Mike Halford

Buffalo Sabres center Ryan O'Reilly (90) and New York Islanders center John Tavares (91) battle for the puck during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Thursday Dec. 31, 2015 in Buffalo, N.Y.  The Islanders won 2-1. (AP Photo/Gary Wiepert)
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Criticisms fly as Buffalo nominates O’Reilly for Masterton

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The Buffalo chapter of the Professional Hockey Writer’s Association has nominated Ryan O'Reilly for this year’s Masterton Trophy, the Buffalo News reported on Monday.

And, subsequently, the Buffalo chapter of the Professional Hockey Writer’s Associate is now under scrutiny.

The Masterton is given annually to the NHL player that “best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.”

As such, pundits are taking issue with Buffalo’s nomination going to O’Reilly, who made news last summer when he was charged with impaired driving following an incident in Ontario — an incident in which he crashed his truck into a Tim Horton’s restaurant, and fled the scene.

Some reading for you…

USA Today: Ryan O’Reilly is the most baffling Masterton Trophy nominee

Puck Daddy: Ryan O’Reilly Masterton Trophy nomination earns widespread mockery

SB Nation: Why was Ryan O’Reilly nominated for a ‘perseverance’ award while awaiting trial for drunk driving?

Sabre Noise (SI Fansided): O’Reilly’s Masterton nomination is troublesome

A key issue at play is that O’Reilly’s legal future remains unresolved. He’s had his court hearing pushed on a couple of occasions already, and is now set to go to trial in July.

While the News didn’t say how many ballots were cast, it did confirm that O’Reilly finished ahead of second-place Marcus Foligno and third-place Robin Lehner.

The paper also confirmed ten different players received at least one vote.

Agent: Yakupov ‘loves’ Edmonton, but needs a ‘fresh start’

Edmonton Oilers v Toronto Maple Leafs
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Yesterday, we passed along a report claiming Nail Yakupov had requested a trade out of Edmonton.

Today, his agent confirmed that report.

“Nail loves the city of Edmonton,” Igor Larionov said, talking about the Yakupov situation with Sportsnet’s Fan 590. “He loves the fans, and obviously he would like to stay there.

“But I guess at some point, he needs some fresh start, and fresh air, to move on.”

Yakupov, the first overall pick in 2012, is struggling through a difficult season, arguably his worst since breaking in with the Oilers. He has just six goals and 19 points through 56 games — his 0.34 points-per-game average is the lowest of his four-year career.

Still just 22 years old, it stands to reason that this could the the offseason Yakupov and the Oilers part ways. It’s worth remembering Yakupov’s had a number of regime changes — four different head coaches (Ralph Krueger, Dallas Eakins, Todd Nelson and Todd McLellan) and three different GMs (Steve Tambellini, Craig MacTavish, Peter Chiarelli) — and given how new regimes often try to overhaul perceived errors from the previous one… well, it’s not too hard to see why Yakupov’s had a tough go in Edmonton.

That said, some blame — most, some will argue — has to fall on the player.

Yakupov’s hockey sense and IQ have continually been questioned since turning pro. While Larionov said his client needed minutes with a quick-thinking center — enough minutes to develop some chemistry — there are others who feel Yakupov’s never matured as a player.

From Mark Spector’s big Sportsnet piece on the situation:

The 22-year-old Russian has been most productive when played alongside Connor McDavid, but the line that dogs Yakupov around Edmonton is that he plays the game like he’s being chased by a swarm of bees. It has stuck, mostly because of its accuracy.

“It’s so obvious now,” said a scout, who had cautioned against Yakupov’s hockey sense and foot speed. “Watch him away from the puck — he still doesn’t know where to go. His feet are moving 100 miles an hour, his stick is beating the hell out of the puck, and he doesn’t have a clue where he’s going and what he’s going to do with it.”

So with the situation now out in the open, this figures to be a really interesting summer in Edmonton. Yakupov has one year left on his deal at $2.5 million per, so he’s entirely movable — and one has to think that move could come at the draft, where Edmonton will, once again, have a pretty high selection.

Quite possibly the first overall pick.

Again.

