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The New Jersey Devils need to make another roster spot this week in order to add players coming off IR. It’s obvious Dalton Prout is the odd man out.

The New Jersey Devils are about to get some positive injury news for the first time in a while. After spending two games without Taylor Hall, Kyle Palmieri and Marcus Johansson, it seems all three are extremely close to returning. Since two of those players are coming off injured reserve, and the Devils only have one extra roster spot, the team has to send someone down to Albany.

It’s almost a certainty that player will be defenseman Dalton Prout.

After the addition of Sami Vatanen November 30th, there is literally little to no chance Prout ever makes the lineup, barring injury. Ben Lovejoy is the other defenseman who’s been a healthy scratch for most games this season, and he hasn’t been the dumpster fire he was last year. Prout, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to have much value to the roster as currently constructed. He’s basically there to fight Tom Wilson.

Prout hasn’t seen game action since November 3rd. To my knowledge, he hasn’t been dealing with any injuries. That means the Devils just don’t think he’s a viable option to help.

Prout will need to clear waivers just to make it to Binghamton, but I’m not sure if any Devils fan will be upset if another team claims him. It’s unfortunate, but since he came to the Devils at the trade deadline last season he hasn’t made an impact. If he’s able to slide into the AHL, that’s cool too.

There is no other move for the Devils to make this week. Some may suggest the team could send someone down who isn’t waiver eligible, but who? Pavel Zacha could go straight to the AHL, but please don’t do that. There is nobody else you would want to lose from the lineup. Jimmy Hayes and Drew Stafford may be healthy scratches, but you don’t want to lose them completely by putting them on waivers. Prout is the clear move to make.

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Nathan Walker

Nathan Walker

 
Forward Nathan Walker has been placed on waivers, and the Washington Capitals intend to send him down to their American Hockey League affiliate in Hershey if he clears. Walker has played in just seven games all season, and his last appearance was two weeks ago.

Walker is the second player the Capitals have waived this week — defenseman Aaron Ness cleared waivers Wednesday and was assigned to Hershey — and Washington will likely have to continue its roster maneuvering as it gets healthier. Defenseman Christian Djoos will be activated off injured reserve Thursday and play against the Los Angeles Kings, and forward Andre Burakovsky is on schedule to play sometime in the next three weeks. Burakovsky had surgery on his left thumb last month.

Once Burakovsky is healthy, the Capitals will be out of long-term injured reserve salary-cap relief because his $3 million cap hit will be back on the books. Even with Walker waived, Washington would have to clear roughly another $90,000 in salary-cap space, so it’s likely another forward will be waived or reassigned to the AHL once Burakovsky is healthy. Tyler Graovac has played in just four games all season, but he’ll be in the lineup for a second straight game Thursday. Brett Connolly is the healthy scratch again. The two players who are waivers-exempt are forward Jakub Vrana and defenseman Madison Bowey.

“When Andre gets back, I’m looking for him in the top-nine [forward corps], so that’s going to force someone down,” Coach Barry Trotz said. “There’s competition there, so that’s what you want. You want internal competition for ice time, and that’s what’s being created.”

Walker’s arrival in the NHL was a feel-good story at the start of the season. He became the first Australian to play in an NHL game, and he scored a goal in his debut. But Walker hadn’t played in two straight games since the first week of the season. The Capitals will learn Friday at noon whether Walker cleared waivers or another team swiped him.

“We looked at it with people getting healthy and that Nate wasn’t getting in the lineup,” Trotz said. “You can only build your game on the ice, so he’s going to see if he clears waivers. He’s got to play. He’s a good young man, but he’s still got to build his game. …

“Message to him was I’ve known many a players who have been up and down, many a times. Keep developing, keep getting better. That’s the message you want. I said to him, everybody knows he’s a real terrific person. You’ve got to make sure your game is — you’re on top of your game and playing lots and getting better all the time. I think we didn’t get him enough games, plain and simple.”Djoos has missed the past six games with a suspected concussion, but Trotz said Thursday morning that he has been cleared to play and will be in the lineup against the Kings. Fellow rookie Bowey is also in, meaning veteran Taylor Chorney will be the healthy scratch. Before Djoos was injured at Nashville earlier this month, he was playing 14:42 per game and had two goals with one assist.

