Zemgus Girgensons

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The Buzzer: Another big night for Eichel; Neal’s bounce-back continues

Three Stars

1. Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres. Having lost nine of their previous 10 games the Buffalo Sabres desperately need to start stacking some wins together. They got a big one on Sunday when they crushed the Florida Panthers, 5-2, to snap what had been a three-game losing streak. Eichel was one of the big stars in this one as he finished with a goal and two assists in the win. He now has 12 points over his past six games.

2. Sebastian Aho, Carolina Hurricanes. The Carolina Hurricanes’ 2-0 win over the Detroit Red Wings was a one-goal game until the final minute when they added an empty-net goal, but it was never really that close. Carolina was in control from the very beginning and ended up nearly doubling up the Red Wings on the shot chart, holding them to just 19 shots on goal for the game. Aho was the big star for the Hurricanes by scoring the game-winning goal and adding an assist on Teuvo Teravainen‘s empty-net goal. After a slow start that saw him record just one point in his first six games, Aho now has 19 points in the 17 games since.

3. James Neal, Edmonton Oilers. His bounce-back year continues. He scored his 14th goal of the season — and 10th on the power play — in the Oilers’ 4-3 shootout win over the Arizona Coyotes. Keep in mind this is the Oilers’ 26th game of the season. He scored seven goals in 63 games a year ago for the Calgary Flames before they traded him this offseason. No player on the Flames currently has more than 11 goals so far this season. Sunday’s win moved the Oilers into sole possession of first place in the Western Conference, moving them two points ahead of the St. Louis Blues.

Other notable performances from Sunday

  • James Reimer stopped all 19 shots he faced for the Hurricanes on Sunday to record first shutout of the season and his first as a member of the Hurricanes.
  • Zemgus Girgensons scored two goals for the Sabres in their win against Florida, while starting goalie Linus Ullmark stopped 43 out of 45 shots in net.
  • The Coyotes gained another point in the standings and defenseman Alex Goligoski played a big role in that with a three assist night.

Highlights of the Night

Eichel’s goal on Sunday was a great example of how he can make opposing defenders look silly and how quick his shot is.

Factoids

  • Andrei Svechnikov is the second teenager in Hurricanes/Whalers history to have a point streak of at least eight games, joining Ron Francis from the franchise’s Hartford days. [NHL PR]
  • Connor McDavid‘s point streak reaches 11 games, making it the second longest streak of his career. He also scored the game-winning goal for the Oilers in the shootout. [NHL PR]
  • The Sabres’ win snapped a six-game losing streak in Florida against the Panthers. [NHL PR]

Scores

Buffalo Sabres 5, Florida Panthers 2
Carolina Hurricanes 2, Detroit Red Wings 0
Edmonton Oilers 4, Arizona Coyotes 3 (SO)

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Bylsma praises ‘elite’ Eichel, cites experience of coaching star players

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Sidney Crosby is a star. So is Evgeni Malkin.

Jack Eichel might become one too and, if he does, there’s a chance it’ll be under the tutelage of new Sabres bench boss Dan Bylsma — the same guy Crosby and Malkin called coach for six years.

“You understand immediately the spotlight that is on those types of players, the star quality players,” Bylsma said on Thursday of his experience coaching elite talent. “I think you understand the pressure they’ll be going through, the analysis and the little eyes on them from just about everybody.

“I probably learned as much from working with those players — Sidney and Evgeni — as they learned from me. I think it’s going to be applicable to the likes of Sam Reinhart and Jack Eichel, who are going to be viewed in that same light, that same scope that star players are put into.”

Eichel, barring a remarkable turn of events, will become Sabres property when they select second overall at this June’s entry draft. Dubbed a generational talent, Eichel is one of the most ballyhooed prospects in recent memory and while Bylsma’s experience coaching young stars (Crosby was 21 when they won a Cup together in Pittsburgh, Malkin was 22) is important, so too is his experience with the Boston University phenom — Bylsma was Eichel’s assistant coach at the recently-wrapped World Hockey Championships, where the two combined to capture bronze with Team USA.

“Having coached [Eichel] at the World Championships, you have a chance to see a guy who’s going to be an elite player,” Bylsma explained. “He’s got outstanding skill.

