Kyle Brodziak, Anze Kopitar

NHL on NBCSN: Kings and Wild open season in St. Paul

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A pair of Western Conference playoff teams from last season kick off their year against each other (8 p.m. ET). About all they have in common is losing to Chicago in last year’s postseason.

Los Angeles and Minnesota kick off their seasons with high hopes for the Stanley Cup. The Kings are hoping to reclaim what they lost to Chicago last season while the Wild are hoping they learned a lesson after being bounced out in the first round in five games.

While the Kings come in with virtually the same roster they had last season (with a few exceptions), the Wild have had an overhaul of sorts. Out are Devin Setoguchi, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, and Cal Clutterbuck and in are Matt Cooke, Nino Niederreiter, and Keith Ballard.

Minnesota also packs in a few younger faces, some familiar from last year. Charlie Coyle impressed last season and looks to build off that while Justin Fontaine and possibly Matt Dumba look to prove they can stick around.

With Mikko Koivu, Ryan Suter, Zach Parise, and Jason Pominville, the Wild can score plenty as the team looks to keep an unbeaten record in home openers at Xcel Energy Center. They’ve gone 11-0-0 since a 3-3 tie with Philadelphia in 2000. Not bad.

Related: ProHockeyTalk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $3,000 Fantasy Hockey league tonight (Thursday). It’s just $10 to join and first prize is $600. Starts at 7pm ET. Here’s the link.

For the Kings, they look to fix themselves up on the road. Fun fact: They’ve lost 15 of their last 16 on the road going back to last season, 10 of 11 in the postseason. After being road warriors in their Stanley Cup-winning season, they couldn’t be any worse away from L.A. last year.

The cast is familiar though with Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, Drew Doughty, and Jonathan Quick leading the way. Quick looks to get his season off to a bang to prove he can lead the way for Team USA in the Olympics. Detroit’s Jimmy Howard got off to a nice start last night beating Buffalo 2-1.

For the Wild, the Kings provide an instant measuring stick to see where they stand to start the year. Los Angeles, meanwhile, hopes to put a blemish on Minnesota’s home opener record.

Kings place Ehrhoff on waivers

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 05:  Nick Bonino #13 of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Christian Ehrhoff #10 of the Los Angeles Kings head for the piuck during the first period at Staples Center on December 5, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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The Los Angeles Kings have placed defenseman Christian Ehrhoff on waivers, according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie.

A veteran of almost 800 NHL games, Ehrhoff has not fit well with Los Angeles after signing a one-year, $1.5 million deal in August. The 33-year-old has just 11 points in 40 games and is a team-worst minus-10. Though he had two assists in last night’s 9-2 win over the Bruins, he also took a careless tripping penalty in the first period that led to a Boston goal.

In a related story, the Kings are rumored to be looking for help on the back end. In fact, they were reportedly quite interested in Dustin Byfuglien, before he re-signed with the Jets.

According to Jon Rosen of LA Kings Insider, 23-year-old defenseman Kevin Gravel is “on the verge of a recall” from AHL Ontario.

The Kings play Thursday in Brooklyn.

Report: Kadri’s throat-slashing gesture being reviewed by NHL

Nazem Kadri
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Nazem Kadri‘s throat-slashing gesture is under review by the NHL, according to TSN.ca.

The Maple Leafs forward made the gesture while sitting on Toronto’s bench last night in Calgary, moments after he was laid out by Flames captain Mark Giordano.

The NHL first started cracking down on the throat-slashing gesture in 2000. Former NHLer Nick Boyton was suspended twice for making the gesture, first in 2006 then again in 2010. He was banned one game for each incident.

Fix coming? Blues activate Schwartz after 49-game absence

Jaden Schwartz
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After Tuesday’s loss to the Jets — the Blues’ fourth in their last six games — head coach Ken Hitchcock said his club has “got to play harder than this” and “got to compete at a lot higher level than this.”

He then added “it’s up to us to fix it.”

Well, help is on the way.

On Wednesday, the Blues activated forward Jaden Schwartz off injured reserve, after he missed the last 49 contests with a fractured left ankle. Schwartz is expected to be in the lineup on Friday when the Blues take on the Panthers in Florida.

The 23-year-old should provide an immediate boost to the lineup. Schwartz had four points in seven games before getting hurt, and that came on the heels of a successful ’14-15 campaign in which he posted career highs in goals (28) and points (63).

The Blues’ first-round pick in 2010 (14th overall), Schwartz is a 17-18 TOI per night guy, so he’ll be a big presence almost immediately. His return also inches the team back to full health, though there’s still a ways to go — Alex Pietrangelo and Jake Allen are still week-to-week with knee and lower-body injuries, while Steve Ott is out until late February following hamstrings surgery.

Related: Armstrong wants Blues to get healthy before any trades are made

‘Very upset’ Jokinen blasts NHL’s handling of Abdelkader-Barkov hit

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You can add Jussi Jokinen to the list of Florida Panthers livid with Justin Abdelkader‘s hit on Aleksander Barkov.

“I’m very upset,” Jokinen said, per the Florida Sun-Sentinel. “I don’t know if I’m too emotional because that’s my best friend on the team. It looked really dangerous.”

Barkov was knocked woozy by a big Abdelkader check during Detroit’s 3-0 win over the Panthers on Monday. The hit forced the young Finn from the game, and also forced him to miss yesterday’s contest in Buffalo.

Abdelkader wasn’t fined or suspended for the hit and, according to the Sun-Sentinel, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety didn’t contact him at all.

It’s also worth pointing out that Abdelkader wasn’t penalized at the time of the incident.

But that didn’t stop Nick Bjugstad and head coach Gerard Gallant from calling the hit “cheap,” with Gallant suggesting Abdelkader left his feet to make the hit, and caught Barkov in the jaw.

Jokinen put the onus on the league to wipe out checks of this nature.

“There are too many hits like that an no suspensions,” he explained. “Fans want to watch Barkov, not those guys. The league has to do a better job of taking those hits out of the game.”

Florida and Detroit next play on Mar. 19, in case you’re wondering.