Kovalchuk: ‘Radulov doesn’t need to prove anything to anyone’

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After wearing the goat horns in Russia’s lone defeat at the Olympics, Alexander Radulov has responded with a pair of big performances — but, according to his linemate, it’s not like Radulov has to make amends.

“Radulov doesn’t need to prove anything to anyone,” Ilya Kovalchuk said, per IIHF.com. “He is usually very energetic, he moves a lot and creates opportunities.

“He is a good player.”

To call Radulov a polarizing figure is putting it lightly. His time in Nashville was a soap opera and his return to the KHL hasn’t been without issue (he was stripped of his captaincy last year.) In Sochi, that narrative’s continued — Radulov took a pair of bad penalties against the U.S. in Saturday’s dramatic shootout defeat, the second of which led to an American goal.

Russian head coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov was furious following the game. Speaking through a translator, Bilyatdinov singled out Radulov and suggested that he should be scratched “among other things.” Radulov also took a beating in the press:

A columnist from Sport-Express newspaper, Slava Malamud, compared watching Radulov play to seeing a horror movie where a young woman descends into the basement and into danger.

“Viewers can guess what awaits the young woman going into the dark basement, but they still scream when destiny catches up to her,” he wrote.

A headline from Championat.com, a leading Russian sport portals, said: “Thank you, Radulov, for an extra match,” in anticipation of Russia having to win another game to advance.

And that’s when Radulov rebounded.

He wasn’t scratched against the Slovaks — rather, he scored the shootout-winning goal and played a whopping 22:19, including a team-high 9:45 in the third period. Radulov then followed with a stellar effort in a 4-0 win over Norway, scoring twice, finishing with three points and earning high praise from his coach.

“He was dynamic and he was effective and he got better throughout the game,” Bilyaletdinov said, per the Olympic News Service.

This is Radulov in a nutshell. Four days ago? Drop him from the lineup. Today? He leads the Russian team in scoring.

All in a week’s work.

WATCH LIVE: Pittsburgh Penguins at Ottawa Senators – Game 6

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Last night, the Nashville Predators demoralized the Ducks and advanced to their first-ever Stanley Cup Final. Will we learn their opponent tonight or on Thursday?

That’s up to how the Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators perform in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final.

Will Sidney Crosby and the Penguins follow that 7-0 rout with a close-out performance, or will Erik Karlsson and the Senators avenge that embarrassing loss to send this series to a decisive Game 7?

Find out on NBCSN at tonight. You can also watch the game online and via the NBC Sports App.

Here’s what you need to know:

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Ottawa Senators (Pens lead 3-2)

Time: 8:00 p.m. ET

Network: NBCSN (Stream online here)

Check out the highlights from Pittsburgh’s 7-0 win in Game 5

Related:

Pens redefining defense by committee

Four things the Pens need to do to eliminate the Sens

Swedish League champ sees another sign in NHL

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It’s an offseason of change for SHL champion HV71.

In the days following the league title, HV71 saw No. 1 goalie Linus Soderstrom sign his ELC with the Isles and d-man Andreas Borgman — the league’s rookie of the year — ink with the Leafs.

Earlier today, HV71 winger Filip Sandberg signed a two-year deal with San Jose. Shortly after that, Columbus announced it inked Sandberg’s running mate up front, Kevin Stenlund, to a three-year, entry-level deal.

Stenlund, 20, was the Blue Jackets’ second-round pick (58th overall) at the 2015 draft. He’s coming off a good year, setting career highs in goals, assists, points and games played during the regular season, then adding 10 points in 16 playoff appearances.

And he might have a chance to build on that campaign.

Per the Dispatch, the Blue Jackets expect Stenlund to play next year in Sweden, rather than try to make the move overseas. It’s possible the Isles could make the same decision with Soderstrom — meaning it’s not all bad for HV71.

 

Oilers re-sign Pakarinen for one year

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The Edmonton Oilers have given winger Iiro Pakarinen a one-year contract extension.

From the release:

Pakarinen just finished his third season with the Oilers organization, appearing in 14 regular season games in 2016-17, posting four points (2 goals, 2 assists).  The 25 year old forward missed 53 games due to an injury suffered during the pre-season. He appeared in one playoff game against the San Jose Sharks.

The Oilers brought Pakarinen over from Finland in 2014. Since then, he’s split his North American career between the AHL and NHL while drawing praise for his versatility and hard-nosed style.

Per CapFriendly, Pakarinen’s cap hit will be $750,000 in 2017-18. It’s a one-way deal.

Market heating up for prized Czech d-man Rutta

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Coming off an impressive performance for the Czech Republic at the World Hockey Championship, Jan Rutta is now being courted by a number of NHL clubs.

Per The Athletic, the Blackhawks are in contention for securing Rutta’s services. That comes on the heels of earlier reports from TSN’s Darren Dreger, who said there are “multiple” offers for the 26-year-old, including ones from Edmonton and Calgary.

“He’s a steady defenseman with size, and he had a strong finish of the season,” an NHL scout told The Athletic. “He was very good in the playoffs and played his best at the Worlds.”

Rutta, who was never drafted by an NHL club, has spent his professional career with Czech League outfit Pirati Chomutov. He’s blossomed into a talented offensive defenseman — finishing second among Czech League d-men with 32 points in 46 games this year — and, as mentioned above, has good size at 6-foot-3, 200 pounds.

Last week, Rutta’s agent — longtime Octagon Hockey representative Allan Walsh — tweeted that his client would make a decision on NHL offers soon.