Nugent-Hopkins embraces challenge of facing Toews

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Playing in the brutal West means Ryan Nugent-Hopkins faces a bevvy of elite centers, but the Edmonton Journal believes that his games against Jonathan Toews presents the biggest tests.

The latest session happens on Monday as the Edmonton Oilers host the Chicago Blackhawks. Nugent-Hopkins seems eager to learn from what the Edmonton Journal calls “a seminar on how to play the game at both ends.”

“I like the way Toews battles in all areas of the game. He’s got so much talent offensively but he’s so good defensively. You can definitely tell he’s the leader out there,” Nugent-Hopkins said. “I like the opportunity to play against him, actually. It’s a challenge, for sure, but I’ve enjoyed it.”

The 20-year-old said he wants to be “known as a two-way centerman.” Getting the best of a star like Toews – in his own zone and on the attack – would be a big step toward accomplishing just that.

Like acing a high-level course, that can be easier said than done, however.

Habs claim Byron off waivers from Flames

Paul Byron
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Montreal added some forward depth on Tuesday, acquiring diminutive forward Paul Byron off waivers from Calgary.

Byron, 26, is a veteran of nearly 150 career NHL games, most coming with the Flames. Despite fairly solid production over the last two years — 40 points in 104 games — he was exposed to waivers on Monday, along with fellow forward Mason Raymond.

(Calgary does have a logjam of players at forward, hence parting ways with Byron and Raymond.)

Byron can play both wing and center but, at 5-foot-7, 153 pounds, is one of the most undersized skaters in the league. Thankfully for him, Montreal has an affinity for undersized forwards, with the likes of Brendan Gallagher (5-foot-9, 184 pounds) and David Desharnais (5-foot-7, 174 pounds) already on the active roster.

Byron could also fill Zack Kassian‘s roster spot. Kassian is currently suspended without pay while undergoing Stage 2 of the NHL’s Substance Abuse program.

Isles claim goalie Berube off waivers

Evgeny Kuznetsov, Jaroslav Halak
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The New York Islanders have claimed goalie Jean-Francois Berube off waivers from the Los Angeles Kings, the club announced today.

Berube won the Calder Cup last season with AHL Manchester, but the 24-year-old has yet to appear in an NHL game.

That the Isles claimed Berube could be evidence that Jaroslav Halak will not be ready to start the season after all.

If that’s the case, Berube would back up Thomas Greiss, with Stephon Williams expected to go to the AHL.

The Isles open their regular season Friday at home versus the Blackhawks, then play the next day in Chicago.