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Brian Gionta ‘cautiously optimistic’ that he’ll return Monday (Updated)

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The Buffalo Sabres have had terrible luck on the injury front so far this season, but the news hasn’t been all bad.

Sabres captain Brian Gionta took part in Sunday’s practice and was “cautiously optimistic” about his chances of making his season debut on Monday.

“I felt great, today was a good day, I progressed well so it felt good to get out there with the guys and we’ll see how things respond tomorrow,” he told the Sabres’ website.

If he does play on Monday it will probably be on a line with Evander Kane and Jack Eichel. At the age of 36, Gionta is over a decade older than Kane and has nearly two decades of seniority over Eichel.

Gionta sustained a lower-body injury just before the start of the 2015-16 campaign and was forced to watch as the Sabres fell to Ottawa and Tampa Bay in its opening contests.

Buffalo will host Columbus at 3:00 p.m. ET. Like the Sabres, the Blue Jackets are searching for their first win.


With Flyers struggling, Gagner waits for his opportunity

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The Flyers decided not to buy out the final season of Sam Gagner‘s contract, but thus far all he’s done is watch as Philadelphia lost its first two contests.

“I want to be a part of things, I definitely feel like I can help,” Gagner told CSN Philly. “It’s frustrating. I want to be out there helping my team. To not get the opportunity to play, it’s not fun.”

This is the first time in his career that he’s been made a healthy scratch in back-to-back games. Even after Philadelphia’s 7-1 defeat against Florida on Saturday though, Flyers coach Dave Hakstol might not insert him into the lineup.

It’s certainly a possibility as Gagner skated alongside Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn during Sunday’s practice, but it’s hard to read too much into that because R.J. Umberger took a maintenance day. For his part, Gagner hasn’t heard anything about the lineup for Monday’s rematch against the Panthers and Hakstol said on Sunday that he hadn’t made that decision yet.

Gagner is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent this summer and is playing for his third team in as many seasons, not including the Tampa Bay Lightning, which acquired him from Edmonton and promptly dealt him to Arizona in 2014.

After everything he’s been through over the last few years, the 26-year-old forward entered the campaign with plenty to prove and his stint in the press box has served to make his eventual Flyers debut all the more important.

PHT Morning Skate: NWHL gets its start

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

The inaugural season of the NWHL is underway. (Puck Daddy)

While we’re on the subject of the NWHL, Dani Rylan wrote about the creation, goals, and strategy of the league. (The Players’ Tribune)

What’s the best time for a team trailing to pull their goaltender? (CSN Mid-Atlantic)

At the age of 36, Marian Hossa is still playing at a high level and doesn’t have any interest in calling it a career any time soon. That’s good news for Chicago given the staggering length of his contract. (Chicago Sun-Times)

Signed to a six-year, $33 million contract, Andrej Sekera isn’t off to a particularly good start with the Edmonton Oilers. (Edmonton Sun)

There’s a number of adjustments the Pittsburgh Penguins might make after scoring just one goal in their first two games. (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)

Avs score five unanswered goals in comeback win over Stars

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DENVER (AP) Gabriel Landeskog scored twice in the third period, one 47 seconds after John Mitchell‘s tiebreaking goal, and the Colorado Avalanche rallied to beat the Dallas Stars 6-3 on Saturday night.

Nathan MacKinnon had a goal and two assists, and Jarome Iginla and Erik Johnson also had goals for Colorado, which shook off a disappointing 5-4 loss to Minnesota on Thursday night.

Cody Eakin had two goals, and Mattias Janmark had his second tally in as many games for Dallas. Antti Niemi stopped 22 of 28 shots after his 37-save shutout of Pittsburgh on Thursday night.

With the game time at 3, Mitchell beat Niemi from the left circle at 8:11 to give Colorado its first lead of the game. Landeskog scored at 8:58 to give the Avalanche a 5-3 advantage.

Landeskog iced it with his second of the game and third of the season. He also had two assists.

Janmark gave the Stars a 1-0 lead when he beat Semyon Varlamov with a backhander 20 seconds into the first period. It was the second time in as many games the rookie scored early. He scored on his first just 1:39 into Thursday’s win over Pittsburgh.

The Avalanche tied it when MacKinnon took a pass from Alex Tanguay and beat Niemi with a backhander of his own at 9:06 of the first.

Eakin gave the Stars a 2-1 lead 1:15 later when he scored from close in. He got his second goal of the night on the power play at 8:50 of the second.

The Avalanche rallied to even it with a pair of power-play goals later in the second.

Johnson got the first one with a slapshot from the point at 14:53. Iginla tied it at 17:51 with his second goal in as many games.

Iginla’s tally tied him with Mark Messier for 26th in career power-play goals at 179.

NOTES: Varlamov finished with 30 saves. … Stars D Jordie Benn left the game after taking a shot off the right leg in the third period but returned. … Iginla played in his 1,394th career game. He tied Stan Mikita for 36th on the NHL’s all-time list. … Stars D Patrik Nemeth and Jamie Oleksiak and C Colton Sceviour were healthy scratches. … Colorado scratched D Brad Stuart and Brandon Gormley for the second straight game.

Flames respond against Canucks after being ’embarrassed’ in opener

After the Flames were embarrassed by the Canucks in their home-opener, Calgary reverted to a familiar pattern in Saturday night’s 3-2 overtime victory against Vancouver.

While Calgary did open the scoring courtesy of Dougie Hamilton‘s first goal in a Flames jersey, Vancouver held a 2-1 lead going into the final frame. However, the Flames were one of the most dominant teams in the league last season when it came to the third period and it seems that scrappy nature has carried forward.

Sean Monahan tied the game midway through the frame and then Johnny Gaudreau provided the winner in the Flames and Canucks’ first three-on-three overtime period.

With that, head coach Bob Hartley has won 100 games with the Calgary Flames. This is the third franchise he’s earned at least 100 victories with after the Atlanta Thrashers and Colorado Avalanche. He ranks 30th on the coaching all-time wins list with 429.

The Canucks won’t get much time to regroup before they head to Southern California for games against Anaheim on Monday and Los Angeles on Tuesday. The Flames will head home to host the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday.