Henrik Lundqvist

Henrik Lundqvist’s excitement for new season bubbling over

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Henrik Lundqvist is the man who holds it together in Manhattan for the New York Rangers. He’s their top goalie and he’s one of the best in the NHL. While the Rangers have had their struggles in recent years in making it to the playoffs or just missing out, they’d be going nowhere without Lundqvist holding things down.

Lundqvist got his new season off to an early beginning getting to play the first 30+ minutes of the Rangers’ preseason opening 2-1 overtime loss to the Devils. Lundqvist stopped 17 of 18 shots during the first half of the game and for him, it was the exact kind of welcome back to real game action he was looking for.

“I think it’s good I get out there right away and start working on my game and timing and focus. It’s one thing to practice on your skill and technique but to play the game it’s a lot of mental approach and how you focus for the game. It’s good to get out there right away and start working and it’s fun,” Lundqvist said. “I missed the game.”

Wait, even a preseason game is exciting? Is it more fun than the stressful regular season?

“No… It’s more fun in the regular season. The excitement, the feel, the pressure… You’re nervous and anxious. You see how fun the game is. I love the game. It feels great to be back… But when it really starts is when the real fun begins.”

The Rangers kick off their season in Europe for the NHL Premiere series in Prague, Czech Republic and Gothenberg, Sweden and for Lundqvist, it’s a trip he’s eager to make with the team.

“I’m really excited about that trip. Starting off in Prague and then to Gothenberg to play my old team and get to play against my twin brother. I’m excited to bring this team there and show them Sweden a little bit. I’m real excited about that.”

With the Rangers heading into what could be a very big season for them, Lundqvist is excited by everything that lies ahead for the team. From the additions of guys like Brad Richards and Mike Rupp as well as seeing a lot of the same guys come back from last season, he’s encouraged by where the Rangers are headed.

The work Rangers GM Glen Sather  did in the offseason was to not radically change things up. Retaining restricted free agents Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky, and Michael Sauer helped keep a strong group of guys in tact. In past seasons, the Rangers would drastically change the landscape of the team by signing many big names while foregoing how they develop players.

By retaining their youthful group of players and continuing to develop more of them, the Rangers are building from within rather than taking chances with high-priced stars. That’s an effort Lundqvist seems to be in full support of.

“You know, I looked around a couple weeks ago and it was fun to recognize so many guys. I think the management did a great job to re-sign a lot of the guys. We have a good corps, a good group here,” Lundqvist said. “We’ve got an interesting group and I think everyone is excited to start playing and see what we can do as a group.”

With the Rangers’ kids growing up and experienced vets like Rupp and Richards helping fill out ranks, all Lundqvist might have to be is his usual brilliant self to help get the Rangers deeper into the playoffs. After all, Lundqvist seems more than eager to bring on the pressure and fun that is the playoffs.

Video: Jets’ Stafford suspended one game for ‘forceful, reckless’ high-stick

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The NHL has dinged Winnipeg forward Drew Stafford one game for his ugly high stick on Colorado’s Nick Holden over the weekend.

“While we accept Stafford’s assertion that he did not intentionally strike Holden in the face, he is responsible for the consequences of swinging his stick in such a forceful and reckless fashion,” the Department of Player Safety explained.

Stafford, who wasn’t penalized on the play, will now miss Winnipeg’s next game — tonight, in St. Louis — and will be eligible to return on Thursday when the Jets host the Bruins.

Stafford will also forfeit $23,387.10 in salary to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.

Big Buff, Big Bucks: Jets ink Byfuglien to five-year, $38 million extension

Dustin Byfuglien
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One of the most prized trade deadline targets is no longer.

On Monday, Winnipeg locked in pending UFA d-man Dustin Byfuglien to a five-year, $38 million extension, one that carries a $7.6M cap hit and makes him the highest-paid player on the team.

