Mike Halford

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Unlike Rex Ryan, Dan Bylsma doesn’t report directly to the Pegulas (Updated)

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Buffalo was collectively up in arms on Monday, when Bills GM Doug Whaley told reporters that former head coach Rex Ryan — fired last week after two years on the job — directly reported to owners Terry and Kim Pegula, rather than Whaley.

That caused quite a stir given, y’know, chain of command and all that. It also cast doubt as to how much control Whaley had in Buffalo, if any at all.

So in the aftermath, the Buffalo News decided to ask Sabres head coach Dan Bylsma who he reports to, given the Pegulas also own the Sabres.

“I report to Tim [Murray, Sabres GM] every day, am talking to Tim every day. And Tim talks to Terry and Kim,” Bylsma explained. “There are times when it’s all of us together. I think that’s a little bit more on the football side of it.

“We have communication with Terry and Kim. But I talk to Tim every day and Tim talks to Terry and Kim every day.”

Much like the Bills, the Sabres are under heavy scrutiny right now. Expected to improve on last year’s effort, the club has woefully under performed and heads into tonight’s action sitting dead last in the Atlantic Division, with 34 points.

(The Sabres are on pace for 77 points this year. Last season, they had 81.)

Bylsma has felt the heat, and has drawn constant comparisons to Ryan — both were hired within a month of each other, and both worked under the same ownership group.

Ryan, of course, was dismissed after missing the playoffs in each of his two years on the job. It’s too early to say if Bylsma will be held to the same standard, but his job could be in serious danger if the Sabres don’t show any improvement over the second half.

Updated: Wouldn’t call this a “clarification” per se, but Bylsma did try to further explain the chain of command on WGR 550 today.

“I ultimately report to Kim and Terry. But I report to Tim and I talk to Tim daily, and interact with Tim, and Tim interacts with Kim and Terry. That’s how the daily, day-to-day works with our team.”

Lack’s concussion problems continue in Carolina

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Carolina backup Eddie Lack, who returned from a concussion two weeks ago, has been diagnosed — or, re-diagnosed — with another concussion, the ‘Canes announced on Tuesday.

With Lack sidelined, the club has recalled goaltender Daniel Altshuller from AHL Charlotte.

Lack’s season has largely been derailed by concussions and post-concussion symptoms. He’s only appeared in five games for Carolina this year, the last of those coming on Nov. 10, and didn’t play at all since being activated off IR on Dec. 21.

As a result, Cam Ward has carried a remarkably heavy workload this season. The veteran netminder currently sits fifth in the NHL in starts, with 30.

Lack’s absence has also caused a bit of a stir with regards to Carolina’s depth chart in goal. Last week, the club was forced to dress 37-year-old equipment manager Jorge Alves for a game against Tampa Bay.

 

Poile has ‘fingers crossed’ that Subban returns to Preds soon

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) A day after placing defenseman P.K. Subban on injured reserve with an upper-body injury, Nashville Predators general manager David Poile is hopeful the former Norris Trophy winner’s stay on IR is brief.

“I think his timeframe is going to be a good one,” Poile said Monday. “I’ve got my fingers crossed on that.”

Subban has not played in a game since Dec. 15 and has missed Nashville’s last seven contests due to the injury. When placing the blueliner on injured reserve Sunday, the team said Subban will be re-evaluated in two to three weeks. The Predators are 3-2-2 in his absence.

Poile met with reporters Monday after a public practice to discuss the injury and the uncertainty about when the Predators can expect Subban back in the lineup.

“When you do that, just like when we said it is day-to-day, it is just a little bit of a guesstimate in terms of where he is at,” Poile said. “We thought that he would be back sooner, but sometimes this is what happens with injuries.”

Poile noted that Subban has been working out every day and has skated some. Subban is scheduled to talk with reporters Tuesday morning.

Subban leads all Nashville defensemen with seven goals this season. His average ice time of 25:03 per game ranks second on the team, behind only fellow defenseman Roman Josi.

“Whenever you miss a player of his abilities, it takes away from your lineup and everybody’s very curious as to what’s going on,” Poile said.

Entering Monday’s action, the Predators are fifth in the Central Division and 10th in the Western Conference.

Poile has been active in the trade market in recent years. Asked if Subban’s progress might prompt the general manager to acquire a defenseman, Poile said he is expecting Subban back in the next couple weeks.

“Hopefully if I get that date wrong, if it’s off, he’s still coming back,” Poile said. “It’s not like he’s not coming back.”

Asked if the Predators had ruled out the possibility of surgery, a team spokesman stepped in and said, “We’re not talking any more about that.”

The Predators host the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday night. The Canadiens sent Subban to Nashville in a blockbuster June 29 deal that sent then Predator captain Shea Weber to Montreal.

