Game of the night - Angry Sabres, Blackhawks to meet again

Buffalo Sabres (1-3-1) at Chicago Blackhawks (2-2-1), United Center, Chicago, Ill.

There may be some bad blood Saturday night on the West Side, and it will have nothing to do with gang activity.

That's where Buffalo and Chicago will meet for the second and final time this season - and a less than a week after the Blackhawks' Niklas Hjalmarsson laid out the Sabres' Jason Pominville with a hit that resulted in a suspension.

Pominville was checked from behind early in the first period of the Blackhawks' 4-3 win Monday, resulting in the usual extra-curricular activities and protestations well after the fact.

Pominville was Buffalo's third-leading goal-scorer with 24 last year, but was he the victim of a dirty hit? Depends.

It seems if your reputation is tarnished then every check is scrutinized. As far as I can tell, Hjalmarsson has never had a headhunter's mentality.

If anything, he's contrite.

"It was too hard of a hit, I guess," Hjalmarsson told the Chicago Tribune on Wednesday. "Maybe I should have considered him being in a vulnerable position and not hit him as hard. That's what (the NHL) said.

"If I could turn back time I probably would have acted differently. The bottom line is you have to have respect for the guys you play and maybe I hit him a little bit too hard."

Ryan Miller, though, didn't hide his anger toward Hjalmarsson or the NHL.

"You can't have a hit like that, it's dangerous," the Sabres' Vezina Trophy winner told The Associated Press. "I'm glad he admitted he didn't mean to do it. But you've got to change the culture some time, and I hope the league wakes up and sets a precedent for the year."

Miller said "something's got to be done" and encouraged reporters to quote him because he felt it's the only way to "hold the league accountable."

True, the NHL has put a well-placed spotlight on concussions in the wake of Boston's Marc Savard being waylaid by Pittsburgh's Matt Cooke last season, resulting in an immediate rules change involving lateral, back-pressure or blind-side hits to head.

Never mind that players are still allowed to drop the gloves for looking at each other the wrong way, but that's a story for another day.

Hjalmarsson received a five-minute major for boarding, a game misconduct - he played fewer than four minutes - and two-game suspension that ended with the Blackhawks' 5-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday.

Chicago should have Buffalo native Patrick Kane back in the lineup after missing Friday's game with an illness. Kane scored his first goal of the new season in Monday's win over the Sabres.

Also on Friday, Buffalo lost its fourth straight, 2-1 to the Montreal Canadiens. Each of the Sabres' last three losses have been one-goal decisions.

Buffalo has won four of its last six visits to the Windy City.

The pick? Chicago outmuscles Buffalo for much of the night and extend the Sabres' misery.


And now ... two minutes.


Brian Boyle, New York Rangers

At 6-foot-7, Boyle usually isn't sent out on the ice to score. On Friday night and with two stars lost to injury, though, the Rangers needed his touch.

With high-scoring Marian Gaborik and captain Chris Drury forced to leave early, Boyle got plenty of ice time and scored twice to force overtime, but the Rangers fell 4-3 to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Phil Kessel's power-play goal.

Coming into the contest, Boyle had 12 goals in 109 career games, never scoring more than four in a season.


Steve Mason, Columbus

Mason had allowed five goals to the high-powered San Jose Sharks in his first two starts of 2010-11. It took little more than two periods to match that in Columbus' 5-2 loss to Chicago on Friday.

When Scott Arniel took the job to become the Jackets' head coach, I have to think part of the reason is because of Mason - the 2009 Calder Trophy winner as the league's top rookie, but hasn't really done much since and probably should be bumped to backup status.

Now, I'm wondering if he's rethinking that decision to leave Manitoba of the AHL for his first NHL gig. That's what he seemed to indicate to the Winnipeg Free Press earlier this week.

"I miss my wife and my daughter and the simple familiarity of having everything in place in Winnipeg," said Arniel. "I also miss (Moose GM Craig Heisinger) Zinger. Both our relationship as friends and how easy we worked together and how we had the same beliefs and ideas about hockey."


"Watches? We threw those out a long time ago," - Phoenix forward Petr Prucha said about the Coyotes' opening the season with two games against the Boston Bruins in the Czech Republic.

No comments: