Get your game notes: Sabres at Blues

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Tonight on NBCSN, it’s the St. Louis Blues hosting the Buffalo Sabres at 8 p.m. ET. Following are some game notes, as compiled by the NHL on NBC research team:

• STL is coming off its first loss in its last eight games – a 2-1 loss vs. NSH on Saturday, which allowed the Predators to pass the Blues for first place in the Central Division.

• Prior to that loss, the Blues’ 7-game winning streak tied Anaheim‟s 7-game winning streak (Oct. 11-24) for the longest stretch of wins in the NHL this season.

• RW Vladimir Tarasenko, who leads the Blues with 17 points (9G-8A), had 8G-3A during that 7-game winning streak, in addition to the shootout winner vs. NYR on Nov. 3. Heading into tonight, the 22-year-old Yaroslavl, Russia, native has 5G-3A during his current 5-game point streak – which matches a career-high (fourth time).

• G Jake Allen won all three of his starts during the win streak (ANA, STL, NJ).

• After losing the highest-paid unrestricted free agent goaltender in Ryan Miller (paid $6.25 million last season) in the offseason, STL chose to go with the goaltending tandem of Brian Elliott ($2.3 million this season) and Jake Allen ($850,000). The pair has been a surprising bright spot, combining for 9 wins and 3 shutouts.

• STL is allowing just 1.93 goals/game (T-3rd best in NHL).

• Elliott, who is expected to start tonight, is 5-3-1 with a 2.06 GAA and .923 SV% this season.

• Elliott has a “Mr. Moose” character featured on the back of his regular goaltending mask as a tribute to Owen Scott, who died in 2005. Scott was a family friend and a champion moose caller. But tonight, Elliott will wear a special Veterans Day-themed mask delivered to him by 92-year-old WWII veteran and St. Louis resident Charles Rohde. As a technical sergeant in the U.S. Army, Rohde saved ammunition and records from a burning truck on D-Day in Normandy.

• BUF, the worst team in the NHL, has scored the fewest goals in the league this season (18), while allowing the most (53). The Sabres have just one non-shootout victory this season, a 2-1 win over the Sharks on Oct. 25.

• BUF is averaging an NHL-worst 1.12 goals/game and has only scored more than 2 goals in a game once this season – a 4-3 (SO) victory over CAR on Oct. 14.

• The Sabres are an NHL-worst 2-for-50 (4%) on the power play this season. Per Elias, the 2 power-play goals are the fewest BUF has ever scored through its first 16 games of a season.

• BUF head coach Ted Nolan: “There‟s no one on a big, white horse that is going to come and save us. We have to somehow get the message. If we want good things, we‟ve got to work for it.”

QUICK HITS

• STL leads all-time series 52-45-13-0 (W-L-T-OL).

• STLwon both meetings last season by 2-1 and 4-1 margins.

• STL has won 4 straight against BUF and is 14-2-0 in their last 16 meetings. In those 16 meetings, the Blues have scored 3 or more goals 13 times.

• STL will wear special camouflage jerseys during warmups tonight that will be signed by players and auctioned and raffled off in honor of Veterans Day.

STANDOUT STATS

• BUF: D Josh Gorges has blocked an NHL-best 58 shots, 11 more than any other player.

• STL: The Blues are 6-2-1 in one-goal games this season.

NOTABLE INJURIES

• BUF: Marcus Foligno (upper-body) is day-to-day. He has been given the “green light” and is expected to play tonight.

• STL: RW T.J. Oshie (concussion) is “nowhere near” a return and is not expected to play tonight.

HEAD-TO-HEAD

• BUF: RW Chris Stewart: 8G-7A in 9 career GP vs. STL (all with COL).

• BUF: RW Drew Stafford: Despite being the Sabres‟ leading scorer this season and the longest-tenured player on the team, he has 0 points in 4 career GP vs. STL.

• STL: G Brian Elliott: 10-0-2, 1.74 GAA, .941 SV% in 12 career GP vs. BUF.

• STL: C Paul Stastny: 6 points in 5 career GP vs. BUF.

BUFFALO TEAM/PLAYER NOTES

• RW Drew Stafford, the longest-tenured Sabre, leads BUF with 8 points (3G-5A). When Stafford was 21 and starting his career, the Sabres were a Presidents‟ Trophy team (2006-07 season). But now, at age 29, he‟s in the final year of his contract with a franchise that finished with its worst record in 42 years last season.

• In Monday‟s practice, Stafford, having spent his entire career with the Sabres on the wing, was moved to center. Head coach Ted Nolan said Stafford approached him with the idea to move back to a position he hasn‟t played at much since high school. “We‟re trying anything at this point, so we‟ll give it a shot and see how it goes,” Stafford said.

