Get your game notes: Sharks at Sabres

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Tonight on NBCSN, it’s the Buffalo Sabres hosting the San Jose Sharks at 7:30 p.m. Following are some game notes, as compiled by the NHL on NBC research team:

• BUF is looking for back-to-back wins tonight for the first time since a 3-game win streak last Feb. 25-28, after beating TOR, 6- 2, at home on Saturday. The Sabres have the worst record in the NHL this season and had a league-low 21 wins last season, but two of those victories last season and one of their victories this season have come against the Sharks.

• BUF won 2-1 at SJ on Oct. 25 – its first of two regulation wins this season – when C Cody Hodgson and LW Nicolas Deslauriers scored back-to-back goals a little more than two minutes apart in the third period.

• BUF has a 7-game win streak vs. SJ and is 15-1-0 all-time vs. SJ at home. SJ last won at BUF on Dec. 2, 2005.

• BUF has an NHL-worst mark of 1.47 goals/game, but has scored 9 goals in its last two games.

• In their 6-2 win against the Maple Leafs on Saturday, it was the first time the Sabres scored 4 or more goals since their 4-2 win over the Sharks on Feb. 28 last season. Per Elias, the Sabres’ 40-game span with less than 4 goals scored was the third longest streak of its kind in NHL history. Only the Pittsburgh Pirates (45 games) and Chicago Blackhawks (60 games) recorded longer streaks, both of which came during the 1928-29 season.

• SJ has gone 6-8-1 in its last 15 games after starting the season 4-0-1. The Sharks are 3-3-0 on their current 7-game road trip – tied for their longest trip of the season – and will end their road trip tonight. After tonight, they will have played 16 of their first 21 games on the road, the highest percentage (76%) of road games in the first quarter of a season in franchise history. They will also play 7 straight on the road from March 17-29.

• Despite G Alex Stalock (knee) being placed on the injured reserve last Wednesday, SJ has allowed just 3 goals in their last 3 games after giving up an average of 2.8 goals/game through their first 17 games of the season.

• G Troy Grosenick, called up after Stalock’s injury, recorded 45 saves in his first career start on Sunday, as SJ beat CAR 2-0. Grosenick is the first goaltender in Sharks franchise history and 24th ever to record a shutout in his NHL debut and his 45 saves are a franchise record for an NHL debut.

• Grosenick, who led Union College to its first Frozen Four in 2012 (Union College lost in first round), went undrafted and was still a free agent as of April 2013.

• G Antti Niemi, who has a 2.61 GAA this season, started the two games prior to Grosenick and could also start tonight.

HEAD-TO-HEAD

•  33rd regular-season meeting and second of two meetings this season between SJ and BUF.

• BUF won the first meeting 2-1 at SJ on Oct. 25.

• BUF has won the last 7 straight meetings with SJ, outscoring the Sharks 23-3 in those games.

• BUF leads all-time series 21-6-5.

• SJ: C Joe Thornton has 35 points in 46 career games vs. BUF, including 10 points on the power-play.

• SJ: G Antti Niemi has a 0-3-1 record, 3.23 GAA and .882 SV% vs. BUF in 4 career starts.

• BUF: RW Chris Stewart leads the Sabres with 10 points in 20 career games vs. SJ.

• BUF: LW Matt Moulson has 5 points in his last 6 games vs. SJ, including the game-winning goal the last time the teams met in BUF on Feb. 28.

SHARKS TEAM/PLAYER NOTES

• C Joe Thornton, the first overall draft pick in 1997 by the Bruins, leads the Sharks this season with 18 points (7G-11A) and is riding a 6-game point streak. He had been the Sharks’ captain since the start of the 2010-11 season, but lost his captaincy this summer because SJ was in the process of becoming a “tomorrow team.”

• SJ has 4 alternate captains this season: Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski, Marc-Edouard Vlasic.

• D Brent Burns, who opened the season with a 5-game point streak, is second among all NHL defensemen with 17 points and is tied for the second-most points on SJ. Burns returned to his original home on the blue line this season after scoring 22 goals as a forward last season.

