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.

Bruins hoping to win Stanley Cup, join Boston’s title parade

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BOSTON (AP) — It’s been more than three months since the last championship parade in Boston, and the city is getting antsy.

Sure, the Red Sox won the World Series last October. And the New England Patriots earned their sixth Super Bowl victory in February.

But since then: Nothing.

And Boston’s sports fans are counting on the Bruins to end the interminable title drought.

”It definitely lights a fire under you to see the other teams in the city bring home their championships,” defenseman Brandon Carlo said as the team prepared to face the St. Louis Blues in the Stanley Cup Final. ”We want to be a part of it.”

It wasn’t too long ago that Boston was a sad sack of a sports city, with the Patriots the joke of the NFL and the Red Sox mired in a dynasty of disappointment that would stretch to 86 years. The Celtics won far more than their share, but they endured the longest championship drought in franchise history from 1986-2008.

The Bruins went from Bobby Orr’s two championships in the early 1970s until Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron brought the Cup home in 2011.

If that doesn’t seem like a long time ago, try telling that to the newly spoiled Boston fans who have grown up with the Belichick-and-Brady Patriots and a Red Sox franchise that has won as many championships in the past 15 seasons as it did in the previous 100.

”It feels like there’s been a little bit of a gap in there,” said Carlo, a Coloradan who is 22 years-old, and has only been in the city for three years. ”The way things have gone for Boston, we’re looking to be like the other teams.”

And now they have their chance.

The Bruins are at their strongest heading into the Cup final, with a seven-game winning streak that includes a sweep of the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Goalie Tuukka Rask has allowed more than two goals just twice in the past 13 games, and he won the last two playoff clinchers with a shutout. Brad Marchand is the leading scorer remaining in the playoffs.

And, with the Celtics done, the Patriots in the offseason and the Red Sox still recovering from their early season championship hangover, the Bruins have the city’s attention.

”We want to be considered the best game in town. Why wouldn’t we?” coach Bruce Cassidy said. ”We have some serious competition.”

Cassidy said he has developed a relationship with the other coaches in town, and he reached out to the Patriots for advice on how to handle the long layoff between series. The Celtics practice facility is next door to the Bruins’; on the morning of an NBA playoff game, Cassidy wore a Celtics shirt to his media availability.

When he took the podium for Wednesday’s news conference, Cassidy looked at the unusually large crowd and said, ”Red Sox off today?” (They’re on the road.)

The Bruins have also noticed the difference when they’re out and run into fans around town.

”You do see how the city rallies around you,” Bruins forward Jake DeBrusk said. ”I grew up in Edmonton, and we only have one sports team. To come in here, and there’s four sports teams and they’re usually pretty good, in the playoffs or in the hunt or winning.

”It’s very lucky to be playing here,” DeBrusk said. ”Ever since I’ve gotten here I fall in love with the city. To see the teams win around here, and how the people supported it, it’s very special.”

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Davidson takes reins of Rangers’ rare rebuilding project

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NEW YORK (AP) — Behind the microphone for the last New York Rangers championship in 1994, John Davidson is now front and center to try to parade the Stanley Cup down Broadway again.

Davidson recalled 1994 as one of the best times of his life, and after moving from broadcasting to the front office with St. Louis and Columbus has returned home to oversee the Rangers’ rebuilding process. The proud, big-spending Original Six franchise is in the midst of a rare youth movement, attempting step back to make the leap from annual playoff team to perennial title contender.

General manager Jeff Gorton began that at the 2018 trade deadline and will remain in control of day-to-day operations. Davidson is now his boss as team president and wants to be the soul of the organization by charting the right course to return New York to prominence, which for now means keeping it going in this direction.

”There’s a lot of work to be done here,” Davidson said Wednesday when he was introduced as the 11th team president in franchise history. ”There’s no shortcuts. It’s nothing but hard work, and it takes patience and resolve, and I really want to make sure that I use the word ‘patience’ and I use the word ‘resolve,’ because we’re going to be in a battle here to get this club to be better. But you have to be patient when you go through a build like this.”

