Mike Halford

Matt Puempel, Alex Chiasson, Robin Lehner

Getting healthy: Sabres send Lehner, Pysyk for conditioning stints


Yesterday, we wrote about all the injury problems plaguing the Buffalo Sabres.

Today — some optimism!

Head coach Dan Bylsma has announced that No. 1 netminder Robin Lehner — who only played once this year before suffering a serious ankle injury — and d-man Mark Pysyk, out since Nov. 17 (foot), will both go to AHL Rochester on conditioning stints.

Both are positive developments, to say the least.

Lehner was acquired from Ottawa at the draft to be Buffalo’s starting goalie this season, but his campaign was quickly interrupted when he rolled his ankle less than 30 minutes into his Sabres debut.

Linus Ullmark and Chad Johnson have done well in relief, but given the price paid to acquire Lehner — the 21st overall pick in ’15 — it’s obvious the Sabres want him in the mix.

As for Pysyk, he’d be a welcome addition to the club’s blueline. Prior to getting hurt, he appeared in 18 games and played 16:20 per night — the former first-round pick (23rd overall, ’10) has struggled to become a full-time contributor at the NHL level, but will push to get back in the top-six once he returns from Rochester.



U.S. thumps Sweden to capture bronze at World Juniors

LAKE PLACID, NY - AUGUST 03: Anders Bjork #7 of USA Blue skates against Team Finland during the 2014 USA Hockey Junior Evaluation Camp at the Lake Placid Olympic Center on August 3, 2014 in Lake Placid, New York.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

America is back in the medals at the World Junior Hockey Championships.

After failing to crack the top-three in consecutive years, Team USA returned on Tuesday with an 8-3 whipping of Sweden in the bronze medal game at the 2016 World Juniors.

As the scoreline suggests, it was a dominant performance. Anders Bjork (Boston), Matthew Tkachuk (’16 draft eligible) and Ryan Donato (Boston) each scored twice for the U.S., while Nick Schmaltz (Chicago) added three assists.

Christian Dvorak (Arizona) and Ryan MacInnis (Arizona) also had a pair of points each.

All told, the Americans’ disappointment in not playing for gold should be mitigated by their overall performance in this tourney.

The team suffered just two losses in Finland, and avenged one of them — a 1-0 defeat to the Swedes in the preliminary round — with a convincing effort today.

The Americans also defeated rival Canada 4-2 in the opening round, and exploded offensively on three occasions: Tuesday’s win over the Swedes, a 7-0 defeat of the Czechs in the quarterfinal and a 10-1 pounding of Switzerland in the prelims.

Drouin trade request ‘surprising,’ says Cooper (Updated: Drouin speaks, sorta)


Jonathan Drouin’s trade request out of Tampa Bay has caught many off guard.

Including his head coach.

“All that stuff is kind of surprising, to be honest,” Jon Cooper said, per the Tampa Bay Times. “You never want to be in a situation where somebody wants out. This is probably not the first player that’s ever asked for it.

“But it’s too bad. It’s another situation you wouldn’t see this coming.”

That Cooper’s calling this “surprising” — at least he’s calling it that publicly, anyway — is a bit surprising itself.


Because many assume Drouin’s disenchantment with his role in Tampa Bay is partly due to Cooper’s actions.

It landed on the radar during last year’s Stanley Cup playoffs. Drouin, coming off a rookie campaign in which he scored 32 points in 70 games, was a bit player in the Lightning’s run through the postseason.

He appeared in just six games — none in the Eastern Conference Final against the Rangers — and was a virtual non-factor in the Final, appearing in just three of six contests while averaging less than 10 minutes per night.

And Cooper didn’t mince words about why the highly-talented offensive player was out.

“There is more than one net in a rink,” was the now-infamous remark about not playing Drouin. “There’s two. You have to be able to play in front of both.”

Drouin admitted he was frustrated with not drawing in. Cooper, meanwhile, gave the likes of Brenden Morrow, Cedric Paquette and J.T. Brown more significant postseason roles — which led to some second-guessing, especially in the Chicago series when the Bolts’ offense dried up, and scored just twice over the final three games.

Given that Drouin’s agent (Allan Walsh) said their camp’s trade request began all the way back in November, it’s fair to deduce hard feelings from the playoffs lingered over to this year.

Yet it’s also fair to suggest that Cooper genuinely wasn’t aware of the player’s disappointment.

