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Bye-bye Burmistrov!

Here’s some fresh news from the Pacific coast that may not seem important, but does take a name off the “centers available” aisle of the Rumor Mill Market..

Vancouver Canucks center Alexander Burmistrov has retired from the NHL, according to agent Dan Milstein. However, an official announcement regarding his future is expected in the coming days. Burmistrov is just 26 years old, so the news of his retirement is certainly unexpected. Some have speculated that he is simply retiring temporarily so he can play in the Olympics. Remember, the NHL is not permitting its players to play in the Olympics this winter, so this may certainly be the case. Still, right now, there is no official word on why Burmistrov has decided to call it quits.

Not Insiders Verdict:  Burmistrov was drafted during a time where lots of Russian players were coming out of the World Junior Championships looking like world-beaters.  There was a near worriless process to go through to have these players come to North America to chase the Stanley Cup.  Players like Burmistrov, Evgeni Grachev, Alexei Cherepanov (RIP), Nikita Filatov and Alexander Radulov were among that group as well, and on the whole, we can now call the experiment what it was – a bust!  Burmistrov started with the Jets, but also was acquired by the Coyotes for a season setting themselves up with key pieces for their franchise overhaul.

Burmistrov never lived up to a number eight overall pick, and I am sure he got frustrated along the way (not when he left for the KHL, just his overall situation.  He was supposed to be a star, but a lack of consustent effort saw him getting less and less prime time minutes, which eroded his confidence, which lowered his production, which starts the cycle again.

Good luck, Alex!  Have fun at the Olympics! 


Man(ning) in Motion

Dec 24, 2017

Here’s a tidbit we found interesting.  We ask you, the reader, to let us know if this falls within the bounds of good football moves, or just fun speculation?

Could you imagine Eli Manning as the Jets‘ next quarterback? Bob Glauber of Newsday can. He hypothesizes that the Giants will take a QB at No. 2 overall in the draft, displacing Manning. The Jets, who are expected to look for a new signal caller this year, could have interest in Manning winds up on the open market. Meanwhile, Glauber expects Kirk Cousins to stay with the Redskins, meaning that he would not be an option for Gang Green.

Not Insiders Verdict:


Crisis club of the week: West Brom’s losing ways continue

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Column: Infantino must prove FIFA commitment to cleaning up

When members of soccer’s hierarchy were plucked from their Zurich bedrooms at dawn by police in May 2015, any vestiges of trust remaining in FIFA vanished.

As the first FIFA trial concludes in New York and a former vice president is sent to jail, the governing body still hasn’t shown the corrupt culture that infected soccer has been eradicated.

Officials booted out in the last year while trying to clean up the game still question the commitment of the post-Sepp Blatter FIFA, led by Gianni Infantino, to meaningfully banish the rogues.

FIFA still tries to portray itself as the victim of the corruption of dozens of soccer officials. It even wants a cut of the more than $200 million being reclaimed from individuals and marketing companies. And yet, incongruously, FIFA brazenly disputes the U.S. Department of Justice’s portrayal as this being a case centered on FIFA.

It is all about the tournaments or television rights in the Americas, FIFA contends, overlooking the former members of its top brass implicated in bribery and the allegations aired in court about World Cup hosting votes and television rights deals.

FIFA has often given the impression of doing the bare minimum against officials implicated in wrongdoing. Willful blindness or complicity?

The wave of arrests in 2015 was the result of wiretaps and stacks of evidence being gathered by criminal investigators, not proactive moves by FIFA.

Before then, FIFA begrudgingly implemented ethics processes that eventually brought down Blatter.

But too often FIFA sneered at campaigners advocating reforms, and acted half-heartedly against those illegally profiting from the game.

Only once FIFA realized American prosecutors were at their doors did overhauling the governance of the game become a priority.

Infantino was well-placed to shape the future of FIFA. Then general secretary at European body UEFA, the Swiss-Italian served on the FIFA reform committee in 2015 just as a path to the FIFA presidency opened up as favorite Michel Platini was toppled by financial wrongdoing.