Connolly will be a healthy scratch for a second straight game as Graovac is expected to play third-line left wing beside center Lars Eller.

“He’s a big body, and I thought he was skating better,” Trotz said of Graovac. “He was getting involved. I think for him, it was as much how much he’s played well as it is that I need to give him a couple games to get established with our group. I know he’s got another level; I talked to him yesterday about what I’m looking for, trying to give him a vision for what I think will be best for his game.”

Home sweet home

Per the Elias Sports Bureau, the Capitals are 7-1-0 at Capital One Arena in November and are one home win shy of posting the second-most home wins in a calendar month in team history. Washington is also one home win away from tying the record for home wins in November in team history (eight). The Capitals’ seven home wins in November are the most in the NHL.

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Montreal Canadiens

Montreal Canadiens

 

 

 

The record will show the 2017-2018 season for the Montreal Canadiens ended in a 37-second stretch of the second period of a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Nov. 18.

One-time Hab Ron “Hollywood” Hainsey scored Toronto’s first goal at 12:07 and Nasty Nazem Kadri followed that with one at the 12:44 mark — and the only thing left was for Toronto media darling Auston Matthews to pad his stats with a couple of garbage-time goals.

Toronto 6, Montreal 0, season over — and quite possibly the tenure of GM Marc Bergevin along with it, because in Bergevin’s sixth season at the helm, the Canadiens are on the 2018 draft lottery express.

It’s still early, but NHL wisdom has it if you aren’t in a playoff spot by American Thanksgiving, you’re in trouble. And the Canadiens aren’t even close, five points out as of this writing, with a bunch of teams between them and a playoff spot. As my mentor Stu Cowan pointed out Saturday, the simple truth is they aren’t very good.

Predictably, the lesser minds on social media were drooling over their keyboards following yet another blowout loss Saturday night, cursing departed coach Michel Therrien and the P.K. Subban trade — though neither Therrien nor The Trade has the least thing to do with this team’s struggles.

Shea Weber has been everything he’s supposed to be, a tower of power, an intimidating force, a leader. The problem is that on defence, the drop-off in talent after Weber is spectacular. The Canadiens this season could have had a Big Three of Weber, Andrei Markov and Mikhail Sergachev. Instead, it’s Weber, Kneel and Pray.

Whatever the approach was that Bergevin took to signing Markov and Alexander Radulov, it resulted in the CH losing both players: Bergevin, with $8.5 million left in the kitty, came up a day late and a dollar short. Markov went back to Russia to play for Kazan, and Radulov signed with Dallas.

Up front, that meant the Canadiens lost size, muscle and scoring ability. An undersized crew of forwards seems even smaller without the bull-like Radulov out there breathing fire and daring opposing defencemen to try to move him off the puck. The only remaining forward with any size, Max Pacioretty, plays like he’s 5-foot-6 and 135 pounds. The Canadiens lead the league with 36.6 shots per game but rank next-to-last in goals per game, because only Brendan Gallagher, Andrew Shaw and Paul Byron drive the net.

But the pain has been felt more on the blue line. Markov’s intelligence and puck-moving skills are second to none. He was the glue throughout his Canadiens career. Without him, the defence has simply fallen apart. Sergachev, the superb young talent who might have replaced Markov, was instead dealt to Tampa for Jonathan Drouin. Not a bad trade on the face of it, but when you combine the loss of Sergachev and Markov with the deal that sent Nathan Beaulieu shuffling off to Buffalo and Alexei Emelin lost in the expansion draft, you have a problem.

You can see what Bergevin was thinking. He thought Karl Alzner wouldn’t skate like he was toting a VW on his back. He thought Jeff Petry and Jordie Benn would play at a level comparable to last spring. He thought David Schlemko would actually play some hockey games.

Add all this to a lack of snipers up front and yet another mysterious soap opera of a Carey Price injury and you’re in real trouble.

The narrative that has Bergevin’s entire tenure as a series of blunders is a steaming pile of horse manure. Bergevin accomplished a great deal for the Canadiens. He quickly changed a poisonous organizational culture and led the Habs to the Eastern Conference final in 2014. He might even have won a Stanley Cup that spring, if not for the Chris Kreider Crash. And no matter what the cult members are saying, the Weber trade was at worst a push.

