Bolts rediscover offense, beat Sabres for seventh straight time

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) Tampa Bay Lightning coach John Cooper wishes he wasn’t so impressed with his team’s offensive outburst on Thursday night.

Steven Stamkos, Tyler Johnson and Nikita Kucherov scored first period goals, chasing Sabres goaltender Linus Ullmark, and Tampa Bay beat Buffalo 4-1 for its seventh straight win over the Sabres.

The Lightning led the NHL in scoring last season en route to the Stanley Cup finals, but they had scored one goal or less in five of six games, all losses.

“Now when we do score, it’s like, ‘Holy cow boys, look what we just did,”‘ Cooper said. “We’ve got to wipe that mindset away.”

Buffalo pushed back in the second with 21 shots, including rookie star Jack Eichel‘s fifth goal of the season.

But Tampa Bay goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy made 20 of his 30 saves in the frame, earning first star honors in the Lightning’s first multi-goal victory since Oct. 12.

“He held us in that whole period more or less,” Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman said. “We just completely lost our game.”

Vasilevskiy missed the first month of the season after requiring surgery to remove a blood clot near his collarbone. He said his second game back from injury was a bit of a roller coaster ride.

“First period, medium. Second period, it’s hard. Third period, it’s a bit easy,” Vasilevskiy said. “But the last couple minutes Buffalo played very well.”

Victor Hedman added an empty-net goal and the Lightning moved to 3-0 against Buffalo this season.

Stamkos scored 5:55 into the game, with Johnson netting one shortly after the midpoint of the first and Kucherov scoring with 1:40 remaining.

Chad Johnson replaced Ullmark and stopped all 10 shots he faced.

The Sabres have outshot their opponents in 10 of 13 games but are 4-6 in those contests.

Stamkos scored after beating Ryan O'Reilly‘s backcheck to receive a cross-ice pass from Valtteri Filppula. Stamkos put a hard snap shot past Ullmark’s late-arriving glove.

“Great play by my two linemates,” Stamkos said. “(Ondrej) Palat did a great job kicking it wide, go to the net, it’s pretty simple hockey.”

The Sabres’ power play was stymied by Vasilevskiy early, with O’Reilly’s slap shot kicked away. Matt Moulson was denied twice from the slot.

Later, Kucherov lifted an in-tight rebound over Ullmark, who was sprawled on the ice after losing sight of the initial shot.

“We’re a lot to blame for that one,” Sabres defenseman Cody Franson said. “Give them credit, they’re a great team. But our missed execution in the first period put us behind the eight ball early.”

Sabres coach Dan Bylsma pulled Ullmark, and then the Sabres put six shots on Vasilevskiy in the first 3 minutes of the second period.

Eichel scored when he snared Mike Weber‘s pass off the left boards and fended off a hook from Andrej Sustr, using Braydon Coburn as a screen to beat Vasilevskiy.

The Sabres came close to narrowing the gap on a late power play, but Tyler Ennis allowed Vasilevskiy to recover his empty net before firing wide of the goal.

Chances were few and far between for both teams in the third, but Vasilevskiy stopped David Legwand on a short-handed breakaway and then denied Eichel moments later.

“Pretty boring period but when you’re up by a couple goals you take that,” Stamkos said. “We did what we needed to do on the road and we have a chance to take three out of four on the road trip in the next couple days.”

NOTES: Sabres D Carlo Colaiacovo missed the game with an upper-body injury. … Tampa Bay LW Tye McGinn was scratched, while brother Jamie played on Buffalo’s fourth line with Sam Reinhart and Legwand.

Predators’ Arvidsson fined $2,000 under NHL diving policy

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NEW YORK (AP) — Nashville Predators forward Viktor Arvidsson has been fined $2,000 by the NHL under the league’s rules regarding diving and embellishment.

NHL Rule 64 was designed to penalize players who repeatedly dive and embellish in an attempt to draw penalties. A player gets a warning for a first citation and a $2,000 fine for the second citation.

League officials said Arvidsson received a warning following an incident Dec. 27 against Pittsburgh. His second citation occurred during an incident in the first period of a Jan. 7 game with Boston that resulted in coincidental minor penalties on Arvidsson and Bruins forward Brad Marchand.

Fine proceeds go to the players’ emergency assistance fund.

Fans troll with Tkachuk billboard, charities end up the big winners

Tkachuk billboard Kassian Flames Oilers
via CJAY 92
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Matthew Tkachuk‘s trolling made a great impact, and not just by earning the Flames a power play. Thanks to enterprising Flames and Oilers fans, a drive to put up a Tkachuk billboard in Edmonton morphed into something much more, raising a ton of money – more than $50K overall, it seems – for charitable causes.

It’s the sort of thing that might even make Zack Kassian smile.

[Catch up on the feud: Kassian threatens Tkachuk after suspension; witness the carnage]

This began with a modest Tkachuk billboard meant to gently torment

The ball really got (t)rolling when Mohamed Elsaghir (self-proclaimed “second most-hated man in Edmonton after Matthew Tkachuk) started a GoFundMe drive to put up Tkachuk billboards to torment Oilers fans.

CTV’s Glenn Campbell chronicles how that amusing idea morphed into something much bigger. Not only are Tkachuk billboards going up, but the process looks like it will raise at least $20K for ALS research.

