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.

Red Wings sign Tomas Tatar: four years, $21.2M

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It turns out that Tomas Tatar‘s days are numbered with the Detroit Red Wings by almost 1,500.*

After a salary arbitration hearing and concerns that he might leave after a single season, “Band-Aid” sort of deal, a wide variety of reporters state that the two sides instead agreed to a four-year deal with a $5.3 million cap hit, which would total $21.2 million.

Those figures come from MLive.com’s Ansar Khan, the Detroit News’ Ted Kulfan, FanRag’s Craig Morgan, and Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman. It will be noted if the Red Wings make the term and/or financial details official.

Here’s the reported yearly breakdown (cue ominous music for that lockout-protection drop in 2020-21), via Morgan:

Again, this feels like a change in viewpoint, as even just yesterday it was reasonable to wonder if Tatar would only stick around for 2017-18. Now, it is possible that Tatar might get traded at some point, but a four-year deal is a bit surprising. The forward himself speculated that a one-year deal would be it.

This contract makes Tatar, 26, the Red Wings’ second-most expensive forward from a cap perspective, trailing only Henrik Zetteberg’s $6.083 million.

Even with this deal out of the way, Red Wings GM Ken Holland still has some work to do, including re-signing speedy forward Andreas Athanasiou. And the situation is tight.

* – Four times 365 is 1,460. Get it?

Wingels fractures foot, but should be ready for Blackhawks camp

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The good news is that Tommy Wingels is expected to be ready for Chicago Blackhawks training camp. The bad news is that he’ll be limited in his training regimen … although that very regimen caused him issues in the first place.

Dr. Michael Terry, the Blackhawks’ team doctor, released the following update regarding Wingels:

“Tommy Wingels sustained a left foot fracture during his off-season training. We anticipate a full recovery in six to eight weeks and in time for training camp. We do not anticipate any long-term issues.”

It’s unclear what caused the specific injury. Dropped weight? Unlucky fall? Perhaps a stress fracture? Without knowing the exact issue, it’s tempting to picture various painful scenarios.

(Probably because we’re in the dog days of the hockey summer, too.)

Wingels, 29, is on a one-year deal with Chicago, carrying a $750K salary and cap hit. He last played for the Ottawa Senators, though Blackhawks fans are most likely to remember him from his lengthy stay with the San Jose Sharks.

Six-to-eight weeks seems like it wouldn’t give a ton of room for error, so we’ll see if he’ll actually be ready for training camp.

Dahlin headlines Sweden’s roster for World Junior Summer Showcase

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Defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, potentially the NHL’s first overall draft pick in 2018, will suit up for Sweden at the World Junior Summer Showcase in Plymouth, Michigan.

Dahlin, who doesn’t turn 18 until April, has wowed scouts with his skating and puck-moving ability. At the 2017 World Juniors, he participated as a 16-year-old, garnering tantalizing reviews in the process.

Top-10 picks in the 2017 draft, Elias Pettersson (5th, Vancouver Canucks) and Lias Andersson (7th, New York Rangers), will also be in Plymouth representing Sweden.

Click here for Sweden’s and Finland’s Summer Showcase rosters. The tournament runs from July 29 – Aug. 5 and also features players from the United States and Canada.

Among the draft-eligible Finns to watch is 17-year-old forward Jesse Ylonen, who could be a late first-rounder in 2018.

Related: USA Hockey invites 42 players to World Junior Summer Showcase

All of a sudden, hope for hockey in Houston

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Leslie Alexander’s decision to sell the NBA’s Rockets has revived hope for a hockey team in Houston.

That’s because Alexander is arguably the biggest reason that Houston doesn’t already have a team. The 72-year-old billionaire controls Toyota Center, where the Rockets play. Without getting into all the details, he’s essentially been the only one who could bring an NHL franchise to the city.

From the Houston Press:

But Alexander selling the Rockets (and the lease that goes with it), opens up an NHL-ready hockey arena in Houston. And that’s something that Seattle, which the NHL seemed to favor, can’t offer, and unlike Quebec City, Houston offers up a huge media market with many, many large corporations around to buy up luxury seats.

Houston is certainly a big city. In fact, only four metro areas in the United States — New York, L.A., Chicago and Dallas — have higher populations.

And Houston is growing fast.

Jeremy Jacobs, the influential owner of the Boston Bruins, has not hidden his desire to put an NHL team in Toyota Center. Back in 2015, he told ESPN.com, “I would love to see one in Houston, but we can’t get into that building.”

Perhaps soon the NHL won’t have that impediment.

FanRag’s Cat Silverman wrote extensively about this topic yesterday. To learn more, give it a read.