• C Joe Pavelski, a member of the last two U.S. Olympic teams, has a team-high 8 goals this season after scoring a career-high 41 goals last season. He’s the other player tied with Burns at 17 points.

• C Logan Couture had 16 points in his first 15 games this season, but he has 0 points in his last 5 games.

• Earlier this season, Couture told the San Jose Mercury News he was disappointed about not being named one of the Sharks’ four alternate captains: “I think it’s human nature to be disappointed. Any player would be in this situation. But you can’t let it affect you, and I won’t. I’m going to come in and do the exact same thing I would if I had a letter or didn’t.”

• G Antti Niemi, who won a Stanley Cup with CHI in his first full NHL season in 2009-10, has started 14 of SJ’s 20 games this season, posting a 7-6-1 record with a 2.61 GAA. But he is 1-4-0 in his last five games.

SABRES TEAM/PLAYER NOTES

• C Zemgus Girgensons and C Tyler Ennis are tied for the team lead with 6 goals apiece and both players have 4 points each in the last two games. Girgensons, 20 years old, is the highest-drafted Latvian player in NHL history, having been picked 14th overall by the Sabres in the 2012 draft.

• LW Matt Moulson had 3 points in his last game after having just 5 points through his first 18 games of the season. Moulson signed a five-year, $25 million deal with the Sabres over the summer.

• Moulson on his contract with BUF: “I don’t think I’ve ever had a multi-year deal like that. So maybe that’s in the back of your mind trying to live up to that. You just realize you have to go out there and play hockey. I think I found that confidence again.”

• Moulson is married to Alicia Backman, whose sister, Jaclyn, is married to Kings G Jonathan Quick, making the two hockey players brothers-in-law.

• RW Drew Stafford, the longest-tenured Sabre, is tied for the team-lead with 12 points (4G-8A). 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.

• RW Brian Gionta has 3 assists through 19 games, but has yet to score a goal in his first season with BUF – the longest goal drought of his career. Gionta scored 20+ goals seven times in his 12 seasons with MTL/NJ.

• G Michal Neuvirth and G Jhonas Enroth have split time in the net this season. Neuvirth is 3-5-1 in 9 starts and Enroth is 1-8-1 in 10 starts. Neuvirth, who is expected to start tonight, won his first career game as a Sabre on Oct. 25 against the Sharks, making 29 saves in the process.

STANDOUT STATS

]• SJ: C Joe Thornton is 42nd on the all-time career points list with 1,212 – just 4 behind Jeremy Roenick, who is tied with Larry Murphy for 40th with 1,216 points. Thornton and NJ RW Jaromir Jagr are the only two active players to have recorded 1,200 or more points.

• BUF: Allowing an NHL-worst 3.53 goals/game. Third-period woes: BUF has allowed an NHLworst 28 goals in the third period, while SJ has allowed 22, which is 4th worst in the NHL.

NOTABLE INJURIES

•  SJ: Alex Stalock (knee) was placed on injured reserve last Wednesday. There is no timetable in place for his return yet.

• BUF: D Josh Gorges (lower-body) is “weeks away” from returning to the Sabres’ lineup, according to Sabres GM Tim Murray.

Capitals’ Hathaway ejected for spitting on Ducks’ Gudbranson

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Washington Capitals forward Garnet Hathaway has been ejected from a game for spitting on a player from the Anaheim Ducks.

Hathaway spit on defenseman Erik Gudbranson during a brawl late in the second period Monday night with referee Peter MacDougall standing a few feet away. Officials reviewed video before confirming the five-minute match penalty that triggers a game misconduct.

Tempers flared during the first 40 minutes between Washington and Anaheim and boiled over with 33.4 seconds remaining in the second. Capitals forward Brendan Leipsic bulldozed the Ducks’ Derek Grant behind the net, sparking several fights between the teams’ fourth lines.

Hathaway was involved with Grant, Gudbranson and Nick Ritchie during the scrum before being thrown out.

Unexpected hat trick gives Ducks’ Grant rare opportunity

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If you weren’t expecting Anaheim Ducks forward Derek Grant to record a hat trick this season — as he did in the Ducks’ 4-1 win over the St. Louis Blues on Saturday night — you weren’t alone in that thought.