Weber, who played his 800th career NHL game Saturday, will play his first-ever road game in Nashville Tuesday. He leads the Canadiens in ice time per game at 26:02, and his eight power-play goals lead all NHL defensemen.

Tank you very much: Tarasenko leads Blues to Winter Classic win over ‘Hawks

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As has often been the case this season, Tank made the difference when it counted.

Vladimir Tarasenko — who, for the record, doesn’t love the Tank nickname — continued his terrific campaign on Monday afternoon, scoring a pair of third-period goals to pace St. Louis to a 4-1 win over Chicago in the 2017 Winter Classic at Busch Stadium.

Dubbed “a man on a mission” by NHL on NBC analyst Pierre McGuire, Tarasenko was a going concern throughout the day, finishing with a game-high nine shots. Yet it was a pair of strikes in the final frame — coming less than two minutes apart — that proved the difference.

The first, Tarasenko’s 17th of the year, was certainly a lucky bounce. He took Robby Fabbri‘s pass and tried to center the puck, only to have it carom off Niklas Hjalmarsson‘s skate and past Corey Crawford.

That proved to be the eventual game-winner, but Tarasenko wasn’t done there.

Just 1:53 after putting the Blues up by one, he was at it again, taking a Jori Lehtera feed to snap a shot past Crawford:

Alex Steen netted the final goal for the Blues, who scored four unanswered goals after Michael Kempny opened the scoring for Chicago just 62 seconds into the affair. Kempny’s marker was second-fastest goal in Winter Classic history and, fittingly, something of a knuckle-ball shot, skipping along the ice before eluding Blues goalie Jake Allen.

That was about the only thing that didn’t go right for the Blues on the day.

It was a great result for the franchise and, by proxy, the city of St. Louis. It had been reveling in the Winter Classic celebrations for days leading up to the event, excited at the opportunity to showcase itself as one of the league’s most passionate markets. Though less-than-ideal weather conditions threatened to derail things — the NHL had to come up with a contingency plan to finish the game, should the rain have made conditions unplayable — the crowd was enthusiastic and huge: 46,556 were in attendance, making it a sellout.

And fittingly, St. Louis’ game-changer changed the game.

Tarasenko, as mentioned above, is in the midst of a fantastic season. He now sits sixth in the NHL in goals, with 18, and continues to almost single-handedly carry the Blues. His 41 points are tops on the team, well clear of the No. 2 scorer (Fabbri, who has 25).

Afterward, he explained what today’s win meant.

“We really tried to prepare for this game because, you know, the Chicago Blackhawks are in first place in our division,” Tarasenko told McGuire. “It was a really important game for us, and I think we all just tried to play our best tonight.”

Kraft Hockeyville is back for 2017

On the heels of last year’s incredibly successful campaign, Kraft Hockeyville is back.

Last year, the Lakeview Arena in Marquette, MI emerged the winner, capturing $150,000 in arena upgrades and the opportunity to host a preseason broadcast on NBCSN between the Buffalo Sabres and Carolina Hurricanes.

More on this year’s competition:

Like a hockey game, Kraft Hockeyville USA 2017 has three periods. In the first period, communities across the country are encouraged to enter by sharing unique stories about their local rink, teams, hockey spirit and passion and submitting their nominations now through March 10, 2017, at http://www.KraftHockeyville.com, where complete contest rules and nomination applications are available.

The competition heats up in the second period when 10 community finalists will be chosen, which includes three rounds of public voting:

· Round 1 (April 11-13, 2017) – Top four communities chosen to move on to the next round; remaining six each receive $10,000 toward arena upgrades.
· Round 2 (April 18-19, 2017) – Top two finalists selected; remaining two each receive $25,000 toward arena upgrades.
· Round 3 (April 24-25, 2017) – One community will emerge as Kraft Hockeyville USA 2017; runner-up will receive $75,000 toward arena upgrades.

In the final period, the winning community will be announced April 29, 2017 and receive the grand prize of the chance to host a preseason game televised on NBCSN, as well as $150,000 in arena upgrades from Kraft Heinz.

Like last year, U.S. Hockey Hall of Famer and NHL on NBC analyst Jeremy Roenick will serve as program ambassador.

“I’m thrilled to be back as part of Kraft Hockeyville USA 2017 to help inspire community rinks and youth hockey players across the U.S.,” Roenick said. “This great program helps share the hockey spirit and allows me to work with the next generation of players to bring communities together.”

Here at PHT, we’ll be profiling some of the communities chosen to participate. Be sure to check back frequently throughout the year to see if your local rink will take home the title.

For more details, please visit krafthockeyville.com.