Get your game notes: Bolts at Sabres

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

• With 36 points, TB is tied with MTL for the most points in the NHL and is off to its best start in franchise history through the first 25 games of a season.

• TB enters tonight having won four straight games, including a 6-3 win at NYR on Monday night. The Lightning have outscored opponents 16-8 during the win streak. Earlier this season, TB had a 6-game winning streak from Oct. 28-Nov. 9.

• TB is averaging an NHL-best 3.60 goals/game and is the only team to have scored 7 goals in a game three different times this season.

• C Steven Stamkos ranks third in the NHL with 15 goals and is tied for fourth with 29 points. He is on a 5-game point streak (3 goals, 4 assists) and has points in 11 of his last 12 games.

• Since the beginning of the 2009-10 season, no player in the NHL has scored more goals than Stamkos’ 225. Alex Ovechkin is the next closest player with 214.

• TB is 14-0-0 when RW Ryan Callahan scores a goal, dating back to last season when the club acquired him from NYR. Callahan is second on TB in goals (11) and tied for third in points (21).

• Callahan, a Rochester, N.Y., native, grew up rooting for the Sabres and played for the Buffalo Lightning of the Ontario Junior Hockey League (OPJHL) from 2001-02.

• After starting the season 3-13-2, BUF has gone 5-1-0 in its last six games to pick up over half (10) of its total points (18) during that stretch. BUF is coming off back-to-back wins against MTL.

• G Jhonas Enroth has started five of the Sabres’ last six games – three of them coming in a four-night span – due to G Michal Neuvirth being out with a lower-body injury that he suffered on Nov. 18 against SJ. During those five starts, Enroth has gone 4-1-0, allowing 8 total goals.

• BUF has gained at least a point in each of its last six divisional matchups (4-0-2) for the first time since it had points in six straight games from Feb. 26-March 23, 2013, when it went 5-0-1

• BUF is averaging an NHL-worst 1.67 goals/game.

• The Tyler Ennis / Zemgus Girgensons / Matt Moulson line has combined to score 18 of the Sabres’ 40 goals this season.

• 82nd regular-season meeting between BUF and TB, and first of five meetings this season.

• Tonight is the first game in a back-to-back, home-and-home series. The teams will play again on Thursday at TB. They will also play this season on Dec. 31, Jan. 9 and March 3.

• TB has won 3 of its last 4 meetings against BUF.

• In their last meeting, TB won 4-3 (OT) at BUF on March 29 last season.

• BUF leads all-time series 50-24-5-2 (W-L-T-OL).

HEAD-TO-HEAD

• TB: C Steven Stamkos has 10G-12A in 23 career games played vs. BUF, and has 3 game-winning goals.

• TB: G Ben Bishop is 4-0-1 with a 2.31 GAA and .920 SV% in 5 career starts vs. BUF.

• BUF: RW Drew Stafford has 9G-10A in 25 career games played vs. TB, including 3 power-play goals.

• BUF: G Jhonas Enroth is 3-0-1 with a 1.74 GAA and .949 SV% in 4 career starts vs. TB.

TAMPA BAY TEAM/PLAYER NOTES

• C Steven Stamkos, who missed 45 games last season after breaking his leg, told the Tampa Bay Times in November that his right leg may never feel the same. Yet he has managed to play in all 25 of TB’s games this season. He leads the team in goals (15) and points (29), and power-play goals (6).

• RW Ryan Callahan, who signed a 6-year/$34.8 million contract extension with TB in June through 2019-20, has 6 points in his last 4 games.

• D Victor Hedman returned to the ice on Saturday against Ottawa after missing 18 games due to a finger fracture he suffered in the fifth game of the season. Hedman has 10 points in 7 games this season, including 3 assists in the Lightning’s 6-3 win over the Rangers on Monday night – his first points since the injury.

• TB acquired a third-round draft pick in 2015 from ANA on Nov. 28 in exchange for D Eric Brewer. The trade created a roster spot the Lightning needed with Hedman returning from injury. In 17 games for the Lightning this season, Brewer had 4 assists and a +5 rating.

