Author: Mike Halford

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Murray: In combine interview, Eichel said he’ll be better than McDavid

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Sounds like Jack Eichel isn’t lacking in the confidence department.

In a radio interview with WGR 550, Buffalo GM Tim Murray — who recently interviewed Eichel at the ongoing NHL Scouting Combine — dropped a few nuggets from his talk with the Boston University superstar, and confirmed a Boston Globe report that Eichel has been telling teams he’ll be better than the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft, Connor McDavid.

“He said that,” Murray explained. “He also said to me that they were pretty happy after the draft lottery. He said ‘you may have been disappointed, but you shouldn’t be disappointed.'”

Eichel was likely referring to Murray’s now-infamous comments, in which he likened losing the lottery to getting cut from the Canadian junior team, adding he felt bad for Sabres fans that “were extremely excited about McDavid.”

Murray since clarified his remarks — saying he was upset by how the lottery transpired, not the player he was getting — and, to be fair, Eichel handled the remarks like a pro. In speaking with PHT shortly after the lottery, he said he understood where Murray was coming from.

“Who doesn’t want to be first?” Eichel said. “You have all the options there. I’m sure he may be disappointed but it’s a very deep draft class and there’s a lot of good players.”

As for Eichel’s latest remarks about eventually being superior to McDavid, Murray was pretty pleased to hear them.

“I think he should say that,” the Sabres GM explained. “Why not say that? I think he believes it. I think the way he played this season, we called it a two-horse race all year, so why should he not believe that?

“His skill set, his whole package — size, skating ability, puck skills, hockey sense — he’s confident in it. He backed up that confidence with his play this year.”

It’ll be interesting to see what happens in the aftermath. While Murray clearly likes Eichel’s confidence, it’s hard to see the upside in going public with what was said in a combine interview — especially since, barring something wild happening, Eichel will become Sabres property later this month.

‘I’m still huge on Columbus,’ says star collegiate d-man Reilly

2015 NCAA Division I Men's Ice Hockey Championship - Northeast Regional
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Though he’s currently in the process of talking to other teams, University of Minnesota standout Mike Reilly — drafted by Columbus four years ago — says he could still very well end up with the Blue Jackets.

“I haven’t been able to talk to any teams until now since I had to wait 30 days after withdrawing from school,” Reilly said Wednesday, per NHL.com. “There’s a lot of things that go on, but I think it’s good to kind of see what else is out there. I’m still huge on Columbus. But to be in this situation is pretty unique.”

Reilly is currently at the NHL Scouting Combine in Buffalo where, per agent Pat Brisson, he’s meeting with a handful of suitors. It’s believed Chicago and Minnesota (his dad, also named Mike, is a minority owner of the Wild) are among the frontrunners for his services, and there’s a good reason why other teams are trying to get into that mix; the 21-year-old Reilly was a Hobey Baker candidate and two-time All-American that, this season, became the first d-man in nearly 20 years to lead the Golden Gophers in scoring.

Last month, he announced he was leaving the University of Minnesota and upped his professional stock by representing Team USA at the Worlds, where he appeared in all 10 games and helped the Americans capture bronze.

Columbus has been trying to get Reilly signed for quite some time. GM Jarmo Kekalainen worked at inking him repeatedly throughout the last year and, upon trading d-man James Wisniewski at the deadline, said the move would open up a spot for Reilly at the NHL level.

But Reilly seemed determined to test free agent waters, not unlike what former Boston College standout Kevin Hayes did last summer. Hayes, taken in the first round by Chicago in 2010, balked on signing his entry-level deal with the ‘Hawks and instead went UFA, eventually signing with the Rangers.

It’s something that collegiate players can exploit to their benefit. While there’s a cap on how much Reilly can earn on his ELC, he does now have control of his destination and which organization might give him the best chance at playing right away — or, winning right away.

Report: NHL done looking into alleged Shaw bite on Hedman

Andrew Shaw
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TAMPA — Doesn’t look like there’ll be anything more from the Andrew Shaw-Victor Hedman biting incident from Game 1.

