PHT Morning Skate: Mike Sullivan’s ‘thank you’ letter; Vegas is a hockey town

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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.

• Flyers prospect Alex Lyon has been terrific in the AHL playoffs (he made 94 saves in one game), which means he could be in line for a contract extension this summer. (NBC Sports Philly)

• Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan wrote a thank you letter to the fans in Pittsburgh. Even though they weren’t able to three-peat, he’s still proud of the way his players played. (NHL.com/Penguins)

• Former Winnipeg Jets forward Dale Hawerchuk coached Mark Scheifele in junior, so he’s thrilled about the way the 25-year-old is playing right now. (Canadian Press)

• Paul Maurice and Gerard Gallant have had some bumps in the road during their career, but they’ve both led their teams to impressive runs this postseason. (Associated Press)

• Sabres forward Evan Rodrigues is thankful that his parents took time to bring him to all of his youth hockey games and practices even though they don’t know much about the sport. (NHLPA)

• This Marc-Andre Fleury fan traveled 38 hours from Australia to see her favorite player suit up in Winnipeg and in Vegas. “It was greatly spur-of-the-moment,” Tina Girdler said. “I got caught up in the excitement. Vegas had their Cinderella story and Fleury’s at the centre of it. I couldn’t resist coming to watch my favourite goalie — the reason I am a goalie — in his prime.” (Winnipeg Sun)

• Even though they’ve been knocked out of the World Hockey Championship, there’s no denying that Danish hockey has improved. (Associated Press)

• There’s no denying that Vegas has become a hockey town. Everywhere you go, you can’t take five steps without seeing a Golden Knights logo. (TSN)

• Sportsnet’s Mark Spector remembers a time when he watched two minor-league teams play four-quarter hockey in Las Vegas in the late 90’s. (Sportsnet)

• The Montreal Canadiens have hired former NHL defenseman Joel Bouchard as the head coach of their AHL team in Laval. (NHL.com/Canadiens)

• Up top, check out the highlights from last night’s game between the Golden Knights and Jets. 

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.

WATCH LIVE: Buffalo Sabres at New York Rangers

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Buffalo Sabres

Benoit PouliotJack EichelKyle Okposo

Evander KaneRyan O'ReillyJason Pominville

Zemgus GirgensonsEvan RodriguesSam Reinhart

Scott WilsonJohan LarssonJordan Nolan

Marco ScandellaRasmus Ristolainen

Jake McCabeJustin Falk

Josh Gorges — Casey Nelson

Starting goalie: Robin Lehner

[NHL on NBCSN doubleheader: Sabres vs. Rangers; Penguins vs. Kings]

New York Rangers

Rick NashMika ZibanejadPavel Buchnevich

Mats ZuccarelloJ.T. Miller — Vinni Lettieri

Jimmy VeseyDavid DesharnaisPaul Carey

Michael Grabner — Peter Holland — Jesper Fast

Ryan McDonaghNick Holden

Brady SkjeiKevin Shattenkirk

Brendan SmithSteven Kampfer

Starting goalie: Henrik Lundqvist

WATCH LIVE: 2018 Winter Classic – Rangers vs. Sabres

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Rangers

Rick Nash/Mika Zibanejad/Mats Zuccarello

Michael Grabner/Kevin Hayes/J.T. Miller

Pavel Buchnevich/David Desharnais/Jimmy Vesey

Paul Carey/Boo Nieves/Vinni Lettieri

Ryan McDonagh/Nick Holden

Brendan Smith/Kevin Shattenkirk

Marc Staal/Brady Skjei

Startling goalie: Henrik Lundqvist

Rangers, Sabres take advantage of Winter Classic distraction

Sabres:

Zemgus Girgensons/Jack Eichel/Sam Reinhart

Evander Kane/Ryan O'Reilly/Kyle Okposo

Benoit Pouliot/Evan Rodrigues/Jason Pominville

Johan Larsson/Jacob Josefson/Jordan Nolan

Marco Scandella/Rasmus Ristolainen

Jake McCabe/Zach Bogosian

Josh Gorges/Nathan Beaulieu

Startling goalie: Robin Lehner

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.

WATCH LIVE: Boston Bruins at Buffalo Sabres

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Bruins

Brad MarchandPatrice BergeronDavid Pastrnak

Jake DeBruskRyan SpoonerAnders Bjork

Danton HeinenRiley NashDavid Backes

Tim SchallerSean KuralyNoel Acciari

Zdeno CharaCharlie McAvoy

Torey KrugBrandon Carlo

Matt GrzelcykKevan Miller

Starting goalie: Anton Khudobin

BRUINS LOOK TO KEEP ROLLING AGAINST SABRES (Preview)

Sabres

Evander KaneJack EichelJason Pominville

Benoit PouliotRyan O'ReillyKyle Okposo

Zemgus GirgensonsJohan LarssonSam Reinhart

Evan RodriguesJacob JosefsonJordan Nolan

Marco ScandellaRasmus Ristolainen

Nathan BeaulieuZach Bogosian

Jake McCabeVictor Antipin

Starting goalie: Robin Lehner

Sabres re-sign Eichel’s buddy Rodrigues for two years

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The Buffalo Sabres might have signed Evan Rodrigues back in 2015 in part because he enjoyed so much success as a college linemate with Jack Eichel at Boston University, but the undrafted forward seems like he’s making a case that he’ll be a part of their future in his own right.

The Sabres handed Rodrigues a two-year deal that is two-way in 2017-18 and one-way in 2018-19. Whenever he’s at the NHL level, it’s worth $650K per season.

Rodrigues debuted in 2015-16, scoring a goal and an assist in two games. He managed to play in 30 regular-season contests for the Sabres last season, collecting six points.

He’s shown quite a bit of improvement at the AHL level, in particular. After collecting 30 points in 72 games for the Rochester Americans in 2015-16, he scored 30 again in 2016-17, although he only needed 48 contests to do so. Rodrigues isn’t quite Matt Moulson to Eichel’s John Tavares just yet, but it’s possible that he might at least develop into a regular NHL player.

Buffalo’s work isn’t done for the summer just yet, as RFAs Zemgus Girgensons and Nathan Beaulieu still need deals.