Mike Halford

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 25:  Anders Nilsson #31 of the Buffalo Sabres looks on against the Philadelphia Flyers during the first period at Wells Fargo Center on October 25, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Goalie nods: Lehner hurt, so Sabres turn to Nilsson

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After injuring his hip during Tuesday’s win over Ottawa, Buffalo starter Robin Lehner won’t play against the Rangers tonight — but, he might be well enough to serve as Anders Nilsson‘s backup.

“It feels 90 percent,” Nilsson said of his hip, per the Buffalo News. “It’s a little stiff still, but it feels good.”

Lehner has been a workhorse lately, but the Sabres should have little concern going to Nilsson. He was solid against the Sens — stopping 26 shots en route to the win — and has posted great numbers this year (.939 save percentage, and 2.20 GAA).

Sabres head coach Dan Bylsma has yet to decide if Lehner will dress, or if the club will recall a goalie for AHL Rochester. Whatever the case, Lehner isn’t expected to be out long, and has already hinted he’ll be back in goal on Saturday, when Buffalo hosts Boston.

For New York, Henrik Lundqvist is in goal.


Cam Ward has been a busy man with Eddie Lack (concussion) on the shelf, and that’ll continue as he starts for the ‘Canes in Boston. Tuukka Rask appears likely for the B’s.

— The flip-flip continues for Dallas, as Antti Niemi gets the start after Kari Lehtonen played on Tuesday (a 3-1 loss to Detroit). Pittsburgh hasn’t announced a starter yet, but Matt Murray played (and lost) to the Isles last night.

Braden Holtby goes for the Caps, who are hosting the Islanders. Like the Pens, no word on an Isles starter — Thomas Greiss played last night, so Jaroslav Halak seems likely.

Steve Mason, who made 45 saves in a win over the Bruins on Tuesday, is back in goal for the Flyers. Ottawa will go with Mike Condon, and Andrew Hammond will back up while Craig Anderson is on a leave of absence to be with his wife.

— The in-form Roberto Luongo (has stopped 68 of his last 70 shots faced) gets the call tonight in Detroit. He’ll be up against Petr Mrazek, who lost both his previous two meetings against the Panthers this year.

— It’s Cam Talbot versus Connor Hellebuyck as the Oilers take on the Jets in Winnipeg. Talbot was hooked last game, a loss to the Leafs.

— Tampa Bay will continue to ride Andrei Vasilevskiy, who has outplayed Ben Bishop this year (though Vasilevskiy had a rough game on Tuesday, allowing five goals in a blowout loss in Columbus). He’ll be up against Jake Allen, who’s riding a six-game winning streak for the Blues.

— Good matchup in Chicago, as Cory Schneider and the Devils take on Corey Crawford and the ‘Hawks.

— An all-Russian matchup in Colorado, where Semyon Varlamov goes back in goal after Calvin Pickard started the last two. Sergei Bobrovsky counters for the Blue Jackets.

Mike Smith is in goal as the Coyotes host the Kings. No word on a Los Angeles starter yet, but Peter Budaj played in last night’s 4-1 loss to San Jose.

— The Canucks will go back to Ryan Miller, after he beat the Wild on Tuesday. Anaheim hasn’t unveiled its starter yet.

Chara ‘out there skating, but he won’t be playing tonight’

SUNRISE, FL - MARCH 7: Zdeno Chara #33 of the Boston Bruins skates towards the face-off circle during first period action against the Florida Panthers at the BB&T Center on March 7, 2016 in Sunrise, Florida. The Bruins defeated the Panthers 5-4 in overtime. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
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Boston will be without its captain for a fifth straight game when it hosts the ‘Canes on Thursday.

Zdeno Chara is still nursing a lower-body injury, but there was a positive development this morning as he returned to practice with his teammates.

“He’s out there skating, but he won’t be playing tonight,” B’s head coach Claude Julien said today, per CSNNE. “We’ve hung in there.”

The Bruins are just 1-2-1 without Chara’s services but, defensively, the club has fared reasonably well. Boston has allowed just eight goals over that stretch, which also saw the club lose the services of another veteran blueliner in John-Michael Liles, who is out with a concussion.

As a result, Julien has been rolling with a six-man defensive unit comprised of Torey Krug, Adam McQuaid, Kevan Miller, Brandon Carlo, Joe Morrow and Colin Miller. Krug and Carlo were the big-minute men in Tuesday’s shootout loss to Philly, getting 25:53 and 24:07 of ice time, respectively.

Julien praised his makeshift group for shutting down the Flyers after allowing two first-period markers. Philly had just 11 shots on goal over the second and third periods, and just one in the overtime session.


