Chicago Blackhawks v Washington Capitals

Jason Arnott appreciates the Devils’ decision to trade him to Capitals

If you were to track down Jason Arnott last summer and tell him that he would be playing for a second-seeded, division-winning Eastern Conference team, he probably wouldn’t have been too surprised. Yet that shoulder shrug would probably change to some raised eyebrows once you revealed that he would do so as a member of the Washington Capitals rather than the New Jersey Devils.

Arnott found himself at a crossroads during the 2011 trade deadline, as the Devils were putting together an improbable (and ultimately futile) run toward a playoff spot. As courageous as New Jersey seemed to be, the odds were stacked against them, and the 36-year-old center wanted a chance to win another Stanley Cup ring.

Aware that he won’t get many more chances to go for the league’s top prize, Arnott and the Devils decided it would be best to move him to a team with a better outlook. The Capitals ended up being the right fit, as they hoped that the veteran of 17 seasons and more than 100 playoff games would add some crucial experience to the mix.

That equation is working out quite well in his abbreviated month-and-a-half stay, as it seems like both the Capitals and Arnott are benefiting from the move. It’s nice to see that Arnott appreciates the gesture by the Devils, something he discussed with beat writer Tom Gulitti.

Arnott covered quite a few issues in the story, with perhaps the most interesting tidbits involving Alex Ovechkin and Michelle Obama.

Arnott is trying to make the most of the chance he’s been given. He has spent a lot of time getting to know Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin since the trade.

They’ve been out to dinner a few times and one time, when Arnott’s wife, Dina, happened to be in town (she and their two children are still living in New Jersey), they happened to dine in the same restaurant as First Lady Michelle Obama. The First Lady was kind enough to stop by their table – at the outgoing Ovechkin’s request – and both got their photos take with her.

In addition to Ovechkin’s extroverted personality, Arnott has also come to see how much the two-time Hart Trophy winner’s wants to win the Stanley Cup.

“He’s just a star player that really wants to win,” Arnott said. “This is the one thing he wants to do. He’s won enough trophies for himself. I think he’d put all of that stuff (aside) if he would win that Cup. So it goes a long way to show a star player like that wants to win as badly as he does.”

If Game 1 was any indication, the Capitals seem willing to expend the elbow grease necessary to win it all. Perhaps Arnott can impart some more experience-based advice along the way to help them do just that.

McDavid will center Hall and Slepyshev

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ST. LOUIS (AP) Edmonton Oilers rookie Connor McDavid said he didn’t have any trouble falling asleep on the eve of his professional debut.

But when he woke up on Thursday he said it finally hit him.

“In the days leading up I wasn’t really thinking about it too much,” McDavid said. “Kind of when I woke up this morning, I guess that’s kind of when it hit me that I’ll be playing in my first NHL game. I think that’s when I first realized.”

When the Oilers play at the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night, all eyes will be on the 18-year-old McDavid, the No. 1 overall pick in the draft and the most hyped player to enter the NHL since Sidney Crosby of the Penguins made his debut a decade ago.

Speaking in front of a crowd of reporters on Thursday following his team’s morning skate, the soft-spoken rookie admitted to having some butterflies but said he felt pretty good and was excited to get going.

“It’s just special,” McDavid said of his NHL debut. “I’m living out my dream, so there’s nothing better than that. I’m just really looking forward to tonight.”

McDavid will be centering the Oilers’ second line against the Blues with Taylor Hall on the left wing and Anton Slepyshev on the right. Hall was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 draft, while Slepyshev will also be making his NHL debut on Thursday night.

“We all see what he can do in practice and the games,” Hall said of McDavid. “It’s important to remember he’s 18. I’m 23 and I still have bad games. Sidney Crosby is the best player in the world and still has bad games. There’s going to be some trials and some errors, but I think that he’s in a position to succeed and it’s going to be fun to watch him grow.”

Oilers coach Todd McLellan, hired in May after spending seven seasons with the San Jose Sharks, has already gotten accustomed to receiving questions about McDavid.

The first few questions McLellan was asked on Thursday were about the NHL’s most popular newcomer.

“What I’ve found with him is he’s working really hard to just be himself and fit in,” the coach said. “He doesn’t want to be special, he doesn’t want to be treated any differently but he obviously is. He’s trying to adapt to that and he’s doing a very good job of it personally and collectively I think our team has done a good job around him.”

McLellan said there are three levels of pressure surrounding him.

The first is McDavid’s individual expectations, which he is sure are extremely high. The second comes from the rookie’s teammates, coaching staff, organization and city of Edmonton.

“But where it really changes is the national, international and world-wide eyes being on him,” McLellan said. “How does that compare to some of the other players I’ve been around? I haven’t been around an 18-year-old who has had to deal with that. It’s new to all of us.

“I did spend some time talking to Sid (Sidney Crosby) about his experience and even since then the world’s really changed as far as media and social media and that type of stuff. This is a new adventure for everybody involved. I know Connor has the tools to handle the pressure and we’ll do everything we can to help him.”

Bruins’ second line officially goes under the microscope


While much has been written about the Boston Bruins’ depleted defense, there’s also a good amount of intrigue about the forward group, which will look dramatically different tonight compared to last year’s season opener.

Here are the Bruins’ expected lines versus the Jets:

Brad MarchandPatrice BergeronLoui Eriksson
Matt BeleskeyDavid KrejciDavid Pastrnak
Jimmy HayesRyan SpoonerBrett Connolly
Chris KellyJoonas KemppainenZac Rinaldo

The line most under the microscope may be that second one. In today’s Boston Globe, there’s a lengthy story on Krejci. The 29-year-old center with the big contract only played 47 games last season due to injuries. He finished with just 31 points.

So, where is Krejci’s game now?

Then there’s free-agent addition Matt Beleskey, a.k.a. Milan Lucic‘s replacement. Prior to scoring 22 times last year for the Ducks, the 27-year-old Beleskey had never tallied more than 11 goals in a season.

So, is Beleskey a legitimate top-six forward?

On the other wing, it’s David Pastrnak, the 19-year-old who, somewhat surprisingly, emerged as one of the top rookies in the league last year.

So, can Pastrnak take another step forward?

“It’s been a good three plus weeks where we’ve been able to kind of work individually, as a group, as a line, with different players and different personalities,” said coach Claude Julien. “We’re pleased with it. We’re optimistic and we just have to let things work themselves out too.”