“You see him play against men, a lot of NHL players he matched up against — Malkin when we played against Russia, Tomas Plekanec when we played against the Czechs. He’s playing against NHL players and he stacked right up there with his skill, his size and his ability to play the game.”

Bylsma then broke into a smile.

“Jack’s going to be a good pick for anybody who does take him.”

Aside from Eichel, Buffalo has other talented youngsters for Bylsma to teach, like Reinhart, Rasmus Ristolainen, Nikita Zadorov, Zemgus Girgensons and Mikhail Grigorenko. “Teach” really is the key word here; in explaining why he hired Bylsma, Sabres GM Tim Murray said the 44-year-old had all the necessary skills to educate the kids through the ongoing rebuild.

“[He’s a] great communicator,” Murray explained. “Obviously we’re going to be a young team, and we need somebody that knows how to teach, knows how to communicate. It’s not just telling someone what to do — it’s why they have to do that. There aren’t a lot of coaches that can do that, and I think Dan is one that can.

“We can talk about Xs and Os and all that later. It’s communication, it’s teaching, it’s understanding young people, understanding what they’re going through. I think he’s very good at those aspects of the game.”

U.S., Canada open with big wins at Worlds

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It was smooth sailing for the Americans and Canadians in their respective opening contests at the 2015 World Hockey Championships.

The Americans were led by a pair of goals from captain Matt Hendricks to cruise to a 5-1 win over Finland, while Canada got three point efforts from Nathan MacKinnon and Jason Spezza to beat Latvia 6-1.

Highlights from the U.S. romp:

New Nashville signee Steve Moses opened the scoring for the Americans with a great solo effort late in the first period. Nick Bonino and Dan Sexton had the other goals, while Connor Hellebuyck stopped 29 of 30 shots for the win.

Canada had five different goalscorers in its romp: MacKinnon, Spezza, Tyler Toffoli, Matt Duchene and captain Sidney Crosby, who converted on a penalty shot. It was an easy victory over a Latvian team that was woefully overmatched; the country’s lone NHLers, Zemgus Girgensons and Ronalds Kenins, aren’t participating in the tournament.

Get your game notes: Sabres at Bruins

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

TOP STORYLINES

• Last game (Sunday): WSH def. BOS 2-0 – BOS shut out for just the 4th time this season, second time vs. WSH.

• Both season-high 5-game winning streak and 11 straight games scoring first streak snapped.

• Despite the loss, the Bruins have been playing better hockey since Feb. 22. They are 8-2-1 in their last 11 games, and have closed the gap between themselves and teams just ahead.

• Bruins need this game: Of the Bruins 13 remaining games, 6 are against teams currently in playoff position. Another 4 are against teams in the playoff hunt, including Thursday’s matchup at OTT.

• Sabres slumping continues: Last game (Monday): WSH def. BUF 4-3 SO.

• Surrendered two 1-goal leads; allowed 2 PP goals.

• BUF has lost 7 straight games (0-5-2 record), while scoring 9 goals in their 6 games this month.

• If BUF finishes last overall, they will have a 20.0% chance of landing the first pick in the NHL draft.

• Scoring woes continue: Last season, BUF set an NHL record for the fewest goals in the expansion era of hockey dating to back to 1967 (150 goals; 1.83 g/gm). This season, Buffalo’s scoring is occurring at an even worse rate: 1.81 goals/gm (last in NHL).

SABRES TEAM/PLAYER NOTES

• Lone All-Star and number-one center Zemgus Girgensons was placed on IR on February 26 after blocking a shot by CBJ defenseman James Wisniewski (since traded to ANA) off his right foot two days prior. Whether or not he will return this season is still to be determined.

• Girgensons’ injury, combined with the trade of veteran center Torrey Mitchell (to MTL), have left Buffalo without much depth (or production) amongst its 4 centers, though both Larsson (5 points in last 4 games) and Hodgson scored last night. With a PP goal Monday vs. WSH, Tyler Ennis now has 5 points (3G-2A) in his last 6 games since returning from a groin injury. He leads the team in goals (18), power-play goals (6), and points (38).