But this committee also featured:

– Markus Kattner, who was subsequently fired by FIFA in 2016 over unauthorized bonuses worth millions of dollars while finance chief;

– Sheikh Ahmad, who was implicated this year in another bribery plot unearthed by American prosecutors and forced off FIFA’s ruling council;

– Gorka Villar, the former director general of South American confederation CONMEBOL who was arrested in a Spanish corruption investigation in July.

There were several meaningful reforms, such as 12-year term limits for FIFA presidents and council members, but other recommendations have fallen by the wayside.

The finance committee – headed for years by Blatter’s bribe-taking right-hand man Julio Grondona – does not now, as envisaged in 2015, have a majority of independent members to protect FIFA’s cash.

There has also been no recalibration of power to dilute the authority of the FIFA president.

Criticism came this month in a report from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). Infantino’s ”micro-management” and control appears as ”strong as under the previous leadership.” Fatma Samoura, the first African secretary general, has not gained the authority envisaged.

The politicians behind the PACE report were deeply skeptical over the actions of FIFA’s new leadership, while not doubting Infantino’s integrity.

The lack of separation of political and administrative functions is problematic.

In his first elected position, Infantino has to maintain political goodwill within the game.

In a warning to soccer leaders in May, Infantino declared: ”If there’s anyone in this room … who still feels he can enrich himself leave football now. We don’t want you.”

Tough talk from Infantino does not seem a charade.

But how willing is Infantino to rock the boat of an institution where maintaining the political goodwill of the majority of the 211 FIFA nations is required to win re-election in 2019?

”The leadership of football does not answer to the court of public opinion,” former FIFA governance officials Navi Pillay, Miguel Poiares Maduro and Joseph Weiler wrote in an op-ed published in European papers this week. ”It responds to its own constituency that would replace leadership which seriously tried to reform football.”

Just look at the murkiness around the departures of key personnel, including Maduro, who were installed to enforce better working practices or banish the offenders. The inadequate explanation and communication to the media, public and – most significantly – to some members of the ruling council gave the impression Infantino was acting sneakily.

Infantino cannot expect the sudden jettisoning of the ethics judge and investigator to be so accepted without question when they were in the midst of awkward probes into the leadership of the Russia World Cup and had looked into elements of the FIFA president’s own conduct.

”The general feeling is that FIFA Council and Mr. Infantino in particular wished to get rid of persons who might have embarrassed them,” former Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe President Anne Brasseur wrote in her report.

Infantino needs to heed the advice of the FIFA reform report he helped to author.

”It is abundantly clear that football fans and FIFA’s commercial partners will no longer accept anything short of full transparency in how football is governed,” it stated.

Perhaps that is why more than 20 sponsor slots remain vacant for the 2018 World Cup – a tournament whose chief organizer remains Vitaly Mutko despite Russia’s deputy prime minster helping to sabotage the 2014 Winter Olympics through a doping program.

”Unethical behavior cannot be tolerated,” that 2015 FIFA reform report stated and yet Infantino appeared alongside Mutko in Moscow this month at the World Cup draw.

Maduro, the FIFA governance committee head until May, testified to British politicians in September that he was told action against Mutko would be a ”disaster” for the 2018 World Cup and Infantino’s presidency could be jeopardized.

Infantino disputed the claims. He needs a successful World Cup to show FIFA is back on track but that cannot be at the expense of taking action where necessary.

Will Infantino order an investigation into the fresh bribery allegations around Qatar’s 2022 World Cup bid? The Gulf nation has been previously cleared to remain host but the untested claims from the New York court leave a fresh cloud over the bid’s conduct.

Will Infantino order a deep examination of World Cup broadcast contrasts after claims bribes were paid by officials with networks across the Americas?

This is Infantino’s chance to show how committed he really is to overhauling the bloated culture of FIFA, a notional non-for-profit organization that still spends on vanity projects like the wealthiest of private entities.

