Sabres coach on hot seat; GM says team’s play ‘unacceptable’

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BUFFALO, N.Y. — Buffalo Sabres coach Ralph Krueger is on the hot seat for overseeing a high-priced and underperforming team that has won just twice in its past 12 games.

First-year general manager Kevyn Adams called the team’s play “unacceptable” and added “it’s flat-out not good enough” during a wide-ranging conference call on Friday.

Adams was short on specifics when it came to Krueger, saying “everything is under evaluation.” He said he has full authority from owners Terry and Kim Pegula to make hockey decisions.

“He understands the situation we’re in is unacceptable, and the players do, everybody does,” Adams said of the second-year coach.

“I like Ralph a lot. I’ve learned a lot from Ralph,” he added. “But we both know that this hasn’t been good enough in terms of translating to success. We’ll assess everything.”

As for his players, Adams questioned his team’s lack of competitiveness and passion. He said he is considering shaking up his roster through trades but ruled out a “full-fledged” rebuild.

Though Adams said captain Jack Eichel hasn’t requested a trade, the GM sidestepped a question over whether he would consider dealing him.

“Jack is one of the best players in the world, period. Are people going to make a phone call and ask? Of course. And that’s the extent of it,” Adams said. “For me, Jack is someone when you see him going and you see the dynamic difference-maker he can be, there’s not many in the league like him.”

Adams’ comments in the hastily scheduled call with reporters came with the Sabres in freefall and already in jeopardy of extending their playoff drought to an NHL record-matching 10th season. Coming off a 5-2 loss at the New York Islanders on Thursday, Buffalo (6-12-3) is 0-4-1 in its past five and in the midst of a 2-9-1 skid.

“I’m angry and I hope that all of you are,” Adams said. “I would hope that our fans are because that means you care, and that’s a good place to start. But what’s going on is unacceptable.”

This is not what was expected after Adams’ offseason moves. He signed forward Taylor Hall to a one-year $8 million contract and acquired veteran center Eric Staal in a trade with Minnesota.

Krueger has been criticized for being too rigid with his philosophy, which has led to Buffalo ranking last in the league in scoring 24 goals in five-on-five situations and 29th in goals per game at 2.19. The coach was also questioned for benching high-priced forward Jeff Skinner during a three-game stretch last week.

Eichel publicly contradicted Kruger when discussing the timing of an injury, which led to the captain missing two games.

Krueger has one season remaining on his contract. He’s the team’s fifth coach since Lindy Ruff was fired in February 2013. Krueger was noted for being a motivator and innovator, but had been out of hockey for five years while overseeing English Premier League soccer club Southampton FC.

The Sabres have also had a carousel at the GM position. Adams is Buffalo’s third in five years after taking over in June when the Pegulas abruptly reversed course and fired Jason Botterill weeks after saying he was going to be retained.

Adams played for the 2006 Stanley Cup champion Carolina Hurricanes. He’s from Buffalo, but had no previous front-office experience and was promoted after overseeing the Sabres’ practice facility and hotel/entertainment complex.

Very little has gone right for the Sabres. Their season was paused after nine players, plus Krueger, were placed in NHL’s COVID-19 protocol early last month. The resulting changes to the schedule will force Buffalo to play its final 46 games over 83 days.

Injuries have also played a factor, with checking line forward Zemgus Girgensons sustaining a season-ending hamstring injury in training camp. Two weeks ago, the Sabres lost two defensemen: Jake McCabe sustained a season-ending knee injury and William Borgen was sidelined indefinitely with a broken forearm.

Adams said all teams face adversity.

“I will never tolerate excuses,” he said. “For me, that’s a really important message I have to the players. It’s, ‘Hey, we’re in this thing. You show up and you’ve got to get after it.’ That’s it. No excuses.”

Scoring has been a season-long concern. The team has just nine first-period goals and has held a lead after 20 minutes four times.

Eichel has scored just twice in 19 games and is in the midst of an 11-game drought. Skinner, two years removed from scoring a career-best 40 goals, has one assist in 18 games this season and hasn’t scored in his past 22 outings, dating to last season.

Hall, the 2018 NHL MVP, scored his second goal of the season on Thursday, and his first since the season opener on Jan. 14.

Frustration set in on Sunday after Buffalo was shut out 3-0 on consecutive days by the Flyers.

“If we had answer, I think we would be spitting them out,” Eichel said. “I think everyone’s having a tough time, a tough go right now, but we need to find a way to have some fun, loosen up.”

Adams said while the team has limited opponents’ scoring opportunities, it hasn’t done enough to create them.

“We’re not hungry enough to get to the net and we’re not competing enough,” he said. “That’s battle and will, right?”

Bruins set NHL record with 12 straight home wins to start season

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
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BOSTON — The Boston Bruins set the NHL record for most home victories to start a season with their 12th straight, topping the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 in overtime with a power-play goal from David Pastrnak.

The Bruins broke the mark of 11 that was set by the 1963-64 Chicago Blackhawks and equaled by the Florida Panthers last season.

“That felt awesome,” Bruins first-year coach Jim Montgomery said. “We talked about it after the second (period) going into the third. There’s been a lot of great teams in this league and you’re able to set a precedent, break a record. It’s pretty special and it doesn’t happen if those guys don’t believe in themselves like they do.”

