Greetings from midweek. Here's a glimpse at what's up in the NHL:
*Drew Stafford's maturation on and off the ice resulted in a career year. Stafford set personal bests with 31 goals and 52 points, becoming the type of player Buffalo envisioned when it drafted him 13th overall in 2004.
"I definitely made some steps in the right direction as far as the type of player that I can be," Stafford said. "I don't plan on stopping. I can still get better. That's the plan over the summer."
*Jerry Sullivan writes the Sabres are in dire need of a mature presence on the blue line. Their young defense had its moments against Philly, but their lack of skill and experience was sadly evident.
There will be several prospects in free agency. Owner Terry Pegula should instruct Darcy Regier to get a proven commodity who can step in and be one of the top two D. It will cost $5 million or more in salary. But we're talking about a team that paid Tim Connolly $4.5 million this season. A top defenseman is well worth the investment.
*Buffalo's status as a hockey-watching town received another boost Tuesday. The Sabres announced they led the NHL in ratings for the first round of the playoffs.
*In an instant, the top-seeded Washington Capitals went from climbing back into the Eastern Conference semifinals to the brink of elimination against the surging Tampa Bay Lightning. Steven Stamkos and Ryan Malone scored 24 seconds apart in the third period and the fifth-seeded Lightning beat the reeling Capitals, 4-3, to take a commanding 3-0 series lead Tuesday night.
*Ryan Kesler drew a penalty, then tipped in a shot for a power-play goal at 10:45 of overtime to give the Canucks a 3-2 win over the Predators on Tuesday night. Vancouver grabbed a 2-1 lead in the Western Conference semifinals series, bouncing back from a 2-1 double-overtime loss in Game Two.
*The NHL has exercised its option to take $25 million from the city of Glendale to cover losses by the Phoenix Coyotes this season. The Arizona Republic takes a look at the past two years of the Coyotes saga.
*The San Jose Sharks have been skating hard to the net against the Red Wings, stopping just short of Jimmy Howard while delivering plenty of sprayed ice -- the so-called hockey snow shower.
Are they bugging the Detroit goaltender?
"Nope," he insisted Tuesday.