Around The Rink – opening day previews

It’s here. We all feel like Navin Johnson from the movie “The Jerk” today because we’re hopping around our homes/cubicles saying to ourselves or out loud, “The new season is here! The new season is here!” Never mind the funny looks you get from your peers, this is your day hockey fans and the NHL has rewarded you with a noon time start and three rivalry games to kick things off. See, Gary Bettman really is looking out for you.

Here’s today’s rundown of the action with all times Eastern.

12:00 pm

Carolina vs. Minnesota (Helsinki, Finland)

The NHL kicks off its season once again in Europe and this time two teams loaded with Finnish talent get to start their seasons off at home. From the Wild you’ve got captain Mikko Koivu, Antti Miettinen and goalie Niklas Backstrom while Carolina rolls out Tuomo Ruutu, Joni Pitkanen, and Jussi Jokinen as the hometown players. Backstrom will start in goal for Minnesota, while Cam Ward gets the nod for the Hurricanes

7:00 pm

Philadelphia @ Pittsburgh 

The Penguins open up their brand new home, the CONSOL Energy Center, and who better to invite in to try and crash the party but your cross-state rivals the Flyers. The Flyers will start Brian Boucher rookie Sergei Bobrovsky in goal while Marc-Andre Fleury gets the nod for Pittsburgh.

Montreal @ Toronto

Two bitter, old rivals kick off their seasons against each other in Toronto. For the Leafs, they hope to get out on the right foot to start their year. After losing a heart breaker in overtime to start their year, things went downhill fast for the Leafs after that. For Montreal, they’re looking to build off an erratic season that closed strong in the playoffs. Jean-Sebastian Giguere gets the start in goal for Toronto while a slightly ill Carey Price is expected to start. Alex Auld waits in the wings just in case he can’t go.

10:00 pm

Chicago @ Colorado

The defending Stanley Cup champions kick off their season on the road in Denver and welcoming them are the Avalanche. With the Avs having a potentially questionable defense, seeing if the Blackhawks can kick things off by ripping tons of shots will be fun to see. Marty Turco starts for Chicago while Craig Anderson starts for Colorado.

Calgary @ Edmonton

The most fascinating game of the night comes from the Battle of Alberta in Edmonton. The Flames reclamation line of Alex Tanguay-Olli Jokinen-Jarome Iginla gets the start against the Oilers rookie big three of Taylor Hall, Magnus Paajarvi, and Jordan Eberle. Miikka Kiprusoff will start for Calgary while Nikolai Khabibulin should start for Edmonton.

Scroll Down For:

    Patrik Laine to make highly anticipated preseason debut for Jets

    BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 24:  Patrik Laine gives an interview after being selected second by the Winnepeg Jets during round one of the 2016 NHL Draft on June 24, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Jen Fuller/Getty Images)
    Getty Images
    Leave a comment

    Anticipation has been building since the Winnipeg Jets officially took Patrik Laine with the second overall pick in this year’s NHL Draft.

    On Friday, Laine, the highly coveted Finnish forward, will make his preseason debut for the Jets when they play the Edmonton Oilers in Winnipeg, as the home fans get the chance to take in the occasion.

    The Jets have done a nice job of amassing good young forwards in their organization. Laine, who has the gifts to be a prolific scorer in the NHL, is at the top of that prospect list.

    Winnipeg’s roster tonight also includes forward prospects Kyle Connor, Nic Petan and Brandon Tanev, not to mention more NHL experienced forwards like Alex Burmistrov, Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele.

    Laine enters this season with high expectations placed on him from fans and media, after coming to the NHL following a standout career in Finland as a teenager. He’s aware of the expectations, but toned down the hype with the usual statements of just playing his game.

    “Just be brave on the ice and show everybody I will earn my spot on the team,” he told reporters.

    Laine has already seen game action this month. Not with the Jets, but with Finland’s entry at the World Cup of Hockey.

    Following offseason knee surgery, Laine wasn’t happy with his performance in Finland’s first pre-tournament game. In three tournament games, Laine failed to register a point, despite a team-best 10 shots on goal, as Finland was quickly eliminated in the round robin.

    Related:

    Looking to make the leap: Patrik Laine

    Murray: Ristolainen’s good-faith gesture unlikely to sway talks with Sabres

    BUFFALO, NY - JANUARY 22: Rasmus Ristolainen #55 of the Buffalo Sabres makes a pass during the game against the Detroit Red Wings on January 22, 2016 at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Tom Brenner/Getty Images)
    Getty

    BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) Buffalo Sabres general manager Tim Murray tells The Associated Press he doesn’t believe defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen‘s decision to join the team for practice without a contract will have any effect on thawing negotiations.

    With a big laugh, Murray on Friday said the only way Ristolainen could speed up contract talks is if “he got all lovey-dovey” and elected to take the Sabres’ latest offer.