Report: Khudobin returning to KHL next season

Anaheim Ducks goalie Anton Khudobin deflects a shot by the San Jose Sharks during the first period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
AP
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Anaheim goalie Anton Khudobin is reportedly heading back to the KHL for the 2016-17 campaign, per Russian news outlet Championat.

In the report, Khudobin’s agent confirms his client will play abroad next season, noting the 29-year-old ‘tender has several options in terms of interested suitors.

It’s been a difficult year for Khudobin with the Ducks. Acquired at the draft from Carolina, he opened the season as Frederik Andersen‘s backup, with the understanding that would be his role for the season. John Gibson was originally slated to spend the year getting big minutes in AHL San Diego, and Khudobin would use the backup opportunity to showcase himself in a contract year (he’s a UFA at season’s end).

But things didn’t go according to plan.

After posting a .908 save percentage and 2.70 GAA in eight games with the Ducks, the decision was made to bring Gibson up from the AHL, and send down Khudobin. The decision was more about Anaheim’s struggles than anything Khudobin did (or, didn’t do) — the club was awful through the first three months of the season, and Gibson did give them a spark.

Khudobin has played well with the Gulls this season, going 18-7-3 with a .920 save percentage and 2.42 GAA. He’s previously spent time in the KHL with both Metallurg Magnitogorsk Moscow Oblast Atlant.

Despite being ‘shaken up’ on Hanzal hit, Giroux will play for Philly tonight

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There was some major concern on Saturday when Claude Giroux was on the receiving end of a hit from Coyotes forward Martin Hanzal, one that left the Flyers captain laying face up on the ice with his eyes closed.

Despite that scary scene, though, Giroux will play tonight when Philly takes on the Jets.

More, from the Courier-Post:

When asked if he lost consciousness, Giroux just noted “I’m fine.” He will play Monday night against the Winnipeg Jets.

Giroux told reporters in Arizona Saturday night that he went through concussion protocol and was examined by a doctor. Monday morning he said he didn’t have to re-take his baseline concussion test.

“I was a little shaken up, but getting the rest…I feel pretty good,” Giroux said. “Obviously I wanted to finish the game. It was safer to know that I was healthy.”

Philly heads into tonight’s action in the thick of a heated playoff chase. The Flyers are currently holding the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, but it’s not a tight grip — they’re tied on points with Detroit, at 85, and while they do have one game in hand on the Red Wings, the Red Wings have a game tonight as well, against Buffalo.

So in short, every game matters for the Flyers. And every point is vital. Which is why Giroux is playing.

That decision, of course, will undoubtedly cause some consternation. Recently, the Ottawa Citizen published a lengthy piece about forward Clarke MacArthur, who’s missed nearly the entire season with concussion issues — issues he says are a direct result of trying to ignore symptoms, and returning from his head injury too soon.

“I feel like if I had just went with my gut instinct from Day 1, I would have missed 10 games and I would have played the rest of the year,” MacArthur said, per the Citizen. “It would have been a different situation. It could have been a completely different year.”

Parise, Elliott, Kessel named NHL’s three stars of the week

Minnesota Wild left wing Zach Parise (11) celebrates his goal against the Vancouver Canucks during NHL action in Vancouver, Canada, Monday, Feb. 15, 2016. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT

Minnesota’s Zach Parise, St. Louis’ Brian Elliott and Pittsburgh’s Phil Kessel have been named the NHL’s three stars for the week ending Mar. 27, the league announced on Monday.

More:

Parise paced the NHL with five goals and shared the League lead with seven points in three contests to help the Wild (37-28-11, 85 points) extend their winning streak to a season-high five games and move back into the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Elliott stopped all 52 shots he faced over two appearances to help the Blues (45-22-9, 99 points) extend their shutout streak to a franchise-record four consecutive games and clinch their fifth straight playoff berth.

Kessel shared the League lead in assists (5) and points (7) to help the Penguins (42-25-8, 92 points) win two of their three starts and finish the week in third place in the Metropolitan Division.

Pretty emphatic statement from Parise, who capped off his week with a pair of goals in Saturday’s huge 4-0 win over the Avs. That victory pushed the Wild five points clear of Colorado for the final wild card spot, and could’ve essentially ended the Avalanche’s season in the process.