Boston, which trailed 2-0 late in the second period, tied it with 9:33 left in regulation when David Krejci scored his second of the game on a shot from the right point.

“It’s never fun being down going into the third, you’re sitting in here (in the locker room) trying to figure it out,” Krejci said. “You want to come out and do the job, something special on the line. It’s hard to win in this league. To get 12 in a row at home is pretty special.”

In overtime, Carolina was playing shorthanded after being called for too many men on the ice when Pastrnak one-timed a pass from Brad Marchand inside the far post from above the left circle.

“It was a big win for us, obviously, coming from behind,” Pastrnak said.

Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Stefan Noesen each scored a power-play goal for Carolina, and Pyotr Kochetkov made 38 saves. The Hurricanes lost their fifth straight.

In a rematch of last spring’s opening-round playoff series that the Hurricanes won in seven games, Carolina shutout the NHL’s highest scoring team for nearly two periods and jumped ahead a pair of power-play goals in the opening period.

“We took too many penalties. That’s hurting us right now,” Kotaniemi said. “I think 5-on-5 we’re doing a really good job. We started good tonight and couldn’t keep that up.”

Boston’s tying goal was originally disallowed because of goaltender interference on Nick Foligno but overturned on a coach’s challenge after it was ruled that he was nudged into the crease by Carolina defenseman Brett Pesce.

Boston starting goaltender Linus Ullmark made 28 saves but had to leave with 13:03 left in the third period with an undisclosed upper-body injury. Teammate Connor Clifton had jumped on him to block a shot during a scramble. Jeremy Swayman made six stops in relief.

Carolina’s Noesen scored at 6:34 in to make it 1-0. And with five minutes left in the period, Kotkaniemi collected the puck near the side of the net after Seth Jarvis‘ shot bounced off the back glass and slipped it inside the post at 15:05.

Krejci scored for Boston with 31 seconds left in the second.

Boston came in with a league-high 82 goals in 20 games (4.10 per game), but it was held to relatively few chances despite getting a 5-on-3 power-play advantage early on.

TAKE NOTE

The Bruins honored captain Patrice Bergeron, who recorded his 1,000th career point when the team was on the road against Tampa Bay, with a message on the Jumbotron. The crowd gave him a standing ovation.

Bergeron became just the fourth Bruin to reach the mark, joining Hall of Famers Ray Bourque (1,506), Johnny Bucyk (1,339) and Phil Esposito (1,012).

UP NEXT

Hurricanes: Host the Calgary Flames.

Bruins: Host the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Predators postpone 2 games due to Nashville water main break

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. —  The Nashville Predators postponed two home games because of a water main break that soaked their downtown arena.

Hours after the Predators decided they couldn’t play against the Colorado Avalanche, the team announced it also postponed the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Makeup dates for the two games will be announced later.

The NHL said the water main break that occurred “significantly impacted the event level” of Bridgestone Arena. Team locker rooms and the ice surface are on the event level.

Predators President and CEO Sean Henry told reporters that the water in the event level ranged from 3 inches to 3 feet.

“We’re assessing it right now. We’re remediating it,” Henry said. “The good thing is, the water got shut off, the city responded in a pretty fast manner. I don’t think anyone is ready for things like this the Friday after Thanksgiving.”

Video posted by a WTVF-TV reporter shows the water puddled up on the main floor’s concourse area and the team store. The team was forced to close the store until further notice, pointing shoppers online for Black Friday specials.

The Predators’ next home game is now scheduled for Tuesday against the Anaheim Ducks.

The water issue also resulted in a switch to a different venue for a college hockey game between Northeastern and Western Michigan. They also had been scheduled to play at Bridgestone Arena, a game that was moved to Ford Ice Center Bellevue.

Rangers trade Ryan Reaves to Wild for 5th-round pick in 2025

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
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ST. PAUL, Minn. — The New York Rangers traded enforcer Ryan Reaves to the Minnesota Wild for a 2025 fifth-round pick.

Reaves had been a healthy scratch for eight of the past 12 games for the Rangers. He gives struggling Minnesota some extra muscle and a veteran presence.

The 35-year-old is signed through only the rest of this season at a $1.75 million salary cap hit. He has no points and 12 penalty minutes in 12 games of his second season with New York.

Reaves has played in 869 NHL regular-season and playoff games for the St. Louis Blues, Pittsburgh Penguins, Vegas Golden Knights and Rangers. He was with the Golden Knights during their inaugural season in 2017-18 when the reached the Stanley Cup Final.

Toronto’s Morgan Rielly placed on long-term injured reserve

Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
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TORONTO — The Toronto Maple Leafs placed defenseman Morgan Rielly on long-term injured reserve with a knee injury.

Rielly was hurt in a collision with with New York forward Kyle Palmieri early in the third period of Toronto’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Islanders at home.

Rielly has no goals and 16 assists in 20 games this season and is averaging 23 minutes of ice time.

Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said following practice that the 28-year-old Rielly doesn’t need surgery, adding there’s no firm timeline for his return beyond the minimum 24 days and 10 games required for going on long-term injured reserve.

Toronto’s defense is also missing Jake Muzzin with a neck injury and T.J. Brodie with an injured oblique.