That thought also extended to his closest friends and resulted in a friendly wager over the summer that now gives the Ducks’ forward an opportunity to name a childhood friend’s first-born child.

Grant first mentioned it during a between periods interview on Saturday, and expanded on it on Monday.

From the Ducks’ Adam Brady:

Another buddy had suggested that if he made a hole-in-one the next day on the links he should be allowed to name the baby.

“My one friend said he should get to name it if he gets a hole-in-one that day golfing,” Grant recalled with a chuckle. “I’m not quite as good a golfer, so he made it real for me if I get a hat trick this year, I’d get to name his first child.”

Grant added that even though his friend’s fiancee was a little skeptical of the idea at first, the couple is fully on board with him naming their child.

This probably seemed like a safe bet for his friend to make because before Saturday Grant had scored just 18 goals in 228 career games and had only scored two goals in a game once. He played 92 NHL games before scoring his first career goal during the 2017-18 season.

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.

 

Hurricanes’ Haula out with more knee issues

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A couple of years ago the expansion draft process gave Erik Haula an opportunity to get an increased role with the Vegas Golden Knights.

He took advantage of that opportunity with a breakout season that saw him score 29 goals and become a key part of one of the most improbable Stanley Cup Final teams ever.

It has been a tough road for Haula in the two seasons since due to injuries, and now his first year with the Carolina Hurricanes is being sidetracked by more knee issues.

Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour announced on Monday that Haula is “going to be out for a while” and that he does not think the forward will be playing anytime soon due to continued issues with his knee. Haula had recently missed four games this season due to soreness in his surgically repaired knee before returning to the lineup on Thursday against the Buffalo Sabres. He played in each of the Hurricanes’ past two games, logging 27 minutes of total ice time in a more limited role.

Haula was originally injured a little more than a year ago when an awkward fall during a game in Toronto resulted in him being stretchered off the ice. He did not play another game for the Golden Knights and was traded over the summer in salary cap-clearing deal.

He was off to a great start this year with eight goals in his first 16 games with the Hurricanes. That total has him just one goal off the team lead where he trails Andrei Svechnikov, Sebastian Aho, and Dougie Hamilton (all three have nine goals, while all three have played in all 20 games so far).

This is a tough injury for both the Hurricanes as a team and for Haula on a personal level.

First, the Hurricanes are losing one of their most productive forwards and a player that had already seemed to be a perfect fit in their lineup. His addition was a huge boost to their forward depth and so far everything had been working exactly as planned for a team that has its sights set on becoming a championship contender.

As for Haula himself, he is currently in the final year of his contract and given the way he has produced the past three years when healthy he was playing his way toward what could be a fairly significant raise this summer, whether it was with Carolina or another team. There is obviously still a chance he can return at some point this season and pick up where he left off, but the short-term outlook is definitely concerning.

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.

NHL Power Rankings: Most dangerous duos in the league

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In this week’s PHT Power Rankings we take a break from ranking all 31 teams and instead look at some of the best, and most dangerous forward duos in the league.

We are looking at forward duos that are regularly used together on a line and can not only produce offense, but help carry their teams and drive play.

Which duos make the list? Let’s get to the rankings!

1. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers. There is not a duo in the NHL right now that is even close to these two.

Individually, the are the top-two point producers in the league since the start of the 2018-19 season and both are among the top-three in goals scored.

When they are on the ice together during 5-on-5 play the past two seasons the Oilers have outscored their opponents by an 82-57 margin (when neither is on the ice the Oilers have been outscored 67-97) while they have been on the ice for more than 55 percent of the Oilers’ total goals (all situations) during that time. As they go, the Oilers go. It is not a stretch to say this is the most dominant offensive duo the league has seen since the days of Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr in Pittsburgh. Breaking them up should be a fireable offense.

2. David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins. These two are so good that they have made Patrice Bergeron (still one of the best players in the league) arguably the third best player on his own line.