On Thursday, Chicago Tribune sources said the NHL is no longer looking into the alleged incident, in which Hedman claimed Shaw bit him in a late first-period scrum during last night’s Stanley Cup Final opener.

There’s also no disciplinary hearing scheduled for Shaw.

These developments come after the situation gained some steam postgame, when Hedman told reporters it “felt like” Shaw bit him, adding he had a small bruise. PHT contacted the NHL last night, and a spokesman confirmed the Department of Player safety was made aware of the allegation, and reviewed video of it during the game.

The incident in question:

Last night’s incident rekindled memories of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final between Boston and Vancouver, in which Canucks forward Alex Burrows was alleged to have bitten the fingers of Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron. Both incidents were similarly timed (during scrums at the end of the first period of Game 1) and, like Burrows, Shaw will avoid supplemental discipline.

In-demand Futa ‘will remain a Los Angeles King,’ says Lombardi

2014 NHL Draft - Round 2-7
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LA Kings VP of hockey ops Mike Futa, considered to be in the mix for Toronto’s vacant GM gig, isn’t going anywhere — at least according to GM Dean Lombardi.

“Mike Futa is still a Los Angeles King and will remain a Los Angeles King,” Lombardi said, per LA Kings Insider. “You don’t think the guy could jump ship now, right?”

Lombardi’s comment came while Futa prepped and continued scouting for the NHL Entry Draft, which will go later this month. Scouting is how Futa established such a strong reputation across the league — in his eight seasons with the Kings, he headed up a department responsible for drafting the likes of Drew Doughty, Kyle Clifford, Alec Martinez, Slava Voynov, Dwight King, Jordan Nolan, Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson. (Jake Muzzin, an undrafted free agent, also came aboard under Futa’s watch.)

As mentioned above, Futa’s been tied primarily to the vacant GM gig in Toronto. But according to TSN, teams have tried in the past to lure him out of Los Angeles — Buffalo and Calgary during their GM searches — and the Kings responded with a promotion, new contract and stipulations about what jobs he could seek out.

Which probably explains why Lombardi was so adamant Futa wasn’t going anywhere.

“There’s a big challenge ahead of us,” he explained. “I don’t think [Futa’s] had time to think about it. He’s been going a hundred miles an hour.”

Bolts brush off talk of ‘must-win’ Game 2

TAMPA, FL - JUNE 4: Steven Stamkos #91 of the Tampa Bay Lightning speaks during a media availability at the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Amalie Arena on June 4, 2015 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)
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TAMPA — The Lightning aren’t biting.

One day after a disappointing loss in the Stanley Cup Final opener, Tampa Bay faced the big question — after blowing a third-period lead and relinquishing home-ice advantage to Chicago, is Saturday’s Game 2 a must-win?

The answer, unequivocally:

No.

“There’s no real must-win until you lose three games of a series,” captain Steve Stamkos said. “We’re confident in our ability to bounce back after a loss.”

The Lightning should be confident, given their experience in that department. The club lost its first game of these playoffs — Game 1 of the Detroit series — then bounced back with a 5-1 blowout win in Game 2. In the Eastern Conference Final against the Rangers, the Bolts dropped the opener, then rebounded with a 6-2 thumping.

Sensing a theme here?

Ryan Callahan, one of the more veteran playoff skaters on the team, further deflected the notion of Saturday being a must-win.

“I don’t think there’s ‘must-win’ unless you’re facing elimination,” he explained. “We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to try and win every playoff game. That’s how you approach the game. You want to win it.”

Tampa’s ace in the hole, so to speak, is their ability to win on the road this spring. It’s a big reason why the players seemed generally unfazed at possibly heading back to Chicago down 0-2 in the series. The Bolts are road warriors — they won two games in Detroit, two games in Montreal and three in New York, including the first-ever Game 7 road victory in MSG history.

“We’re pretty confident in our road game,” defenseman Matt Carle said. “We’ve shown that a lot throughout the playoffs.

“When we’ve needed to have a must-win on the road, we’ve managed to pull it out. So I don’t think it really adds any pressure to tomorrow.”