• RW Brian Gionta has 3 assists through 16 games, but has yet to score a goal in his first season with BUF. Gionta scored 20+ goals seven times in his 12 seasons with MTL/NJ.

• LW Marcus Foligno, one of four Sabres with multiple goals (2) this season, has been given the “green light” and is expected to return tonight after missing the last five games with an upper-body injury.

• BUF has the fewest players (4) with multiple goals this season. FLA has the second fewest (5).

• G Michal Neuvirth, who is 2-4-1, with a 2.66 GAA and .929 SV% is expected to make the start tonight.

• Neuvirth is from the Czech Republic, where former Sabres goaltender Dominik Hasek is a hero for leading the country to the 1998 Olympic gold medal. Neuvirth has included a painting of Hasek, along with an old Sabres logo, on the side of his goaltending mask.

BLUES TEAM/PLAYER NOTES

• The line of RW Vladimir Tarasenko, C Jori Lehtera and LW Jaden Schwartz has combined for 17 points in the last 5 games. But after losing to NSH on Saturday, head coach Ken Hitchcock said: “Quite frankly, we’re sitting on one line doing everything for us right now. We’re going to need a lot more from people if we expect to be good in (the Central Division).”

• Lehtera, who previously played with Tarasenko at Sibir Novosibirsk in the KHL, has 3G-8A in his first NHL season.

• Captain C David Backes, a two-time U.S. Olympian, returned to the lineup on Nov. 1 vs. COL after missing one game with a concussion. He was third on STL with 57 points last season, but has just 3G-3A so far this season in 13 games, putting him seventh on the team with 6 points.

• RW T.J. Oshie is expected to remain out this week after suffering a concussion vs. DAL on Oct. 30. He has 1 assist in 8 games this season, one in which he‟s helping raise his 8-month-old daughter and care for his father with Alzheimer‟s off the ice.

• Oshie became a worldwide star last February at the Sochi 2014 Games, converting 4 of 6 shootout attempts vs. Russia to give the U.S. a 3-2 victory in the preliminary round. He is 27-for-49 (55.1%) in shootouts in six-plus seasons with STL, including an NHL-leading 9 shootout goals last season. He is 0-for-1 on shootout attempts this season.

• C Paul Stastny, activated from the injured reserve last week after missing 8 games with a shoulder injury, has 1G-3A in six games in his first season with the Blues. Stastny signed a 4-year/$28 million deal with STL in July.

Alex Ovechkin lights up Habs’ Drouin with huge hit

via NBC Sports Washington
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Alex Ovechkin is known for scoring goals (my personal favorite, which was nearly replicated by a Penguins prospect), but the Washington Capitals superstar is so fun to watch because he’s also perfectly willing to throw his body around for a big check. It’s one of those things that made you believe that maybe he’d wear down, yet that Russian Machine Never Breaks.

Montreal Canadiens forward Jonathan Drouin received a painful reminder that you need to keep your head on a swivel when Ovechkin’s on the ice, as the Capitals winger leveled Drouin with a huge hit on Friday.

It wouldn’t be surprising if Drouin was shaken up almost as much by the second impact:

Drouin left immediately for the locker room, but he’s taken some shifts afterward, so he might be OK … we’ll have to see.

Sometimes big hits like that light a fire under teams. Maybe Ovechkin was hoping it would do so for Washington, but instead Montreal channeled that anger into getting even on the scoreboard, as they rattled off a 4-0 lead in response.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Pittsburgh prospect’s incredible Ovechkin-like goal (Video)

QMJHL
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Earlier this week James O’Brien continued our “My Favorite Goal” series with a look back at Alex Ovechkin’s signature goal from his rookie season when he scored that seemingly impossible, sliding goal in Arizona.

On Thursday, Pittsburgh Penguins prospect Samuel Poulin did his best to try and recreate the finishing portion of that goal in a QMJHL game when he scored on an absolutely bonkers play late in his team’s 6-1 win.

Have a look.

As if the finish wasn’t enough, how about the move in the slot to get around the defender?

Poulin, a forward for the Sherbrooke Phoenix, scored the goal late in the third period of their win over the Cape Breton Eagles. It was Poulin’s 16th goal of the season.

The Penguins selected him in the first round (No. 21 overall) of the 2019 NHL draft as part of a promising draft class that also included Nathan Legare. Those two have been a much-needed boost to a farm system that has been depleted a bit due to trades in recent years to keep the current Stanley Cup window open.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Maple Leafs, Sharks, Golden Knights entering make-or-break stretches

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Even though the NHL season is only a quarter of the way through it is not too early for teams to start worrying about playoff seeding, or more importantly, whether or not they will even be able to make the playoffs.

