Buffalo Sabres

Sharks sign free agent forward Nikita Jevpalovs


Latvian hockey fans could soon have another NHLer to cheer for.

The San Jose Sharks announced Monday the signing of free agent Nikita Jevpalovs to an entry-level contract.

Jevpalovs, a native of Riga, Latvia has 38 goals and 71 points in 45 games with Blainville-Boisbriand of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

“Nikita is a big-bodied forward who has a good combination of size and scoring ability,” said Sharks general manager Doug Wilson. “He has represented his country numerous times and impressed against some of the world’s top young talent and we’re excited to add a young forward with his skill set to our organization.”

The 6-foot-1, 210-pound forward has 84 goals and 164 points in 166 career QMJHL games.

Jevpalovs has represented Latvia internationally on several occasions. He won silver at the 2014 Division I world junior championship, played in two U-20 world junior hockey championships (2013, 2012) and the 2012 U-18 world championship.

Fellow Latvian, Zemgus Girgensons, won the All-Star fan voting this month as his home country stuffed the ballot box. Girgensons led all vote-getters with 1,574,896 votes.

Flyers’ Rinaldo suspended eight games for his hit on Letang


The NHL’s Department of Player Safety has suspended Philadelphia Flyers’ forward Zac Rinaldo eight games for his hit on Kris Letang.

He will lose $73,170.72 in salary during the suspension.

Rinaldo received a major penalty for boarding and a game misconduct for his hit during the first period of the Flyers’ 3-2 overtime win on Jan. 20.

Rinaldo waived his right to an in-person heading and had a phone hearing on Monday.

The 24-year-old is considered a repeat offender.

He was suspended four games last season for his hit on Sabres’ defenseman Chad Ruhwedel.

Rinaldo received a two-game suspension for dangerous hit on Detroit’s Jonathan Ericsson in February 2012.

Letang, who is believed to have suffered a concussion as a result of the Rinaldo hit, practiced Monday and could be an option for the Penguins Tuesday when they play host to the Winnipeg Jets.

Rinaldo is eligible to return to the Flyers’ lineup on Feb. 17 when Philadelphia plays host to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Sabres suspend Zadorov, lose Neuvirth


The Buffalo Sabres lost 11 straight contests to limp into the All-Star break. A brief vacation offered them a chance to put their struggles behind them, but the break and immediate aftermath didn’t go as planned. Rookie defenseman Nikita Zadorov was a no-show for Monday’s practice, so the team announced that they suspended him.

“We anticipate Nikita joining the team at some point during this week’s western road trip,” said Sabres GM Tim Murray. Buffalo will play in Calgary on Tuesday, Edmonton on Thursday, and Vancouver on Friday.

Goaltender Matt Hackett was present for the skate, but the reason for his inclusion wasn’t ideal. Michal Neuvirth suffered a lower-body while working out during the break and won’t attend any of the Sabres’ upcoming west coast games, per the team’s Twitter feed.

Neuvirth has a 3.39 GAA and .907 save percentage in 18 contests this season. Hackett, 24, has played in 21 career NHL games and has a 2.82 GAA and .912 save percentage.

Buffalo also called up 33-year-old forward Matt Ellis.

Cannonball Run…and gun: Team Toews wins highest-scoring game in ASG history


COLUMBUS — There were goals.

Oh, how there were goals.

Twenty-nine of them, to be exact — the highest-scoring affair in NHL All-Star Game history, which ended with Team Toews beating Team Foligno 17-12 on Sunday night at Nationwide Arena.

The home of the Blue Jackets, perhaps best known for its thunderous goal cannon that goes off every time a puck finds the back of the net, was firing constantly throughout the evening — though only on goals from Team Foligno, much to the relief of eardrums across the arena.

The game was, as the score suggests, light on defense and intensity, but featured an absolute boatload of goals. The 29 eclipsed the mark set at the 2001 All-Star Game in Denver when North America beat the World 14-12 on the strength of Bill Guerin’s hat trick.

Fourteen years later, it was a four-goal effort that led the way. Islanders captain John Tavares potted a quartet of markers for Team Toews, becoming just one of six players to accomplish the feat in an All-Star Game: Dany Heatley (2003), Mike Gartner (’93), Mario Lemieux (’90), Vincent Damphousse (’91) and Wayne Gretzky (’83) were the others.