And the question remains whether soccer fans should now be able to trust FIFA? The organization declined to put anyone up for interview to answer it.

More AP FIFA coverage:


Best & Worst of the Week: Christmas Giveaways

Dec 23, 2017
Everybody’s face after Dmitry Orlov’s goal against the Stars. (Andrew Dieb/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

(Life’s busy — it’s not always easy to stay on top of everything happening around the NHL. So in case you missed it, here are some of the best and worst highlights of the week.)

Best Performance

It’s not often a three-goal, five-point performance gets overshadowed in a week, but with all due respect to Gabriel Landeskog and his monster game against the Lightning, Carter Hutton has a slight edge.

The Blues backup set a new franchise record and an NHL-high this season with a 48-save shutout against the Jets. In full disclosure, Juuse Saros probably deserved best performance last week with his 46-save shutout against the Oilers, but the Connor McDavid-Jack Eichel double feature was too hard to pass up. Plus, Hutton’s came against one of the league’s best offenses and power plays, so that’s worth bonus points.

Nicest Individual Goal

Adam Henrique seemed like a lock to have the best goal of the week with his alley-oop solo rush against Sami Vatanen and the Devils, but this one by Dmitry Orlov is in a different category of filth. The celebration at the bench was top notch, too.

Best Squad Goal

The Canadiens were the runner-up this week with this Jeff Petry-led beauty against the Canucks, but Sean Couturier’s goal against the Red Wings was just a notch above. All five players touched the puck, plus the pass by Claude Giroux between two Red Wings was stupid good.

Tastiest Dish

This apple by Max Domi is really the best of two worlds. The pass to Clayton Keller was superb, and the dangle to set it up was even better.

For the passing purists, there were some other good ones this week. Jordan Oesterle found Patrick Kane coming off the bench with this head’s up stretch pass. Martin Frk was the recipient of two slick setups this week, first on this cross-crease bullet by Jonathan Ericsson, followed by this Dylan Larkin dish that cleared two Flyers before landing perfectly on his stick. For the sauce enthusiasts, David Desharnais’s backhand pass to Paul Carey was also decent.

Best Save

Is this the best save ever made on the first shot of a game? It honestly might be. Anders Nilsson had no business making this stop, and on an elite shooter nonetheless.

Softest Goal

This one was unfortunate, as Brian Elliott was having a hell of a game before allowing this stinker to Ryan O’Reilly in the third period.

Worst Giveaway

Players must have been in the holiday spirit, because there were a bunch of gifts handed out this week.

Kevin Shattenkirk gave Blake Coleman a short-handed goal on Thursday, Josh Manson picked up an ugly assist against the Capitals and Scott Harrington was victimized by Ryan Spooner and the Bruins.

But taking the cake this week is Jonathan Drouin. It wasn’t your typical toss-it-up-the-middle-without-looking giveaway, but it sure was a major brain cramp. He literally just skates right into Bobby Ryan despite having two easy outlets on the wing. Yikes.

Best Shootout Goal

It was slim pickens this week, with only four shootouts to choose from. But this one by David Pastrnak was pretty nifty.


Philadelphia’s Robert Hagg scored his first career goal this week, Charlie McAvoy and Pierre-Luc Dubois had their first big-league scrap, and Vatanen and Henrique each had their first points against their former teams. The most impressive, however, was Hampus Lindholm’s first career hat trick Thursday against the Islanders. Even though Lindholm’s first goal just hit him on the way in, you just don’t see this too often — it was only the fourth D-man hatty in the last five seasons.

Strangest Play

Michael Grabner is the most confusing goal-scorer in the league, given that he’s not a top-six forward, gets no power-play time and doesn’t shoot the puck all that much. Yet he’s tied for seventh in the league with 17 goals. That’s what makes his goal against the Bruins so good. He fires the puck several feet above the net and it just happens to bounce perfectly off the glass, off Tuukka Rask’s back and into the net. A goal-scorer’s goal if there ever was one.