    Ristolainen is a restricted free agent whose rights were retained by the Sabres in June. After representing Finland in the World Cup of Hockey, Ristolainen reported to the Sabres on Thursday in what was regarded as a sign of good faith.

    Though he’s not allowed to play because he’s not under contract, Ristolainen is practicing with the team and also taking part in meetings. Ristolainen is not making himself available to reporters.

    Murray says he didn’t see anything wrong with allowing Ristolainen to practice, saying he’d rather the player be in Buffalo than working out elsewhere.

    Murray says the two sides are still negotiating.

    In three seasons, Buffalo’s 2013 first-round draft pick has established himself as the Sabres’ top defenseman. Last year, Ristolainen led the team in averaging more than 25 minutes of ice time per game, and led Buffalo defensemen with 41 points (nine goals, 32 assists).

    Contract coming? Rakell’s agent negotiating ‘frequently’ with Anaheim

    ANAHEIM, CA - NOVEMBER 30: Rickard Rakell #67 of the Anaheim Ducks skates during a game against the Vancouver Canucks at Honda Center on November 30, 2015 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
    Getty
    Leave a comment

    More updates from Anaheim, the land of contractual impasses…

    Rickard Rakell, the still-unsigned RFA forward, sounds as though he’s closer to an extension with the Ducks than teammate Hampus Lindholm, who’s working out in Sweden.

    From the O.C. Register:

    Rakell has yet to resume his training after being unable to play for his homeland in the World Cup of Hockey. But it is believed that while the Ducks would prefer to stay lower than Rakell’s six-year, $24 million asking price, they’ve made more headway with the center’s agent, Peter Wallen.

    In an e-mail to the Register, Wallen confirmed as much while saying Rakell has slowly started to work out again and will need “a couple of weeks” to get back in top shape. “Back negotiating,” Wallen said. “More frequently now.”

    Rakell finished fourth on the Ducks in scoring last year, with 20 goals and 43 points, and led the team in game-winning markers. His emergence over the last two seasons — he had 31 points in 73 contests in ’14-15 — his age (only turned 23 in May) and his versatility (can play center or right wing) are the big reasons why he’s angling for a significant payday.

    For Anaheim, it’s one of those problems teams wish they had.

    Though they’re stretched thin financially, the Ducks have an arsenal of good young talent up front that will eventually replace the likes of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Ryan Kesler. Rakell is chief among them, and he’ll soon be followed by the likes of Nick Ritchie, Nick Sorensen, Julius Nattinen and both of the club’s first-round picks at this year’s draft — Max Jones and Sam Steel.

    The key, of course, is keeping all those young guys in the fold.

    And that starts with Rakell.

    Related: Lindholm seeking eight-year deal from ducks, at least $6M per

    Schwartz injury increases focus on Blues who could step up

    CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 24:  Ty Rattie #18 of the St. Louis Blues passes around Trevor van Riemsdyk #57 of the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center on January 24, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The Blackhawks defeated the Blues 2-0.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
    Getty
    Leave a comment

    It was already going to be interesting to watch the St. Louis Blues without David Backes and Troy Brouwer.

    Then came today’s news that they’ll be without Jaden Schwartz for at least the first two weeks of the regular season.

    Now the focus really turns to players like Ty Rattie, the 23-year-old winger who’s piled up the points in the AHL but still has to establish himself as a regular NHLer.

    Can he help fill the void?

    “It’s him, it’s (Kenny) Agostino, it’s (Samuel) Blais, it’s (Magnus) Paajarvi,” said Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock, per In The Slot. “These are guys that, man, they can make our team be a little bit different here, quite a bit different and really be one of those teams where we’re dangerous right throughout our lineup if they can make the grade.”

    Backes had 21 goals last season, while Brouwer chipped in 18. The Blues did partially answer their departures with the David Perron signing, but they’ll need others to step up as well. That includes veteran Alex Steen, whose goal totals have fallen from 33 to 24 to 17 in three consecutive seasons, and 20-year-old Robby Fabbri, who had 18 goals last season as a rookie, but has the talent to score more. Paul Stastny only had 10 goals last season. He can do better.

    Schwartz, too, will need to stay healthy when he returns. He only played 33 games last season after fracturing his ankle in October. He has to be doubly frustrated after sustaining yet another injury in practice.

    And, of course, Vladimir Tarasenko will need to keep scoring. He had 40 goals last season, the fourth most in the NHL. Any falloff there would hurt.

    The Blues finished 2015-16 with 107 points, then made it all the way to the Western Conference Final for the first time since 2001. They still consider themselves Stanley Cup contenders.

    But first things first, they have to get back into the playoffs.

    “This is my sixth season in the Central Division and this looks like the most challenging year yet,” Hitchcock told The Associated Press yesterday. “The crunching between the top and bottom started last year, and it’s going to be closer this year.”