Jason Brough

AP

Guhle reportedly headed to Sabres’ AHL team

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One of the most important Buffalo Sabres prospects is on his way to the AHL.

Brendan Guhle, a 19-year-old defenseman whose season with the Prince George Cougars just ended, is reportedly headed to Rochester.

From the Prince George Citizen:

The Cougars’ MVP has already proven he can play in the NHL, having been called up for three games for Buffalo in December, and today he’ll join the Sabres’ AHL affiliate in Rochester, N.Y.

“It’s a chance to prove myself and get ready for next year and I’m looking forward to it,” said Guhle. “I’m not planning on coming back next year but you never know.”

A second-round draft pick in 2015, Guhle has top-four potential. And as everyone in Buffalo knows, that’s something the Sabres desperately need.

Guhle played six games for the Americans last season. He had one goal and three assists.

Final playoff spots can be locked up tonight

AP

It’s not a must-win game for the Toronto Maple Leafs, but a loss to Tampa Bay tonight at Air Canada Centre would, at the very least, make things slightly uncomfortable.

A win, on the other hand, and the Leafs will book their first playoff appearance since 2013.

“It’s time to close it out,” veteran forward Brian Boyle told reporters this morning. “It’s time to punch our ticket.”

But back to what happens if they lose. If it’s in regulation, the Bolts would move to within three points of the Leafs for the East’s second wild-card spot, with two games remaining for each team. Toronto hosts Pittsburgh Saturday and Columbus Sunday. The Lightning play in Montreal tomorrow and host Buffalo Sunday.

“We’re not out of it yet,” Bolts d-man Victor Hedman said Tuesday. “It’s obviously a tough hill to climb, and we need a lot of things to go our way.”

The New York Islanders are also still alive. Like the Lightning, they need to go 3-0-0 in their final three games to have any chance of qualifying. The Isles play in Carolina tonight.

And, finally, the Ottawa Senators can clinch a playoff spot tonight. All the Sens need is a point in Boston.

Pre-game reading: Go to Olympics ‘at your own peril’

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— Up top, at least Grapes is happy with the NHL’s Olympics decision.

Alex Ovechkin says he’s going to South Korea in 2018, and he’s going “no matter what.” But a Toronto sports lawyer has a warning for any player thinking similarly: “Do so at your own peril. You are going to be putting yourself in breach of the contract you have signed with your team, which has been collectively bargained. You are putting yourself at the risk of being suspended, terminated, liable for damages to your club for the games that you miss.” (CBC Sports)

— NHLPA chief Donald Fehr has been criticized for not collectively bargaining Olympic participation for the players. So, what does he have to say about that? Fehr: “If the notion is that players will just say, ‘Oh well. This is too bad that the CBA didn’t provide for it,’ or ‘We wish it were different,’ and we can just go on with life as usual or as if this hadn’t happened – I think that’s a very, very, very unlikely possibility.” Translation: The next negotiations between the players and league should be interesting. (FanRag)

— Elliotte Friedman’s latest “30 Thoughts” includes a vote of confidence for Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill from GM Ken Holland: “[Blashill] went to the USHL and won a championship. He went to an NCAA program (Western Michigan) and revived it. He won the Calder Cup in the AHL, and other teams were starting to take notice. His resume indicates he will be successful.” (Sportsnet)

Jaromir Jagr drops some life wisdom in a Q&A with Pierre LeBrun: “Everybody in the world has ups and downs in their lives. It’s probably 50-50. It’s what they call yin and yang. You have 50 great days and 50 bad days. The only thing you can control is how you look at it. You know you’re going to have bad days, but if you look at them in a positive way, it helps. Same with the great players. They’ll have bad games, but they know how to make something positive out of bad days.” (ESPN)

— What should the Flyers do with Steve Mason? A good question. The 28-year-old is a pending unrestricted free agent, and he hasn’t had the greatest season. (CSN Philly)

Enjoy the games!

Flyers announce passing of Ilkka Sinisalo

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It was with “deep sadness” that the Philadelphia Flyers announced the passing of former player Ilkka Sinisalo on Wednesday.

Sinisalo was 58. The Flyers said he passed away peacefully this morning in his native Finland, with his family by his side.

“Ilkka was a true friend and loyal member of the Flyers,” said club president Paul Holmgren. “He gave a great deal of his time, effort and talents to the organization in several capacities as a player and long-time scout to bring this franchise success on and off the ice. Most important to all that knew him, he was a great person, a loving husband, father and grandfather. His presence and friendship will be deeply missed by all that knew him. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife of over 35 years, Carina, his sons Niklas and Tomas, as well as Tomas’ wife, Maija and their children Peter and Matilda.”

A forward, Sinisalo spent most of his playing career with the Flyers, helping them to the Stanley Cup Final in 1985 and 1987.

He was also a scout for the Flyers in his post-playing days.

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