• Since Feb. 19, Matt Moulson has been the team’s most consistent scorer. He logged an assist vs. WSH, giving him 11 points (2G-9A) in the last 12 games.

• Chad Johnson (lower-body) was injured before he could make an appearance with the Sabres after being acquired at the trade deadline from NYI.

• This has made Anders Lindback the everyday goalie – he has started 5 of the 6 games in March, posting an 0-3-2 record, 2.70 GAA, and a .924 SV% in the month.

• Lindback has not won a game in which he has started this season (b/w DAL and BUF). In those 12 starts, he has a record of 0-10-2.

• His two wins this season both came in relief appearances with the Stars.

• In his last 2 starts combined, Lindback has stopped 66 of 70 shots faced (vs. NYR & vs. WSH).

• Should Matt Hackett be named the starter of this 2nd game of a back-to-back, he would be making just his 3rd start of the season.

• He was pulled after allowing 4 goals on 23 shots at WSH on March 7.

• This season: 0-2-0 record, 5.19 GAA, and a .867 SV%.

• In his only career start vs. BOS last season, he allowed 3 goals on 23 shots in the 4-1 loss.

BRUINS TEAM/PLAYER NOTES

• David Krejci took part in the team’s morning skate today. This is the first time he has skated with the team since suffering a partially torn MCL at STL on Feb. 20. Krejci is in the 4th week of a 4-6 week timetable that was originally given.

• Boston’s recent winning ways can be attributed to the team’s newfound production out of young forwards Ryan Spooner (3rd-year) and David Pastrnak (rookie).

• After being recalled on Feb. 21, Spooner has 9 points (3G-6A) in the last 11 games.

• Pastrnak now has 8 points (3G-5A) in the last 9 games. See chart below that shows his scoring outburst.

• 2014 1st-round pick (25th overall) and the youngest player in the NHL (May, 25, 1996 – 18 years old).

• Team-leading scorer Patrice Bergeron has also picked up the scoring load for BOS during this surge, logging 9 points (3G-6A), +4 rating in the last 11 games.

• Career vs. BUF: 32 points (9G, 23A) in 54 games.

• 3rd- year defenseman Dougie Hamilton is enjoying a career-year for BOS. For the second consecutive season, he has topped his previous amount of goals, assists, and points.

• Leads all BOS defensemen in points this season (40).

• Career vs. BUF: 9 points (5G-4A) in 11 games.

• Tuukka Rask’s strong goaltending of late has helped the Bruins stay in playoff position. In his last 9 starts, he has gone 6-2-1, with a 1.64 GAA, and a .949 SV%.

• Niklas Svedberg is expected to get the start in net vs. BUF.

• This season: 7-5-0 record, 2.43 GAA, and a .918 SV%.

• He’s won his last 2 starts (2.44 GAA, .929 SV%) at NJ (Feb. 27) and vs. DET (March 8).

Filling the void: Sabres recall Grigorenko

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Mikhail Grigorenko is back on his way to the bigs.

The Russian forward, Buffalo’s first-round pick (12th overall) at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, has been recalled to the Sabres from AHL Rochester, the club announced on Tuesday.

Also headed up from the Amerks are forwards Tim Schaller and Jerry D’Amigo.

The trio has been brought up to replace Brian Flynn, Torrey Mitchell and Chris Stewart, all three of whom were traded at Monday’s deadline. Between those departures and the injuries to Josh Gorges, Zemgus Girgensons and Patrick Kaleta (Evander Kane too, lest we forget), Buffalo will be icing a forward group that projects to look like this:

Matt Moulson-Tyler Ennis-Brian Gionta

Marcus Foligno-Mikhail Grigorenko-Cody Hodgson

Johan Larsson-Phil Varone-Zac Dalpe

Nicolas Deslauriers-Schaller-Matt Ellis

D’Amigo would be the 13th forward, presumably.

As for Grigorenko, most eyes will likely be on him as he gets another stint with the parent club. He’s been good in Rochester this year, scoring 31 points in 38 games, but only had one goal and one assist in 12 games with the Sabres earlier this year. His last NHL game came on Jan. 9.