Jason Brough

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Salary cap projection of $76 million comes with the usual caveat

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Next season’s salary cap could go as high as $76 million, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told reporters today in Florida.

Of course, that projection came with the usual caveat that the NHLPA would first need to approve the five percent growth factor. And with the players’ ongoing concerns over escrow, that’s never a guarantee. If the players propose no growth factor, the cap could stay right around its current level of $73 million.

In other news from Florida, where the league’s general managers have been meeting the past three days, there will indeed be a new “bye week” format next season. Over two dedicated weeks, half the teams will take their bye the first week, then the other half will take it the next week.

As far as rules changes are concerned, nothing earth-shattering — the GMs will recommend to the Competition Committee that teams no longer be allowed to call timeout after an icing.

Related: NHL wants ‘two dedicated weeks’ for bye weeks

Carey Price credits teammates for hot stretch

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Carey Price didn’t want to take all the credit.

Or any of it, really.

“I thought our guys did a good job of keeping everything to the outside and battling for the rebounds I left out there,” Price said last night after his Montreal Canadiens defeated the Vancouver Canucks, 2-1, in overtime.

For Price, it was his fifth straight win. Over that stretch, he’s allowed just five goals on 140 shots, for a save percentage of .964.

“It’s not just me, it’s our defensive play in general,” Price added.

Not too long ago, it wasn’t going so well for the 29-year-old netminder, or his team. Price finished with an. 899 save percentage in December and a .906 in January. When things didn’t get any better in February, and the Canadiens started to lose their grip on first place in the Atlantic Division, head coach Michel Therrien paid the price and Claude Julien was brought in.

“We were not the same team as we were earlier on,” GM Marc Bergevin explained at the time. “There was something missing. The team’s performance showed that there was something not right, and the change had to be made.”

After last night’s game, Julien was asked if it was safe to say that Price was back to being Price.

“Well, you guys know that better than I do,” Julien told the assembled reporters, “but I’ve always seen him that way. I haven’t seen the other side of Carey yet. So I’ll make sure I knock on wood and make sure that continues.”

The Canadiens continue their road trip Thursday in Calgary.

After discussion, NHL’s offside rule won’t change

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After discussing it in Florida, NHL general managers decided that the offside rule doesn’t need to be changed.

“We have a rule,” said Colorado GM Joe Sakic, per USA Today. “We’ve had it forever. In my mind, you don’t have to change anything. It is what it is: puck’s got to get over the blue line. Video review is there for a reason and it’s working. You grow up as a kid and you know the rule, and it is what it is.”

From USA Today:

One proposal discussed was changing the rule to allow the blue line to expand to the plane of the blue line. In other words, it would be similar to the NFL touchdown standard. If a player’s skate was above the blue line, he would be considered as touching the blue line.

But, again, that proposal was not accepted. So no need for anyone to learn a new rule. Offside is still the same offside.

The NHL said that only nine disallowed goals this season would’ve been allowed if the rule had been changed to allow skates in the air above the blue line.

Related: NHL GMs discuss evolution of the game

Pre-game reading: Brent Sopel credits rehab for saving his life

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— Up top, an interview with Vegas GM George McPhee, who’s attending the NHL general managers meetings in Florida. McPhee expects to be plenty busy ahead of the expansion draft, but the craziness won’t really begin until seasons start ending for the other 30 teams.

— Another good piece from The Players’ Tribune. This one’s about Brent Sopel and his undiagnosed learning disorder that he believes “led directly” to alcoholism. The former NHL defenseman credits going to rehab for saving his life. He writes: “I’m not the same person I was before I went, and I never will be. Rehab helped me to understand what my life is now. I learned how to meditate, how to find peace. But there was one lesson that resonated with me more than any other. To some, accepting yourself for who you are may sounds like words, but it’s a mindset. It’s a way of life.” (The Players’ Tribune)

— Former Red Wings coach Mike Babcock is convinced that Henrik Zetterberg‘s leadership and competitiveness will have a positive effect on youngsters like Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha. “They watch it. They see him train and understand how competitive he is when the game is on the line. And the other thing is, when things go bad in a game, he goes and makes a play. So it’s not what you say, it’s what you do in big moments. And that’s why he’s got a Cup and a Conn Smythe.” (Detroit Free Press)

— To increase scoring, Sabres coach Dan Bylsma thinks players should have to serve the full two minutes of their penalties, regardless of whether a goal is scored on the power play. “If we had more power plays and the guy had to sit in [the penalty box] no matter what for two minutes, kind of like a five-minute major, you’d give the power play more opportunities and you’d have more goals. I’m all for having more goals in the game.” (WGR 550)

Andrei Vasilevskiy has been excellent for the Lightning since Ben Bishop was traded to Los Angeles, and the 22-year-old netminder knows the Bolts have granted him a big responsibility. “I don’t want to say, ‘Bish is gone, I’m 100 percent No. 1,’ I’m not going to (mess) around. I will work even more and show everybody that I deserve to be here and deserve to be the starting goalie.” (Tampa Bay Times)

— A Q&A with Flames GM Brad Treliving, whose team has won seven games in a row. “I really believed in our group. Chemistry and mix often get overlooked. I think those are real critical things. It’s a group that gets along and it’s a group that likes each other. So that’s No. 1.” (NHL.com)

Enjoy the games!

Bylsma hopes Sabres have ‘had enough pain and enough anguish’

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The Buffalo Sabres lost in painful fashion Sunday, blowing a 3-0 lead to the Penguins and falling 4-3 in regulation.

It was Sabres’ fifth defeat in their last six outings, and their head coach, Dan Byslma, is hopeful that “we’ve had enough pain and enough anguish to maybe turn a corner in learning how to play and win these hockey games.”

Buffalo hosts Philadelphia tonight (on NBCSN).

The Sabres are still mathematically alive in the playoff race, but they’ll need a spectacular finish to give themselves a chance at qualifying. If only they’d been able to close out games like Sunday’s … or that 2-0 lead they blew in Arizona … or that 4-2 lead they blew against Nashville, they’d be right in the thick of it.

“We’ve played six games since the break. We could easily be 6-0 if you look at the scenarios we’ve been in,” winger Evander Kane said, per The Buffalo News. “Disappointing? That’s one word to use.”

The Sabres, who haven’t made the playoffs since 2011, had much higher hopes for this season. But it’s looking like another challenging offseason for GM Tim Murray, who above all needs to fix his defense.

Unfortunately for Murray, fixing a defense isn’t something that can be done easily, or quickly.

“I have to improve the team. We have to get better on the blue line, there’s no question about it. That’s on me. That’s not on the coaches. That’s not on the players,” Murray told WGR 550 in a recent interview. “We have what we have right now. I think we go into the offseason our number-one goal is to, and I hate saying this because it becomes the theme…The theme within the offseason will be to do the best we can to get a defenseman. I think one defenseman, and I’m not saying a number one, getting a number one is extremely difficult. But to get a real good, young defenseman that can play in our top four, and help us on special teams.”

Related: Sabres preaching the process, but major roster holes remain