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.”

(snip)

“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.

Looks like Laine, Jets are heating up

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Big breaks can be really nice for NHL teams, but sometimes you wonder if the timing is all wrong. It will be interesting to see if the Winnipeg Jets (and Patrik Laine) feel that way about their upcoming breather.

The Jets had really been cooking after shaking off a tough start from Steve Mason (the Jets dropped their first two games in ugly fashion). By edging the Minnesota Wild 4-3 on Friday, the Jets have now won four of their last five contests.

As you can see from the video above, Laine played a significant role in that win, showing that he might have some potential from “Alex Ovechkin‘s office” on Winnipeg’s power play. Laine doubled his 2017-18 goals total from two to four with that effort, pushing him to six points in seven games.

Laine was unleashing that lethal shot with aplomb last night, too, firing eight shots on goal.

(Last night’s edition of The Buzzer notes that it was a milestone night for Paul Maurice and Blake Wheeler, who collected his 200th assist in sending the puck to Laine’s wheelhouse.)

The Jets have high hopes for 2017-18, and Laine’s a big part of that excitement, so it was nice to see him unleashed.

If it’s a matter of rhythm, then this break is a bummer. Their next game doesn’t take place until Thursday, making for almost a week off, just when they were really sizzling. It’s a tough haul for the next while, so maybe they’ll take advantage of the break (or get rusty?):

Thu, Oct 26 @ Pittsburgh
Fri, Oct 27 @ Columbus
Sun, Oct 29 vs Pittsburgh
Tue, Oct 31 @ Minnesota

November isn’t a breezy month for the Jets, either, so Winnipeg has to hope that they can carry over some of this momentum.

For more Jets-related fun, check out this interesting NHL.com piece about how Connor Hellebuyck is changing things up.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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Look at what Rangers are up against right now

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You have to really squint to find bright sides to look on if you’re the New York Rangers.

The Rangers are currently on a five-game losing streak and have one shabby win to show for their first eight games of 2017-18, and they’ll shortly face a challenge in the Nashville Predators, who are riding a five-game point streak (4-0-1 after losing their first two games).

With six of those eight games coming at home, the Rangers are really squandering opportunities in the malicious Metro. About the only positive things you can say boil down to: a) scrapping two “loser points” out of the past two games and b) the team at least saying the right things, as Rick Nash notes according to the New York Post’s Larry Brooks.

“The bad teams I’ve been on, guys get away from the game plan, they don’t give the effort and there’s finger-pointing, whether in the room between guys; from the coach; or in the media. That’s what happens when things get away from you as a team.

“None of that is happening here,” Nash said. “We’re together and we’re focusing on taking this one step at a time.”

They might be wise not to look at the divisional standings. Just consider some of the teams they’re up against:

Devils (12 points in 8 games): New Jersey currently has a perfect road record and a fleet of young legs, something the transitional Rangers must envy. Even if they’re likely to slip (being blanked by the Sharks could be an early sign of regression), the Devils figure to be a tougher out this season.

Penguins (11 points in 8 games): Not much needs to be said, though it’s worth noting that they’ve won three in a row.

Blue Jackets (10 points in 7 games): All signs point to former Rangers coach John Tortorella’s group being very much the threat that once surprised us.

Capitals (9 points in 8 games): Finding ways to win, and scrappy in particular on the road so far (3-1-1 away record).

Flyers (8 points in 7 games): Might be better than their record indicates, at least judging by their +9 goal differential. Philly has the potential to at least be a pesky “bubble” team.

Hurricanes (7 points in 5 games): Light early schedule might keep them under the radar, for now.

Islanders (7 points in 7 games): Mixed results might not help the Islanders retain John Tavares, but a competent Isles team would only make it tougher for the Rangers.

Yeesh, kind of discouraging, right?

The Rangers currently sit at four points in eight games played, and like this post argues, they really need to wake up soon. They’ve already played six home vs. two road contests, and they face a similar saturation of MSG going forward.

Counting today’s game hosting the rising Predators, the Rangers play the next three in a row at home. After that, they play three of four on the road, but then enjoy a three-game homestand.

So, by Nov. 11, they’ll have played 13 games at home and just five on the road.

One gets the sense that the seat is getting hotter for Alain Vigneault by the day. Fair or not, it might feel like it’s boiling if the Rangers are still a wreck in mid-November.

(If he still has a seat at the table, at all.)

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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Devils fans help singer who forgot words to national anthem (Video)

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The biggest save of the night at Prudential Center on Friday didn’t come from either goaltender, but rather New Jersey Devils fans in attendance for their game against the San Jose Sharks.

Lauralie Mufute began singing the national anthem but midway through forgot the words. That’s when the crowd of 14,381 picked up where the 14-year-old left off and finished the song.

A great job by the crowd in what certainly was a terrifying moment for the young performer.

These flaps happen, as we’ve seen many times before in different situations. It’s always good to know the crowd can act as backup singers in times of need.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

The Buzzer: Ovechkin’s blast lifts Capitals in OT, Sheary speeds by Panthers

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Player of the night: Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals

Alex Ovechkin has already reached double digits in goals scored in this new campaign. The Capitals’ star recorded his 10th goal of the season on Friday and it counted as the overtime winner against the Detroit Red Wings.

The Capitals trailed late in the third period, but T.J. Oshie scored the tying goal and Ovechkin won it on a power play less than two minutes into the extra period, as he deployed that famous one-timer slap shot from his off-wing. This time, Petr Mrazek was victimized by the wicked slapper.

Ovechkin is now only two goals behind the entire Montreal Canadiens team — in the same amount of games.

Highlight of the night:

What a weapon speed is in today’s National Hockey League. Conor Sheary illustrated that once again, as he saw a little bit of room down the left side and flew around Alex Petrovic before making a move to the backhand on James Reimer. That goal counted as the eventual winner, as the Penguins defeated the Panthers 4-3. Earlier in the third period, Sheary and Roberto Luongo came together near the Florida net, causing Luongo’s right hand to get caught against the post, injuring the Panthers’ netminder.

Factoid of the night:

It was a milestone night in Winnipeg for Blake Wheeler and coach Paul Maurice.

Scores:

Vancouver 4, Buffalo 2

San Jose 3, New Jersey 0

Washington 4, Detroit 3 (OT)

Pittsburgh 4, Florida 3

Winnipeg 4, Minnesota 3

Anaheim 6, Montreal 2

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Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

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