Most Reckless Play

This is about as reckless as it gets. To hit a guy at that speed, in that spot, after the puck is gone is just disgusting. It’s incredible Vladislav Namestnikov wasn’t badly injured on that play. Erik Johnson got suspended two games for that, which seems light given how dangerous it was but precedent and what not.

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Biggest Hit

Vince Dunn, meet Drake Caggiula.

Best Scrap

Kevan Miller is a scary man, so kudos to Zach Bogosian for dropping the mitts with him and taking a beating in honor of his fallen teammate.

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Whipping Boy

You’ve surely seen the numbers by now, but in case you haven’t the New York Islanders are second in the league in goals for and 30th in the league in goals against. The defense certainly has to wear some of that, but the goaltending has been abysmal. Halak has been the better goaltender, posting a 3.07 GAA and .903 SV% compared to Greiss’s 3.83/.883. It’s pretty incredible actually that Greiss has started nearly the same amount of games as Halak (18 vs. 20) despite putting up numbers from the 1980s. What makes this whole situation even more bizarre is that Halak has actually put up good numbers at 5-on-5. He has a better save percentage (.932) at evens than Sergei Bobrovsky, Pekka Rinne, Braden Holtby and Henrik Lundqvist. But until the overall numbers improve, he’s going to receive a lot of the blame for the team’s struggles.

Monkey off the Back

It was a good week for slump-busting. Mitch Marner scored his first in 15 games, Erik Karlsson got his first in 17, Radim Vrbata potted his first in 18 and Mikko Koivu ended a 24-game goal drought and 11-game pointless streak. But no player is feeling better this week than Byron Froese, who scored his first goal in almost two years. Although the drought was dragged out over a long period of time, it was only 32 games which is bad but not crazy for a fringe fourth-liner. Given that Koivu is an actual good NHL player his drought is probably worse, but the mental baggage of going so long without a goal would be tough to carry around.


Some impressive streaks came to an end this week. David Pastrnak’s 12-game points streak fell, as did linemate Brad Marchand’s nine-game spell and Corey Crawford’s 9-0-2 run. Still standing among the rubble is Predators forward Kevin Fiala, who extended his goal streak to five and point streak to nine Thursday against the Hurricanes.

Best Quote

To alcohol! The cause of and solution to all of life’s problems.


More NHL Coverage from Yahoo Sports:


Johansson Set to Return

Dec 22, 2017

The New Jersey Devils announced today that off-season acquisition Marcus Johansson has been cleared to play and has been activated from IR. Johansson is set to return to the lineup tonight against the New York Rangers. Johansson is a nice piece to have back, but the Devils have gotten along fine without him, somehow still blazing through the 2017-18 season making a case for the top team in the Metropolitan Division.

Johansson, 27, was acquired from the division rival Washington Capitals this summer for second-round and third-round picks in the 2018 NHL Draft. More of a cap dump by Washington than a fair deal, Johansson was nevertheless expected to help turn things around in New Jersey this season. While that goal has certainly been accomplished, and far beyond expectations in terms of both time and ability, it has been done largely without Johansson. A slew of injuries – lower-body, concussion, bruised ankle – has limited Johansson to just 15 games with his new team. However, his return will still be a boost to the red-hot Devils. A five-time 40+ point scorer coming off a career-high 58-point campaign, the Swedish forward’s offensive talent is undeniable.

When Johansson was traded by the Capitals, I felt it was a huge loss for the Caps.  Johansson isn’t anything special, but he was one of those players that did a ton for his team.  We’ll see, if he can stay healthy long enough, if that untouchable came along with him to the New Jersey Devils.  Even with his missed games, I would pin him down for about 16 goals by season’s end, and that, to me, is the threshold for an ideal “secondary scoring” winger.  He will likely slot right onto the second powerplay unit and begin producing before too long.  Good news for New Jersey, to be sure!!



Matthews Returning from Concussion?