At 20, Drouin wasn’t going to march up to his coach and demand he draw into the Stanley Cup Final — he wouldn’t have even entertained the idea of expressing his desire to get in.

“You can’t be in a bad mood,” Drouin said on Cup Final media day. “When guys are scratched you can see in their faces that they’re not happy, but there’s two teams left, so I’m happy and smiling.

“It’s my job to come here and be happy and help my team.”

Update: Drouin met with media in AHL Syracuse on Tuesday morning, in what was described as a “brief and seemingly painful media session.”He punted on answering any queries related to the trade request or his relationship with the Lightning, responding “yes and no,” when asked if this was a difficult situation for him.

“You obviously want to be up there,” he said. “But right now it’s not my decision. I’m happy to be part of the Syracuse Crunch right now and that’s all I can worry about.”

Related: Laugh about it later? Lightning players react to Drouin’s trade request

Goalie nods: After getting hooked versus Calgary, Varlamov back in for Avs

Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov makes a glove save against the Anaheim Ducks during the first period of an NHL preseason hockey game Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2015, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

Tonight, Semyon Varlamov will get a chance to make amends for Saturday’s rough outing against the Flames when the Avs host Calgary at Pepsi.

Though according to head coach Patrick Roy, Varlamov’s outing wasn’t even really that bad.

“Varly played well,” Roy said, per the Denver Post. “He didn’t play as well against Toronto (Dec. 21), but he was really good in the other games. If not for him against Chicago in the second period, we could have been three or four goals behind.

“Even in the (Calgary) game, I thought he was not responsible for goals. We just had a hard time (picking) up guys in front of the net. They were perfect tips, under the bar, post and in. He certainly wasn’t responsible for that game.”

Varlamov was been a big part of Colorado’s December resurgence, so it’s not overly surprising Roy wants to get him back in for a key Western Conference clash with the Kings. Roy also added he didn’t want to use AHL netminder Calvin Pickard — up with the parent club due to Reto Berra‘s injury — for the remainder of the Avs’ current homestand.

For the Kings, looks as though Jhonas Enroth will get the start in goal.


— Good matchup in New Jersey, where Petr Mrazek — who looks to have taken over the No. 1 gig in Detroit — goes up against Devils workhorse Cory Schneider.

— Battle of the backups in St. Louis: Andrew Hammond goes for the Sens, Brian Elliott for the Blues.

Eddie Lack has been in good form for Carolina lately, but it’ll be Cam Ward that gets the start in Edmonton (in his home province of Alberta). The Oilers are countering with Cam Talbot.

Louis Domingue goes for Arizona tonight in Vancouver. With Ryan Miller still on IR, Jacob Markstrom is the presumed starter for the Canucks.


Tough blow for Isles as Boychuk (upper body) out 4-6 weeks

1 Comment

It didn’t look good when Johnny Boychuk went flying into the end boards after missing a hit on Jack Eichel last week.

And now doctors have confirmed — it wasn’t good.

Boychuk will miss the next 4-6 weeks with an upper-body injury, the Islanders announced on Monday. It’s a pretty significant blow, as Boychuk averages the third-most minutes on the team and — at the time of his injury — was the Isles’ leading d-man scorer, with three goals and 14 points in 38 games.

The 32-year-old won’t require surgery to fix the ailment. That’s a positive.

The negative?

New York hasn’t exactly been a defensive fortress lately, partly due to an injury to starting netminder Jaroslav Halak.

While the Isles are 4-2 in their last six, they’ve also given up 19 goals over that span, including 10 in the last two games to Pittsburgh and Dallas (the Pens and Stars games were the first two Boychuk missed to his injury, not coincidentally.)

Looking at New York’s schedule, it’s safe to assume Boychuk misses the club’s eight remaining games in January, while his status for the first half of February — the Isles play eight more games between Feb. 2-15 — remains up in the air.

When Boychuk got hurt, the Isles recalled Adam Pelech as a defensive reinforcement. He acquitted himself reasonably well in Sunday’s win over Dallas, finishing plus-2 in just over 16 minutes of ice time.

The timing of Boychuk’s injury will almost certainly play into Travis Hamonic‘s immediate future in New York. The defenseman, who has requested a trade, now seems destined to stay with the Islanders and is prepared to take on an increased role in Boychuk’s absence.