TGIF: Five NHL games to watch this weekend

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Saturday: Edmonton at Philadelphia (1 p.m. ET)

Look, we all know these two teams have been terrible. In fact, given expectations, they’re probably the two most disappointing teams in the NHL. Which is exactly why everyone should watch this game. Nothing like a good sports disaster. If the Flyers can’t get the offense going against Edmonton, we’re not sure there’s any hope for Claude Giroux and company. The Oilers rank dead last in the NHL in goals against (3.82) and, based on what we saw last night in Tampa Bay, it’s not hard to understand why:

Next time, maybe watch out for that Stamkos guy. Pretty good player.

Saturday: Toronto at Boston (7 p.m. ET)

The last time the Maple Leafs visited TD Garden, they experienced one of the most devastating moments in franchise history. Which, you know, was kind of a big deal at the time. We are, of course, referring to Game 7 of Toronto’s first-round matchup with the Bruins that the Leafs led 4-1 almost halfway through the third period. Yada, yada, yada, Boston ended up winning and making it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final, where oddly enough the B’s were undone by their own third-period collapse. Sports!

Saturday: Pittsburgh at St. Louis (8 p.m. ET)

Time for a little Pens fans trolling. OK, here we go. Let’s see how upset they get when we suggest their precious Penguins have had the easiest schedule in the world and have been nowhere near as good as their 11-5-0 record indicates. Case in point, in 16 games, the Pens have only played three teams from the far superior Western Conference. They beat Edmonton by a goal at home. (Hey, congratulations.) They were badly outplayed, at home again, by the Canucks, even though they managed to win that one in a shootout. And they lost, 1-0 — yep, at home — to Colorado. Good luck against the Blues. Gonna need it.

Sunday: Washington at Colorado (8 p.m. ET)

The Caps won their fourth straight Thursday versus the Wild and, in a very related story, are starting to get scoring from guys not named Alex Ovechkin. Marcus Johansson, for example, has two goals in his last two games. Nicklas Backstrom has been putting the puck in the net. Joel Ward has five goals in his last nine games. As for the Avs, how will they react this weekend after losing 6-4 to Nashville on Wednesday? Everyone’s just waiting for them to fall apart, right? Worth noting: the Caps also play Saturday in Phoenix, so this could be a tough one fatigue-wise.

Sunday: Vancouver at Anaheim (8 p.m. ET)

The Canucks — who finally beat San Jose Thursday night — finish off a tough four-game road trip versus the red-hot Ducks. Sunday’s will be the first of five Vancouver-Anaheim meetings this season. If you haven’t noticed, the Pacific Division continues to be an absolute monster. Here’s a stat to consider: The Ducks, Canucks, Coyotes, Kings, and Sharks are a combined 28-9-4 versus teams from the Eastern Conference. Seriously, imagine if the Penguins had to play good teams like those all the time. Would they even make the playoffs?

Report: Blue Jackets RFA Anderson in contact with Hockey Canada about 2018 Olympics

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The preseason is well underway and Josh Anderson is still without a contract.

Anderson, who scored 17 goals and 29 points last season for the Columbus Blue Jackets, is one of two remaining restricted free agents without a new deal. The other is Andreas Athanasiou of the Detroit Red Wings.

While there were reports this summer about Athanasiou potentially going to the KHL for this season, John Shannon of Sportsnet reported on Thursday that Anderson’s representatives have reached out to Hockey Canada’s staff about the 2018 Olympics. 

Anderson’s entry-level contract, with an AAV of just over $894,000, expired at the end of last season.

Meanwhile, here is the latest on this ongoing contract situation.

Making an impression: Sergachev has ‘NHL written all over him’

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Mikhail Sergachev has, over the summer, stated his belief he can play in the NHL this season.

He had a small taste of NHL action last season, appearing in four games for Montreal — the team that selected him ninth overall in 2016 — before getting sent back to junior and then being traded in June to Tampa Bay, as part of a blockbuster involving Jonathan Drouin to the Habs.

Well, Sergachev made a statement Wednesday in his preseason debut for the Lightning.

He scored once. He also played more than 22 minutes, which led all Lightning players on the night. That included time on the power play and penalty kill. If he was looking to make a favorable impression, to show that he belongs at the NHL level when the regular season begins, this seems to be another step in that direction.

“You watch this kid skate, shoot, stickhandle, he’s got NHL written all over him,” Tampa Bay’s associate coach Rick Bowness told the Tampa Bay Times. “Now we’ve got to give him experience. How much can he handle?”

There is competition on the blue line, with eight defensemen under contract in Tampa Bay for this season. That includes Sergachev, who is still only 19 years old. After getting sent back to junior last season, he recorded 43 points in 50 games with Windsor and then won the Memorial Cup that spring. That said, he’s made it a point of saying going back to junior “is not an option” for him.

Related:

Looking to make the leap: Mikhail Sergachev

Report: Lupul will have ‘independent medical exam’

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Joffrey Lupul issued a statement Wednesday, saying he wouldn’t seek a second medical opinion after the Maple Leafs announced he didn’t pass his training camp physical.

A day later, reports have surfaced that the 33-year-old forward will, in fact, undergo another, independent medical test.

That is according to James Mirtle of The Athletic:

Earlier this week, Lupul made accusations against the Maple Leafs on Instagram.

“I’m ready … just awaiting the call,” Lupul wrote in the comments section of the Instagram post, per a screen grab. “haha failed physical? They cheat. Everyone lets them.”

Lupul, who didn’t pass his physical for a second year in a row, issued an apology yesterday. But those comments — which have since been deleted — seem to have grabbed the attention of the league.

Darren Dreger of TSN added to that, saying it’s the NHL pursuing a second medical opinion on this matter.

“The National Hockey League has that right to pursue the second opinion. That’s exactly what they’re engaging in right now,” Dreger reported Thursday.

“The reasoning behind it is because of the comment that Lupul made on social media. I’ll go back a year ago. The league didn’t step in a year ago but Lupul stayed quiet at that point. So they want to make sure — ‘They’ being the National Hockey League — that the medical evaluation from the Toronto Maple Leafs is 100 per cent above the board.”

Team USA won’t include NHL draft-eligible prospects at 2018 Olympics

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) General manager Jim Johannson has ruled out the possibility of the U.S. men’s hockey team having NHL draft-eligible prospects competing at the Winter Olympics in February.

Johannson tells The Associated Press he doesn’t view anyone from the 18-and-younger pool of prospects capable of cracking the projected lineup of non-NHL players, many of whom are opening this season playing in Europe.

USA Hockey’s assistant executive director says he’s also targeting a number of established college players, and would not rule out keeping a spot or two open for members of the U.S. team competing at the World Junior Championships this winter.

Johansson spoke in Buffalo, New York, on Thursday, where he is attending USA Hockey’s sixth annual All-American Prospects game. The game features the top 42 U.S.-born players eligible to be selected in the NHL draft in June.