Dec 22, 2017

The Male Leafs Auston Matthews admitted to reporters today that he had experienced “regular concussion symptoms” while he was held out of the lineup recently, confirming the suspected injury. Matthews collided with teammate Morgan Rielly late in a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins earlier this month, but actually returned to finish the match. He’s been out since with an “upper-body injury” but was back on the ice with teammates Auston Matthews admitted to reporters today that he had experienced “regular concussion symptoms” while he was held out of the lineup recently, confirming the suspected injury.

Matthews collided with teammate Morgan Rielly late in a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins earlier this month, but actually returned to finish the match. He’s been out since with an “upper-body injury” but was back on the ice with teammates for today’s Toronto Maple Leafs practice.ammates for today’s Toronto Maple Leafs practice.

“Just normal concussion symptoms I guess, don’t need to go any farther than that,” Matthews said. “I think just later on after the Pittsburgh [game], just colliding with Morgan, later on that night and into the next day I wasn’t feeling very well, went through all the return to play [tests] and all the protocols and everything and obviously they take it pretty seriously. They deemed me obviously out, so I went through all that stuff and I feel great now.”

NOT INSIDERS TAKE:  The Leafs record without Matthews in the past six games was 2-4-0, and despite a hot streak by the third line of Tyler Bozak, James vanRiemsdyk and Mitch Marner, Mattews retains his team lead in scoring.

The idea of whether or not to play Matthews on Saturday is one that has to be made carefully.  The anguish it must be for Mike Babcock to watch his prize weapon sit idly by as his team struggles without him.  Personally, I think leaving it up to the player and coach should be limited to the question of whether or not to get a medical clearance.  In this case, it would be timely to sit him, as SAturday’s game is followed by the Christmas break and the Leafs will have three days off for the injury to be “beyond” healed up.


FIFA trial exposes bribes culture; WCup, Olympic cases loom

GENEVA (AP) The verdict is in: FIFA is not going to move past a sweeping bribery investigation into international soccer so easily.

A former FIFA vice president for South America and the Brazilian head of the 2014 World Cup organizing committee were found guilty of racketeering charges in a federal court in New York on Friday.

Juan Angel Napout of Paraguay and Jose Maria Marin denied the kind of corruption charges that more than 20 soccer and marketing executives working across the Americas have already admitted to the U.S. Department of Justice. More have been indicted and are fighting extradition.

Jurors will resume next week deliberating on racketeering charges against the third defendant, Manuel Burga, Peru’s former soccer leader who sat on a FIFA panel distributing tens of millions of dollars in project grants.

Evidence in a six-week trial often did not directly touch soccer games and commercial deals run from FIFA’s home in Zurich.

Still, a deep culture of corruption was exposed among people embedded in FIFA’s so-called ”football family.”

With prosecutors in four countries now helping each other investigate sports corruption – including in World Cup and Olympic bid races – here is a closer look at the FIFA trial:


For more than 20 years, some soccer officials acted as if they were entitled to kickbacks from broadcasting and sponsorship deals. And they acted as if they were untouchable by sports judicial bodies, despite warning signs from criminal and civil court cases that touched FIFA in Switzerland up to a decade ago.

In Brooklyn federal court a picture was painted of South American men high in the FIFA hierarchy routinely taking payments of hundreds of thousands of dollars, sometimes millions.

The three defendants were second-tier figures in the bigger FIFA picture. Yet each got $4.4 million to $10.5 million in bribes since 2010, prosecutors said.

In the U.S. federal agencies’ wider investigation of soccer officials across the Americas, some of the more than 40 people charged allegedly were paid and took bribes dating back 25 years. Many pleaded guilty for reduced sentences.


It was no secret that some South American soccer leaders were corrupt.

The two men convicted Friday were relatively late arrivals on the soccer bribery scene. At times in court it seemed a previous generation who long held South America’s influence at FIFA were also on trial.

