Jakob Silfverberg

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.

Niemi blanks Pens, notches two assists in Stars debut

Antti Niemi, Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist

DALLAS (AP) — Antti Niemi recorded his 33rd career shutout and assisted on two goals in his Dallas debut, as the Stars beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-0 on Thursday night in the season opener for both.

Ales Hemsky had a power-play goal and an assist.

Rookie Matthias Janmark scored on his first shot on his first shift in an NHL game to make it 1-0. The Stars acquired Niemi and Janmark in trades earlier this year.

Dallas scored on two of five power plays. Jamie Benn, the NHL’s leading scorer last season, had a power-play goal in the third period.

Niemi made 37 saves to improve his career record against the Penguins to 5-1-1. He withstood a flurry in the final minute after Pittsburgh pulled goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for an extra skater.

Fleury had 21 saves.

The Stars are 4-0-1 in their last five home games against Pittsburgh, and have won three in a row overall.

Janmark skated down the slot, took a pass from Hemsky and shot between Fleury’s legs at 1:39 of the first.

The Penguins dominated the latter half of the period, but couldn’t score. Niemi’s best stop was a reaching glove save of Rod Scuderi’s drive from the blue line with less than 3 minutes remaining. Pittsburgh outshot the Stars 10-4 in the first.

Hemsky scored at 5:42 of the second on Dallas’ first power play. His shot from the top of the right faceoff circle went in over Fleury’s right shoulder.

The Penguins again had an advantage in shots, 13-11. Pittsburgh had chances in close, but Niemi turned those away. Midway through the second, John Klingberg cleared away a loose puck from in front of the net.

Seven seconds into the Stars’ fourth power play of the third period, Jamie Benn tipped in Jason Spezza‘s shot from the right point.

NOTES: Dallas acquired Janmark as part of a March trade that sent Erik Cole to Detroit. The rookie had been playing in the Swedish Hockey League. . San Jose traded Niemi’s rights to the Stars in June for a seventh-round draft pick. Also making their Dallas debuts were LW Patrick Sharp and D Johnny Oduya, teammates with Chicago’s Stanley Cup champions last season. . In his first game for the Penguins, Phil Kessel played in his 447th straight game. . Pittsburgh was 0 for 3 on the power play.

Fabbri’s first spoils McDavid’s debut as Blues down Oilers

Robby Fabbri, Justin Schultz
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ST. LOUIS (AP) — Rookie Robby Fabbri scored the tiebreaking goal midway through the third period to help the St. Louis Blues beat Edmonton 3-1 Thursday night, spoiling Oilers rookie Connor McDavid‘s NHL debut.

Vladimir Tarasenko had the tying goal for the Blues near the midpoint of the second period, and Troy Brouwer added an empty-netter with 18 seconds remaining in the third. Brian Elliott finished with 23 saves.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored in the first period for Edmonton and Cam Talbot had 28 saves.

McDavid, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, took 22 shifts, played 18:07 and was on the ice for Brouwer’s goal. He had two shots on goal, and struggled on faceoffs – winning only three of 13.

Fabbri, a 19-year-old forward — and McDavid’s childhood friend — was also playing in his first NHL game. The Blues’ first-round pick in 2014 was one of three rookies in the St. Louis lineup, joining defensemen Colton Parayko and Joel Edmundson.

Nugent-Hopkins gave the Oilers a 1-0 lead late in the first period with a fluke power-play goal. He lost a face-off but when Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo tried to clear the puck it bounced off Alexander Steen and past Brian Elliott. Nugent-Hopkins was credited with the unassisted power-play goal with 2:38 remaining in the period.

Tarasenko tied it a 9:10 of the second after getting loose on a breakaway with a stretch pass from Alex Pietrangelo and beating Talbot through his legs.

Tarasenko, who signed an eight-year, $60 million extension in the offseason, was the last Blues player to score in his debut.

NOTES: McDavid and F Anton Slepyshev made their NHL debuts for the Oilers. … St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina dropped the ceremonial first puck. … The attendance was announced as standing room-only 19,327.