NCAA on NBCSN: No. 4 Notre Dame hosts Merrimack

NBCSN continues its coverage of the 2013-14 college hockey season tonight when the No. 4 Notre Dame Fighting Irish host the Merrimack Warriors at the Compton Family Ice Arena with coverage starting at 7:30 p.m. ET. You can also catch the game online at NBC Sports Live Extra

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish came out of last weekend with a split against the No. 1 Minnesota Golden Gophers and now they’ll turn their attention to Hockey East conference play when they face Merrimack this weekend.

Both teams are early on in the conference schedule with the Irish being 1-1-0 and the Warriors sitting at 0-2-0. Things haven’t gone as well for Merrimack outside the conference either as they’re 3-5-0 there.

Merrimack started off their Hockey East schedule last weekend being swept by a very tough Providence College team. If they’re going to avoid an even tougher start in conference play, they’ll have a pair of players to count on.

Saturday night’s game between these same teams will be streamed on NBC Live Extra on NBCSports.com at 7 p.m. ET.

Senior forward Mike Collins and junior defenseman Dan Kolomatis have led the way in scoring with Collins leading the team with nine points. Kolomatis’ seven points from the blue line are encouraging, but they need more if they’re going to compete in conference. Freshman forward Chris LeBlanc is an Ottawa Senators draft pick (sixth-round 2013) and is off to a quiet start with a goal and two assists.

Where it counts for the Warriors is how they break things up in goal. Senior Sam Marrotta and junior Rasmus Tirronen have split starts this season with Marrotta having a slight 5-4 edge in games played. Tirronen has slightly better numbers, although his save percentage is a bit better than Marrotta’s. Both guys could see time against the Irish this weekend.

Speaking of the home team, freshman Vince Hinostroza (Chicago) and sophomore Mario Lucia (Minnesota) had strong weekends against the Gophers. Hinostroza had three assists in the two games and Lucia had two goals and an assist in Saturday’s 5-4 loss. Factor in defenseman Stephen Johns’ goal and two assists on the weekend and that makes for a strong performance all around.

Hinostroza’s week was so good he was named Hockey East rookie of the week. That’ll look good on the resume.

Update (12:50 p.m. ET): You can forget all the talk about Hinostroza, he’ll be out with a knee injury.

The Irish will have to hope senior goalie Steven Summerhays can bounce back strong form Saturday’s tough overtime defeat. He played outstanding last Friday stopping 31 shots in the Irish’s 4-1 win, however. This season, however, he’s been quite good (7-2-0 .928 SV% 1.81 GAA). With how Merrimack’s offense has struggled, if the Fighting Irish can solve their two-headed goalie attack, things should turn out well.

NHL Draftees

Notre Dame – Forwards: Vince Hinostrosza (Chicago), T.J. Tynan (Columbus), Austin Wuthrich (Washington), Bryan Rust (Pittsburgh), Jeff Costello (Ottawa), Mario Lucia (Minnesota), Steven Fogarty (NY Rangers), Thomas DiPauli (Washington).

Defense: Robbie Russo (NY Islanders), Stephen Johns (Chicago), Kevin Lind (Anaheim)

Merrimack — Forward: Chris LeBlanc (Ottawa)

Report: Wings, Hawks, Preds in mix to sign ‘strong two-way center’ Ejdsell

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Keep an eye on Swedish forward Victor Ejdsell in the coming days.

Ejdsell, 21, caught the eye of several NHL clubs following a standout year with Bofors of the Swedish first division — including Detroit (where he visited earlier this week, per MLive.) Reports suggest that Chicago and Nashville are also interested in securing Ejdsell’s services.

It’s easy to see why.

He racked up 25 goals and 57 points in 60 games this year, and he’s got terrific size. At 6-foot-5, 220 pounds, the physical presence is there to potentially make the shift to the NHL next season.