Indeed, Napout and Burga were said to be in a ”Group of Six” seeking a share of power and bribes routinely taken by Julio Grondona of Argentina, Ricardo Teixeira of Brazil and Nicolas Leoz of Paraguay.

Grondona was FIFA’s senior vice president – second in command to Sepp Blatter – and finance committee chairman when he died in July 2014 aged 82. He is ”co-conspirator 1” in Department of Justice indictments unsealed in 2015.

Teixeira and Leoz were also indicted but have not been extradited. Both left the FIFA executive committee by April 2013 to avoid ethics committee bans for taking kickbacks from World Cup TV deals in a previous scandal known as the ISL case.

As new FIFA leaders try to win public trust, its vice president from South America is another Paraguayan, Alejandro Dominguez.

Yet Dominguez, the new FIFA finance chairman, was described unfavorably in court. Star prosecution witness Alejandro Burzaco said Napout told him Dominguez was ”not a very successful businessman (who) will probably request” a bribe.


The tiny, wealthy 2022 World Cup host nation also had a tough trial.

Qatar spent much of the past seven years denying it bought victory or acted improperly toward FIFA voters.

Still, testimony in Brooklyn suggested a broader plan to build influence among voters’ colleagues, even if the defendants had no vote when FIFA’s executive committee picked the 2018-2022 World Cup hosts in December 2010.

However, Grondona, Teixeira and Leoz did have votes. South America’s trio ultimately supported Qatar in a five-nation 2022 contest, beating the U.S. in the final round.

In court, star witness Burzaco – an Argentine marketing executive who paid bribes and made a deal with prosecutors to testify – described his associate Grondona complaining to Qataris at a five-star hotel in Rio de Janeiro about selling his vote too cheaply.

Grondona said he got into ”all these mess and scandal for only” $1.5 million, while Teixeira got tens of millions,” Burzaco said.

Another witness, from a different Argentine agency, testified that a ledger of bribes included payments of $750,000 and $500,000 to South American soccer federation presidents who did not have World Cup hosting votes. The payments were labeled ”Q2022.”

At a Madrid hotel before the 2010 Champions League final, South American soccer officials were told that $15 million from Qatari interests was available as bribes money, according to one witness who has pleaded guilty, Luis Bedoya of Colombia.

Nothing said in court appears to directly threaten World Cup hosting for Qatar, which remains under blockade by its regional neighbors.

Still, it fueled the idea that Qatar’s path toward its greatest sporting moment will never be smooth.


FIFA has paid tens of millions of dollars to American lawyers and media consultants to help persuade the Department of Justice it is a victim of corruption, and not complicit.

That investment seemed to pay off in court. Direct references to FIFA leaders and staffers were rarely heard.

That should help FIFA get a share of more than $200 million in forfeitures by agencies and people who have been indicted or pleaded guilty in the wider case.

FIFA’s restitution claim in March 2016 was for $38.2 million plus legal fees and compensation for reputational damage.

A longer-term issue for FIFA is its 2026 and 2030 World Cup broadcast partners. While not charged in the American case, Fox Sports, Globo of Brazil, Televisa of Mexico were mentioned in testimony. They allegedly teamed up to bribe Grondona with $15 million to secure two-tournament deals in South America.

Another 2026-2030 rights holder, Qatar’s BeIN, is already under criminal investigation in Switzerland for suspected bribery in that deal.


On June 13 in Moscow, FIFA member federations will pick the 2026 World Cup host.

The North American bid – splitting 60 games in the United States, 10 in Canada, 10 in Mexico – is favored to win. It is unclear if the other bidder, Morocco, can even stage an expanded 48-team tournament.

But will voters reward the nation whose law enforcement agencies shook FIFA to its core? They might be persuaded by money.

FIFA relies on World Cup commercial deals for about 85 percent of its income. It likely will need a bankable World Cup after under-performing sponsorship programs for the next two editions in Russia and Qatar.

A North American World Cup should set records for average game attendance and profitability.

It could also woo potential sponsors currently wary of working with a FIFA that risked being indicted.


