Mike Halford

Buffalo Sabres' Evander Kane (9) celebrates with teammate Ryan O'Reilly (90) after O'Reilly scored the winning goal during the overtime session of an NHL hockey game against the Los Angeles Kings, Saturday Dec. 12, 2015 in Buffalo, N.Y. Buffalo won 2-1. (AP Photo/Gary Wiepert)

After 11-game absence, O’Reilly back for Sabres tonight

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Buffalo will get its lone All-Star back in the lineup tonight, as Ryan O’Reilly returns from an 11-game absence to face the Habs at First Niagara Center.

O’Reilly, who’s been out of the lineup since Feb. 19 with a foot ailment, is the Sabres’ leading scorer and one of head coach Dan Bylsma’s workhorses up front, averaging nearly 22 minutes per night.

The 25-year-old skated on a line with Evander Kane and Nicolas Deslauriers earlier this week.

The Sabres are no doubt pleased to have O’Reilly back in the mix. The club went 4-5-2 in his absence.

In what appears to be a related move, Buffalo has assigned forward Daniel Catenacci to the Rochester Americans of the AHL.

Daly: Teams can only lose one player per expansion team

Montreal Canadiens v Minnesota Wild
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The big development from Wednesday’s GMs meetings in Boca Raton?

Expansion draft!

After NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told reporters an expansion decision is expected prior to the draft in June, focus shifted to what an expansion draft would look like — the NHL’s first since Columbus and Minnesota partook in one 16 years ago.

While the specific rules have yet to be finalized, Daly shed some light on some important elements, specifically:

— Current NHL clubs can only lose a maximum of one player if the NHL expands by one team. If the NHL expands by two teams, current clubs can lose a maximum of two players. (Per TSN)

— No decision yet on how players with no-movement clauses will be handled. The expectation is they won’t be made available for selection. (Per Sportsnet)

— Prospects, first- and second-year professionals will be exempt from the draft. Those first- and second-year players can be in the NHL or AHL. (Per ESPN)

— Various models of protecting players were discussed, with multiple positional breakdowns. One included seven forwards, three defensemen and a goalie. (Per TSN)

— All of those potential scenarios had a maximum of one goalie being protected. (Per ESPN)

Per TVA, NHL GMs will know prior to this year’s draft if expansion will occur for the ’17-18 season. If it’s not settled by then, no new team will play before the ’18-19 campaign.

More on this, from ESPN:

If the league hopes to expand for the 2017-18 season, [NHL commissioner Gary] Bettman wants to give general managers one full transactional year to prepare their rosters. Thus, an expansion announcement for that season would have to come before free agency opens this year on July 1.

“They should have a full year,” Bettman said. “We’re only getting close if we’re going for 2017-18; [it] doesn’t mean we have to do it by July; we could do it July 15, but it might be for 2018-19.”

It’s expected the NHL will expand by one team, the Bill Foley-led Las Vegas group. The other group current engaged in the expansion process, Quebecor’s Quebec City bid, sound as though it’s unlikely to go through at the same time.

Recently, former Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney — currently serving as Quebecor’s chairman — conceded that Quebec City may have to wait for an expansion club, citing the struggling Canadian dollar.

Tryamkin to make Canucks debut tonight

2014 NHL Draft - Rounds 2-7
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There’s not much for Vancouver fans to be excited about these days, so Nikita Tryamkin will have to do.

Tryamkin, the towering d-man pried out of the KHL last month, will make his NHL debut tonight when the Canucks host the Avalanche at Rogers Arena.

Tryamkin, officially listed at 6-foot-7, 228 pounds, was Vancouver’s third-round pick (66th overall) at the 2014 draft. For a third-round pick, his arrival in the city has been unusually hyped, though some of that has to do with the uniqueness of his size… and some of it has to do with the fact that, given the playoffs are out of reach, there’s lot much else to get hyped about.

Tryamkin, 21, has spent the last four seasons playing professionally at the KHL level — with Automobilist Yekaterinburg — and had a solid ’15-16 campaign, scoring four goals and 11 points in 53 contests.

It looks as though he will open on a pairing with veteran d-man Dan Hamhuis.

 

Longtime Blue Jacket Vyborny retires due to injury

TORONTO, ON - FEBRUARY 19:  David Vyborny #9 of the Columbus Blue Jackets skates in a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs on February 19, 2008 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario. The Leafs defeated the Blue Jackets 3-1. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
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Veteran forward David Vyborny, who appeared in over 500 NHL contests — all of them coming with the Columbus Blue Jackets — has announced his retirement after suffering a knee injury during Czech League play, per iSport.

Vyborny, 41, sits third all-time on Columbus’ list of games played, with 543. His best campaign came in 2005-06, when he scored a career-high 65 points in 80 games, while averaging over 20 minutes per night.

Edmonton’s second-round pick (33rd overall) in 1993, Vyborny never played for the Oilers but instead signed with Columbus later in his career, making his NHL debut at age 25.

He last played in the NHL in ’07-08 and, from there, spent the remainder of his playing days in the Czech Extraliga — first with Sparta Praha, then with Mlada Boleslav.

Yzerman: Drouin’s return to Bolts ‘very realistic’

Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Jonathan Drouin (27) celebrates after scoring the game-winning goal against the Florida Panthers in the third period during an NHL preseason hockey game, Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
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Steve Yzerman was unable to made a trade at the deadline to bolster the Lighting roster for the playoffs.

But now, it sounds like the Bolts could end up getting a postseason boost anyway.

After scoring three points in his first three AHL games since having his team-imposed suspension lifted, Jonathan Drouin is apparently in the mix for a recall to the Lightning, Yzerman confirmed on Tuesday.

“The plan was for him to go down and play and come back,” the Tampa Bay GM said, per NHL.com. “So with the situation right now, if it is good for our team and it is the right thing to do, he will be recalled.

“So, it’s very realistic.”

It’s quite remarkable Drouin and the Bolts find themselves in this situation — especially given where things were a month ago.

Drouin requested a trade out of Tampa Bay, then refused to report for a Crunch game in late January. That led to his suspension from the club, a situation many thought would be resolved by the Feb. 29 trade deadline.

But when Yzerman didn’t move the former No. 3 overall pick, things started to change.

Shortly thereafter, the Bolts lifted Drouin’s suspension, and the 20-year-old reported to Syracuse. At the time, Yzerman didn’t rule out Drouin’s return to Tampa Bay, though a report from TSN suggested the ship had sailed on Drouin going back to the NHL club.

But now, it sounds like the ship is back in the port. So to speak.

Should Drouin join the Bolts, it would present an intriguing option heading into the playoffs.

He had a modest eight points in 19 games with Tampa Bay prior to his demotion, but has shown flashes of the skill and offensive prowess that saw him post back-to-back 100-point campaigns in his final two years of junior hockey.

He could also boost Tampa Bay’s ailing power play, which heads into Tuesday night’s action sitting 26th overall in the league.