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Sabres GM takes blame for lack of ‘stud defenseman,’ talks expansion draft

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Buffalo Sabres GM Tim Murray occasionally gets grief on social media about seemingly being a bit awkward with the media, but he provided all sorts of interesting nuggets to WGR 550’S “Schopp and the Bulldog” on Tuesday.

Some of the most interesting commentary revolved around how the Sabres are handling the expansion draft and why Murray believes the team hasn’t taken that next step into the postseason yet.

“We haven’t been able to pick that stud defenseman yet and that falls right on me and on the scouting staff that’s under me,” Murray said.

Going further, he stated that he believed Buffalo boasted a blueline good enough to make the playoffs, but maybe not contend for a Stanley Cup. Interestingly, he pointed to the acquisition of Dmitri Kulikov as a particular disappointment.

(Kulikov’s contract is expiring, so that might explain why he was willing to be so frank about the blueliner falling short of expectations as a “top-three” defenseman.)

Speaking of defensemen, Murray acknowledged that he’ll most likely protect three blueliners and seven forwards for the expansion draft. His comment about GM George McPhee not prying loose a key player is worth a chuckle:

Almost sounds a little seedy, maybe even some hockey espionage, even?

Anyway, WGR 550 has more if you want further insight from the Sabres’ GM.

Kings’ playoff hopes take a royal beating

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Monday was a bad night for the Los Angeles Kings even beyond being shut out 2-0 by the Edmonton Oilers.

This concludes a tough 48 hours for the Kings after they also fell 5-2 to the Calgary Flames on Sunday. Really, they’ve been slipping for some time; they’re now just 7-10-3 since Feb. 5.

The frustrations really might be growing, as it wasn’t as though there was zero effort. They fired 35 shots on Cam Talbot, but the Oilers goalie was up to the task, giving him two straight shutouts.

Again, it’s not just a matter of the Kings falling in regulation. The Nashville Predators also beat the Arizona Coyotes 3-1 on Monday, moving at least briefly ahead of the St. Louis Blues for third in the Central. The Predators now have 83 standings points (in 72 games played), shifting the Kings’ view to the Blues:

First wild card: Flames – 86 points in 72 games
Second wild card: Blues – 81 points in 71 GP

Kings – 75 points in 72 GP

Los Angeles doesn’t have any games remaining vs. the Blues or Predators, and while they face Calgary twice, the gap is likely too large between the Kings and Flames at this point.

This isn’t to say that the Kings are totally out of it, but it’s another rough night for their chances. Sports Club Stats gives them an eight percent chance to make the playoffs, down two percent in one night.

Sabres’ power play makes difference against Red Wings

The 2016-17 season will likely serve as a disappointment for most involved with the Buffalo Sabres, but at least there was that power play.

It’s been a strength of the team for much of this year, and it made the difference for the Sabres in their final visit to Joe Louis Arena, as they beat the Detroit Red Wings 2-1.

Both of the Sabres’ goals came on the power play, with Jack Eichel opening the scoring and Matt Moulson collecting what would end up being the game-winner. The Eichel goal was an especially authoritative moment:

Of course, the number one thing Buffalo should be happy about is … probably Jack Eichel, in general.

Bozak comes up big again as Maple Leafs grab huge win against Bruins

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Technically, a very late Dominic Moore goal keeps Tyler Bozak‘s 2-1 tally from being the game-winner for the Toronto Maple Leafs against the Boston Bruins. It essentially was on Monday, though.

The Maple Leafs piled on some empty-netters, so the score ended up being 4-2, a misleading margin of victory as Bozak’s go-ahead goal broke a 1-1 tie with less than two minutes remaining in regulation.

Earlier in March, Bozak scored a huge goal in Toronto’s win against the Philadelphia Flyers, so a once-maligned forward is coming up clutch for the Buds.

(Judging by the responses to this post on Twitter, Bruins fans believed that the Maple Leafs received the benefit of a few whistles.)

With this regulation win, the Maple Leafs swept their season series against the Bruins.

They’re now in striking distance of passing the Bruins for third in the Atlantic:

Bruins – 82 points in 72 games
Maple Leafs – 81 points in 71 GP

The modest immediate concern is grabbing a playoff spot, and in that regard, this win creates some nice breathing room for Toronto:

Final wild card spot: Maple Leafs – 81 points in 71 GP

Islanders – 78 points in 71 GP
Lightning – 77 points in 71 GP

Every other non-playoff East team: 74 points or fewer.

The Maple Leafs can’t just sit back and relax during their final 11 games of the regular season, mind you, but they might just remember nights like these if their push ends up being successful.

That will be especially true if they can finish ahead of the Bruins.

Matthew Tkachuk suspended two games for elbowing Drew Doughty

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The NHL suspended Calgary Flames rookie Matthew Tkachuk two games for elbowing Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty.

The “reckless nature” of the elbow justified the Department of Player Safety’s decision to make this more than an in-game punishment.

Interestingly, the league didn’t mention an injury (or lack of injury) as a factor in the suspension:

The Flames lose Tkachuk for road games against the Capitals on Tuesday and Predators on Thursday. He can next play in Saturday’s away contest against the St. Louis Blues.

The suspension will set the rookie back $10,277.78.