• C Alex Killorn’s career-best seven-game point streak ended last night. He has scored the game-winning goal in two of TB’s last four games and has contributed to “all those little plays that kind of go unnoticed,” according to teammate Tyler Johnson.

• G Ben Bishop has allowed 2 or fewer goals against in six of his past nine games. He has started 20 games this season, posting a 15-3-2 record with a 2.30 GAA and .917 SV%. He has yet to record a shutout this season.

BUFFALO TEAM/PLAYER NOTES

• C Tyler Ennis leads BUF with 16 points and his 7th and most recent goal of the season is still being shared widely on social media. In a 2-1 win vs. MTL last Friday, Ennis squeaked past two Canadiens before scoring from behind his back while falling onto the ice.

• Entering the week, 20-year-old C Zemgus Girgensons was leading all players in the 2015 NHL All-Star Fan Vote. The highest-drafted Latvian player in NHL history (picked 14th overall by the Sabres in the 2012 draft) is tied with Ennis for the team lead with 7 goals. According to the Buffalo News, he’s received many of his votes from overseas in Latvia. In Latvian, “Zemgus” means “one who eats lions.”

• D Josh Gorges, who was the NHL’s leader in blocked shots when he hurt his knee on Nov. 11 vs. STL, is expected to return to the lineup tonight after missing the last seven games, said head coach Ted Nolan.

• RW Drew Stafford, the longest-tenured Sabre, is third on the team with 12 points (4G-8A) but has not recorded a point in his last four games. He missed BUF’s game at MTL on Saturday (lower-body) but is expected to be back in the lineup tonight.

• When Stafford was 21 and starting his career, BUF was a Presidents’ Trophy team (2006-07). Now, at 29, he’s in the final year of his contract with a team that finished with its worst record in 42 years last season.

• RW Brian Gionta has just 2 goals through 24 games in his first season with the Sabres – both of which came in BUF’s 4-1 win over SJ on Nov. 18. Gionta scored 20+ goals seven times in his 12 seasons with MTL/NJ.

• RW Chris Stewart has 2 goals in his last 3 games after scoring just 1 goal in his first 21 games this season. Ever since being traded from STL to BUF at last season’s trade deadline, Stewart has been a popular name in the trade rumor mill, and he is now drawing interest from WPG and CHI.

PHT Morning Skate: Laine off to Switzerland; Who will play with Crosby?

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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.

• Jets restricted free agent Patrik Laine will practice with SC Bern of the Swiss League. (Swiss Hockey News)

• With Laine and Kyle Connor still not signed, the Jets are relying on Mason Appleton and Gabriel Bourque. (Winnipeg Free Press)

• The re-signing of Mitch Marner is a clear message from Maple Leafs management. (Leafs Nation)

• Pension Plan Puppets argues that Marner’s contract is set up for him to fail. (Pension Plan Puppets)

• The Flyers are incredibly disappointed that Travis Konecny isn’t in training camp. (NBC Sports Philadelphia)

• The Matthew Tkachuk situation in Calgary could make things ugly for the Flames cap situation. (Flames Nation)

David Backes is hoping to have a great camp so that he can make an impact on the Bruins roster. (NBC Sports Boston)

• Is the Provorov extension a good deal for the Philadelphia Flyers? (NBC Sports Philadelphia)

Adam Fox is looking to carve out an important role on the Rangers this year. (Blue Seat Blogs)

• The Canucks need more than just two lines to score if they’re going to make the playoffs. (Vancourier)

• Ever wonder what happy to Robby Fabbri‘s tooth? (NHL.com/Blues)

• Who will play with Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel this year? (Pensburgh)

• What’s new on the latest NHL 20 video game? (Game Spot)

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Maple Leafs expect Hyman, Dermott to miss significant time

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Once you get beyond the sticker shock of the $10.89M cap hit, the Mitch Marner contract is a reason for the Toronto Maple Leafs to rejoice. Rather than the saga drag on deep into the season like the William Nylander fiasco, Marner is gearing up in training camp.

