Jakob Silfverberg turning heads and earning high praise in AHL

Last season when Senators prospect Jakob Silfverberg made his debut with Ottawa, it came as a bit of a surprise. After all, he had spent most of his time in the Swedish Elite League and when he came here last season, he made his debut in the playoffs.

In the playoffs, he played on the fourth line, but his time spent in the AHL with the Binghamton Senators this season has been on the team’s top line leading the way in points. While he’s earned comparisons to Daniel Alfredsson, learning the North American game and playing on a smaller ice surface is the biggest adjustment he has to make.

“It’s a big difference to play on a North American-sized ice rink,” Silfverberg says. “I didn’t expect the difference to be as big as this. I thought I’d be able to just jump in the game and be ready to go. I’d been struggling a lot early in the season turning pucks over in the wrong places and if you do that on the North American ice you’re most likely going to get caught going in the wrong end.”

Silfverberg gives a lot of credit to his breakout this season to Binghamton coach Luke Richardson, a guy who’s earned his own compliments from the team.

“It has to do with a lot of confidence and a lot to do with the coach telling me to play how I want to play. I feel like I get a lot of confidence from the coach and I feel like I’m playing good out there now.”

Would Ottawa coach Paul MacLean approve of “playing how he wants to?” Silfverberg isn’t quite so sure of that.

“Ha! I don’t know about that,” he says with a laugh. “You still have to know when to chip the puck in or to make a play. You still have to keep the creativity you have in you. That’s what makes a team good. Every player’s got their own creativity and everyone is good at different things.”

Silfverberg’s play is earning him praise from opponents as well. Phoenix Coyotes young star defenseman and current Portland Pirates leader Oliver Ekman-Larsson speaks well of his fellow countryman.

“You always have to check your shoulder to know he’s out there,” Ekman-Larsson says. “He’s a really good player. Good shot, good skater, good hockey sense.”

Judging by what Silfverberg was able to do in their 6-1 win over Portland on Friday night, he’s got the good stuff down pat.

‘Dialed in’ Hurricanes could add more drama to playoff race

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At first glance, Carolina’s potential playoff push seems like a longshot.

The ‘Canes head into tonight’s action five points back of Boston for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, and would need to leapfrog both the Bolts and Isles just to get there.

BUT!

The ‘Canes have a game in hand on both New York and Tampa Bay, and two on Boston. They also get to play six of their last nine at home, and are currently riding a terrific streak in which they’ve collected 17 of a possible 20 points (7-0-3 in their last 10).

“Guys are playing well, guys are dialed in,” head coach Bill Peters said, per the Raleigh News & Observer. “You’ve got to continue to keep pace. Around the league everyone seems to find a way to win, so you’ve got to keep pace and then hopefully somebody falters.”

Looking ahead, the next 48 hours will decide if this dream becomes a reality. Carolina begins a crucial back-to-back set against the Red Wings tonight, with both games to be played at PNC.

Tonight’s game, you may recall, is the makeup date for the Dec. 19 postponement due to unplayable ice.

As such, the ‘Canes now get a Red Wings team playing its third game in four nights, following Friday’s 2-1 OT loss to Tampa Bay and yesterday’s 3-2 OT win over Minnesota. Veteran Detroit d-man Niklas Kronwall isn’t expected to face Carolina, and the club is unsure if Darren Helm (lower body) can go.

The ‘Canes, meanwhile, are pretty healthy and firing away. Jeff Skinner has a five-game goalscoring streak, Elias Lindholm has points in each of his last 10 contests and Sebastian Aho in each of his last six. The club has also received terrific netminding from Eddie Lack, who has gone 5-1-1 in March with a .931 save percentage.

If they can get a result tonight, attention will be turned to the out-of-town scoreboard. The Isles are at home to the streaking Nashville Predators (6-1-0 in their last seven), and the Bolts host the Blackhawks, who are coming off an embarrassing 7-0 loss in Florida.

The Bruins aren’t back in action until Tuesday, when they host the Preds.

Report: Coyotes majority owner has a ‘potential new partner’

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The Arizona Coyotes’ ownership group may be getting a new member.

According to Sportsnet’s John Shannon, Randy Frankel is a “potential new partner” for majority owner Andrew Barroway.

Frankel, who made his money on Wall Street, is already a part owner of MLB’s Tampa Bay Rays.

Shannon also reported that the Coyotes required a mid-season cash call, to the tune of $20 million, from their ownership group. Arizona has averaged just 13,020 fans at home games this season; hence, the revenue shortfall.

The Coyotes, of course, are trying to get a new arena built in the greater Phoenix area. So far, their efforts have been for naught.

Related: Arizona lawmaker suggests Coyotes pledge more money for new arena

Report: Rangers land Gophers standout Lettieri

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University of Minnesota senior Vinni Lettieri has agreed to join the Ranger organization, per the Star-Tribune.

Lettieri, 22, finished second on the club in goals this year, with 19, and third in scoring with 37 points in 38 games. The Star-Tribune’s Mike Russo reports Lettieri is joining New York’s AHL affiliate in Hartford, and that he and the Blueshirts are closing in on a two-year, entry-level contract.

Lettieri has some interesting bloodlines. His grandfather is former Minnesota North Stars player/head coach/GM Lou Nanne, and his father is former professional soccer netminder Tino Lettieri, who represented Canada at the 1986 World Cup.

The younger Lettieri went undrafted, and was a free agent following Minnesota’s NCAA championship loss to Notre Dame.

Zetterberg on pace to play 1,000th game in Joe Louis Arena farewell

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Barring injury, Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg will get the opportunity to make his 1,000th NHL game even more special.

Detroit head coach Jeff Blashill confirmed today that Zetterberg will play tonight and tomorrow in Carolina, putting the 36-year-old on pace to play his 1,000th game on Apr. 9, the date of the final Wings game at Joe Louis Arena.

The Wings, who will miss the playoffs for the first time since 1990, have eight games left in their regular season. They host New Jersey on Apr. 9.

Tonight’s game was originally scheduled for Dec. 19, but had to be postponed due to poor ice conditions at PNC Arena.