On any other day, Tavares’ effort would’ve netted him Most Valuable Player honors, but not on Sunday — that went to hometown favorite Ryan Johansen, who finished with two goals and four points (and clearly benefited from the fan voting process for MVP).

While flat at times, the 60th edition of the league’s All-Star gala proved a nice ending for what was a great weekend for Columbus. The city embraced this event with enthusiasm, which included a jam-packed house — 18,901 in attendance — for Sunday’s finale.

“The fans, the fifth line in Columbus here has been unbelievable,” Johansen said following the game. “Thank you so much. You guys are unbelievable.”


Jakub Voracek tied Lemieux’s record for points in an ASG, with six… Panthers rookie d-man Aaron Ekblad acquitted himself nicely after being named to the game as an injury replacement, finishing with four assists… Johansen led Team Foligno in scoring while Patrick Kane, Claude Giroux, Alex Ovechkin and Steve Stamkos each had three points … The only skaters that failed to register a point were Anze Kopitar, Phil Kessel and Zemgus Girgensons, all from Team Foligno… Every Team Toews skater had at least one point.

Here’s an early look at Team Europe


COLUMBUS — First, they really need to figure out the name.

Officially it’s the straightforward-but-staid “Team Europe,” though we heard plenty of other monikers during Saturday’s announcement of the 2016 World Cup of Hockey: Pan-European, Team Other Europe and The Island of Misfit Boys (courtesy Bleacher Report’s Dave Lozo, which I feel might not stick)

For clarity’s sake, the squad is called Team Europe (for now) and comprised of players outside the traditional Big Four — Sweden, Finland, Russia and Czech Republic — of international hockey. As such, the NHL and NHLPA have hatched a Ryder Cup-style squad of players from Slovakia, Switzerland, Slovenia, Norway, Denmark, France, Belarus, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Austria and another other European country I’ve failed to mention.

Let’s take a look at potential roster choices shall we?

Forwards: Anze Kopitar (Slovenia), Marian Gaborik, Marian Hossa, Tomas Tatar, Tomas Jurco, Richard Panik, Tomas Kopecky (Slovakia), Thomas Vanek, Michael Raffl, Michael Grabner (Austria), Mikhail Grabovski (Belarus), Mikkel Boedker, Frans Nielsen, Jannik Hansen, Lars Eller (Denmark), Antoine Roussel, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (France), Tobias Rieder, Leon Draisaitl, Marcel Goc (Germany), Zemgus Girgensons (Latvia), Mats Zuccarello (Norway), Nino Niederreiter (Switzerland), Dainius Zubrus (Lithuania).

Defense: Zdeno Chara, Andrej Sekera, Lubomir Visnovsky, Andrej Meszaros (Slovakia), Roman Josi, Mark Streit, Yannick Weber, Luca Sbisa, Mirco Mueller, Raphael Diaz (Switzerland), Christian Ehrhoff, Dennis Seidenberg (Germany).

Goalie: Jaroslav Halak (Slovakia), Frederik Andersen (Denmark), Thomas Greiss (Germany), Jonas Hiller, Reto Berra (Switzerland).

Halak, who’s represented Slovakia internationally on a number of occasions, figures to be in the mix for one of the goaltending spots — and, one would think, the starting job — but has mixed feelings about the Team Europe concept.

“I would say if it was 10 years ago it would be upsetting because 10 years ago we had a lot of guys in the NHL,” he explained during . “Right now, we got maybe 12. So that would be tough to make a team out of 12 guys.

“Obviously you need 20. It will be different to see [the rest of Team Europe] but at the same time I’m open to it. It would be nice to play with some other players from different countries.”

As most assumed when reports of a Team Europe concept first broke, the team will be well-stocked at forward but thin on defense and in goal. On their own, Switzerland and Slovakia probably have the strongest contingents but lack depth certain positions. Other countries simply don’t have enough players period so, from a competition standpoint, the Ryder Cup-style amalgam makes sense.

It just remains to be seen if all the projected players fully embrace the idea.

“I’m sure it’s going to be strange at first, but playing against each other you know pretty much all of the guys anyway, Kopitar said. “I don’t think it’s going to be too hard to come together.”