Ilari Filppula, Valtteri's older brother, looks to impress Wings coaches in camp

You might say that the Detroit Red Wings might feel a bit snake-bit in dealing with guys from the Finnish Elite League these days. Two years ago, they signed SM-liiga MVP Ville Leino only to see him slump mightily with Detroit while struggling within coach Mike Babcock’s system. They traded him to Philadelphia for defenseman Ole-Kristian Tollefsen only to see Leino flourish with the Flyers in the playoffs and lead many to believe that the Red Wings finally dropped the ball on a Scandinavian import.

This time around, they’re rolling the dice on Ilari Filppula, older brother of Wings star Valtteri Filppula. The Freep’s Helene St. James finds out from Ilari how he plans to make his mark on brother Valtteri’s Red Wings squad during training camp.

With a roster already jam-packed with forwards in Detroit, Ilari Filppula knows the odds favor him going to Grand Rapids next month.

But until the regular seasons forces the Red Wings to pare down, Filppula’s goal is simple: Show the coaching staff that at the very least, he should be atop the depth chart if an injury to a Wings regular requires a call-up from the minors.

“Whatever team I play for, I’ll play hard and just try to help the team as well as I can,” Filppula said. “If it’s in Grand Rapids, then it’s there, and hopefully I get a chance up at some point. Obviously NHL has been my goal ever since I started playing hockey. Sometimes it fell a little further, but now opportunity came and I feel pretty good. I think time is right now.”

Certainly the hype is reduced around Ilari compared to that of Ville Leino. Filppula did manage to win the SM-liiga playoff MVP trophy last season so he’s not coming in as a completely untalented guy but he’d have to be other-worldly in training camp to crack the already crowded Red Wings forward roster.

Still, if having Ilari stateside is something that can help little brother Valtteri perhaps relax a bit more and unleash his game, the bonus effects of giving Ilari a chance could really pay off for Detroit.

Panarin impresses ‘Hawks with his preseason debut

Artemi Panarin
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Will Artem Panarin‘s overwhelming success in the KHL translate to North America? The 23-year-old forward has a lot to prove, but his first big test was a success.

Playing on a line with Patrick Kane and Artem Anisimov, Panarin made his preseason debut in Chicago’s finale on Saturday. He registered two assists while giving his teammates reason to be optimistic about him.

“For not being on the ice he looks really relaxed. He’s great with the puck, has nice moves and I think we’ll see a lot of this,” Marian Hossa told CSN Chicago. “He has unbelievable skill. People here in Chicago are going to have a good time watching this guy dangling.”

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville was impressed by Panarin as well and liked that line as a whole.

The fact that the trio seemed to hit it off quickly has to come as a relief after an upper-body injury prevented Panarin from getting the most out of this year’s training camp. At the end of the day though, the fact that he was able to at least get in one preseason contest is a big silver lining. How smoothly his adjustment goes from here is still a big X-factor, but at least now he’s going into the regular season with a better idea of what to expect.

Panarin is attempting to establish himself in the NHL after leading the KHL’s SKA St. Petersburg to a championship last year. He was the team’s scoring leader, topping ex-NHL star Ilya Kovalchuk.

Gustavsson secures one-year contract with Bruins

Jonas Gustavsson
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There was stiff competition for the backup goaltending job in Boston, but with a signing this afternoon, it seems likely that the matter has been resolved.

The Boston Bruins announced that Jonas Gustavsson has agreed to a one-year, $700,000 deal. It’s a one-way contract, according to the Boston Globe’s Amalie Benjamin.

That contract is still small enough that the Bruins could bury it in the minors if they so desire, but it does set him apart from his last competitor for the goalie position, Jeremy Smith, who has a two-way deal. The fact that Boston went this route seems to imply that Gustavsson will serve as Tuukka Rask‘s understudy, although both netminders attended Sunday’s practice.

In Smith, the Bruins would be getting a 26-year-old goaltender who was dominant with the AHL’s Providence Bruins last season, but has no NHL experience. By contrast Gustavsson, 30, has played in almost 150 NHL games.

Boston sent Zane McIntyre and Malcolm Subban to the minors last week, but an argument could be made that either one of them is worthy of the backup job. However, both of them have a lot of potential and it’s not surprising that the Bruins felt they were better served by staying in the minors where they can play regularly and focus on honing their game.