Werenski named November’s rookie of the month

COLUMBUS, OH - OCTOBER 15:  Zach Werenski #8 of the Columbus Blue Jackets skates after the puck during the game against the San Jose Sharks on October 15, 2016 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
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Columbus knew it had a special talent in d-man Zach Werenski and, accordingly, had high expectations of him coming into this season.

Werenski hasn’t just met those expectations through the first two months of his NHL career. It’s fair to say he’s exceeded them.

From the league:

Werenski, who led rookie blueliners and shared third place among all first-year players with 3-7—10 in 14 games, has been named the NHL’s Rookie of the Month for November.

Werenski edged Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Matt Murray (7-2-0, 2.02 GAA, .929 SV%, 1 SO), Toronto Maple Leafs center Mitchell Marner (6-7—13 in 14 GP), Winnipeg Jets right wing Patrik Laine (7-4—11 in 16 GP), Colorado Avalanche right wing Mikko Rantanen (3-7—10 in 14 GP) and New York Rangers defenseman Brady Skjei (0-9—9 in 15 GP) for the honor.

Werenski, the eighth overall selection in the 2015 NHL Draft, registered at least one point in eight of his 14 appearances, including a pair of two-assist efforts to open the month (Nov. 1 vs. DAL and Nov. 4 vs. MTL). He also scored the overtime winner Nov. 9 vs. ANA, becoming the first rookie defenseman in franchise history to achieve the feat.

This is shaping up to be a potentially historic rookie class. Two other prized freshmen — Toronto’s William Nylander and Auston Matthews — are very much in the Calder Trophy mix, while the likes of Jimmy Vesey, Travis Konecny, Sebastian Aho, Brayden Point and Matthew Tkachuk are also having impressive seasons as well.

More good news for Jets, as Perreault returns from 14-game absence

GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 09:  Mathieu Perreault #85 of the Winnipeg Jets in action during the NHL game against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on October 9, 2014 in Glendale, Arizona.  The Jets defeated the Coyotes 6-2.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Maybe Brough should jinx the Jets more often.

After a hideous five-game losing streak in which they were outscored 20-6 and out-shot 156-112, things have started to go in a better direction.

Tonight, the club will welcome Mathieu Perreault back, after Perreault missed the last 14 games with an upper-body injury suffered in early November.

Perreault will skate as a fourth-line winger against the Oilers this evening, illustrating the depth Winnipeg now has up front. Perreault’s scored 40-plus points in each of the last three years, and finished tied with Mark Scheifele for third in assists (32) in ’15-16.

Perreault’s return isn’t the only thing trending in the right direction.

Winnipeg has won two straight, which included Connor Hellebuyck’s terrific 42-save shutout over the Preds on Sunday. And in Tuesday’s win over the Devils, the Jets welcomed Bryan Little back into the lineup, after Little was knocked out of action in the first game of the season.

The veteran center logged more than 20 minutes against New Jersey, just to give an idea of how big a role he plays for the Jets.




Vesey expected to draw boos in Buffalo tonight, but Sabres have no ‘ill feelings’

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 06: Jimmy Vesey #26 of the New York Rangers waits for the faceoff against the Philadelphia Flyers at Madison Square Garden on October 6, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Jimmy Vesey could’ve been a Buffalo Sabre. But ultimately, he chose not to be.

That fact — granted, one lacking a significant amount of detail — is the big reason why Vesey will be met with jeers tonight when he and the New York Rangers take on the Sabres in Buffalo.

Fans at KeyBank will boo, which is to be expected. GM Tim Murray acquired Vesey’s negotiating rights from Nashville in June, hoping to use a near two-month window to try and convince Vesey to sign with his club. But Vesey, fresh off a Hobey Baker win at Harvard, opted instead to test unrestricted free agency rather than ink in Buffalo, and joined the Blueshirts.

For all the angst Sabres supporters might have over what transpired, those within the organization insist there’s no hard feelings.

“I’m not really sure why,” Eichel told the Buffalo News, when asked about the prospect of fans booing Vesey. “He was a free agent. It’s his own decision to make a decision where he wants to play. If any of us were in his situation I’m sure a lot would go into a decision like that. Obviously would have loved to have him in Buffalo but he made a decision and obviously he’s happy with that one.

“Can’t blame a guy for that.”

Buffalo head coach Dan Bylsma pretty much said the same. While he admitted he’d “like to have ill feelings about Jimmy and the situation,” he went on to say he couldn’t. Vesey exercised a practice afforded to him within the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement and, regardless of thoughts and feelings and opinions on the matter, he did play by the rules.

So far, things have worked out pretty well in New York. Vesey has eight goals and 14 points through 24 games, averaging 14:29 TOI while showing an ability to play up and down the lineup (tonight, he projects to skate alongside Kevin Hayes and Rick Nash).

Thursday won’t be the only time Vesey’s going to get razzed, though.

In just over two weeks, the Rangers play their first game of the year in Nashville.