Apparently the Maple Leafs will still be without a noteworthy player or two anyway, even though their losses aren’t nearly as significant as the prospect of being without Marner.

Head coach Mike Babcock estimates that forward Zach Hyman could miss approximately 14-15 games, while defenseman Travis Dermott may be sidelined for a similar span (12-14 games), according to TSN’s Karen Shilton.

If that forecast is correct, then the Maple Leafs could anticipate Hyman and Dermott back sometimes during this range:

Game 12 – Oct. 25: home vs. Sharks
Game 13 – Oct. 26: at Canadiens
Game 14 – Oct. 29: home vs. Capitals
Game 15 – Nov. 2: at Flyers

Naturally, when it comes to injuries, things can change. Ailments can worsen, or players can heal up faster than expected.

All due respect to two useful players in Dermott and Hyman, but the cap management aspect — particularly use of LTIR, and juggling once they’re ready to come back — is likely the most interesting part of this situation.

We already know that Nathan Horton ($5.3M AAV) and David Clarkson ($5.25M) will be on LTIR through the final season of their tragic contracts, providing $10.55M. Hyman carries $2.25M, while Dermott weighs in at $863K. The window for an LTIR stay is at least 10 games and 24 days, so one would expect that Hyman and Dermott would join Clarkson and Horton on LTIR. With Dermott’s cost fairly minimal, things would be most cramped once Hyman is healthy enough to play again. Will Toronto be forced to make a trade, or waive someone they’d rather keep?

Losing Hyman and Dermott for what sounds like close to a month isn’t great to begin with, but things could be especially tricky once they can actually play.

Although the Maple Leafs solved some of their biggest riddles, they’ll still need to answer more questions in the short term, so Babcock could be a busy man — almost as busy as Kyle Dubas.

(H/T to Rotoworld.)

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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.

Bruins get another major bargain with McAvoy contract

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Over and over again, the Boston Bruins find ways to sign core players at stunning discounts. They pulled off another steal with budding star defenseman Charlie McAvoy on Sunday.

Remarkably, they signed McAvoy for slightly less than what the Blue Jackets gave Zach Werenski. McAvoy’s contract is for three years, with just a $4.9 million AAV. That’s … incredible value.

Like with Werenski, it’s structured in a way that can make a future contract hefty, and open the door for eventual UFA status. But for a team that’s focused on now as much as the Bruins happen to be, this is even better. It also makes affording Torey Krug‘s next contract feel a lot more feasible. Also, Cap Friendly points out that McAvoy needs more time to reach UFA status than Werenski and Timo Meier, two players who’ve set a standard for how many RFAs approached negotiations this offseason.

When people try to beat up on the Maple Leafs for their expensive top guys, they often (almost unfairly) bring up Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak only costing about $20 million combined – less than John Tavares and Auston Matthews put together. This could be another contract people cite when they shake their head in awe at what the Bruins have done.

(Now, they just need to make sure not to give away any contracts to the likes of David Backes.)

About the only knock on McAvoy, 21, is that he’s dealt with some injury issues. Beyond that, he’s a really well-rounded defenseman, one who’s been instrumental in extending Zdeno Chara‘s career.

Check out how his RAPM charts at even-strength stack up against Werenski, via Evolving Hockey:

McAvoy made a resounding first impression during the 2016-17 postseason, making his NHL debut at that stage, and impressively logging 26:12 per playoff game. He then started strong in 2017-18, generating seven goals and 32 points in 63 games. This past season provided much of the same, as McAvoy scored seven goals and 28 points in 54 regular-season contests and delivering strong work in postseason appearances.

Again, the main concern is staying on the ice, as otherwise McAvoy’s passed his early tests with flying colors.

Cap Friendly estimates the Bruins’ remaining cap space at about $3.2M, and it’s possible that RFA defenseman Brandon Carlo might eat up all of that, or almost all of that breathing room.

This is fantastic stuff by the Bruins. Again.

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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.