On balance, Bergevin has had some good moves and some bad ones — but this off-season was his undoing. He took a pretty good team and turned it into a bad team. Across the board, the stats say this is a failure. Barring a miraculous turnaround, it’s going to be all but impossible for owner and president Geoff Molson to bring his GM back.

Who replaces Bergevin if he goes? I would hire the same individual I would have hired in 2012, my Greenfield Park homie Julien BriseBois. BriseBois, who cut his teeth in the NHL in the Canadiens front office, has had six more seasons learning at Steve Yzerman’s elbow as they built the Tampa Bay Lightning into an offensive juggernaut that is now the league’s most exciting team.

BriseBois’s primary asset? He’s smart. People seem to think because he never played in the NHL, he can’t do the job — but I’ll take brains over a playing resumé any day. If you object to that approach, may I remind you neither Francis Joseph Aloysius Selke nor Samuel Patterson Smyth Pollock played a game in the NHL, yet their names are on the Stanley Cup a total of 21 times.

Brains matter. Hire BriseBois, Geoff. Before someone else beats you to the punch.

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 Boston Bruins

Boston Bruins

 

 

Bust out your best Frank Sinatra vinyls, because the Boston Bruins are on to New York, New York.  Coming off a solid victory against a tough opponent, can the Bruins win their first set of back-to-back games?

Jeremy Jacobs may be Chairman of Board when it comes to the Boston Bruins.  But in music fans’ hearts, there’s only one Chairman of the Board, and that is Ol’ Blue Eyes.  But, setting music aside for the moment, there’s some life in the Boston Bruins!

The Bruins are coming off a victory against the Minnesota Wild, a respectable Western Conference opponent with a Vezina-caliber goalie.  The Bruins played tough, physical hockey.  They used their unique combination of size, speed, and skill to score 5 goals en route to a 5-3 win.

The Bruins now find themselves at 6-4-3 (15 points).  For a team so depleted by injuries to still be keeping their heads above water, it’s starting to become impressive.  Now, if only the team can string together performances like they had on Monday night against Minnesota, that will be something to get really excited about.  The Bruins have 2 or 3 games in hand over most of the teams in front of them in the standings, and at 15 points, they’re right in the mix.

The Bruins opponents tonight are the Blueshirts from Broadway, the New York Rangers.  Another team like Minnesota that has all the talent in the world, yet is off to a disappointing start to the season.  Sitting at 7-7-2 (16 points), the Rangers are another team that have failed to gain any momentum from game to game.  Questions have arisen as to whether the window has closed on the Rangers and the Henrik Lundqvist era.  The undeniably elite goalie’s crown has tarnished a bit over the past few seasons.

The curtain goes up on this show at 8:00 pm tonight at Madison Square Garden in New York, NY.  The game will be featured on NBC Sports Network as their national Wednesday Night Rivalry game.  You can listen on 98.5 The Sports Hub if you’re so inclined.
What to watch for

The players in the Bruins lineup appears to remain the same from the Minnesota game on Monday.  However, the lines have a slightly different look about them:

All of the forward line combinations remain the same.  However, the 3rd and 4th lines appear to be flipped.  That may just be nothing, or it could mean Jake DeBrusk, Jordan Szwarz, and Frank Vatrano are in for less minutes tonight.  A lot of people were praising Matt Beleskey’s performance in the last game.  If you read our page consistently, you know I’ve taken a different approach to #39.

The Bruins need to be on the lookout for speedy and skilled players like Mika Zibanejad, Mats Zuccarello, and J.T. Miller.  All of them can easily get past the defense at any moment.  Given the Bruins proclivity for giving up breakaways recently (4 in the last two games, 2 of them shorthanded), it’s a growing concern.  However, the two Zs also sport some hefty minus ratings, meaning the Bruins could take advantage of them on the ice.

Three or four years ago, a match-up between King Henrik and Tuukka Rask would be a battle of elite goalies.  However, King Henrik’s crown doesn’t fit so well anymore, and people constantly question whether Tuukka is an elite goalie (hint:  he is).  However, even with both getting longer in the tooth, this could still be an epic goaltending match-up.

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Nashville Predators lost in overtime against the Chicago Blackhawks. It’s a tough pill to swallow considering the Predators controlled almost the entire game.

The Nashville Predators played their first game in Chicago since sweeping them in the playoffs last season. During the pregame show, the Predators broadcast was showing a montage of Chicago Blackhawks fans and players after the sweep. It was glorious. I felt like I could watch their sad faces for the next three hours instead of the game, and still be happy. Nonetheless, the show did, in fact, go on. And, boy, was it a good one.

The Nashville Predators definitely came ready to play. They controlled the pace for almost the entire game. But in the end, they lost in overtime. Although they got their first road point this season, it still felt like they deserved two.
Shots

The biggest thing Head Coach Peter Laviolette has stressed since joining the team was shooting. He wants the Predators to outshoot their opponent every night. The more shots the Nashville Predators can get on net, the more chances they can score. Last night, the Predators were shooting.

At the end of the first, Nashville had a shot lead of 18 – 11. That is just shots on net, however. The Predators had actually attempted 36 shots. That is definitely a good sign for Laviolette and his team. The Predators would end the game with a total of 38 shots on net. Take a look at this heat map to see where the Predators were getting their shots from.

This game was only their second of the year with at least 30 shots on net. For the Predators to succeed the rest of the year, they need to continue to get 30+ shots per game.
Special Teams

The Nashville Predators entered the game towards the bottom of the league in penalty kill this season. At times, they have looked downright atrocious. But, they redeemed themselves last night. The Predators were able to kill off all eight of their penalties against a lethal Blackhawks power play unit. The Predators attacked every Blackhawks entry at the blueline. Often times, they were able to steal the puck and head a rush down to the other end. If the penalty kill unit can continue to play like they did last night, the Predators will be one of the top teams in the league on special teams.

The reason I just said “on special teams” instead of “on penalty kill” is because the Predators have been great all year long on the power play. With a goal on the PP last night, the Nashville Predators are third in the league in power play percentage at 29.2. I said it during the preseason: the new penalty rules mean the Predators have a great opportunity to score a lot more this season. If their powerplay unit can stay on fire, they will be filling up the scoresheet every night. Not to mention, Filip Forsberg leads the league with his four power-play goals.

A big reason the power play unit has been so successful is the additions of Scott Hartnell and Nick Bonino. Both of those players thrive in camping in front of the net. They use their big bodies to provide traffic in front to screen goalies. Hartnell has definitely proved his worth so far with three points on the power play. That is the fourth highest total in the NHL.

Last night, Hartnell’s savvy redirect of a P.K. Subban shot led the puck right to Forsberg’s stick. The rest was history. Take a look below and reminisce.

You can bet you will be seeing a lot more of that all season long.
Control

One thing that goes hand-in-hand with getting more shots on net is possession. The more time your team possesses the puck, the more opportunities they are going to have to shoot the puck. And, as Laviolette has stressed, the more shots you have, the more chances to score. Thankfully, we have a couple of really good stats we can use to understand the tide of possession, Corsi and Fenwick. Both statistics measure the amount of shots heading towards both nets. Fenwick takes in to account blocked shots as being a skill, therefore it disregards shots that are blocked or don’t make it to the net. Let’s take a look at the possession stats on the game last night.

Through the first two periods, the Nashville Predators were dominating possession. Even if you account for all situations besides five on five, they still were dominating (The reason you don’t generally account for situations outside of five on five is because being on a power play almost always guarantees you will have more possession of the puck, and being on the penalty kill almost always guarantees you will have less possession). The reason I am going to include all situations during the first two periods is because even when the Predators had six penalties vs. Chicago’s five, they still dominated possession.

Through the first two periods, the Predators had a combined Corsi For% (CF%) of 59.8. That is some serious possession time. What’s more, they had a Fenwick For% (FF%) of 66.2 after 2. The Nashville Predators were dominating the game while entering the third period with the lead.