The viral sensation drew the attention of Calgary radio station CJAY 92, which is owned by Bell Media. That connection made the billboards happen, and oh are the designs ever glorious:

With the billboards taken care of by CJAY 92/Bell Media, Elsaghir instead shifted the focus of that $10K donation drive to combating ALS. Elsaghir noted that proceeds will be donated to Snowy Strong for ALS in honor of Flames assistant GM Chris Snow’s battle with the disease. To make it even better, entrepreneur W. Brett Wilson pledged to match that $10K, pushing the money raised to $20K and counting.

Oh, and even that doesn’t cover the extent of the money raised by the raised ire between Tkachuk and Kassian.

Oilers fans get into the charitable, trolling spirit, too

Edmonton resident Samantha Costa made about a $25 donation to Calgary charity Brown Bagging It “in honor of Kassian.” That charity seeks to serve needy children with lunches. With that in mind, Costa ended her tweet with a nice barb:I chose @BrownBaggingIt so that kids can get a proper meal and grow up to be tougher than Tkachuk.”

Well, Costa’s tweet went viral, too.

To make this all more delightful, Brown Bagging It has been sharing updates that indicate this side of “The Charitable Battle of Alberta” will be competitive, too.

Wow.

Flames and Oilers meet again soon, and will get to see the Tkachuk billboard

Other NHL trash-talkers need to step their games up now, to be frank. Brad Marchand needs to lick this one now, is what I’m saying.

The Tkachuk billboard notes that the Flames – Oilers “the friendship tour” continues in Edmonton on Jan. 29. After that, the two teams meet in Calgary on Feb. 1. They also close out the regular season in Calgary on April 4.

Kassian vs. Tkachuk Part II already ranked as must-watch hockey, and a potential mess for the NHL. Following this inspiring charitable drive, it’s even more exciting. Honestly, “The Battle of Alberta” just keeps piling on reasons to cross our fingers for a playoff series.

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.

Pass or Fail: LA Kings’ 2020 Stadium Series jerseys

adidas / Kings
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One day after the Colorado Avalanche showed off their jerseys for next month’s Stadium Series game, the Los Angeles Kings revealed what they will wear when they hit the ice at at Falcon Stadium on Feb. 15 (8 p.m. ET; NBC).

As is tradition for Stadium Series games, the design is very unique and out there. The black, white, and silver is there along with the LA from their regular jerseys “taking flight” since the game will take place on the campus of the Air Force Academy.

adidas / Kings

Now while you’re maybe distracted by the black and white of the jerseys and the sweet white gloves, do not overlook one neat feature: the shiny silver helmets.

adidas / Kings

Some additional notes from adidas:

Crest: A new L.A. crest takes flight on diagonal bisected blocking, inspired by aircraft battle stripes.

Design: The architecture of the venue’s Air Force Academy, coupled with a pilot’s ambition to push to the edge, inspired the oblique angles used to shape the jersey’s typography and numbering. A checkerboard design graphic is implemented along the neckline.

What do you think? The black, white, and silver against the burgundy, blue, and white will be an interesting look on the ice.

MORE: Avalanche reveal 2020 Stadium Series jersey

The 2020 Stadium Series game between the Avalanche and Kings will take place Feb. 15 at Air Force Academy’s Falcon Stadium in Colorado Springs, Colo.. The game will air on NBC at 8 p.m. ET.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Bad news on Hurricanes’ Hamilton: broken bone in leg

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The Carolina Hurricanes and others hoped that Dougie Hamilton‘s nasty injury looked worse than it was. Unfortunately, the result is pretty bad: Hamilton suffered a broken fibula (broken bone in his left leg) on Thursday.

You can watch and cringe at Hamilton’s bad luck in the video above.

Michael Smith of the Hurricanes website confirmed the broken fibula, stating that Hamilton may undergo surgery as soon as Friday. Smith noted that a recovery timeline might become known later tonight. Either way, it’s clear that this is a huge loss for the Hurricanes.

Hurricanes teammate Jaccob Slavin replaced Hamilton on the 2020 NHL All-Star Game roster.

What Hamilton broken fibula injury might mean to Hurricanes

The Hurricanes face a small margin of error after losing Hamilton and Thursday’s game to the Blue Jackets. Looking at the standings, it’s tough to imagine them wading into the Metro’s top three, while the bubble race could be tight:

Speculating on how long Hamilton might be out is pretty tricky. A commenter in this thread pointed out that Jason Zucker returned from a break in as little as four weeks. On the other hand, Nick Kypreos notes that Hamilton’s Hurricanes teammate Jordan Staal missed half of a season with a similar injury.

Plenty of injuries are tough to figure, and that’s quite true with breaks.

The bottom line is that even an optimistic recovery window would be painful for Carolina. Earlier in January, Adam Gretz broke down why Hamilton ranks as one of the best defensemen in the NHL.

In a nutshell: Hamilton provides explosive offensive (14 goals[!] and 40 points [!!] in 47 games this season) while being better defensively than his critics realize. This Hockey Viz Heat Map tells much of the story:

So, yeah, this hurts a lot for Hurricanes team that could be in quite the battle (most likely) for one of the East’s two wild-card spots. Perhaps it might even push the Hurricanes to try to find some help on the trade market?

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.