Pavelski, Perry switch to Stars after long stays in first home

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FRISCO, Texas  — Joe Pavelski joined the Dallas Stars as an expensive free agent coming off one of his best goal-scoring years, while Corey Perry quietly signed a low-cost deal for one year after playing the fewest games of his career because of a knee injury.

That’s where the differences end for the veteran forwards trying to help the Stars make back-to-back playoff trips for the first time in more than a decade. The Stars will try to get past the second round after a Game 7 overtime loss to St. Louis, eventual winners of the Stanley Cup.

Pavelski and Perry both ended up on the same team after lengthy careers with the clubs that drafted them – 13 years for Pavelski in San Jose and 14 seasons for Perry with Anaheim, including a Cup title.

”It’s different. It’s fun,” said Pavelski, who signed a $21 million, three-year deal. ”It’s an exciting part of our career and it’s a change that I think you come in and you embrace that there’s going to be different things and learn to do it their way and help add to that how you can.

”It’s definitely fun to have a guy coming in with a similar situation.”

Pavelski scored 38 goals last regular season, three off his career high, and helped the Sharks reach the Western Conference finals. San Jose had the most successful stretch in franchise history during the four years he was captain, winning six playoff series.

The 35-year-old figures to play on one of the top lines, probably alongside either captain Jamie Benn or 2018-19 scoring leader Tyler Seguin. The Sharks wanted to re-sign Pavelski but couldn’t make it work under the salary cap after giving defenseman Erik Karlsson a $92 million contract.

Circumstances are a bit different for Perry, who is younger than Pavelski (34) but has seen declining production the past three seasons. Perry might miss the Oct. 3 opener at home against Boston after breaking a bone in his foot two days before the start of training camp.

Even when he’s healthy, Perry isn’t likely to fill a leading role similar to that of Pavelski. Both were drafted in 2003 – Perry with the 28th overall pick in the first round by the Ducks, Pavelski in the seventh round by the Sharks.

”It’s a new chapter,” said Perry, who signed for $1.5 million after the Ducks bought out the final two years of the contract for the franchise leader in games (988). ”It’s something different. I’m embracing it as change is sometimes a good thing, rejuvenates myself and my career.”

Benn figures Dallas is as good a place as any for two guys to start over after each spent so long with the only team he had known.

”I’m sure it’s pretty different for them,” Benn said. ”But we make it pretty easy for guys to come into this group. It’s something I take pride in being a captain is we want guys to be comfortable right from Day 1. I think they’re pretty comfortable. They’re fitting in well.”

The Stars are counting on Pavelski for offense after finishing near the bottom of the league in goals during Benn’s lowest-scoring full season since his rookie year in 2009-10. While Seguin led Dallas in points (80), goals (33) and assists (47), Benn scored just 53 points (27 goals, 26 assists).

”Obviously, he’s a goal-scorer,” Seguin said of Pavelski. ”But the biggest thing for him, too, is he’s another threat out there. You have him in the slot now and guys got to respect him. It’ll open up guys like me maybe for one-timers now and Jamie in front, so who knows.”

Despite career lows across the board because of the knee injury, Perry is a former champion (2007) and the only player on the Dallas roster with a 50-goal season (50 in 2010-11, when he was the NHL MVP).

”I think they’re a little different some ways,” Seguin said. ”I think with Joe you saw how San Jose rallied around him. He’s kind of more of a quiet leader. I think Corey Perry, he’s got the ultimate hockey player resume. He’s won everything. He’s been in every situation, and he’s going to know what to say at those moments.”

Seguin has emerged as a leader a year after signing a $79 million, eight-year extension that kicks in this season, adding him to a mix that includes Benn, veteran forward Alexander Radulov and goalie Ben Bishop, a Vezina Trophy finalist last season.

But there’s always room for more, particularly for a franchise that hasn’t made consecutive trips to the playoffs since the last of five straight postseason appearances in 2008.

”I think we have a couple of levels still to go in how we want to be and what we want to be about as a team,” second-year coach Jim Montgomery said. ”Those two are going to help propel us there.”

Pavelski and Perry start with some common ground.