The St. Louis Blues showed last year it’s possible to overcome a slow start, but there’s a far larger sampling of recent history that suggest it’s not very likely. Once the calendar starts to approach the end of November not many teams that are outside of a playoff position tend to climb into one, and the ones that do aren’t more than a couple of points back. We tend to emphasize the stretch run of the regular season as being the most important games, but it’s really difficult to make up lost points from early in the season.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at three teams that should be Stanley Cup contenders that are facing some really big stretches over the next couple of weeks that could potentially make or break their season.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Honestly, it’s time for this team and this coach to do something with all of this talent they have assembled. That is not even to say a Stanley Cup should be the expectation, but they should be capable of more than nothing but third places finishes and Round 1 playoff exits.

So far this season they have done nothing to show that anything with this team will be different.

Here’s the situation they are facing: They have lost three games in a row entering Friday’s game against a Boston team that has ended their season two years in a row, they are in fourth place in the Atlantic Division (sixth place by points percentage), and after playing the Bruins will be heading on a six-game road trip that begins Saturday night in Pittsburgh where they will be starting a backup goalie making his NHL debut. That road trip will also take them through Vegas, Arizona, and Colorado and be the start of a 15-game stretch where they will play 12 games outside of Toronto.

They have struggled on the road this season, still have not solved their defensive issues and do not have the goaltending to mask it. Even worse, they will now be without two key forwards (Mitch Marner and now Alexander Kerfoot) for the next few weeks. That is a pretty big challenge they are facing and if they don’t come out of it successfully things are going to get even more tense in Toronto than they already are.

Vegas Golden Knights

There was reason to believe at the start that this could be the best team in the Western Conference with a talented group of forwards, a solid defense, and a really good starting goalie. But so far pretty much everything about the team has been very ordinary. Their possession and scoring chance numbers paint the picture of a team that has maybe been a little unlucky so far, but they still have their share of issues, especially when it comes to finding another goalie that will not force them to run Marc-Andre Fleury into the ground, an issue that does not seem likely to go away anytime soon.

With only 21 points in 20 games they are on an 86-point pace for the season (that probably would not be anywhere near good enough for the playoffs) and have lost eight of their past 11 games entering the weekend. Some of the teams around them in the Pacific Division have been better than expected so far (specifically Edmonton and Arizona), while it is reasonable to conclude that San Jose and Calgary are going to improve as the season goes on.

If you assume 95 points is the “safe” number to secure a playoff spot, that would require Vegas to earn at least 60 percent of the possible points available to them the rest of the way. It’s a not impossible for this team, but it’s still a big number.

Saturday would be a good time to start making up that ground when they visit the Los Angeles Kings. Seven of their next eight games are either against Pacific Division opponents, or teams they are competing directly with for playoff spots in the Western Conference (Dallas, Nashville).

San Jose Sharks

Unlike the other two teams here the Sharks have already started to get their disappointing season back on track, winning five in a row entering the weekend. They are in the middle of a 16-game stretch where 12 games will be played at the Shark tank, and that home cooking has helped them stack some wins together. The offense has been ignited, the goaltending has at least been passable, and they are starting to get some production from their big defense duo of Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns.

Of all the contenders that stumbled out of the gate this always seemed to be the one that had the best chance of righting the ship because of the talent they have and the fact a lot of their problems could easily be solved with only one change (goaltending). They are not there yet, but they are on their way and with six of their next nine games on home ice they have a nice opportunity to keep digging out of that early hole.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Flames’ update on Brodie: Tests negative, no timetable for return

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The Calgary Flames received a huge scare on Thursday when veteran defenseman T.J. Brodie had to be taken to a hospital after collapsing on the ice and convulsing during practice.

On Friday, the team issued an update on his status.

General manager Brad Treliving said that the initial neurological tests on Brodie have all come back negative so far, while also adding that more tests still need to be done and that no stone will be left unturned in trying to figure out what happened.

Team Doctor Ian Auld also added that so far it looks the incident was more likely related to a fainting episode than anything inside the brain.

“An event like this can be caused by something inside the brain, something scary, and it can also be caused by syncope or fainting episodes. The reasons for why people faint are many,” said Auld, via the Flames’ website. “I don’t think we have all the answers yet and we still have a few more tests to go but all the early indications are that it’s very likely more related to a fainting episode than something significant and inside the brain.”

There is obviously no timeline for Brodie’s return to the lineup at this point.

“We’re going to go through the process of checking every box and make sure we administer every test,” said Treliving. “But he’s come through everything thus far and doing well, feeling good. He’s on the mend. He will obviously not travel with us today as we head to Arizona and Las Vegas. He will stay under the supervision of our medical team led by Ian (Auld).”

The 29-year-old Brodie has spent all 10 years of his career with the Flames after the team drafted him in the fourth round of the 2008 NHL draft.

With him sidelined indefinitely the team has recalled Oliver Kylington from the American Hockey League.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.