Patience generally isn’t part of the fabric of New York sports or the Rangers’ MO. But Davidson said he is on the same page with owner James Dolan, president-turned-adviser Glen Sather, Gorton, and coach David Quinn on doing this right.

It helps that Davidson knows the Rangers inside out from parts of eight seasons as a goaltender and two decades as a broadcaster. This is a different challenge than the ones he undertook with the Blues and Blue Jackets, which seemed daunting at those times.

In some ways it’s easier because Gorton already took the first few steps and Quinn established a standard for players as a good starting point.

”I like that the entire organization stated that they were going to rebuild,” Davidson said. ”There’s no secrets to it. There’s no, ‘Well, we’re going to do this, but don’t tell anybody.’ This is something that has been very transparent and that’s a good way to go. There’s a game plan in place. The foundation is being built.”

Based on his success in building the foundation in St. Louis that has now become the basis for a Stanley Cup finalist, and ushering in an era of success in Columbus, Davidson looks like the perfect person to run the Rangers’ ship. Dolan said Davidson’s ”knowledge of the game, experience and passion for the Rangers made him the ideal choice.”

Davidson isn’t as ”green” as he was when he took over the Blues in 2006, and the lessons he learned from his first two front-office jobs should only help guide Gorton.

”I think it’s going to be a huge benefit,” Gorton said. ”He’s gone through it in two organizations. He’s done everything in hockey. His experiences, just his even-keel way about him, it’s going to be a great asset for us as we go through this process, there’s no question about that.”

The Rangers missed the playoffs the past two seasons and likely will again in 2019-20. But with the No. 2 draft pick and one of two potential stars – Jack Hughes or Kaapo Kakko – on the way and youth, and competitive balance so prominent in the NHL, Davidson isn’t acting like this is a long-range rebuild.

”It can be done because of the youth that plays in this league now,” Davidson said. ”Obviously the sooner you win the better and that’s the goal, but you have to do it the right way to get there.”

Hockey Hall of Famer Brian Leetch, a key piece of that 1994 Rangers Stanley Cup team, believes Davidson has accumulated the right credentials in his previous two jobs to deliver another championship to New York.

”He’s made the transition each step along the way,” Leetch said. ”He’s admitted that each one wasn’t seamless: You had to learn, you had to ask others for help. And each one he’s made that transition and risen to the top at each level. To expect anything different would be wrong. I just think all those things together, and then the strong feelings that he has for New York City and the Rangers organization, just makes him the perfect fit at the right time.”

Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

PHT Morning Skate: Bruins scrimmage a ‘unique’ opportunity; It’s different this time for Blues

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• The 2019 Stanley Cup Final is also a battle between Jim and Pam from “The Office.” (NBC Boston)

• Team scrimmage a unique opportunity for the Boston Bruins. (Bruins Daily)

• A look at Patrick Roy’s candidacy for head coach of the Ottawa Senators. (TSN)

• Holland starting to clean house in Edmonton. (Sportsnet)

• Long-suffering Blues fans feel it’s different this time around. (ESPN)

• Blues heroics have wiped away decades of disappointment. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

• Why the status of Zdeno Chara doesn’t mean what it used to. (WEEI)

• Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy likens the Blues to Boston’s twin. (NBC Sports Boston)

• Berube’s Blues built on toughness. (TSN)

Alex Ovechkin will get a much-needed break, once the World Hockey Championships are over, that is. (NBC Sports Washington)

• Petr Budaj is heading to college… as a coach. (ABC Fox Montana)

• Adam Fox was worth the two picks the New York Rangers Rangers sent the Carolina Hurricanes. (EP Rinkside)

• Rangers offseason looking bright (NHL.com)

• Did what Washington accomplished last season have any bearing on the Bruins, Blues path to the Cup Final? (NovaCaps)

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Magical playoff ride ends in more disappointment for Sharks

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SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — Magical comebacks, dramatic wins and the most talented roster in San Jose Sharks history weren’t enough to deliver the franchise its first Stanley Cup title.