Unfortunately, the game would change from the start of the third period through overtime. The Chicago Blackhawks flipped the script of possession on the Nashville Predators. After the third period, the Predators had around 34% for both CF% and FF% leading to the Blackhawks to tie it up and push the game to overtime. It got worse in overtime. The Predators held a 12.5 CF% and a 14.29FF%. Ultimately, that lack of possession led to the Blackhawks scoring the game-winner in overtime.
End Result

In the end, the Predators lost the game in overtime. After looking at the possession stats, it is obvious why. You cannot let a team with as many weapons as the Blackhawks have control of the puck like that. They will burn you every time. However, this game was one of the best played by the Nashville Predators so far this season. If it wasn’t for Chicago’s goalie, Corey Crawford, standing on his head all night, the Predators probably would have had a much bigger lead going into the third period. If the Predators keep playing like they did in the first two periods, they will easily make it back to the Playoffs.

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Henrik Lundqvist is entering his 13th season in the NHL and fans just don’t realize how good they have it with the king in net.

The New York Rangers, just returning from a lockout and an extended period of failure were in desperate need of a star. Their prayers were answered by a 23-year-old from Sweden. In the Henrik Lundqvist era, the Rangers have made the playoffs 11 of 12 seasons. It isn’t a coincidence.

Lundqvist is the most important player in the franchise. He has dragged lesser teams far beyond their ceiling. Lundqvist has only been to the Stanley Cup Final once in his career, and it took a superhuman effort to get the team there. The team has always counted on Lundqvist to be perfect for their gameplan to work. The Rangers played in 15 consecutive one-goal games in the playoffs from the c

The Rangers played in 15 consecutive one-goal games in the playoffs over the course of two consecutive playoff runs. That was by design. The team expected Lundqvist to be the difference between winning and losing.

Injuries and Slumps

Lundqvist has given his heart and soul for the team and taken significant punishment in the process. Lundqvist took a puck to the throat in 2014, the result of a freak accident. Defenseman Ryan McDonagh was jockeying with center Jay Clement of the Carolina Hurricanes in front of Lundqvist. McDonagh, while jockeying for position, raised his stick, which lifted Lundqvist’s helmet up exposing his neck to an oncoming puck.

Lundqvist stayed in the game. He also played a full game against the Florida Panthers two days later while at risk of suffering a stroke from the sprained blood vessel in his neck.

The goalkeeper also showed his age last season. Lundqvist, for the first time in his career, was benched based on performance. Antti Raanta filled in admirably and gave him time to get his mind right.

While blaming Lundqvist’s age outright is unfair, he didn’t have much help. If Lundqvist looked old, the defense looked ancient. Both Dan Girardi and Marc Staal wear the miles of playoff-hardened veterans and simply didn’t have it last season.

As a result, Lundqvist resembled someone taking a multiple choice test who didn’t study. He was guessing where the puck was going to the point it seemed like any shot could go in. Jake McCabe of the Buffalo Sabres put one past Lundqvist from beyond center ice showing just how hard the goalie was pressing.

Nonetheless, Lundqvist always battles back into form. He wasn’t at his best in the 2016-2017 regular season, but he proved the difference in a tight playoff series against the Montreal Canadiens.
Playoff Success

With all due respect to both Mike Richter and Eddie Giacomin, Lundqvist is the most successful goalie in the history of the franchise. Lundqvist is good in the regular season, but in the post-season, he goes to another level.

Lundqvist’s average postseason numbers are a .922 save percentage and 2.28 goals allowed. While both are solid outright, I’d like to key in on the more successful playoff runs the Rangers have had.

Lundqvist was the driving factor in the 2014 cup final run with a 2.11 GAA and a .928 save percentage. The team was primarily built around the defense that year, and the most important part of your defense is the goalie.

The 2011-2012 Ranger team that now seems overlooked due to both recency bias and just how bitter the end was, featured Lundqvist’s best raw numbers. Lundqvist averaged a 1.82 GAA with a .931 save percentage, meaning most nights, just two goals would get the job done.

Why he’s so Important

Having an elite starting goaltender is like having an elite quarterback in football. Goalies and Quarterbacks need to be perfect and set a tone for the team every time they play.

Lundqvist has done that for the better part of 12 seasons as the unquestioned face of the franchise in every context. He’s visible in the community through both the Garden of Dreams Foundation and the Henrik Lundqvist foundation.

