NHL releases preseason schedule; Record six teams play games overseas

Thumbnail image for toewsyoungestcaptain.jpgThe NHL released its preseason schedule on Monday, so I thought I’d point out some of the highlights. First, here are a few of the things that the league pointed out.

An historic number of NHL clubs playing international games highlights the National Hockey League’s 2010-11 pre-season schedule, the dates and start times of which were announced today. Six clubs — the Boston Bruins, Phoenix Coyotes, Minnesota Wild, Carolina Hurricanes, San Jose Sharks and Columbus Blue Jackets — will play a total of seven games throughout Europe as they prepare to open the regular season overseas in the 2010 Compuware NHL Premiere.

It’s been 50 years since the Boston Bruins played overseas, but they’ll make up for it in a big way with exhibitions in Northern Ireland and the Czech Republic along with two regular season opening games against the Phoenix Coyotes in Prague. The Minnesota Wild and Carolina Hurricanes will tune up for regular season openers in Finland by playing in Tampere, Finland and St. Petersburg, Russia respectively. Finally, the San Jose Sharks and Columbus Blue Jackets will get ready for regular season openers in Sweden by playing in Germany and Sweden.

While other teams won’t play in such exotic locations as Russia or Sweden, there will be some other games outside of NHL cities during the preseason. Here is more from NHL.com.

The defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks open their pre-season schedule Sept. 22 with a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning at MTS Centre in Winnipeg, Manitoba, the hometown of Blackhawks captain and Conn Smythe Trophy winner as playoff MVP Jonathan Toews.

[snip]

The people of Dundas, Ontario, winners of the Canada-wide Kraft Hockeyville contest, will celebrate the grand prize when the Buffalo Sabres and Ottawa Senators play a pre-season game in their community Sept. 28.

The schedule features several other contests that will be played outside NHL cities, including Las Vegas, Nev. (Colorado vs. Los Angeles, Oct. 2); London, Ont. (Philadelphia vs. Toronto, Sept. 23); Rochester, N.Y. (Boston vs. Florida, Sept. 23); Quebec City, Que. (Montreal vs. NY Islanders, Oct. 2) and Saskatoon, Sask. (Calgary vs. NY Islanders, Sept. 29).

So those are the highlights of the preseason schedule. The league is expected to release the regular season version next week, so expect all kinds of analysis then.

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    Hitchcock, Blues know they need to slow down the Stars … but can they?

    The puck shot by Dallas Stars left wing Antoine Roussel crosses the goal line as St. Louis Blues goalie Brian Elliott (1) and defenseman Jay Bouwmeester (19) attempt the stop during the second period of Game 1 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Western Conference semifinals, Friday, April 29, 2016, in Dallas. The Stars won 2-1. (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News via AP)
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    The Dallas Stars only beat the St. Louis Blues by one goal (2-1) in Game 1, but the feeling is that the score was deceptively close.

    Blame it on fatigue from that epic series against the Chicago Blackhawks or not; the Blues looked out of rhythm and out of breath against the hard-charging Stars.

    At least they’re not in denial about that, though.

    “We’re not going to beat anybody giving up 40 shots on goal,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch after their Game 1 loss on Friday. “We’re not going to beat anybody giving up the scoring chances we did today.”

    Hitchcock added “we’ve got to find the energy to play our game, and we’ve got to find it quickly in the next 48 hours.”

    Allowing 40 shots on goal might not be that common for the Blues, yet they leaned heavily on Brian Elliott against the Blackhawks in that series.

    Just look at the SOG comparison in that series and in Game 1 vs. Dallas:

    Game 1: Blues – 18 SOG, Blackhawks – 35
    Game 2: Blues – 31, Blackhawks – 29
    Game 3: Blues – 36, Blackhawks – 46
    Game 4: Blues – 20, Blackhawks – 42
    Game 5: Blues – 46, Blackhawks – 35
    Game 6: Blues – 28, Blachawks – 36
    Game 7: Blues – 26, Blackhawks – 33

    Game 1: Blues – 32, Stars – 42

    Such shot comparisons make you wonder if Game 1 provided evidence of a rest advantage or if this might just be the state of affairs for the Blues (at least against two electric offenses).

    One area to watch is the transition game. The Stars seemed to tear through the neutral zone while the Blues sometimes struggled to get things going.

    “They’re a team that wants to play real fast up the ice and through the neutral zone,” Jay Bouwmeester said, via the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Yeah, we didn’t do a very good job of slowing them down. A lot of their chances were off the rush. That’s what you want to take away from them.”

    File that under “easier said than done.”

    Gather your lucky charms, 2016 NHL Draft Lottery is tonight

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    Honestly, it’s tough to blame people for making Edmonton Oilers jokes in regards to the 2016 NHL Draft Lottery.

    Really it’s only human nature to drop one-liners about the perennial cellar-dweller that (seemingly) always lands the No. 1 pick.

    Will it happen again this time around? We’ll find out soon enough, more precisely sometime around 8 p.m. ET on NBC.

    As you can see, the Oilers do not have the best odds to land the top pick … but they’re close:

    A reminder: this time around the lottery will determine the top three picks. The NHL discusses that tweak and other changes here:

    For the first time, the 2016 NHL Draft Lottery will assign the top three slots in the first round of the NHL Draft – a change from prior years, when the Draft Lottery was used to determine the winner of the first overall selection exclusively.

    Want the full lowdown on the 2016 NHL Draft Lottery? PHT has you covered here.

    Here’s your Stanley Cup playoffs schedule for tonight

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    The Stanley Cup playoffs continue with two games on Saturday. You can catch tonight’s games via the NBC Sports Group’s television and digital platforms.

    NY Islanders at Tampa Bay (3:00 p.m. ET)

    The TV broadcast of Game 2 will be on NBC. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here.

    Pittsburgh at Washington (8:00 p.m. ET)

    The TV broadcast of Game 2 will also be on NBC. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here.

    Some reading to get you pumped up:

    – The Penguins are keeping chatty Marc-Andre Fleury from speaking to the media (reportedly).

    Tom Wilson received a fine, not a suspension, for that knee-to-knee hit.

    T.J. Oshie was the difference-maker for Washington in Game 1.

    – Don’t expect Steven Stamkos to face red-hot John Tavares anytime soon (or at all, maybe).

    Read about the Isles’ Game 1 win.

    Sharks swarm in the third period, take down Predators in Game 1

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    For two periods, the San Jose Sharks couldn’t solve Pekka Rinne.

    Maybe it was because of that black cat that found its way on to the ice prior to the start of Friday’s game, or the video review that didn’t go in San Jose’s favor in the opening period.

    But that all changed in the final period. It started with Tomas Hertl on the power play finding room just under the glove of Rinne to get San Jose on the board. Joel Ward followed that up with a gorgeous deke, tucking the puck in behind Rinne just as he started to go behind the net, as San Jose was able to take advantage of a defensive breakdown.

    Logan Couture added the eventual winner. Within the span of 13 minutes, the Sharks had completely taken over, cashing in on two Nashville penalties and a defensive lapse.

    When the onslaught was over, the Sharks skated off with a 5-2 win in Game 1 of this second-round series with the Predators, who only wrapped up a seven-game series win over Anaheim on Wednesday.

    Ryan Johansen made it interesting, cutting into San Jose’s lead with under two minutes remaining, but any further comeback attempt was quickly halted by a pair of empty net goals from the Sharks.

    The game ended with a dust-up along the boards, before cooler heads did prevail.