Byfuglien, 30, was in the last of a five-year, $26 million deal with a $5.2M average annual cap hit. One of the league’s most unique players — a 6-foot-5, 265 pounder that’s played forward and defense, and participated in this year’s fastest skater All-Star skills competition — his bio from the Jets’ release pretty much sums up how much he means to the club:

[Byfuglien] has recorded 32 points (15G, 17A) so far this season while appearing in all 52 games and sits in a tie for second amongst all NHL defencemen with his 15 goals.

Byfuglien leads the Jets so far this season in shots (163), penalty minutes (78) and ice time (24:14 per game).

The native of Roseau, MN, was named to the 2016 NHL All-Star Game in Nashville, TN where he recorded a goal and an assist for the Central Division team.

Byfuglien has been named to the All-Star Game in each of the last four seasons that the game has taken place (2011, 2012, 2015, 2016).

The deal keeps Byfuglien in Winnipeg through 2022 and is the latest long-term deal on the blueline: Tobias Enstrom is at $5.75M per through 2018, and Tyler Myers is at $5.5M per through ’19.

With this move done, Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff can now turn his attention to another prized pending UFA: Andrew Ladd, the club’s captain and another player that’s believed to have high interest around the league as a trade deadline rental.

Slumping Wild want ‘a little home cooking’ from ‘restless’ fan base

Minnesota Wild head coach Mike Yeo argues a call in the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Nashville Predators Tuesday, March 17, 2015, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
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The Minnesota Wild are in a funk right now.

They’re 3-10-3 in their last 16 games, three points back of the final wild card spot in the Western Conference and just put key blueliner Jonas Brodin on IR with a broken foot.

So, clearly, the team and head coach Mike Yeo are hoping for better times ahead, and Yeo hopes they begin tonight when the Wild kick off a three-game homestand with a date against Central Division rivals Dallas.

It’s interesting that Yeo’s addressing the Xcel faithful, while also acknowledging fans are irked by the team’s recent play. The timing of these remarks comes with the Wild boasting a good record at home (14-8-3) but having really struggled on the road — Minnesota has just nine away wins this year, the fewest among all Central teams.

Of course, there could be other reasons Yeo’s trying to get fans pumped for the upcoming home swing.

The next three games at Xcel are of the measuring stick variety. Dallas currently sits third overall in the NHL and boasts the league’s highest scoring offense (the Stars have also beat the Wild three out of four times this season already).

After the Dallas game, there’s another big one — the NHL’s top team, Washington, comes to town on Thursday.

After the Caps game, Boston — 7-2-1 in its last 10 — takes on the Wild in a Saturday matinee.

Foley is ‘9.5’ out of 10 confident that NHL will expand to Vegas

LAS VEGAS, NV - FEBRUARY 10:  NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman (L) and Fidelity National Financial Inc. Chairman and President of Hockey Vision Las Vegas Bill Foley pose during a news conference at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino announcing the launch of a season ticket drive to try to gauge if there is enough interest in Las Vegas to support an NHL team on February 10, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. A Las Vegas franchise would play in a USD 375 million, 20,000-seat arena being built on the Strip by MGM Resorts International and AEG that is scheduled to open in the spring of 2016.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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On a scale of 1 to 10, Bill Foley is “9.5” confident that the NHL will grant him an expansion team for Las Vegas.

That was the main takeaway from an interview Foley did with KSNV NBC in Las Vegas.

At the same time, despite his high level of confidence, Foley would appreciate an answer sooner rather than later — especially if the team is to start playing in 2017-18.

” I don’t want to give the league too much time,” he said, smiling. “They’re doing their job, they’re doing their process and so on. We would really like to have the word by June.”

Foley was asked what he believed to be the biggest “concern” the NHL had about expansion. He replied that it was a matter of whether the league expanded by one team or two (Quebec City has also applied for a franchise), but also the expansion draft.

“Who’s available in the draft? Are players with no-trade clauses…are they going to be part of the draft or not part of the draft?” Foley wondered. “So the owners and the league have a lot of things to do and to figure out.”

Full video of the interview can be found here.

Related: Bettman rejects notion that the NHL is waiting for Seattle