Lundqvist in net means the team has a chance to win that game, period. He can swing momentum in a game for the Rangers in a way few goaltenders can in hockey. When a team makes the goalie the highest paid player on the team it sends a clear message: this is our guy, you aren’t beating him when he’s on.
The Future

Henrik Lundqvist will be 36 years old by the time the playoffs roll around, should the Rangers qualify. Tim Thomas won Stanley Cup at age 40 with the Boston Bruins, so Lundqvist isn’t totally out of time.

The front office did their franchise player a major favor by retooling the defense and making the priority better transition play.

Ondrej Pavelec, the new backup, has never had sustained NHL success which is a cause for concern. Should Pavaelec falter as a backup, it could force Lundqvist into more regular season games to just make the playoffs. If Lundqvist crosses the 65 game mark the team should be genuinely concerned about their chances.
Lundqvist is a generational talent who doesn’t come around often. He’s entering the final chapter of his career and still has a lot left to give the franchise. Hopefully the Hen-rik chants are here for a while longer. Maybe one day at a parade.

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It may only be the preseason, but a 5-1 loss to the Avalanche is still demoralizing for the Dallas Stars. This loss might also cause a shakeup in the near future.

“It’s only the preseason, it’s only the preseason, it’s only the preseason…”

Dallas Stars fans are probably thankful for this statement today. That’s because on Thursday night, the Stars were victimized by the Colorado Avalanche in a 5-1 routing. It was the Stars’ second preseason game and their first on the road.

The Stars went with a primarily young roster while the Avs included plenty of veterans in their lineup. Experience ended up beating exuberance pretty handily.

There’s no need to sugarcoat it: Dallas was beat pretty horribly. The Avalanche scored three goals on their first three shots in the first six minutes of the game. That’s a lot of firsts to be on the wrong side of.

Kari Lehtonen started the game 0-3 in net, the Stars looked weak and spotty on defense, and the offense had little momentum.

Roope Hintz found a power play goal for the Dallas Stars midway through the third period, but that’s about all there was to celebrate. It was an ugly loss and gives the team plenty to think about  going forward.

But remember: it’s only the preseason. The Stars used last night to examine the younger portion of their lineup and see what each player can offer to the team. The game was a heavy learning tool, but could also signal an upcoming time of change for the Stars.

In an interview following last night’s game, head coach Ken Hitchcock said, “I think [last night] was revealing, so some people might be a little surprised.” He said it in regards to the next roster cut, which is likely coming soon.

There was a positive and negative to the young lineup that the Stars fronted last night. The positive was that the young players had a chance to prove themselves against NHL-level competition. The negative was that they didn’t prove themselves against NHL-level competition.

As a result, Friday morning’s practice had a bit of a different look to it. The Stars split their remaining 53-man roster into two distinct groups. One group was comprised primarily of the players expected to play in the AHL or lower this season, and the other had the likely Dallas Stars members.

The groups were pretty self-explanatory, according to Sean Shapiro of NHL.com.

The Stars ended today by trimming their roster by one player. Nick Caamano, who had an outstanding training camp and Traverse City Tournament performance, was assigned to the Flint Firebirds of the OHL. Still, Caamano was one of the most impressive players this preseason and should be moving up very soon if he continues to develop.

The roster now stands at 52 players, but this is only the beginning. 29 more players need to be reassigned or cut before the season begins on Oct. 6. There are only four games and a little over a week left in the preseason to make these decisions.

It’s not going to be easy to whittle down, but games like last night’s provide some pretty clear evidence of what is working and what definitely isn’t working.

This loss may be quickly forgotten as the Dallas Stars move on to St. Louis to take on the Blues tomorrow night, but the remnants of the game will live on as the team continues to mold. Over the next few days, expect to see the list trimmed down significantly.

And don’t be surprised if some of the names on Thursday night’s roster are included, because that lineup obviously did not work.

But remember: it’s only the preseason.

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ANAHEIM >> When it comes to the new NHL season, Sami Vatanen’s best bet is to arrive fashionably late.

The questions that surrounded his future with the Ducks for weeks early in the summer have given way to how much of the season he’ll miss because of surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder.

“It’s been a little different summer but it’s all good now,” Vatanen said earlier this week, following an informal workout at Anaheim Ice. “It’s all in the past now.”

