NEWARK, NJ - JUNE 02: Jordan Nolan #71 of the Los Angeles Kings and Stephen Gionta #11 of the New Jersey Devils go for a loose puck during Game Two of the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Final at the Prudential Center on June 2, 2012 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

DeBoer thinks Devils were “50% better” in Game 2

The New Jersey Devils have suffered back-to-back 2-1 overtime loses to the Los Angeles Kings. However, while the result was the same, the Devils did look significantly better in Game 2.

“I think when you reflect for a day, when you look at the tape, we did a lot of good things,” Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. “Obviously there’s some areas we have to do a better job at. But I really liked our game.

“Game 1 to Game 2, I thought we were 50% better. I still think we have some more in the tank.”

The fact of the matter is they’re still down 2-0 in the series. Still, it does give them a ray of hope, especially seeing as the Devils have usually gotten better in the latter half of their 2012 playoff series.

“We got down to Philly, rattled off four wins in a row,” DeBoer said. “Got down to the Rangers, rattled off three in a row. We know we have that, that we’re capable of doing that. It’s a matter of getting it done.

“This isn’t an easy task. They’re a very good team. They’ve shown that. But we’re a confident group. There will be no laying down by our group.”

The Devils are a franchise that have seen their fair share of turmoil over the past two years. From their horrid start to the 2010-11 campaign to now, the Devils have battled through trial after trial and they’re still here. That counts for something, but it might not be enough given the enormity of the mountain they have to climb.

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    Kucherov won’t report to Bolts until he’s signed

    TAMPA, FL - APRIL 16: Nikita Kucherov #86 of the Tampa Bay Lightning is checked by Danny DeKeyser #65 of the Detroit Red Wings in front of Petr Mrazek #34 in Game One of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena on April 16, 2015 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)
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    Nikita Kucherov will not report to Tampa Bay Lightning training camp until he’s signed. The 23-year-old winger is not currently under contract, though as a restricted free agent he is partially under club control.

    From the Tampa Bay Times, which confirmed through GM Steve Yzerman that Kucherov would not be reporting:

    Kucherov, the team’s leading scorer last season, could warrant $6 million or more annually. And that makes it difficult for the Lightning, which has between $5-5.5 million of cap space remaining, per CapFriendly.com. It begs the question whether Tampa Bay may need to make another move to create room. With the season opening two weeks from today, no deal appears imminent.

    Yzerman said earlier in the month that he can get Kucherov signed without making a trade, but as mentioned, no deal has been reached yet.

    Kucherov is one of a handful of high-profile RFAs who remain unsigned as the regular season approaches. The others are Johnny Gaudreau, Rasmus Ristolainen, Jacob Trouba, Hampus Lindholm, Rickard Rakell, and Tobias Rieder, the latter of whom requested a trade yesterday.

    Trouba has also requested a trade.

    Related: Ristolainen, still without a contract, makes ‘good will’ gesture towards Sabres

    Another — yes, another — blow for Dallas as Janmark spotted on crutches

    PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 22: Mattias Janmark #13 of the Dallas Stars looks on against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the game at Consol Energy Center on October 22, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Matt Kincaid/Getty Images)
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    This has been a forgettable month for the Stars.

    To say the least.

    Having already lost Tyler Seguin (heel), Cody Eakin (knee) and Ales Hemsky (groin) to injury — and Valeri Nichushkin to the KHL — Dallas could now be without versatile Swedish forward Mattias Janmark, who was spotted on crutches Thursday at the club’s practice facility.

    Janmark missed Wednesday’s game against Colorado, and was held out of today’s training session.

    After surprising onlookers by making the Stars out of camp last year — a “great story,” according to GM Jim Nill — Janmark, 23, went on to have a pretty successful rookie campaign, scoring 15 goals and 29 points in 73 games.

    He also fared well in the playoffs, with five points in 12 contests.

    If there’s a silver lining to any of this, it’s that Dallas has arguably the NHL’s deepest forward group. Even with Seguin, Eakin, Hemsky, Nichushkin and Janmark out of action, the Stars can still roll the likes of Jamie Benn, Jason Spezza, Patrick Sharp and Jiri Hudler, and still have one of the league’s premier point producers on defense in John Klingberg.

    That said, the team really can’t afford any more guys getting hurt.

    Ristolainen, still without a contract, makes ‘good will’ gesture towards Sabres

    BUFFALO, NY - JANUARY 22: Rasmus Ristolainen #55 of the Buffalo Sabres makes a pass during the game against the Detroit Red Wings on January 22, 2016 at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Tom Brenner/Getty Images)
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    Rasmus Ristolainen doesn’t have a contract yet, and he’s not particularly close to getting one either.

    But the Sabres defenseman, a restricted free agent, doesn’t want to burn any bridges, so he arrived at KeyBank Center on Thursday as a “good will” gesture, reports The Buffalo News. He’ll practice with his teammates, head coach Dan Bylsma confirmed.

    “Everyone knows how dedicated he is to his training, and he wanted to continue to build on the gains he made this summer,” Ristolainen’s agent, Mike Liut, wrote in an email to the News. “In the end, this made sense to him, at least in the short term.”

    The eighth overall pick in the 2013 draft, Ristolainen had nine goals and 32 assists in 82 games for the Sabres last season.

    “I still trust that we will make that contract happen,” Ristolainen told reporters a couple of weeks ago at the World Cup in Toronto, where he was representing Finland. “I like Buffalo. I want to be there as long as I can and I feel they feel the same way about me. I trust it’s going to be taken care of.”

    Related: Rieder’s agent thinks trade from Coyotes is best for both parties

    Wild to play Coyle at RW, likely on top line with Parise and Staal

    Minnesota Wild center Charlie Coyle, right, controls the puck against Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith during the first period of Game 1 in the second round of the NHL Stanley Cup hockey playoffs in Chicago, Friday, May 1, 2015. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
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    It’s been the ongoing storyline over Charlie Coyle‘s four years in Minnesota — center, or wing?

    This year, it’ll be the latter.

    At least to start.

    Head coach Bruce Boudreau confirmed Coyle will begin the year playing at right wing, potentially on the club’s top line next to Zach Parise and Eric Staal.

    “I think I’m built more for that game,” Coyle said, per the Star-Tribune. “Long-term, I think they like me at center, I don’t know. It doesn’t matter to me, but it is nice to be able to consistently play one place and not go back and forth.

    “Mentally, once you play one place, you feel more comfortable.”

    Coyle has played center quite often, most notably during the ’14-15 campaign when he finished third on the team in faceoffs taken (behind Mikko Koivu and Mikael Granlund). And while it’s obvious he’d be able to impact the game more playing down the middle rather than outside, Coyle’s attributes on the wing are hard to pass up.

    Specifically, his ability to find the back of the net.

    Coyle scored a career-high 21 goals last year, many of them coming while playing RW. For a Wild team that isn’t all that dynamic offensively, such production is hard to pass up.

    What’s more, the Wild do have options down the middle.

    Staal and Koivu are there, as is Mikael Granlund. Erik Haula‘s proven to be a quality 3C or 4C, and Coyle could always flip back to center in a pinch.

    Putting Coyle on the wing would also give Boudreau more balance among his forward group. Granlund — who, like Coyle, is also versatile enough to play wing — could move to the left side on the Koivu-Jason Zucker line, which would give Minnesota a nice third unite comprised of Haula, Nino Niederreiter and Jason Pominville.