clarke MacArthur to play tonight

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Clarke MacArthur was supposed to miss the rest of the season with a concussion.

There was even talk his career, littered by concussions, may be over.

But in a surprise announcement, Ottawa Senators GM Pierre Dorion said this afternoon that MacArthur will play tonight against the Red Wings at Canadian Tire Centre.

Per TSN 1200’s Dean Brown, MacArthur has been medically cleared for a week, and medically cleared by multiple doctors. The 31-year-old winger has been taking contact in practice to get ready.

MacArthur has not played an NHL game since Oct. 14, 2015. This past September, he suffered a concussion during training camp. In January, it was announced that he’d been shut down for the season.