The place will be bustling with activity Friday as the Ducks officially open training camp to prepare for the 2017-18 campaign. Vatanen won’t be a full participant, however. The shoulder is repaired and its response to his activity has been encouraging. But it is going to take time before it feels right.

Count on sometime in November for the Finnish play-making defender to see his first action – if all goes to plan.

“It’s not ready yet,” Vatanen said. “I’m progressing every day. I’ve been skating right now and doing a little bit of passing and shooting. It feels better every week. We’ve just got to keep doing what we’re doing and try not to have any setbacks.”

Last season was one Vatanen, 26, wants to push aside. His numbers plummeted to three goals and 24 points after consecutive seasons of 12 goals and 37 points, and nine goals and 38 points. Injury and illness made him miss 11 regular-season games and the shoulder cost him five in the playoffs.

Examinations during that time made it clear that it had to be addressed following the season. Simple rehabilitation might have been on the table but wasn’t a realistic option.

“Of course it was much easier to just fix it now so that it doesn’t bother me,” he said. “If I would have started to rehab and it doesn’t work, then I would have had to do that anyways later. I think it was a good time for it right away after the season. Get healthy after that.”

The Ducks expect Hampus Lindholm also will be missing from their blue line to open the season. Vatanen and Lindholm both eat up more than 20 minutes of ice time per night and play in virtually all situations. Their absence is one reason the team brought back Francois Beauchemin for a third stint.

At one point, Vatanen seemed headed for the expansion Vegas Golden Knights after a down season. Ducks general manager Bob Murray wasn’t prepared to give him away for low-ball offers and, instead, sacrificed Shea Theodore to protect his veteran and Josh Manson from the expansion draft.

Vatanen took a hometown discount in signing a four-year, $19.5 million contract extension, and the Ducks hope the feisty Finn returns to form, adding to a defense corps that is one of the team’s strengths.

Looking back at falling two wins shy of playing for the Stanley Cup, Vatanen mused and said, “it’s the little things that matter in the playoffs.”

“It’s all done and we learned from it and I think we’re ready for this season,” he added. “Go a little bit further.”

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NHL News

NHL News

 

New Jersey Devils center Nico Hischier, the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, will be one of many young players participating in prospect tournament games through Tuesday.

His first game, against the Buffalo Sabres at 7 p.m. Friday as part of the Prospects Challenge at HarborCenter in Buffalo, and all prospect tournament games will be available to stream on NHL.com (see schedule below).

The Prospects Challenge features the Devils, Sabres, Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins and runs through Monday.

The 2017 Rookie Tournament, at Ricoh Coliseum in Toronto, runs through Sunday and includes the Toronto Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens.

The Vancouver Canucks host the 2017 Young Stars Classic at South Okanagan Events Centre in Penticton, British Columbia. That event also includes the Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers and Winnipeg Jets and goes through Monday.

The Traverse City Prospects Tournament features the Detroit Red Wings, Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild, New York Rangers and St. Louis Blues. They will play at Centre Ice Arena in Traverse City, Michigan, through the championship game Tuesday.

The San Jose Sharks will host the 2017 Prospect Showcase at Solar4America Ice in San Jose starting Saturday. The event includes the Arizona Coyotes, Anaheim Ducks and Avalanche and runs through Tuesday.

Below is the schedule of games by tournament:

The Prospects Challenge

Penguins vs. Bruins, Sept. 8, 3:30 p.m. ET
Sabres vs. Devils, Sept. 8, 7 p.m. ET
Devils vs. Penguins, Sept. 9, 3:30 p.m. ET
Sabres vs. Bruins, Sept. 9, 7 p.m. ET
Bruins vs. Devils, Sept. 11, 12 p.m. ET
Sabres vs. Penguins, Sept. 11, 7 p.m. ET

Traverse City Prospects Tournament

Blue Jackets vs. Stars, Sept. 8, 3:30 p.m. ET
Blues vs. Wild, Sept. 8, 4 p.m. ET
Red Wings vs. Hurricanes, Sept. 8, 7:30 p.m. ET
Hurricanes vs. Rangers, Sept. 9, 3:30 p.m. ET
Blackhawks vs. Red Wings, Sept. 9, 4 p.m. ET
Stars vs. Blues, Sept. 9, 7 p.m. ET
Wild vs. Blue Jackets, Sept. 9, 7:30 p.m. ET
Blues vs. Blue Jackets, Sept. 11, 3 p.m. ET
Stars vs. Wild, Sept. 11, 3:30 p.m. ET
Hurricanes vs. Blackhawks, Sept. 11, 6:30 p.m. ET
Rangers vs. Red Wings, Sept. 11, 7 p.m. ET
7th Place game, Sept. 12, 3 p.m. ET
5th Place game, Sept. 12, 3:30 p.m. ET
3rd Place game, Sept. 12, 6:30 p.m. ET
Championship game, Sept. 12, 7 p.m. ET

2017 Young Stars Classic

Oilers vs. Flames, Sept. 8, 7 p.m. ET
Canucks vs. Jets, Sept. 8, 10:30 p.m. ET
Jets vs. Oilers, Sept. 9, 10:30 p.m. ET
Flames vs. Canucks, Sept. 10, 5 p.m. ET
Jets vs. Flames, Sept. 11, 1:30 p.m. ET
Canucks vs. Oilers, Sept. 11, 5 p.m. ET

2017 Rookie Tournament

Maple Leafs vs. Canadiens, Sept. 8, 7 p.m. ET
Maple Leafs vs. Senators, Sept. 10, 4 p.m. ET

2017 Prospect Showcase

Sharks vs. Avalanche, Sept. 9, 7 p.m. ET
Ducks vs. Coyotes, Sept. 9, 10 p.m. ET
Sharks vs. Ducks, Sept. 10, 6 p.m. ET
Coyotes vs. Avalanche, Sept. 11, 10 p.m. ET
Avalanche vs. Ducks, Sept. 12, 3 p.m. ET
Sharks vs. Coyotes, Sept. 12, 6 p.m. ET

Cheap Brandon Dubinsky Jersey Sale

(Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend’s events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.)

Brandon Dubinsky had a little bit to say on Friday about the free agency process for four-year college players.

Specifically, he is against it.
View photos

It’s tough to figure out exactly what his beef is here; he wasn’t more forthcoming than these two tweets. However, there are a few points worth addressing here.

First and foremost: This is a union member saying that the exercising of collectively bargained rights by other union members is “a joke.” Which is troubling in and of itself, but it really highlights a long-standing tendency on the part of NHLPA members to close the door behind them and not express much interest in boosting the rights of players younger than them, such as rookies who are forced to comply to entry-level contract (ELC) rules and have their free-agent rights controlled by the teams that drafted and/or signed them for pretty much the entirety of their prime performing years.

Second, Dubinsky is one of those aforementioned “guys that play[ed] major junior.” Perhaps the beef here is that major junior players who don’t sign after their eligibility runs out are forced to re-enter the draft rather than go through free agency, which doesn’t strike one as being totally fair on its surface. Except to say that most guys who become college free agents after forcing their way to UFA status by refusing to sign with the teams that drafted them (Will Butcher, Jimmy Vesey, Kevin Hayes, recent Columbus signee Doyle Somerby, etc.) are something like 22 or 23, versus being forced to re-enter the draft when junior eligibility runs out at age 20.

No one, of course, forces players to choose major junior over college, but you can see where these decisions are made; and when players make them, they presumably do so with a full understanding of what that means for their future career prospects. Especially in the case of a Dubinsky, who was a relatively high pick and fairly regular WHL player at age 16, the prospects of an NHL career had to be very real, and if he wasn’t prepared for what that would have meant for his future free agency status, that’s on his agent.

(Not that it mattered, since he signed with the Rangers after his draft-year-plus-1 season.)

Third, Dubinsky has been a member of the NHLPA for about a decade at this point, and while he wasn’t in the league when players lost an entire season to a lockout driven by owner greed (and, to some extent, union incompetence) he certainly saw what happened in 2012 first-hand; he was the Rangers’ player representative in the NHLPA the year before the most recent lockout. So he should know full well how difficult it is for the players, who basically got their asses kicked in two straight lockouts — and oh yeah, seem destined for a third one — to wring any kind of rights out of the league in the first place.