There was a pretty good chance the Buffalo Sabres weren’t going to see John Scott on Monday night, anyway, but the Arizona Coyotes made sure of that last week.
Scott, the former Sabres enforcer, was traded from Arizona to Montreal in a deal that normally wouldn’t have registered on the NHL radar. It did, though, because of an ongoing controversy.
Scott was elected captain of the Pacific Division’s All-Star team in a vote by fans. The NHL clearly wasn’t cool with the gag – upset that a player with five career goals would participate in the league’s new 3-on-3 format that’s designed to showcase the most skilled players in the world.
According to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, both the Coyotes and NHL asked Scott to bow out of the game, which will be held Jan. 31 in Nashville. He reportedly refused.
By being traded to the Canadiens – who assigned him to their AHL team in St. John’s – Scott may not be eligible for the All-Star Game if he’s not on an NHL roster. The league announced after the trade that it is reviewing what should happen to the Pacific Division roster.
So what started as a gag has turned into something of a mess for all parties. Scott was within his rights to say he was going to participate in a game fans voted him into, but McKenzie suggested that doing so was at least part of the reason he was traded.
“If I was in his shoes, I would have accepted it also,” said Sabres defenseman Mike Weber, who played with Scott for two seasons. “It’s one of those things where, the fans voted for it. That’s part of what the All-Star Game is about.”
Scott’s situation is somewhat reminiscent of what happened last season with Sabres forward Zemgus Girgensons. Fans in Girgensons’ home country of Latvia started an online campaign that ultimately made him the game’s top vote-getter. Girgensons, it should be noted, was arguably an All-Star on merit, something that can’t be said for Scott, who had just one assist in 11 games with the Coyotes this season.
“When the league opens it up to fan voting, you’re leaving it open for things like that to happen, right?” Weber said. “It’s an unfortunate situation John is going through.”
Scott’s banishment to Newfoundland is even more difficult because his wife is pregnant with twins.
“I feel pretty bad for him,” Sabres winger Marcus Foligno said. “He’s one of the best teammates I’ve ever played with. He’s a great guy off the ice, and on the ice he works hard.
“He’s probably not enjoying this too much right now, but he’s the type of guy that makes the best out of every situation. His time here with us, he was an older guy in the dressing room that us young guys looked up to big time.”
The Sabres’ game-winning goal in Saturday’s 4-1 victory over the Washington Capitals came on the power play. It just so happened to belong to the Capitals.
Tim Schaller’s short-handed breakaway goal in the first period was part of a superb job by Buffalo’s penalty killers, who went a perfect 4 for 4 against Washington. The Capitals rank second in the NHL with the man advantage.
“That’s a dangerous power play, and not only were we able to kill them off, we get the game-winning goal,” Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. “We had a few more kills later on in the game that were big points for our penalty kill and our team. Keeping them off the board with that dangerous power play was a big part of the game.”
The Sabres’ penalty kill has been perfect in four of the team’s last five games.
“As a group, we knew we needed to be better if we’re going to get some wins against these top teams,” goaltender Chad Johnson said. “We have a good penalty kill. Sometimes you don’t get the results. Right now we’re getting it, and we just want to build off it and keep it going.”
Buffalo’s penalty kill ranked 24th in the league entering Sunday’s games.
The Sabres handed Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby his first loss since Nov. 10. He had been 20-0-2 in his last 22 decisions.
Holtby leads the NHL in wins (28), is second in goals-against average (1.97) and third in save percentage (.931). He was pulled after Evander Kane’s goal in the second period.