Cam Ward wins goalie duel with Niklas Backstrom as Hurricanes beat Wild 2-1

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camwardshutout.jpgThe Carolina Hurricanes are a team that places an incredible amount of emphasis on the production of two players: goalie Cam Ward and forward Eric Staal. While Staal was snubbed in both games in Finland, Ward is one of the main reasons why the Canes will leave Helsinki with a maximum four out of four points in those contests.

Ward’s 41 out of 42 saves and perfect shootout performance out-dueled Minnesota Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom, who stopped 36 out of 37 shots in real time and then stopped 2 out of 3 shootout attempts.

Carolina Hurricanes 2, Minnesota Wild 1 (SO)

Who knows if the Hurricanes will keep first round pick Jeff Skinner at the NHL level beyond the nine games they can play him in before a year of his entry-level deal expires, but so far Skinner is making a pretty compelling argument to stay. He made a nice hustle play as Backstrom left his net, creating enough havoc before getting the puck to Jussi Jokinen who fed fellow Finnish-born forward Tuomo Ruutu for Carolina’s only regulation goal. Skinner also scored the game’s lone shootout goal, so he essentially tallied the “game winner” in this one.

The Wild clearly took this game more seriously than the last, at least in the early going. The team rained 18 shots on Ward in the first period and 30 in the first two frames, but were out-shot 15-4 in the third period. Minnesota renewed their sense of urgency in the overtime period, though, hammering eight shots on goal in just five OT minutes.

You cannot blame Wild captain Mikko Koivu for this loss, that’s for sure. The Finnish-born center had an outstanding game, as he assisted on Andrew Brunette’s power-play goal, won an astounding 21 out of 25 faceoffs and put eight shots on goal in the contest. After a great game yesterday, Brandon Sutter must have been abused by Koivu in the dot because he only won one out of 19 faceoffs in this game and did not register a point in this low-scoring game.

While Minnesota must leave this game frustrated, they’ll at least register one point out of a possible four thanks to it being a shootout loss. After going 2-2 in his first four games last year, Ward didn’t win his third game until December 16 (more than two months later), so the Hurricanes are hoping this is a sign of a better start – for the goalie and the team – than they saw in the 2009-10 season.

Jackets re-sign Sedlak, AHL affiliate’s leading playoff scorer

COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 20:  Lukas Sedlak #85 of the Columbus Blue Jackets waits for the pass during the game against the Winnipeg Jets on September 20, 2011 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus Ohio.  The Blue Jackets defeated the Jets 5-1.  (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images)
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Columbus farmhand Lukas Sedlak, who currently sits tied atop AHL Lake Erie’s playoff scoring leaderboard, has signed a one-year, two-way deal, the Jackets announced on Wednesday.

Sedlak, 23, was a fifth-round pick in 2011 that’s spent the last three years in the American League. This season was by far his most successful — in addition to potting a career-best 14 goals, he’s become close to a point-a-game producer in the playoffs, with 11 through 12 games.

“Sedlak has been on a run for us with goal-scoring,” Lake Erie head coach Jared Bednar said, per the Columbus Dispatch. “He’s not a guy who does it for us every night. But he works so hard in all the other areas.”

Sedlak has yet to make his NHL debut, but could be in the mix for a recall next season.

Despite Canadian dollar, Bettman still expects ‘revenue increase’

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman answers a question during a news conference before the NHL All-Star hockey game skills competition, Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
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The Canadian dollar is trading at around $0.77 USD today. While that’s up considerably from where it was a few months ago, the damage has already been done to NHL revenues.

“If the Canadian dollar was still at par, we would be $100 or 200 million higher perhaps than we may find ourselves,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told Bloomberg Television today.

Having said that, Bettman still expects there will be a “revenue increase” compared to last year, adding that “we continue to grow year after year and set new records.”

More from Bloomberg:

Bettman said that while the NHL’s revenue growth has come across the entire business, the league has seen its biggest boon in its digital platform. The league last year signed a six-year, $1.2 billion contract with Major League Baseball’s interactive media and Internet arm, or BAM, to operate the its digital operations, streaming services and TV network. The NHL got a 10 percent stake as part the deal.

The NHL playoffs are currently in the middle of the conference finals. The NHL’s fiscal year ends June 30.

League revenues, of course, have a direct impact on the salary cap, and let’s face it, that’s the only thing most fans care about.

As of March, the cap was expected to grow from $71.4 million in 2015-16 to $74 million next season.

However, that projection assumed the NHLPA would accept the CBA’s standard five percent growth factor, and with escrow topping the list of player concerns, that’s no given.

The players’ association will discuss and make a decision on the growth factor at some point before July 1.

Related: Bowman noncommittal on Shaw and Bickell, needs to know salary cap first

Devils’ Merrill undergoes shoulder surgery, out four months

NEWARK, NJ - JANUARY 04: Jon Merrill #7 of the New Jersey Devils skates against the Detroit Red Wings at the Prudential Center on January 4, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey. The Red Wings defeated the Devils 1-0.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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New Jersey d-man Jon Merrill, who struggled through an injury-riddled campaign, has undergone successful shoulder surgery with an expected recovery time of four months, the club announced on Wednesday.

Merrill, 24, only appeared in 47 games this year, first missing time with an arm injury, then suffering a shoulder ailment late in the year.

There was no clear indication if the two ailments were related, but Merrill’s arm injury was on the right side, and surgery was on his right shoulder.

A former University of Michigan standout taken 38th overall in 2010, Merrill enjoyed solid rookie and sophomore campaigns in New Jersey. His second year was especially solid — 14 points in 66 games, averaging over 20 minutes per night — and he boasts good size, going 6-foot-3, 205 pounds.

Based on the four-month timetable for recovery, Merrill will likely miss parts of New Jersey’s training camp and preseason action.

Max Talbot mulling European options for next season

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After a 10-year career with over 700 games played and one Stanley Cup, Maxime Talbot could be done in the NHL.

Per RDS, Talbot — who’ll hit unrestricted free agency on July 1 — has “some options in Europe” for next season, and is contemplating a move overseas.

In his prime, Talbot was a gritty, hardworking forward with decent touch around the net. He scored double-digit goals four times, including a career-high 19 in ’11-12.

The 32-year-old split last season between Boston and its AHL affiliate in Providence, scoring seven points in 38 games at the NHL level.

Talbot did acquit himself very well with the P-Bruins — 21 points in 26 games — and has some experience playing abroad, having suited up for Finnish League club Ilves Tampere during the lockout.

Based on how things went last year in free agency, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Talbot land in Europe.

The likes of Maxim Lapierre, Curtis Glencross and Marcel Goc all failed to score NHL contracts last summer — Lapierre and Goc proceeded to sign overseas, while Glencross opted to retire.