A team depleted by several key injuries ended its season with a 5-1 loss in Game 6 of the Western Conference final Tuesday night, turning the drama of Game 7 wins in the first two rounds into footnotes on a season that was ultimately a disappointment.

”We didn’t make it easy for ourselves the whole playoffs,” defenseman Brent Burns said. ”We always battled back. We got through a lot as a team. A lot of guys just battled. Just to get this far a lot of things have to go right. We battled together but came up short. It’s crushing to come this far and not get the job done.”

The goal for the Sharks was clear ever since they acquired two-time Norris Trophy winning defenseman Erik Karlsson from Ottawa just before the start of the season. Coach Peter DeBoer told his team the ingredients were in place for that elusive first championship in San Jose. It appeared like that could be the case after the Sharks rallied from three goals down in the third period of Game 7 in the opening round to beat Vegas in overtime and followed that up with another Game 7 win against Colorado in round two.

But with Karlsson unable to play the final four periods of the postseason because of a groin injury that slowed him since January, and captain Joe Pavelski and two-way center Tomas Hertl also out after taking high hits, the Sharks didn’t have enough to handle the Blues.

This season ended like so many others for the Sharks, who have won more games than any other team and the second-most playoff series the past 15 seasons but still are seeking a first championship.

”They all hurt,” said center Logan Couture, who tied a franchise record with 14 goals in the playoffs. ”It doesn’t matter what the roster is. When you get this far in the playoffs or you make the playoffs it hurts. You get in the playoffs you believe you can win.”

Here are some other takeaways from the season:

JUMBO JOE: One motivating factor for the Sharks this postseason was delivering a title for beloved leader Joe Thornton. The greatest player in franchise history turns 40 in July and has not decided whether he wants to come back for another season. Thornton dealt with injuries early in the season, then had a strong stretch as a third-line center late before struggling a bit the final two rounds outside of a two-goal performance in Game 3 at St. Louis.

”He’s the face, he’s the heartbeat of the organization,” DeBoer said. ”I think like all the players in that room, as coaches we’re disappointed for not helping him get there. Because he gives you everything he’s got and should be there.”

CAPTAIN PAVELSKI: No player personified the Sharks’ grueling journey this spring more than Pavelski. His postseason started with a puck that deflected off his face for a goal. The injuries only got worse when his helmet violently crashed to the ice, leading to a bloody concussion in Game 7 against Vegas. That led to the epic comeback with four goals on one disputed major penalty that will go down as the greatest moment in franchise history until the team wins a Cup. Pavelski made a triumphant return in Game 7 of the second round but got hurt again in Game 5 against the Blues. Pavelski turns 35 and heads into an uncertain summer of free agency following a 38-goal season.

KARLSSON’S FUTURE: It was a somewhat disappointing first season in San Jose for Karlsson and now the question is whether it will be his only one. He took about two months to find his groove and then played at an elite level for about six weeks. He hurt his groin in January and was never the same. He missed 27 of the final 33 regular-season games and was never completely healed in the playoffs. He heads into free agency in July and his decision will impact what the Sharks will be able to do with Pavelski and other key pieces.

STEPPING UP: The biggest positive for San Jose this season was the emergence of Hertl and Timo Meier as building blocks for the future. The 25-year-old Hertl was the top-scoring forward for the Sharks with 74 points and showed the capability of manning a top line as a center. The 22-year-old Meier had 30 goals and looks like a long-time fixture as a top-six forward.

BETWEEN THE PIPES: Martin Jones was one of the worst starting goalies in the league during the regular season in his first year of a $34.5 million, six-year contract. He had a career-low .896 save percentage in the regular season and was pulled early in two of his first four postseason starts. He rebounded and was a key part of the first-round win over Vegas but finished the playoffs with an .898 save percentage.

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports