Andrew Cogliano hopes for big changes, Corey Perry shoots for more of the same next season

The Anaheim Ducks once ranked as a mystery team going into next season, but things look brighter now that Teemu Selanne’s back and Jonas Hiller claims he’s healthy. Having the fog lifted (for the most part) from their two biggest question marks is a huge step forward for the top-heavy team, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other variables that could have a massive impact on their fortunes.

While most people in the hockey world begrudgingly agreed that Corey Perry was an elite power forward going into the 2010-11 season, few would have predicted his 50-goal, Hart Trophy-winning campaign. Perry’s red-hot second half propelled him to the forefront of the MVP race and also helped the Ducks make a manic late-season run to the fourth seed in the Western Conference.

It would be natural to ask the “Can he do it again?” question about any player who made the leap from very good player to arguably being the top guy in the sport, but it’s an even more pertinent one because of Perry’s style. The agitating forward makes almost as much of an impact by rubbing opponents the wrong way as he does by creating offense. Last season, he found the right balance between being a nuisance and a goalie’s nightmare. NHL.com’s Brian Hunter took a look at whether or not he could pull that off again next season.

“That’s kind of my style of game, being not so much an agitator but being in people’s faces and in front of the goalie and those different things,” Perry told NHL.com. “You’ve just got to be careful. You can’t take those stupid penalties in the offensive zone, or a tripping or a slashing or whatever. You’ve got to eliminate those and go from there.”

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“I wasn’t in the penalty box as much as I was in the first half of the year,” Perry said. “Those different things definitely helped to increase my ice time, kept me in the game a little bit more. You put those things in the back of your mind and I think you use those to your advantage.”

While his PIM total (104) was only slightly lower than previous seasons, Psource: APerry made more of an impact killing penalties than ever before last season. He was the Ducks’ fifth-highest rated forward as far as shorthanded time per game, with an 1:38 average. If he can make the same kind of impact this season as he did in 2010-11, the Ducks might just find themselves in the playoffs once more.

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With all the concern over Selanne’s future, one under-the-radar loss that could leave a substantial dent in the Ducks’ already-shaky defense was Todd Marchant’s retirement. Marchant logged a staggering 3:36 shorthanded time per game, far and way the most among Anaheim forwards and second most among all NHL forwards. (If you look at total penalty killing time rather than average, he was number 1 among forwards last season.)

It’s true that training camps can change things, but the thought is that Andrew Cogliano might take his third line center role and many of those penalty killing responsibilities. Considering his struggles in Edmonton and his faceoff deficiencies, that might be a cause for concern. Both Cogliano and the Ducks hope he can turn things around after the team gave up a 2013 second round pick to acquire him and then handed him a three-year, $7.17 million deal.

“I think there’s so much more for him to give and I told him so,” head coach Randy Carlyle said. “With a player of that ability and that speed we’re going to try to push him into a different area and hopefully he responds.”

The Ducks will likely need some great play from their forwards this season, so getting much more out of Cogliano and the same efforts from Perry could go a long way in helping them earn a playoff berth in the brutal West.

A big night for the rookies and a big win for the Maple Leafs

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William Nylander helped get Toronto started on Thursday, extending his point streak to 10 games — a new Maple Leafs franchise record for a rookie.

Connor Brown finished it with his 17th goal of the season, securing a 4-2 win for the Maple Leafs over the New Jersey Devils.

Toronto has won three in a row and moves three points clear of Boston for third in the Atlantic Division, with a game in hand, which further helps the Maple Leafs’ playoff chances with nine games remaining on their schedule.

Just another big night for Toronto’s impressive crop of rookies.

Auston Matthews had a pair of assists.

— Nylander had a goal and an assist. He set one and tied another franchise rookie record on Thursday.

Mitch Marner had an assist, giving him 40 helpers this season, which ties the franchise rookie record set in 1943-44.

“They’re good players,” said coach Mike Babcock, per the Toronto Star. “I didn’t know Marner would make the team. I knew Matthews and Nylander were good players. I knew Brown and (Zach) Hyman were relentless. I had no idea (Nikita) Zaitsev was as close to how good he is.

“We have lots of good players.”

In May of 2015, Babcock predicted at his introductory press conference that the Maple Leafs would, during their massive rebuild, endure “pain.” This was, he said, to be a long process — a “massive, massive challenge.”

Approaching the two-year anniversary of that event — after all the losing that franchise and its fan base has gone through, which obviously helped them with the Matthews lottery last year — the Maple Leafs are poised to make the playoffs with a nucleus of young players that present even more promise for the future.

“We just want to get in to the playoffs, and give ourselves a chance,” continued Babcock. “We’re playing well, and finding a way to win games. That’s what we have to continue to do.”

Capitals defeat Blue Jackets in clash of Metropolitan Division powers

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WASHINGTON (AP) T.J. Oshie scored the shootout winner as the Washington Capitals overcame a stellar performance from Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky to beat the Blue Jackets 2-1 Thursday night.

Despite 44 saves from Bobrovsky, the Capitals reached 104 points and extended their lead atop the Metropolitan Division and NHL standings. Oshie engendered memories of his Sochi Olympic shootout performance by again beating Bobrovsky, the goalie he scored on four times in six chances that day.

Dmitry Orlov finally cracked Bobrovsky early in the third period on Washington’s 35th shot of the game. Orlov’s goal tied the score after Seth Jones beat Braden Holtby on a wild scramble early in the third for his first goal since Feb. 7.

Holtby had 29 saves in regulation and overtime and three more in the shootout to pick up his 38th victory of the season, one shy of Bobrovsky for the league lead.

A showdown between two of the top three teams in the league jockeying for position atop the Metropolitan Division lacked a playoff feel. But the matchup of two likely Vezina Trophy finalists lived up to that billing as Bobrovsky and Holtby went back and forth with big saves.

Bobrovsky entered the night first in wins, goals-against average and save percentage with Holtby second, second and third in those categories. The 2013 Vezina winner could also be an MVP contender this season given his value to Columbus’ third playoff berth in franchise history.

“When he’s in his game it’s very hard to score on him,” said Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, who had eight shots stopped by one of his Russian national teammates. “He likes the big moments, he likes pressure. His worth ethic is unbelievable. … In my opinion he’s one of the best goalies in the league right now.”

Methot ‘out for weeks’ after suffering a shattered finger from Crosby clash

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The Ottawa Senators lost defenseman Marc Methot for the bulk of Thursday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and it seems he’ll be out for quite a while longer, too.

Methot was injured on a Sidney Crosby slash across the hand in the first period. He didn’t return to the game and there was no penalty called on the Penguins captain.

Footage showed the gruesome aftermath of the slash — Methot’s finger on his left hand bloodied and injured as he skated back to the bench.

“His finger is shattered and he’s out for weeks,” said Senators head coach Guy Boucher, per the Ottawa Sun.

Methot immediately confronted Crosby after the slash, which occurred as the Sens blue liner went to dump the puck into the Pittsburgh zone late in the first period.

The Senators got revenge, scoring a 2-1 shootout victory to move within a point of Montreal for the Atlantic Division lead. Crosby was also denied in the shootout.

NHL to make ‘special announcement’ in China next week

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The National Hockey League has announced it will make a “special announcement” at the LeSports Center in Beijing, China next Thursday.

In January, the league’s deputy commissioner Bill Daly made it clear the NHL has interest in playing games in China — likely starting out with pre-season games before potentially adding in some regular season contests in the future, as well.

Just after the league made its announcement on Thursday, the L.A. Kings tweeted out that they will participate in next week’s event, along with the Vancouver Canucks.

In January, hockey insider Darren Dreger reported that the Canucks and Kings were likely to play NHL pre-season games in China this upcoming September.

Last July, members of the Boston Bruins visited China, specifically Beijing and Shanghai, to host hockey clinics in those cities.

Beijing will also host the 2022 Winter Olympics.