Detroit Red Wings v Phoenix Coyotes - Game Four

‘Yotes GM happy Ekman-Larsson chose AHL over Europe: “He’s been excellent”

After his breakout 2011-12 campaign, Oliver Ekman-Larsson probably could’ve landed a lockout gig in his native Sweden, or another strong European league.

Instead, he agreed to join AHL Portland at Phoenix’s request.

The Coyotes’ brass is sure happy he did.

Ekman-Larsson has been stellar in the American league, scoring nine points in nine games — even though he missed three weeks with a sliced finger.

“It’s been really good,” GM Don Maloney said of OEL’s time in Portland. “He’s been really good and the reason for that is just his attitude. He wants to be there. He wants to improve. He’s working hard.”

Ekman-Larsson is the cornerstone of Portland’s young, gifted blueline. Others include:

— Brandon Gormley, the 13th overall pick at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.

— David Rundblad, the 17th overall pick at the 2009 NHL Entry Draft (acquired in the Kyle Turris trade.)

— Michael Stone, a third-round pick from 2008 that debuted with the ‘Yotes last season (and played in two playoff games.)

— Chris Summers, a first-round pick from 2006 who’s currently serving as Portland’s alternate captain.

The Pirates blueline also has youngsters Maxim Goncharov and Mathieu Brodeur in the mix — all told, the oldest defenseman on the team is 25.

So, no shortage of talent on defense…but with that said, Maloney recognizes Ekman-Larsson is the guy most (if not all) are focused on.

“I’ve actually seen a lot of [AHL] games in the fall, and there are players down there that have been in the NHL that have it in cruise control a bit,” Maloney said. “In OEL’s case, that’s not him.

“He’s out there to help that team win and so other than the injury, he’s been excellent and it’s been good for his continual maturation.”

Dropping like flies: Johnson, Killorn hurt in Bolts’ exhibition

Montreal Canadiens v Tampa Bay Lightning - Game One
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You probably know the drill: injury updates are murky in the NHL basically from the moment a puck drops.

We’ll learn more once the 2015-16 season begins, but at the moment, Saturday might have served as a costly night for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Both Tyler Johnson and Alex Killorn went down with injuries stemming from a 3-2 pre-season win against the Florida Panthers.

“Guys were dropping like flies,” Steven Stamkos told the Tamba Bay Times.

These could be minor situations – just about any ailment will sideline a key asset this time of year – yet one cannot help but wonder if the Lightning might limp into this campaign.

Nikita Kucherov is dealing with his own issues, so that means at least minor issues for one half of the Bolts’ top six forwards.

It’s believed that more will be known about these banged-up Bolts sometime on Sunday.

Raffi Torres gets match penalty for being Raffi Torres

Raffi Torres

With knee issues still limiting him, Raffi Torres isn’t as mobile as he once was. Apparently he still moves well enough to leave the usual path of destruction.

It’s the pre-season, so it’s unclear if we’ll get a good look at the check, but Torres received a match penalty for his hit on Anaheim Ducks forward Jakob Silfverberg.

Most accounts were pretty critical of the San Jose Sharks’ chief troublemaker:

It’s too early to tell if Silfverberg is injured. If he is, that’s a significant loss for the Ducks, as he really showed signs of fulfilling his promise (especially during the 2015 playoffs).

As far as Torres goes, he’s hoping to play in the Sharks’ season-opener. Wherever he ends up, he’ll certainly make plenty of enemies on the ice.

Whether it was because of that hit or just the general distaste shared by those sides, it sounds like tonight’s Sharks – Ducks exhibition is getting ugly, in general:

This post will be updated if video of the hit becomes available, and also if we get a better idea of Silfverberg’s condition.

Update: Bullet dodged?