Preds GM Poile on Radulov: “I think he’s a better version of what he was”

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There are those who figure Alexander Radulov will be a nice addition — complimentary piece even — to the Nashville Predators this postseason.

Then then are those within the organization — David Poile and Barry Trotz specifically — who figure Radulov will be much, much more.

That’s what John Manasso uncovered in his latest piece for Fox Sports Tennessee, as Poile and Trotz  seem convinced Radulov isn’t just a potential wildcard, but rather a piece to put the Predators over the top.

“I think he’s a better version of what he was both as a player and as a person,” Poile said of Radulov. “We talk all the time about your younger players, as they get older and have more experiences, I think they know how to play more effectively, more successfully and I think they understand the team concept a lot better.”

Nashville’s head coach agreed.

“He’s got great vision, he’s got great hands,” Trotz said. “Some of the things he did created a lot of chances and that’s what Rad does, but he’s still really good defensively, too.

“He manages the game way better than he did four years ago and that’s the maturity of just time and understanding the game and I’m excited. I know the guys are excited as we go on here.”

What’s interesting is how Nashville’s worked Radulov back into the mix. In Tuesday’s 3-0 loss to St. Louis, Radulov received 22 minutes and 50 seconds of ice time in his third game with the club. That was three full minutes more than the next second-leading forward (David Legwand, 19:19). The only guys that played more were Shea Weber and Ryan Suter.

Now’s a good time to mention that only one Preds forward — Mike Fisher — averages over 19 minutes a game. Last year, no forward did.

The explanation for this is simple: Radulov’s window for acclimatization is small, so he needs as much ice as possible. And hey, that’s fine. But it also suggests Poile and Trotz have seen enough through three games to determine Radulov is as good, if not better, than any of their existing offensive weapons. (Otherwise, why bother giving him the ice time at someone else’s expense, or the expense of team chemistry?)

If that’s the case, there’s not a lot of time for the team to gel.

“For a team that was playing well, we’ve made more changes than anybody in the league,” Poile said. “From that standpoint, we have a lot of adjustments to make. Lines have been changed, roles have been changed, ice time has been changed…

“We really need these last five games to prepare for the playoffs.”

Report: Wings, Hawks, Preds in mix to sign ‘strong two-way center’ Ejdsell

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Keep an eye on Swedish forward Victor Ejdsell in the coming days.

Ejdsell, 21, caught the eye of several NHL clubs following a standout year with Bofors of the Swedish first division — including Detroit (where he visited earlier this week, per MLive.) Reports suggest that Chicago and Nashville are also interested in securing Ejdsell’s services.

It’s easy to see why.

He racked up 25 goals and 57 points in 60 games this year, and he’s got terrific size. At 6-foot-5, 220 pounds, the physical presence is there to potentially make the shift to the NHL next season.

“He’s evolved into a strong two-way center,” Detroit assistant GM Ryan Martin told MLive. “His move from wings to center helped his defensive game. He’s got good hands and offensive ability.”

Vlasic joins Canada for Worlds, extending marathon campaign

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Marc-Edouard Vlasic is putting in work this year.

On Friday, Hockey Canada announced that Vlasic — along with Mitch Marner, Brayden Schenn and Chad Johnson — has been added to the 22-player roster for the upcoming World Hockey Championship in France and Germany.

Vlasic’s season started early as a member of Canada’s World Cup of Hockey squad. He appeared in all six games, which included his tournament high TOI (24:04) in final against Team Europe.

From there, the 30-year-old rejoined the Sharks and appeared in 75 contests, averaging 21:14 per evening. He was part of a remarkably durable San Jose defense that saw Brent Burns play all 82 games, while Paul Martin, Brenden Dillon and Justin Braun appeared in 81.

In the playoffs, Vlasic was once again a busy guy. He finished second only to Burns in time on ice (23:16 per) and was often tasked with trying to shut down the Connor McDavid line. The Sharks would eventually bow out to the Oilers in six games.

And Vlasic might have even more to do this summer.

During his end-of-year media availability, Sharks GM Doug Wilson said getting Vlasic signed to an extension prior to September’s training camp was a big priority.

Vlasic’s current deal — a five-year, $21.25 million pact — expires next summer, and carries an average cap hit of $4.25M. Wilson didn’t mince words in describing how good he thinks Vlasic is.

“Vlasic [is] arguably one of the best defensemen in the league,” he said. “Marc-Edouard is still one of the most underrated players in the league in the outside world.”

Stepan: ‘I’ve stunk since the playoffs started’

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Derek Stepan knows he’s not playing very well, and he knows he’ll have to be better if the New York Rangers are going to make it past the Ottawa Senators.

With just one goal (an empty-netter) and one assist in seven playoff games, Stepan’s offensive production has fallen off a cliff after a respectable 55-point regular season, which included 38 assists.

“I’ve stunk since the playoffs started,” Stepan said, per NHL.com’s Dan Rosen. “I’ve been not very good with the puck.”

An all-situations center, Stepan is more than just an offensive type. But he’s produced in previous playoff runs, and the Rangers need him to produce now — especially against a tight-checking Sens team that boasts a 2.00 goals-against average in these playoffs.

Stepan has 45 points (18G, 27A) in 92 career playoff games.

To be fair, he’s not the only Ranger who needs to get going offensively. One of the Blueshirts’ big strengths during the regular season was their balanced scoring, with all four lines contributing — and that’s not happening right now.

No Bieksa for Anaheim tonight, but Vatanen could return

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The Ducks will be without their most veteran skater on Friday as they look to even up their series with Edmonton.

Kevin Bieksa, who exited Game 1 with a lower-body injury following a collision with fellow d-man Shea Theodore, has been ruled out for tonight’s Game 2. It marks the first tilt the 35-year-old will miss this postseason.

Bieksa was enjoying a pretty good playoff prior to getting hurt. He racked up four assists in five games, while averaging just under 17 minutes per night. Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle is holding out hope Bieksa could return later in the series.

While this is a loss for the Ducks, it goes a long way in illustrating how much defensive depth they have.

While Carlyle wouldn’t confirm, all signs point to Sami Vatanen drawing in for Bieksa. Vatanen has been out since Game 1 of the Calgary series with an upper-body injury, but has resumed practicing and sounds like he’s ready to go.

“It’s always nice when a player is closer to coming back and you can potentially put them back in the lineup,” Carlyle said of Vatanen.

Anaheim dressed a blueline of Bieksa, Theodore, Cam Fowler, Josh Manson, Hampus Lindholm and Brandon Montour in Wednesday’s 5-3 defeat. If Vatanen can’t draw in for Bieksa, the club still has Korbinian Holzer in reserve.