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Tonight on NBCSN: No. 14 Nebraska-Omaha hosts No. 7 North Dakota

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Two top coaches have their programs neck-and-neck in the WCHA race.

No. 14 Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks (16-10-2) vs. No. 7 University of North Dakota (14-8-6) — 8:30 p.m. ET

The battle to earn the top spot in the WCHA is raging on and tonight’s game features two teams trying to keep pace with St. Cloud State to earn the crown. For homestanding Nebraska-Omaha, it’s been a good run of late. They’ve won five of their last eight and only have losses to Michigan Tech and Denver in that span.

We’ve seen UNO a couple times this season and we’ve seen all shades of what they can do. From steamrolling the likes of Army and Colorado College, losing a nailbiter to Notre Dame and getting blown away by Denver. They’ve been tough in conference but handling North Dakota presents one huge line of issues for coach Dean Blais’ team to contend with.

For the former Fighting Sioux, they have a dynamic duo of scorers in Danny Kristo and Corban Knight (pictured) for the UNO defense to contend with. They’ve been getting points aplenty over the last couple months, but lately wins have escaped them. In their past eight games, North Dakota is just 2-3-3.  On the upside, they’re 1-0-2 in their last three. Hey, a tie is better than a loss… Right? By the way, North Dakota has 14 NHL-drafted players on their roster. Not a bad job of recruiting there by Dave Hakstol.

NHL prospects to watch

UND has a veritable army of players to keep an eye on. The big two are both seniors in Knight (Florida) and Kristo (Montreal). They’re supported by a few others that you may have heard of. Freshman forward and Team USA WJC gold medalist Rocco Grimaldi (Florida) and sophomore forward Mark MacMillan (Montreal) have provided them with a solid secondary attack. There’s a lot to work with here for North Dakota including undrafted guys like senior forward Carter Rowney and junior goalie Clarke Saunders.

Others: Dillon Simpson (JR – D – Edmonton), Joe Gleason (SR – D – Chicago), Derek Forbort (JR – D – Los Angeles), Nick Mattson (SO – D – Chicago), Jordan Schmaltz (FR – D – St. Louis), Michael Parks (SO – F – Philadelphia), Brendan O’Donnell (SO – F – Tampa Bay), Andrew MacWilliam (SR – D – Toronto), Derek Rodwell (JR – F – New Jersey), Zane Gothberg (G – FR – Boston)

UNO’s top players are more or less undrafted players. Senior forward Ryan Walters leads the team in points and is a likely free agent signing after his season is over. Sophomore forward Josh Archibald (Pittsburgh) is Walters’ go-to guy on the attack. Sophomore Dominic Zombo and junior Matt White follow up as other undrafted players leading the charge.

Others: Bryce Aneloski (SR – D – Ottawa), Brent Gwidt (SR – F – Washington), Nick Seeler (FR – D – Minnesota), Tanner Lane (FR – F – Winnipeg), Brian Cooper (FR – D – Anaheim)

(Picture: UND Sports)

Crouse brings the ‘total package’ of size, skill and speed to Coyotes

FT. LAUDERDALE, FL - JUNE 25: Lawson Crouse attends the Top Prospects Media Opportunity at the Westin Ft. Lauderdale Beach Resort on June 25, 2015 in Sunrise, Florida.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Lawson Crouse has joined a talented group of young forwards in Arizona, after the Coyotes acquired the 2015 first-round pick from the Florida Panthers on Thursday.

The Coyotes had to take on the contract of injured forward Dave Bolland, but in their minds, it was worth it to get a player like Crouse, who certainly brings size up front at six-foot-four-inches tall and 212 pounds. He had 23 goals and 62 points in 49 games this season with Kingston in the OHL.

“He’s a unique guy because usually when you add a guy with the type of size he has you usually give up a little bit in skating or you give up a little bit in skill,” said general manager John Chayka, as per the Coyotes website.

“He’s a guy that you add the size and he actually enhances that for your entire group. In our opinion, it was a guy that’s rare to find, difficult to obtain. Certainly, once they become established in the league, those players are locked up well into their 30s and then you end up trying to maybe overpay for a player that has these attributes that’s not in the prime of his career.”

Crouse, who turned 19 years old in June, now joins the likes of Max Domi, Dylan Strome and Anthony Duclair as part of Arizona’s group of up-and-coming young forwards. He has familiarity with all three from playing in the OHL or for Team Canada at the world juniors.

“He can fly. He’s fast and he hits and he scores goals. You kinda get the total package,” Strome told Sportsnet.

The Las Vegas Desert Knights? Maybe . . .

LAS VEGAS, NV - JUNE 22:  New Las Vegas NHL franchise owner Bill Foley addresses the media during the Board Of Governors Press Conference prior to the 2016 NHL Awards at Encore Las Vegas on June 22, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The NHL's board of governors approved expanding to Las Vegas, making the franchise the 31st team in the league. The team will start play during the 2017-18 season and play at the newly built T-Mobile Arena.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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There’s been another possible development in the search for a team name for the Las Vegas NHL franchise.

The Las Vegas ‘Desert Knights’ could perhaps be a thing.

Maybe.

From the Las Vegas Review-Journal:

Last week domain names were registered that might be an indicator that the NHL team scheduled to begin play in 2017 could be called the Las Vegas Desert Knights.

Last week the domains lasvegasdesertknights.com, vegasdesertknights.com and desertknightshockey.com were privately registered to Moniker Privacy Services, which is the same company that procured the domain name to NHL.com.

DetroitHockey.net first reported the new domain name Thursday morning.

Foley said via text message he had no comment regarding the process when reached by the Review-Journal.

As the Las Vegas franchise continues to hire key members for its hockey operations department, there is growing intrigue when it comes to the search for a new name.

What will this new franchise be called?

The wait continues, and there has been a lot of space dedicated to speculating and discussing the possibilities.

It’s been reported that the expansion franchise could use one of at least three ‘Hawks’-orientated names. Owner Bill Foley also said this summer that Las Vegas can’t use a ‘Knights’ nickname is Canada, because London’s OHL franchise was also named the Knights.

Stay tuned . . .

Las Vegas hires former Panthers director of player personnel Scott Luce

ST PAUL, MN - JUNE 24:  Director of scouting Scott Luce of the Florida Panthers smiles before day one of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft at Xcel Energy Center on June 24, 2011 in St Paul, Minnesota.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Scott Luce has gone from the Florida Panthers to the Las Vegas expansion franchise.

The new NHL organization — still searching for a team name — announced Thursday that it has hired Luce as its new director of amateur scouting.

Luce spent the last 14 years in Florida, as a scout and as director of player personnel.

Luce was let go earlier in the offseason, as the Panthers underwent massive change within their front office, with the promotion of Dale Tallon to president of hockey operations and Tom Rowe to GM, and more attention to analytics.

Report: Avalanche bring Rene Bourque in for a PTO

NEWARK, NJ - OCTOBER 27: Rene Bourque #18 of the Columbus Blue Jackets skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on October 27, 2015 in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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After announcing the hiring of Jared Bednar as their next head coach, the Colorado Avalanche have brought in forward Rene Bourque on a professional tryout, according to James Mirtle of the Globe and Mail.

Bourque became an unrestricted free agent at the beginning of July, after his six-year contract worth a total value of $20 million expired. The annual cap hit on his previous deal was $3.333 million.

He spent last season with the Columbus Blue Jackets, scoring three goals and eight points in 49 games. He was placed on waivers at the end of February.

During the 2014-15 campaign, he spent time with the Montreal Canadiens, Anaheim Ducks and the Blue Jackets, before a back injury sidelined him for the remainder of that season.