“He’s evolved into a strong two-way center,” Detroit assistant GM Ryan Martin told MLive. “His move from wings to center helped his defensive game. He’s got good hands and offensive ability.”

Vlasic joins Canada for Worlds, extending marathon campaign

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Marc-Edouard Vlasic is putting in work this year.

On Friday, Hockey Canada announced that Vlasic — along with Mitch Marner, Brayden Schenn and Chad Johnson — has been added to the 22-player roster for the upcoming World Hockey Championship in France and Germany.

Vlasic’s season started early as a member of Canada’s World Cup of Hockey squad. He appeared in all six games, which included his tournament high TOI (24:04) in final against Team Europe.

From there, the 30-year-old rejoined the Sharks and appeared in 75 contests, averaging 21:14 per evening. He was part of a remarkably durable San Jose defense that saw Brent Burns play all 82 games, while Paul Martin, Brenden Dillon and Justin Braun appeared in 81.

In the playoffs, Vlasic was once again a busy guy. He finished second only to Burns in time on ice (23:16 per) and was often tasked with trying to shut down the Connor McDavid line. The Sharks would eventually bow out to the Oilers in six games.

And Vlasic might have even more to do this summer.

During his end-of-year media availability, Sharks GM Doug Wilson said getting Vlasic signed to an extension prior to September’s training camp was a big priority.

Vlasic’s current deal — a five-year, $21.25 million pact — expires next summer, and carries an average cap hit of $4.25M. Wilson didn’t mince words in describing how good he thinks Vlasic is.

“Vlasic [is] arguably one of the best defensemen in the league,” he said. “Marc-Edouard is still one of the most underrated players in the league in the outside world.”

Stepan: ‘I’ve stunk since the playoffs started’

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Derek Stepan knows he’s not playing very well, and he knows he’ll have to be better if the New York Rangers are going to make it past the Ottawa Senators.

With just one goal (an empty-netter) and one assist in seven playoff games, Stepan’s offensive production has fallen off a cliff after a respectable 55-point regular season, which included 38 assists.

“I’ve stunk since the playoffs started,” Stepan said, per NHL.com’s Dan Rosen. “I’ve been not very good with the puck.”

An all-situations center, Stepan is more than just an offensive type. But he’s produced in previous playoff runs, and the Rangers need him to produce now — especially against a tight-checking Sens team that boasts a 2.00 goals-against average in these playoffs.

Stepan has 45 points (18G, 27A) in 92 career playoff games.

To be fair, he’s not the only Ranger who needs to get going offensively. One of the Blueshirts’ big strengths during the regular season was their balanced scoring, with all four lines contributing — and that’s not happening right now.

No Bieksa for Anaheim tonight, but Vatanen could return

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The Ducks will be without their most veteran skater on Friday as they look to even up their series with Edmonton.

Kevin Bieksa, who exited Game 1 with a lower-body injury following a collision with fellow d-man Shea Theodore, has been ruled out for tonight’s Game 2. It marks the first tilt the 35-year-old will miss this postseason.

Bieksa was enjoying a pretty good playoff prior to getting hurt. He racked up four assists in five games, while averaging just under 17 minutes per night. Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle is holding out hope Bieksa could return later in the series.

While this is a loss for the Ducks, it goes a long way in illustrating how much defensive depth they have.

While Carlyle wouldn’t confirm, all signs point to Sami Vatanen drawing in for Bieksa. Vatanen has been out since Game 1 of the Calgary series with an upper-body injury, but has resumed practicing and sounds like he’s ready to go.

“It’s always nice when a player is closer to coming back and you can potentially put them back in the lineup,” Carlyle said of Vatanen.

Anaheim dressed a blueline of Bieksa, Theodore, Cam Fowler, Josh Manson, Hampus Lindholm and Brandon Montour in Wednesday’s 5-3 defeat. If Vatanen can’t draw in for Bieksa, the club still has Korbinian Holzer in reserve.