There have been no discussions for a new contract between Buffalo and pending UFA goalie Michal Neuvirth, player agent Patrick Stefan told PHT on Friday.
Neuvirth, 26, assumed the Sabres’ No. 1 gig following Jhonas Enroth’s trade to Dallas and has been the goalie of record ever since. Over that stretch, the Czech netminder — who’s in the last of a two-year, $5 million deal — has played very well, allowing just five goals on 103 shots (.951 save percentage) while earning high praise from onlookers:
Neuvirth’s numbers on the year remain unimpressive — 4-15-2, .310 GAA, .913 save percentage — though his playing opportunities were limited earlier in the year with Enroth in the fold.
Looking ahead, it’ll be interesting to see if Sabres GM Tim Murray opts to begin negotiations, as the current state of Buffalo’s goaltending behind Neuvirth and Anders Lindback (another pending UFA) is murky. Matt Hackett, 24, and Nathan Lieuwen, 23, could still turn into NHL-caliber netminders, but they’re not there yet; the club’s three most recent draftees (Linus Ullmark, Cal Petersen, Jonas Johansson) don’t project to be ready anytime soon.
As for heading to free agency… Neuvirth would be one of the youngest and most intriguing UFAs on the market, and could probably garner more interest than, say, Antti Niemi or Viktor Fasth. Problem is, this projects to be a buyer’s market for goalies and there aren’t many starting opportunities available.
The Boston Bruins’ recent slide has created an opening for teams trailing in the Eastern Conference playoff race, but Philadelphia hasn’t been able to capitalize on that. Tonight was another example as the Flyers suffered a 3-2 shootout loss to the NHL-worst Buffalo Sabres.
Sabres goaltender Michal Neuvirth was superb as he stopped 36 of 38 Flyers shots. He also had a strong game against Philadelphia on Sunday, but in that case he wasn’t rewarded for his efforts as Buffalo suffered a 2-1 loss. Still, he’s kicked out 98 of 103 shots over a three-game stretch, which is good for a .951 save percentage.
“For a young goaltender trying to establish himself as a number one, the difference makers, that’s how you’ve got to be,” Sabres coach Ted Nolan said, per the team’s Twitter feed.
This was a big night for Brian Gionta too as he found the back of the net early in the second period to earn his 500th career point in 821 games.
Brian Flynn netted the winner in the shootout.
Philadelphia has only won two of its last seven contests. It has earned four consolation points over those five losses, but the Flyers haven’t gained nearly as much ground as they could have over Boston’s recent five-game slump. Instead the Florida Panthers are in a better position to overtake Boston.
A couple of Olympic gold-medal winners will be between the pipes tonight in Montreal, where the Canadiens’ Carey Price will be staring down the Bell Centre ice at the Panthers’ Roberto Luongo.
Both Canadian netminders are enjoying excellent seasons. Price is a serious Hart Trophy candidate, while Luongo has helped keep Florida in the playoff race with a .920 save percentage in 46 appearances.
With a win, the Panthers would move to within one point of the Bruins for the final wild-card spot in the East.
So let’s hear those “Go Habs Go” chants, Boston sports fans!
Jaroslav Halak will look to rebound from a shaky performance versus the Rangers when the Islanders host the Predators, who are likely to go with Pekka Rinne.
Cam Talbot for the Rangers versus Ryan Miller for the Canucks.
Curtis McElhinney for the Blue Jackets versus Marc-Andre Fleury for the Penguins.
Ondrej Pavelec will see his first action in a week when the Jets visit Washington to take on Braden Holtby and the Capitals.
Michal Neuvirth for the Sabres versus Ray Emery for the Flyers.
Antti Niemi for the Sharks versus Kari Lehtonen (likely) for the Stars.
The New Jersey Devils ended a four-game losing streak on Tuesday. All it took was a visit from the Buffalo Sabres, the last-place team in the Eastern Conference.
Scott Gomez and Jacob Josefson scored in the shootout for New Jersey, while the Sabres were unsuccessful in both of their attempts, as the Devils skated to a 2-1 victory.
The Devils, held to just one regulation goal for the fourth consecutive game, took over the game in the third period, despite giving up the tying goal to Tyler Ennis.
They outshot Buffalo 17-8 combined between the third period and overtime, with Sabres goalie Michal Neuvirth making 34 saves.
Cory Schneider made 24 saves for the win.
All the latest from the crease…
Who goes for New York?
The Islanders won’t announce their starting goalie until 5 p.m. ET today, so we don’t know if it’s Chad Johnson or Jaroslav Halak in net for tonight’s affair against Carolina.
Update: It’s Johnson.
One would suspect Johnson gets the nod, given tonight is the second of a back-to-back; Halak played last night, and allowed six goals on 42 shots in an emotional loss to the Rangers.
That said, head coach Jack Capuano could possibly be persuaded to let Halak try and bounce back; the 29-year-old Slovak looked rattled and a bit shaky as the Blueshirts made a concerted effort to get into his kitchen.
Related: The Isles are surrendering too many goals
“I want to get shots,” captain Ryan McDonagh said, per Newsday. “We wanted to make it more difficult on Halak tonight than in other past games. He’s been a big difference in why we haven’t been able to beat them in the past.
“We talked about getting in front of the net and making it tough on him, make him fight through screens. We were a lot hungrier in front of him for sure.”
No word yet on who’ll start in goal for the ‘Canes.
Blue Jackets at Flyers: Curtis McElhinney vs. Ray Emery
Caps at Pens: Braden Holtby vs. Marc-Andre Fleury
Sabres at Devils: Cory Schneider for New Jersey, Michal Neuvirth likely for Buffalo.
Panthers at Leafs: Roberto Luongo vs. Jonathan Bernier
Stars at Blues: Brian Elliott for St. Louis, Kari Lehtonen likely for Dallas.
Sharks at Preds: Alex Stalock for San Jose, Pekka Rinne likely for Nashville.