Haggerty: Dark days ahead as sides break off talks

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Haggerty: Dark days ahead as sides break off talks

NORTH SMITHFIELD, R.I. Dark days are indeed ahead for the NHL, and those that love it so dearly.

The NHL and NHLPA broke off talks on Tuesday with no progress serving as the biggest buzzword emanating out of the meetings in New York City. There was ample evidence that both sides are ready to move on to heightening their defenses rather than continue working to find some very elusive middle ground.

Thats the very definition of the word "discouraging."

The NHL released its first revenue loss projections due to the lockout, and Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said the league will lose roughly 100 million due to the cancellation of the preseason.

But it gets even gloomier than that.

Whispers have kicked up in Canada, largely due to the sports radio megaphone enjoyed by Toronto radio host Billy Watters, that the NHL could begin setting into motion plans for replacement players if theres no end in sight for the lockout. Its a far-fetched notion that would appear to be patently illegal in places like Quebec and Alberta, so theres that.

But just the mention conjures up images from when the NHL last utilized replacement players, or worse, a bad Keanu Reeves movie.

At the very least, the NHL is expected to begin cancelling regular season games over the next couple of days with the Oct. 11 NHL regular season debut an impossible task at this point.

One player on the AHLNHL bubble that would likely be asked to take part in any theoretical replacement player scenario was quick and forthright in their response when asked if they would cross over.

Theres no way. That kind of thing stays with you for your entire career, said the player. Guys want to make it to the NHL the right way and be accepted by the brotherhood of players. That would never happen for anybody that crossed the lines while the lockout is going on. Good luck finding players willing to do that.

And good luck to finding customers willing to pay NHL prices to watch a patently inferior project.

In another move thats going to sting the NHL and commissioner Gary Bettman, ESPN and the KHL have reached an agreement on a plan to televise Russian League hockey games and give fans an outlet to watch familiar NHL players like Zdeno Chara. The KHL games will be broadcast starting this week on ESPN3, which is a live stream channel not offered as part of the cable packages.

But the mere action of ESPN getting involved with a competing pro hockey league has to deepen the concern of Bettman and the NHL owners no matter how mild it is that the hockey consumer is ready for life to go on without the NHL. In the age of live-streaming video, satellite television and 100 percent coverage of everything under the sun on the Internet along with minor league and college hockey, diehard puck fans will find another outlet while the owners and players prepare for battle over a billion dollars.

So both the NHL and NHLPA camps have decided to go their separate ways for the time-being with the start of the regular season less than two weeks away. They cant agree on what constitutes the all-important Hockey Related Revenue and, according to CBC rink side reporter Elliotte Friedman, they cant even agree on who foots the bill for NHL players with over 600 games played that are guaranteed their own single hotel room on the road per the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

That is crazy given that the NHL raked in 3.3 billion last season, and that much more important things sit on the brink of obscurity.

Granted its not all something out of a disaster flick with Bettman and his Board of Governors hellbent on breaking the unions back, however.

The NHL acknowledged that a federal mediator might get involved if things continue on the same untracked pace for the next few weeks, and the league could still pull off an 82-game season provided a new CBA is in place by the first week of November.

But things must feel pretty real for Bruins fans as they watch key players like Chara and Patrice Bergeron pick up stakes, and head for Europe to play hockey until something breaks stateside. That wouldnt be happening if there was an end to the money madness in sight.

And when the first regular season games of a promising NHL season get chopped away this week, fans will likely be left with that same empty, hollow feeling for the second time in eight years.

Rask stops 35 shots in Bruins' 2-1 win over Sabres

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Rask stops 35 shots in Bruins' 2-1 win over Sabres

BUFFALO, N.Y. - Tuukka Rask made 35 saves to help the Bruins hold off the Buffalo Sabres 2-1 on Saturday

David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron scored to give Boston a 2-0 lead and the Bruins improved to 3-0-1 in their past four.

Evander Kane scored his first goal of the season for Buffalo. Robin Lehner returned after missing one game with a hip injury and made 32 saves.

The Sabres combined for nine goals in their previous two wins but the NHL's lowest-scoring team reverted to form from the first 21 games, when star center Jack Eichel was out of the lineup with a high-ankle sprain.

Krejci got the Bruins on the scoreboard with 5:50 left in the first when he deflected Brandon Carlo's slap shot from the point off the right post and into the net.

The Sabres appeared to tie the game late in the second period but replays determined Brian Gionta kicked the puck into the net.

Bergeron made it 2-0 at 7:10 of the second at 7:44 of the third when he knocked on the rebound of his own missed shot. Bergeron initially hit the puck with his forearm on the left edge of the crease and skated around the net to chase down the puck and slip a backhand past Lehner.

The Sabres answered two minutes later, scoring on Rask for the first time in 109:12 this season. Sam Reinhart's feed off the rear wall set up Kane for a wrist shot from the slot that bounced in off Krejci. Reinhart has five points in his last four games.

NOTES: Bruins F Matt Beleskey was escorted to the dressing room in the final minute of the first period with a lower-body injury and did not return. ... Sabres D Josh Gorges did not play after injuring his foot blocking a shot in Thursday's win over the New York Rangers. With Dmitry Kulikov (lower back) and Zach Bogosian (MCL sprain) also out, the Sabres were down three of their top four defenseman and recalled 19-year-old Brendan Guhle from the minors to make his NHL debut. Guhle hustled back to thwart a breakaway by Krejci late in the third period. ... F Anton Blidh became the seventh Bruin to make his NHL debut this season after being recalled from the minors on Friday. ... The Bruins scratched F Jimmy Hayes. D Zdeno Chara, the Bruins' captain, missed his sixth straight game with a lower-body injury. ... Rask got a shutout in Boston's 4-0 win over Buffalo on Nov. 7.

UP NEXT

Bruins: Host Florida on Monday.

Sabres: At Washington on Monday.

 

© 2016 by STATS and The Associated Press.