Oilers Sam Gagner escapes serious injury

It could have been worse for Oilers forward Sam Gagner. It certainly looked bad at the time. Gagner crashed into the end boards during the second period of the Oilers’ 2-1 victory over the Flames on Saturday night. He lay sprawling on the ice in the aftermath of the hit—it could have been any number of ailments from the dangerous collision that were the problem. Was it his head that hit the end boards?  Was it an ankle or upper body injury when he collided awkwardly?  Luckily for the Oilers and Gagner, it looked much worse than it actually was.

The Edmonton Journal had the story and followed up with the Oilers’ coaching staff:

“At the time, it looked like Gagner may have also hit his head on the boards because he was down for a couple of minutes as trainer T.D. Forss came out to see him, but the Oilers dismissed that.

“He’s out day-to-day. ‘Just precautionary,’ said Oilers head coach Tom Renney, when asked if Gagner, who played 2-1/2 minutes in the second period, could have returned as the Oilers beat the Flames 2-1. He wasn’t scheduled to play Sunday in Calgary anyway.”

Later we found out that he had actually injured his ankle blocking a shot earlier in the game.

Since the same two teams are playing tonight, the Oilers coaching staff had already decided that Gagner would be a healthy scratch while they looked at other players. The last thing a player needs in the preseason is a game against a bitter rival when he’s not quite right. It’s surely a welcomed rest for a player who isn’t fighting for a spot on the team.

The sixth overall pick in the 2007 is in the final year of the two-year deal he signed with the Oilers in 2010. Like any other pending restricted free agent, he wants to put his best foot forward from the start of the season as he looks to continue to fulfill the potential he showed with the London Knights in his draft year. At 22 years old, Gagner still has plenty of room to develop on a team that is already stocked with young forwards. He’s scored 40+ points in each of his first four season in the league—but many around the team think Gagner is capable of more than the 15 goals and 27 assists he put up last season.

Staying healthy would be a step in the right direction. He’s missed 14 games in each of the last two seasons; a preseason injury wouldn’t be the start he’s looking for this year. With players like Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ales Hemsky, and possibly Ryan Nugent-Hopkins around nowadays, the Oilers aren’t depending on him to carry the team offensively this season. Still, if they want to be more successful in the standings, the scoring depth that Gagner could provide would go a long way towards helping the Oilers climb out of the basement.

Caps’ Vrana hoping to earn spot with Ovechkin, Kuznetsov

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It looks like the Washington Capitals are going to give Jakub Vrana the opportunity of a lifetime.

Washington has given the young winger a chance to earn a spot on the right side of the top line with Evgeny Kuznetsov and Alex Ovechkin.

On Wednesday night, they got to put the chemistry to the test, as Vrana and the Caps played the Canadiens in Montreal.

Vrana finished the game with a power play goal (an innocent shot that went off Canadiens defenseman Brandon Davidson and in the net). Kuznetsov and Ovechkin registered the assists on the goal and the Caps won 4-2.

“We played fast today,” Vrana said, per the Washington Post. “We had some passes today, some chances. It’s always a good sign when you have chances. … You’re going to be confident when you play with guys like this. You’re just going to be confident on the ice with the puck. Just play fast and build some chemistry there.”

The 21-year-old got his first taste of real NHL action last season, but the production simply wasn’t there (three goals and three assists in 21 games). But the 13th overall pick in the 2014 draft did put up solid numbers in the AHL, as he had 36 points in 49 games last year and 34 points in 36 games with the Hershey Bears two years ago.

“He gets to space,” head coach Barry Trotz said. “He gets on the puck because he moves his legs and his speed is noticeable. Kuzy can get him the puck, and getting down ice, he can put some pressure to create a forecheck, too. He worked hard today, and I think we keep putting him with top players, because we think he’s going to be a top player.”

WATCH LIVE: Canucks vs. Kings from Shanghai, China

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The Vancouver Canucks and L.A. Kings will make history on Thursday.

The two teams will face each other in an exhibition series in China, marking the first time NHL teams will play preseason games in that country. The two-game set gets underway with Thursday’s contest from the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai.

Set your alarms, wake up early (especially if you’re on the west coast!), put on a pot of coffee and catch the game on NBCSN (7:30 a.m. ET) or online with the live stream.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Here are some links to check out for today’s game:

NHL hopes to make inroads in China with exhibition games

It was a little on the foggy side for Canucks practice in Shanghai

Canucks-Kings exhibition series in China highlights preseason schedule

NHL preseason games in China are ‘the biggest deal’ for local fans

NHL looks to China to ‘expand the sport’

 

Video: Flames goalie makes incredible behind-the-back glove save

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A save of the year candidate in September? It’s possible.

Jon Gillies of the Calgary Flames made an incredible stop during Wednesday’s exhibition game against the Vancouver Canucks.

The camera angle from directly above the net is the best, as it clearly shows how Gillies appeared to bump the puck back toward the goal line, then suddenly reach back with a no-look, behind-the-back glove save to prevent a Canucks goal and stop play.

That is one incredible save.

Drouin shows ‘commitment’ to community with donation to Montreal hospital

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Jonathan Drouin has yet to play a regular season game for his new team, the Montreal Canadiens.

But after getting traded to the Habs in the summer, Drouin has already made a sizable contribution in the community, donating $500,000 over 10 years to the University of Montreal Hospital Centre and planning to help in the fundraising activities to raise an additional $5 million, according to The Canadian Press.

From Sportsnet:

“I think all of that had some impact on his overall decision making,” Drouin’s agent Allan Walsh told Sportsnet. “One day when he’s retired and 50 years old, that hospital [which will begin serving patients for the first time this coming October] will still be here and he’ll have played a role in its development. That means something to him.

“But I think more than anything else he wants to help people. If he can help people—the hospital is going to be the largest hospital in North America and there’s a tremendous need for it in the city—and if he can use the fact that he plays for the Montreal Canadiens to do that, I wish more players felt that kind of responsibility to their communities.”

As noted in the Sportsnet piece above, Drouin is following in the footsteps of Saku Koivu and P.K. Subban, who made generous donations in the community during their time in Montreal.

The Habs acquired Drouin from the Lightning in June, sending prospect defenseman Mikhail Sergachev to Tampa Bay. They then signed the 22-year-old forward — who was born in nearby Ste-Agathe, Que. — to a six-year, $33 million contract.

It won’t be long before the pressure falls on Drouin’s on-ice ability, especially playing as a potential No. 1 center in Montreal and essentially being a hometown player for the Habs. But without even playing a meaningful game for his new team, he’s already giving back to an important cause in the city.

“And when you look at that, if you make $6 million and you give $50,000 a year, it’s not a big deal and you get tax receipts,” he said, per the Montreal Gazette. “But it’s a commitment, and being involved in the community and doing something for your community I think it’s something that you have to do.”