Morgan Rielly

Prized prospect Rielly: ‘My goal is to make the Leafs this year’

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Morgan Rielly has lofty aspirations heading into this season.

“My expectations for myself are pretty high,” Rielly told CBC.ca. “Obviously my goal is the make the Leafs this year. I’ve been training hard and I’ve been on the ice a lot.

“My goal is to play in Toronto this year.”

Rielly, 19, was the club’s first-round pick (fifth overall) at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, putting him among the elite in the deepest defensive draft the league has seen in years.

Eight blueliners went in the first 10 picks, with only Columbus’ Ryan Murray (second overall) and the Islanders’ Griffin Reinhart (fourth) going higher.

Rielly also got a taste for NHL hockey during Toronto’s abbreviated training camp last season before being sent back to WHL Moose Jaw. Leafs GM Dave Nonis praised Rielly’s play, but said the youngster’s lack of game experience (there were no exhibitions last season) and Toronto’s defensive depth were the deciding factors.

The latter part of that explanation, though, has changed.

Several of the guys ahead of Rielly last season are now gone. Mike Kostka signed in Chicago, Mike Komisarek was bought out, Ryan O’Byrne jumped to the KHL and Cody Franson remains unsigned.

At the time of writing, Toronto had seven defensemen under contract for next season — Dion Phaneuf, Carl Gunnarsson, Mark Fraser, Jake Gardiner, Korbinian Holzer, John-Michael Liles and Paul Ranger.

Holzer fell out of the rotation last year and didn’t dress after Mar. 16; Liles only played 32 games and was a healthy scratch in the playoffs; Ranger hasn’t played an NHL contest since 2009-10.

So you can see why Rielly — who played 14 regular-season and eight playoff games with the AHL Marlies — is now gunning for a gig with the Leafs.

“I’ll just try to play my game, play with confidence,” he explained. “Hopefully I’ll be able to make a good impression.”

Fight video: Zack Kassian racks up penalty minutes, faces Brian Strait

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Pulling Anders Nilsson didn’t stop the bleeding for the Edmonton Oilers. Instead, it really just spread the “wealth.”

The New York Islanders are up 7-1, so don’t be surprised if there’s some ugly stuff in the final frame.

Zack Kassian is an author of at least one outburst, as he was tagged with 19 penalty minutes for a display that included fighting Brian Strait, as you can see in the video above.

It’s not the only fight stemming from the blowout, either, as Eric Gryba just tangled with Matt Martin.

Could there be more?

Isles chase Nilsson from Oilers’ net in less than 12 minutes

Edmonton Oilers goalie Anders Nilsson, of Sweden, makes pad save against the Colorado Avalanche during the first period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
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There was a time when Anders Nilsson seemed like the best bet in the Oilers’ net this season. This … is not that time.

Less than 12 minutes into Sunday’s game, the New York Islanders roared to a 3-0 lead, and that was enough for Edmonton to give Nilsson the hook.

He allowed those three goals on 10 shots, so to be fair, that’s a pretty impressive chunk of chances (almost a shot on goal per minute).

Still, the Oilers were likely hoping to give Cam Talbot a breather, and instead he was rushed into action. Nilsson hadn’t played since Jan. 19, and he’s only appeared in three games in 2016.

As if this didn’t sting enough for Nilsson, consider the fact that he began his NHL career with the Islanders, who eventually decided he wasn’t worth keeping.

Ovi scores 30th as Caps beat Flyers for third straight victory

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Alex Ovechkin scored to join Wayne Gretzky and Mike Gartner as only players with at least 30 goals in each of their first 11 NHL seasons, and Matt Niskanen netted the game winner as Washington beat the Flyers 3-2 at Verizon on Super Bowl Sunday.

Michael Del Zotto and Nick Schultz replied for the Flyers, who suffered their second straight loss.

The win was the Capitals’ third in a row.

It didn’t always look as though Washington would emerge the victor, however. The Caps were out-shot 35-30 on the day and looked disjointed at times, finishing with 12 giveaways (Philly was credited with just five, for comparison’s sake).

But good teams find ways to win when they’re not playing especially well, and the Caps are a pretty good team — especially when Braden Holtby is on his game.

Holtby, atop many Vezina lists at the moment, had another terrific outing on Sunday, making 33 saves, perhaps none better than this one on Mark Streit in the second period:

Holtby’s counterpart, Steve Mason, had a solid outing as well, finishing with 27 stops.

Looking ahead, the Caps will now head out on a three-game Western Conference swing through Minnesota, Nashville and what promises to be a high-octane game in Dallas on Feb. 13.

The Flyers, meanwhile, will now kick off a three-game homestand against Anaheim, Buffalo and New Jersey.

 

Jets’ Stafford to have disciplinary hearing after high-sticking Holden

Colorado Avalanche's Nick Holden (2) hits Winnipeg Jets' Mathieu Perreault (85) during first period NHL hockey action in Winnipeg, Monday, Jan. 18, 2016. (Trevor Hagan/The Canadian Press via AP)
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Winnipeg forward Drew Stafford will meet with the NHL’s Department of Player Safety for his high stick on Colorado’s Nick Holden on Saturday night, the DoPS announced this afternoon.

There was no immediate video of the incident available. Stafford wasn’t penalized on the play, which occurred during the third period; Holden finished the final frame with 10 shifts for 6:46 of ice time.

Stafford, 30, has a clean disciplinary history and hasn’t been fined or suspended during his 10-year NHL career.