Buffalo Sabres

Sabres reject notion that they’re tanking

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The Buffalo Sabres were never expected to do much this season and while they had a great stretch from mid-November to mid-December, they did enter the All-Star break in last place after losing 11 straight.

Since before the season even began they’ve had to live with accusations that they’re tanking in order to land Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel. Both are considered to be players you could potentially build a franchise around. Still, the idea that they would intentionally try to slip into last place is insulting to Sabres head coach Ted Nolan.

“I’ve been around with the game for a long time,” Nolan told ESPN.com. “I’ve never been associated with anyone who said, ‘Let’s lose this game.’ Hey, winning is hard. There’s no sense in planning not to.”

The accusations have their root less in what Nolan or his players have done though and more with how the team was assembled in the first place. The Sabres dealt key veterans like Jason Pominville and Ryan Miller last season, leaving the squad underwhelming on paper. If trading away top veterans in exchange for picks and/or prospects is what it takes to be accused of tanking though, then Sabres president Ted Black thinks it’s become shorthand for rebuilding.

“You diminish yourself significantly in the present,” Black said of trading veterans. “But the hope is that it’s the future. We’ve gone through a dismantling. Are we trying to tank? No. But the performance is going to slip when you trade All-Stars for picks. It’s a consequence of a rebuild that’s going to require patience and time.”

Above all, captain Brian Gionta doesn’t want his teammates to get the idea that losing is acceptable under any circumstances.

“You don’t want guys coming in after a loss and feeling like we made strides,” Gionta said. “This game is all about winning. Part of the turnaround is changing that culture, the feel in the room, what’s acceptable and what’s not.”

Rangers’ prospect Brandon Halverson scores on his own net

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New York Rangers’ prospect Brandon Halverson put a puck into his own net Thursday night.

The Soo Greyhounds’ goaltender, felt the pressure of Buffalo Sabres’ prospect, Brendan Lemieux, and decided to pass the puck to a teammate in the corner. The only problem is his pass went right into his own net.

Have a look:

Luckily for Halverson, who was selected in the second round (59th overall) at last year’s draft, the Greyhounds were able to hang on for a 4-3 win.

Post-game the 18-year-old was able to laugh off his mistake.

source:

If Ryan O’Reilly is traded, where will he end up?

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Lots of talk about Ryan O’Reilly on the series of tubes today. The consensus seems to be that the 23-year-old Colorado center will be wearing a different uniform next season, or even by the end of the current season.

It’s not a simple situation, though. O’Reilly is signed through 2015-16, after which he can become an unrestricted free agent. The difficult part is that he can’t sign an extension until July 1, so if he were to be traded by the March 2 deadline, the acquiring team would want to have some sort of assurance that they could keep him long-term. So maybe this is a deal best left for the offseason.

On the other hand, O’Reilly’s value could theoretically be higher at the deadline if he goes to a playoff team.

Anyway, we came up with a list of five possible destinations. Feel free to list yours below.

Toronto Maple Leafs. Their biggest issue is at center, and has been for a while. Having said that, I’m just not sure what they could offer the Avs in return. If it’s a defenseman Colorado wants, it’s hard to imagine the Leafs giving up a youngster like Morgan Rielly. They’d probably be willing to trade Jake Gardiner, but given his struggles this season, would that be enough? Cody Franson is a possibility we suppose, but he’s also a pending unrestricted free agent.

Buffalo Sabres. According to the rumor mill, the trade could be for d-man Tyler Myers. But here’s my question — isn’t the Sabres’ future already looking pretty good down the middle? Zemgus Girgensons. Sam Reinhart. Mikhail Grigorenko. And quite possibly one of Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel.

Arizona Coyotes. We mentioned this possibility in our post about Keith Yandle. I imagine a lot would depend on whether O’Reilly would have interest in signing long-term with the Coyotes. If you were him, would you? Again, as of today, he can go anywhere he pleases come the summer of 2016. That’s a lot of leverage, especially for a 23-year-old.

Montreal Canadiens. Their top two centers are currently Tomas Plekanec and David Desharnais. Not terrible, but not great either. A future one-two of Alex Galchenyuk and O’Reilly would be formidable, though. Except like with the Leafs, I’m struggling to think what the Habs could offer in return. Would they give up Alexei Emelin? That could hurt them, given Andrei Markov and Sergei Gonchar won’t be around much longer.

Washington Capitals. This is pure speculation on my part. It may not make sense whatsoever, given the Caps already have two young centers, Andre Burakovsky and Evgeny Kuznetsov, to go with top center Nicklas Backstrom. But O’Reilly would definitely help them this season. Remember, they’ve lacked a good No. 2 center for a while now.

Related: Welcome Ryan O’Reilly to the trade rumor mill

PHT Morning Skate: Roussel the ‘madman’

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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.

Good stuff from the Dallas Morning News on the effective “madman” style of Dallas Stars pest Antoine Roussel. (DMN)

It’s not another day of the week without more Chris Stewart trade rumors. (Sportsnet)

David Perron on the difference it makes to play with the Pittsburgh Penguins and how he still feels for his former Edmonton Oilers teammates, who are going through the “draining” experience of losing a lot of games. (Puck Daddy)

The Philadelphia Inquirer describes Rob Zepp as one of the few (maybe only?) feel-good stories of the Philadelphia Flyers’ season. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Patrick Roy praises Ben Bishop as “one of the premier goalies in the league right now.” (Tampa Bay Tribune)

In case you turn to this daily collection of links to get out a tear or two, this ought to have you covered:

Video: Zetterberg’s hat trick sinks struggling Sabres

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Henrik Zetterberg’s sixth career hat trick helped the Detroit Red Wings battle back from a 3-0 deficit to defeat the Buffalo Sabres 6-4 Sunday night.

The loss is the 11th consecutive for the Sabres while the Red Wings have now won five straight.

Buffalo had the start they wanted.

Drew Stafford, Tyler Ennis and Chris Stewart scored on the Sabres’ first six shots of the night giving Buffalo an early 3-0 lead and chasing Red Wings starter Petr Mrazek.

“We had a great first period, maybe our best period of the year,” Ennis said per NHL.com. “But it sounds like a broken record, we took some penalties and they came out strong in the second.”

Thomas McCollum came on in relief.

“Obviously we were embarrassed. That was as bad as we’ve been,” said Red Wings coach, Mike Babcock. “It wasn’t totally a surprise to me. This was a trap game. We’ve played two real good teams (St. Louis Blues and Nashville Predators) in a row and found ways to win. It’s a back-to-back, so you don’t have time to get in here and get organized and feeling good about yourself. You don’t prepare like you should.”

Detroit roared back with three straight second period goals.

Gustav Nyquist, Drew Miller and Tomas Tatar all found the back of the net by the midway mark of the second period. Nyquist and Tatar also added assists in the win.

Ennis’ added his second of the night near the midway mark of the third pulling the Sabres to within one, but Zetterberg’s third of the night at 11:59 put the game out of reach.

McCollum, originally the first-round pick of the Red Wings (30th overall) in 2008, made seven saves for his first career NHL win.

Jhonas Enroth stopped 20 shots in the loss.