Brooklyn; Bern, Switzerland; Paris; Rio de Janeiro.

In all four cities federal prosecutors are pursuing allegations of corruption in global sports, including winning bids for the 2006, 2010, 2018 and 2022 World Cups, plus the 2016 and 2020 Olympics.

Suspects so far include Germany soccer great Franz Beckenbauer, 2016 Rio Olympics organizer Carlos Nuzman, and one-time International Olympic Committee rising star Frank Fredericks.

A protected witness in the U.S. is Russian doping whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov, former director of the Moscow testing laboratory.

In Brooklyn, a spin-off case saw a former FIFA audit committee member from Guam plead guilty to taking bribes from an Olympic Council of Asia account. The clearly identified ”co-conspirator 2” in that case is a kingpin of Olympic politics, Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah of Kuwait.

Prosecutors in four cities, sharing information, taking years to build cases.

More seem sure to follow.

More AP FIFA coverage:


Oilers plan to use healthy Andrej Sekera in all situations

Dec 21, 2017

It was Game 5 against Anaheim last spring when Andrej Sekera gained the centre red line, gliding on one foot as he pumped the puck deep into the Ducks end.

Anaheim captain Ryan Getzlaf finished his check on Sekera, a clean, simple part of playoff hockey. It resulted in a torn ACL that ended Sekera’s season, an injury from which he will finally return to the Edmonton Oilers lineup tonight.

Of the many things that have gone wrong for Edmonton this season, not having their No. 3 defenceman this season has been just another match on the fire. But Sekera is finally back, paired with Matt Benning tonight against St. Louis and expecting some power play time as well.

“I feel as good as I need to feel to be playing at this level,” Sekera, 31, said. “I’m ready. I’ll go out, play hard and try to help this team win a game.

“Guys are already 34 games in and I’m zero,” he joked. “I just want to play a hard simple game to make sure (his teammates) like me on the ice and will play with me.”

Every player knows how long the road back from a serious injury can be. For Sekera, it started not long after the Oilers were eliminated last spring, a full seven months ago.

“It was a little bit difficult because after the surgery there are only certain things you can do and (the rehab) gets old,” he said. “But after every stage of the rehab you start seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

“You just have to stay on top of it and be positive — do all the things you need to do to come back healthy and be ready to go.”

Sekera is an important power playplay presence for Edmonton who plays the game the way today’s defenceman is supposed to: by quickly moving pucks in the right direction, making sharp passes on the tape that allow a team to break out cleanly.

“He’s a first-pass guy, always makes the simple play,” centre Mark Letestu told Post Media. “He does a lot of things that go unnoticed that make him so solid, and when he’s gone you recognize the void he leaves, how good he actually is and what he means to the team. When we get him back it will be a big lift.”

With Oscar Klefbom on injured reserve, Sekera will walk into some extra minutes already tonight. He can expect some power play time, and likely some penalty killing work as well.

“The plan is to use him in those situations, but his play and his ability to read and react and the pace he plays at and how he feels physically will dictate how much he gets,” said head coach Todd McLellan. “We want him up and running as quick as possible so he’s going to need to experience the power play and the penalty kill. But if it’s not clicking for him right off the bat, we’ll cut him back.”


Sabres’ Lehner pays tribute to Hasek with Winter Classic mask

Dec 21, 2017

Buffalo Sabres goaltender Robin Lehner is paying tribute to an all-time great with the new mask he’ll be wearing during the upcoming Winter Classic.

The new mask features Dominik Hasek’s No. 39 and a photo of him making one of his signature flop saves.

Hasek tended the net for the Sabres for nine seasons, winning six Vezina and two Hart Trophies, while leading Buffalo to its only appearance in the Stanley Cup Final.

The mask is much more modern than the one Lehner was skating around with before practice on Thursday.

The first one looks a little bit safer.

The latest edition of the Winter Classic takes place Jan. 1 at Citi Field in New York featuring the Sabres and Rangers.

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