Mike Weaver, Marcel Goc, Anders Lindback

Panthers-Predators double-header among four games to open the preseason


All of a sudden, the signs keep piling up that hockey season is nearing. Most of the restricted free agent holdouts caved (or wore down their respective teams), NHL 12 came out last week and training camps are opening up. In that process, the first round of “Team X/Player A hopes to redeem himself” stories have been printed and various prospects hope to make big impressions in camp.

Of course, none of those great signs can top the beauty of two NHL teams going toe-to-toe. The NHL preseason begins today with four games, including a double-header between the Florida Panthers and Nashville Predators. Those teams will play a game at 3 pm ET and then one at 7:30 pm ET; it’s not expected that any players will appear in both contests.

Along with that duo of Panthers-Predators squabbles, there are two 7 pm ET games: the Carolina Hurricanes vs. the Buffalo Sabres and the Ottawa Senators vs. the Toronto Maple Leafs. Senators-Leafs will be featured on NHL Network and the Maple Leafs’ Web site. Here’s a few things that will be on display today. (For a deeper look, click here.)

  • We’ll see the first two exhibition games of Panthers coach Kevin Dineen’s career.
  • Today will provide a little teaser for the new-look Sabres and Panthers.
  • The Battle of Ontario begins – at least if you count preseason games as a piece of that rivalry.
  • A wide variety of prospects hope to impress, from Erik Gudbranson and Jonathan Huberdau in Florida to the Senators’ 2011 first round pick Mika Zibanejad and Nazem Kadri for the Leafs.

It should be a nice sneak preview of hockey as the “real” games rapidly approach. We’ll certainly keep our eyes open for standout/disappointing performances, injury news and other bits that crop up from those four contests today at PHT.

Video: Marc Staal was no match for Alex Ovechkin on this goal

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 15: Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals looks on against New York Islanders during the second period at Verizon Center on October 15, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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After being held without a point in his first two games of the season, Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin has now scored a goal in three consecutive games.

That includes his goal on Saturday night in the first period against the New York Rangers.

It’s one that will probably make the personal highlight reel for Ovechkin, but it certainly won’t make the highlight reel for Rangers defenseman Marc Staal.

To say that this head-to-head matchup turned out to be a mismatch would be … well … a bit of an understatement.

As Ovechkin crossed the blue line into the Rangers zone he started to toe-drag around Staal, only to stop midway through and just rip it from outside the circle, using Staal as a screen and beating Henrik Lundqvist for the goal.

It is probably not a good sign when the defenseman has his back to the shooter when the puck is released.

That goal gave the Capitals a 2-0 lead.

Red Wings’ Abdelkader out with lower body injury

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MARCH 15: Justin Abdelkader #8 of the Detroit Red Wings skates against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center on March 15, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Flyers defeated the Red Wings 4-3.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The Detroit Red Wings will be without veteran forward Justin Abdelkader on Saturday night when they host the San Jose Sharks.

The official word from the team is that he is sidelined with a lower body injury.

He will be replaced in the lineup by Andreas Athanasiou. Athanasiou has appeared in three games this season and yet to record a point.

He was not only in the lineup on Friday in the Red Wings in their 5-3 win over the Nashville Predators, but also scored his first goal of the season and played a season-high 17:55.

After scoring 19 goals and recording 23 assists in 82 games in 2015-16 the Red Wings signed a seven-year $29.7 million contract extension.

According to general manager Ken Holland (via Helene St. James) he is expected to be back in the lineup on Tuesday.

Former Canadiens coach Jacques Demers hospitalized

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OTTAWA, Ontario (AP) Former Montreal Canadiens coach Jacques Demers has been hospitalized.

Demer’s director of parliamentary affairs confirmed Saturday that the 72-year-old Demers, a Canadian senator, had been admitted to a Montreal hospital, but couldn’t immediately provide any details.

Demers had a stroke in April. He was at the Canadiens’ home opener Tuesday night, smiling in a wheelchair while handing a torch to captain Max Pacioretty to close out a pregame ceremony.

Demers led the Canadiens to their last Stanley Cup in 1993. He also coached Quebec, Detroit, St. Louis and Tampa Bay in the NHL, and Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Quebec in the WHA.

Ales Hemsky returns to Stars lineup tonight

NEWARK, NJ - OCTOBER 24:  Ales Hemsky #83 of the Dallas Stars skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on October 24, 2014 in Newark, New Jersey. The Stars defeated the Devils 3-2 in the shootout.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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When the Dallas Stars take on the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday evening one of their top forwards will be making his 2016-17 debut.

The team announced on Saturday afternoon that forward Ales Hemsky will be activated from injured reserve after missing the first four games of the season due to a groin injury at the World Cup of hockey.

He is expected to skate on the Stars’ top line on Saturday night alongside Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn.

Now 33 years old, Hemsky isn’t quite as dynamic as he was during his prime years in Edmonton, but he is still an extremely skilled playmaker that is a solid fit in Dallas’ system. He is entering his third year with the Stars and has 71 points (24 goals, 47 assists) in 151 games with the team.

With Hemsky now activated and back in the lineup, the Stars also announced on Saturday that veteran forward Jiri Hudler has been placed on IR retroactive to Oct. 15 due to illness.