While Bergeron does drive a lot of the defensive play and plays the shutdown role to near perfection at center, the Pastrnak-Marchand duo on the wings is behind the offense. So much so that Pastrnak and Marchand have scored goals at a higher rate the past three years when they are playing without Bergeron than they do with him.

Goals per 60 minutes since start of 2017-18 season:

  • Pastrnak, Marchand, and Bergeron together: 3.64
  • Pastrnak and Marchand without Bergeron: 3.89
  • Marchand and Bergeron without Pastrnak: 3.49
  • Pastrnak and Bergeron without Marchand: 2.75

That is not to say the team would be better off without Bergeron centering the line, it is just a testament to how good Pastrnak and Marchand are offensively.

3. Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen, Colorado Avalanche. They have been to the Avalanche what the McDavid-Draisaitl duo has been to the Oilers. Top producers individually, completely dominant as a duo, and until this season the line that had to carry what was an incredibly top-heavy team. The Avalanche did serious work to address those depth concerns over the summer and it’s helped them stay afloat in the current absence of Rantanen (and the third member of that line, Gabriel Landeskog). When MacKinnon gets his regular wingers back the Avalanche should be considered one of the top Stanley Cup contenders.

4. Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel, Pittsburgh Penguins. It is easy to write off Guentzel’s success as being a product of playing next to Crosby, but here is the thing about that: A lot of players, many of them very talented, have spent significant time alongside Crosby throughout his career and have never approached the level of production that Guentzel has. He is the consistent finisher that Crosby never really had earlier in his career, and together they are the biggest driver of the Penguins’ offense.

5. Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida Panthers. These two have really emerged as top-tier offensive players the past two years. Barkov still carries the “underrated” label even though everyone around the league knows exactly how good he is (you should know how good he is, anyway). The truly underrated one in this duo at this point is Huberdeau. Both players are among the top-10 scorers in the league the past two years and have been outstanding this year. If Sergei Bobrovsky ever plays like the big money goalie the Panthers signed him to be this duo will take the Panthers to the playoffs.

6. Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point, Tampa Bay Lightning. They haven’t been quite as dominant as they were a year ago, but no one in Tampa Bay has been just yet. Plus, they are still both around a point-per-game offensively and they are carrying the play when the Lightning use them together (3.50 goals per 60 minutes; dominant possession numbers). They could be on the verge of a breakout at any moment.

7. Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty, Vegas Golden Knights. This duo became a thing last year after Vegas’ in-season trade for Stone last season, and it has been their best line ever since. Stone is one of the best all-around wingers in the NHL and should once again get serious Selke Trophy consideration, while Pacioretty still has the lightning quick release that can make him a 30-goal scorer. These two may not score as many goals as some of the duos on this list, but they control the pace of play and dictate the game as well as any duo in the league.

8. Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, Washington Capitals. You might consider this a nod to past dominance or their reputation, but these two still have it. The Capitals mix their line combinations up a bit (Ovechkin has spent a lot of time in recent years with both Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov as his center) but this is still the one that seems to work the best. Both players are in their 30s and still on track to put up huge numbers this season for a Capitals team that looks like it could win another Stanley Cup.

9. Brock Boeser and Elias Pettersson, Vancouver Canucks. This duo might change everything in Vancouver. The Canucks have had comically bad luck in the draft lottery during this rebuild, never picking higher than fifth despite being one of the league’s worst teams the past few years. They have still managed to find some incredible building blocks with their top picks including Pettersson, Boeser, and Quinn Hughes. The Boeser-Pettersson duo is a must-see every night and has helped rapidly  accelerate the rebuild. The only thing that has held them back so far in their young careers are injuries.

10. Johnny Gaudreau and Elias Lindholm, Calgary Flames. Going from Carolina to Calgary has completely turned around Lindholm’s career thanks to the instant chemistry he found alongside Gaudreau. In the three years prior to his move to Calgary he scored just 38 goals in 235 games. He already has 37 goals in only 104 games with the Flames. Since the trade the Flames have outscored teams 68-48 with the Gauderau-Lindholm duo on the ice and averaged close to three-and-a-half per 60 minutes.

(Data in this post via Natural Stat Trick)

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.