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Jonas Hiller struggles in return to the net, Preds top Ducks 5-4

Jonas Hiller gave up 3 goals on the 9 shots he saw before he was pulled 11:37 into his first game back, as the Nashville Predators defeated the Anaheim Ducks by a 5-4 score. The Predators did what a team is supposed to do when they’re facing a goaltender who could be dealing with rust: they shot the puck. They shot it early and often—and Hiller did not react well. Dan Ellis came in and was serviceable in his 45 minutes, but the damage was already done.

Tonight’s game vs. the Nashville Predators was a huge matchup for the Ducks, only 24 hours after their shocking come-from-behind OT victory against the Dallas Stars. Not only was last night’s win noteworthy for the two points the Ducks posted in the standings, but it was the return to the bench for all-star netminder Jonas Hiller. He backed up Ray Emery for last night’s game, but truly returned when he got the starting nod tonight in Nashville. The game was Hiller’s first start since a February 13th shutout against the Oilers—and only his second game since the all-star break. Maybe he should have waited a few more days.

The Ducks had won four straight games before the Predators handed them the 5-4 loss. The loss keeps Anaheim in the final playoff spot with 87 points while Nashville jumped up to the 5th spot with the win (could be tied with LA by the end of the night). Every point matters at this point of the year, but the bigger story was the way Hiller would react to his return to action. With the early precincts reporting, the answer is “not well.”

Anaheim’s recent run has been good for a team that was left for dead when Hiller went down with his mysterious injury. As a stop-gap measure, GM Bob Murray went out and traded for Dan Ellis and signed unrestricted free agent Ray Emery. Almost immediately, there were a ton of jokes surrounding the Ducks as they picked up Ellis (and his problems) and Emery to support Hiller—but the joke has been on the competition. The mid-season acquisitions are a combined 9-2-1 with the Ducks. Here are the three goaltenders’ boxcar stats this season for the Ducks:

Jonas Hiller: 26-16-3 with a .925 save percentage and 2.50 GAA
Dan Ellis: 6-2-1 with a .902 save percentage and 2.70 GAA
Ray Emery: 3-0 with a .949 save percentage and 1.51 GAA

The Ducks struggled mightily in the games immediately following Hiller’s absence. They were 0-4-1 in the five games after his departure, but they’ve turned things around in the 11 games since. Ellis and Emery had combined to go 9-2 enabling the Ducks to be a little more cautious with their $18 million man. But let’s be real: the Ducks are ecstatic with Emery’s play as of late, but they were equally excited to see Hiller return to the net. Yet after tonight’s performance, the doubters have plenty of ammunition to second-guess the decision to press Hiller into action.

With tonight’s game in the rearview mirror, where will the Ducks go from here? Jonas Hiller looked awful before he was pulled, but he still only played 11 minutes tonight. Will Randy Carlyle give him another start on Saturday when Anaheim travels to Chicago? Will the coach go back to the hot hand with Ray Emery? Does he give Dan Ellis another chance to show he should stick around before he’s relegated to street clothes and the role of Third Goaltender?

We’ll find out this weekend—but with the standings as tight as they are, Carlyle and the Ducks can’t afford to miss on this decision. The right call and they’ll most likely grab a playoff spot. But the wrong call and they’ll have the entire summer to think about what they did wrong.

Domi: ‘No reason’ the Coyotes can’t make the playoffs next season

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 12:  Max Domi #16 of the Arizona Coyotes waves to fans after being named the number one star of the game following the NHL game against the Edmonton Oilers at Gila River Arena on January 12, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. The Coyotes defeated the Oilers 4-3 in overtime. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Max Domi is thinking big for next season.

After an impressive rookie campaign, in which Domi scored 18 goals and 52 points, the now 21-year-old forward is eyeing a berth in the Stanley Cup playoffs for the Arizona Coyotes.

Tall order, given they are in the Pacific Division and they were 20 points behind the San Jose Sharks for third in the division when the season ended.

But Domi is optimistic.

“There’s no reason we can’t,” Domi told TSN.

“We came out of the gates pretty hot this year and we beat some high-end teams but when the nitty gritty comes down to it, you gotta be able to win after the All-Star break — that’s when it really matters. Finding a way to find that consistency and manage that throughout an 82-game season will be pretty clutch for us and there’s no reason we can’t do it.”

The Coyotes have had a busy offseason since the middle of April. Here are a few examples:

— They fired GM Don Maloney, citing a need to move in a new direction. (Click here)

— They promoted 26-year-old John Chayka, who, as a result, became the youngest GM in NHL history, definitely representing a change in direction. (Click here)

— They acquired the rights to defenseman Alex Goligoski and signed him to a five-year deal. The idea was to add a defenseman capable of efficiently moving the puck to Arizona’s skilled group of forwards. (Click here)

— After a breakout season, goalie Louis Domingue was signed to a multi-year deal that could represent a changing of the guard in the Coyotes crease, which previously belonged to Mike Smith. (Click here)

— They added grit by signing Jamie McGinn to a three-year, $10 million deal. (Click here)

— After a lengthier negotiation process than maybe expected, the Coyotes re-signed Shane Doan for one year at $5 million. Doan, who turns 40 years old in October, led Arizona last season with 28 goals. (Click here)

— They made further moves on the blue line, adding Luke Schenn and re-signing restricted free agents Connor Murphy and Michael Stone. (Click here)

The Coyotes, already with Domi and Anthony Duclair, could have another young, skilled forward in Dylan Strome, the third overall pick in 2015, fight for a spot on the roster next season.

So, yeah. Busy.

With all the moves this summer, especially on the blue line, the Coyotes could perhaps take the next step in their evolution. It will also depend on other teams in the West, and if they improve or regress.

Whether that translates an Arizona appearance in the 2017 playoffs won’t be known for several months. But you can count Domi as a believer.

‘It’s getting stronger every day’: Bishop says he’ll be ready for World Cup camp

2015 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Three
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With the World Cup of Hockey approaching, Ben Bishop seems optimistic he’ll be ready to participate in the Team USA training camp prior to the event.

Bishop, the Tampa Bay Lightning goalie, was injured on a seemingly innocent play and had to be stretchered off the ice in the first period of Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final.

There had been talk that he could perhaps return to game action, but in the end, he didn’t play another game in the series, as the Bolts were eliminated by the Pittsburgh Penguins in seven games.

“The leg is feeling better and it’s getting stronger every day,” Bishop told ESPN.

“I’m getting ready to start skating soon … and get back on the ice and doing that side of things. We have about a month until we go, so I’ll start off slow and pick it up in the next month and be ready for training camp for the World Cup.”

Good news for Team USA, which also called on Jonathan Quick and Cory Schneider for their goaltending duties. The tournament begins Sept. 17.

In keeping with the optimistic mood about his status for the World Cup, Bishop last week revealed his new Team USA mask.

Related: Lightning lock up Vasilevskiy — what now for Bishop? 

Benn aims to be ready for World Cup after offseason surgery

Fans celebrate along with Dallas Stars left wing Jamie Benn (14) after a score by Benn in the first period of Game 3 of a first-round NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoff series game, Monday, April 21, 2014, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
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Surgery earlier this month to repair a core muscle has put Jamie Benn‘s status for the upcoming World Cup of Hockey in question, however the Dallas Stars captain still aims to be ready to play for Team Canada.

It was announced on July 15 that the recovery timeline for this surgery was six weeks, which certainly makes it possible that Benn could be ready for the tournament, which begins Sept. 17.

“As of right now, yeah. I think this is a surgery that I’m able to come back a little quicker than double-hip surgery. That’s the main focus I’m training towards being able to make it for World Cup. We’ll just see what happens,” said Benn, as per Mark Stepneski of the Stars’ website on Saturday.

“Well, I think I’ll get on the ice later this week and just keep ramping it up a little more each time. I still think that’s a lot of time, enough time for me to be ready to jump into high-level hockey.”

Benn had 41 goals and 89 points last season with the Stars. He signed an eight-year, $76 million contract extension on the same day his recent surgery was announced.

Benn’s teammate Tyler Seguin “should be ready for the World Cup,” said Stars GM Jim Nill earlier this month.

Done deal: Coyotes sign 2016 first-round pick Chychrun to entry-level contract

BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 24:  Jakob Chychrun poses for a portrait after being selected 16th overall by the Arizona Coyotes  in round one during the 2016 NHL Draft on June 24, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Jeffrey T. Barnes/Getty Images)
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The Arizona Coyotes moved up the draft order to select defenseman Jakob Chychrun at 16th overall. And now, they have signed Chychrun to a three-year entry-level contract.

The Coyotes made the announcement on Saturday.

“We are very pleased to sign Jakob to an entry-level contract,” said Coyotes GM John Chayka in a statement. “Jakob is a highly-skilled player with an all-around game. He has a great work ethic and is very determined. We look forward to watching him continue to develop this season.”

When the 2015-16 season began, it was suggested Chychrun could potentially be a top-three pick in the draft in June. But he fell down the order, despite being the No. 4-ranked North American skater by NHL Central Scouting.

He was the fifth defenseman taken in the draft.

Listed at six-foot-two-inches tall and 215 pounds, Chychrun brings size and strong skating ability to the blue line. He had 11 goals and 49 points last season with Sarnia in the Ontario Hockey League.

The Coyotes selected Chychrun after acquiring the remainder of Pavel Datsyuk’s contract from the Detroit Red Wings and moving up the order.

Chychrun’s fall — and what precipitated it in the first place — was discussed in great detail when the Coyotes held their development camp earlier this month.

“I think it was about being tense,” said Coyotes director of player development Steve Sullivan. “All the pressure of wanting to be second overall and maybe not having a great season; it snowballed the wrong way for him.

“Now he needs to understand he’s been drafted into the National Hockey League and we’re going to put him in a game plan to get him here as fast as we can. He can loosen up and play the way we think he can play. If that happens, there is no reason why he won’t be here sooner than later.”

Related:

Coyotes’ defensive makeover continues with Luke Schenn signing

Report: Stone and Coyotes agree to one-year, $4M deal

Coyotes sign Connor Murphy to six-year extension