Blackhawks continue to foil Parise, Suter and Koivu in the playoffs

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For all the talk about Sidney Crosby and Rick Nash chasing that first playoff goal, the most worrisome slump might revolve around the Minnesota Wild’s big names being unable to solve the Chicago Blackhawks. Simply put, Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu and Ryan Suter have had an awful time against the ‘Hawks in seven playoff games over two postseason series.

The good news is that they still have some time to figure things out, but so far, they seem downright baffled. Sunday’s 4-1 Game 2 loss may represent a new low for the Minnesota trio, too; they failed to score a point and combined for a -8 rating.

Parise, 29, is the only one of the three to even score a point against Chicago over those seven games. He generated an assist in Game 1 and scored one goal in Minnesota’s 4-1 series loss to Chicago in 2013.

MORE: Wild coach says his team is just a “play or two away.”

In case you’re curious, here’s a breakdown of how all three have fared in the two series against Chicago, with the obvious note being that they have plenty of time to redeem themselves as things shift to Minnesota:

Parise in 2013-14: one assist, -3 rating, nine shots on goal in two games against Chicago; In seven games against Colorado, Parise had a point in every game (three goals, eight assists for 11 points in that series).
Parise in 2012-13: one goal, -7 rating, 17 SOG in five games against Chicago.

Koivu in 2013-14: zero points, -3 rating, five SOG; Koivu had six points (one goal, five assists) against Colorado.
Koivu in 2012-13: zero points, -6 rating, 11 SOG in five GP

Suter in 2013-14: zero points, -5 rating, four SOG … 27:25 TOI in Game 2 and only 25:22 TOI in Game 1; Suter had four points in Minnesota’s series against Colorado and generally logged his usual heavy minutes
Suter in 2012-13: zero points, -5 rating, five SOG in five GP

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It’s really important to note that these lousy-looking numbers came in a very small sample size with five against the Presidents’ Trophy and Stanley Cup-winning team from last season and two against a championship contender this season. If anything, Chicago deserves as much credit as Minnesota’s biggest names inspire concern.

Still, with all of those caveats aside, it’s clear that things aren’t going well for Minnesota’s leaders (especially Koivu and Suter, as Parise’s shot totals at least imply that he could be more productive with better bounces).

The question is: what needs to be done to get them back on track? Will a change of scenery do the trick? Should head coach Mike Yeo consider shifting lines to try to avoid the likes of Duncan Keith, Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa or is it just a matter of the Wild’s big names digging deep?

That’s up to debate, but if Minnesota doesn’t find an answer soon, it could be another short series.

Dahlin headlines Sweden’s roster for World Junior Summer Showcase

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Defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, potentially the NHL’s first overall draft pick in 2018, will suit up for Sweden at the World Junior Summer Showcase in Plymouth, Michigan.

Dahlin, who doesn’t turn 18 until April, has wowed scouts with his skating and puck-moving ability. At the 2017 World Juniors, he participated as a 16-year-old, garnering tantalizing reviews in the process.

Top-10 picks in the 2017 draft, Elias Pettersson (5th, Vancouver Canucks) and Lias Andersson (7th, New York Rangers), will also be in Plymouth representing Sweden.

Click here for Sweden’s and Finland’s Summer Showcase rosters. The tournament runs from July 29 – Aug. 5 and also features players from the United States and Canada.

Among the draft-eligible Finns to watch is 17-year-old forward Jesse Ylonen, who could be a late first-rounder in 2018.

Related: USA Hockey invites 42 players to World Junior Summer Showcase

All of a sudden, hope for hockey in Houston

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Leslie Alexander’s decision to sell the NBA’s Rockets has revived hope for a hockey team in Houston.

That’s because Alexander is arguably the biggest reason that Houston doesn’t already have a team. The 72-year-old billionaire controls Toyota Center, where the Rockets play. Without getting into all the details, he’s essentially been the only one who could bring an NHL franchise to the city.

From the Houston Press:

But Alexander selling the Rockets (and the lease that goes with it), opens up an NHL-ready hockey arena in Houston. And that’s something that Seattle, which the NHL seemed to favor, can’t offer, and unlike Quebec City, Houston offers up a huge media market with many, many large corporations around to buy up luxury seats.

Houston is certainly a big city. In fact, only four metro areas in the United States — New York, L.A., Chicago and Dallas — have higher populations.

And Houston is growing fast.

Jeremy Jacobs, the influential owner of the Boston Bruins, has not hidden his desire to put an NHL team in Toyota Center. Back in 2015, he told ESPN.com, “I would love to see one in Houston, but we can’t get into that building.”

Perhaps soon the NHL won’t have that impediment.

Predators hire new assistant coach in wake of Housley departure

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The Nashville Predators have hired Dan Muse as an assistant coach.

Muse, who spent the last two years as head coach of the USHL’s Chicago Steel, will be in charge of the Preds’ forwards as well as the penalty kill, while associate head coach Kevin McCarthy  — in the wake of Phil Housley’s departure — will now have responsibility for the defense and the power play.

Muse led the Steel to a championship in May. He also won an NCAA title in 2013 as an assistant coach for Yale.

“Dan comes to us as a successful young coach that brings great energy and passion to the game,” said Preds head coach Peter Laviolette in a statement. “He has worked his way up through the coaching ranks, first winning an NCAA title at Yale in 2013, and then taking a Chicago team that had missed the playoffs eight straight seasons and turned them into the Clark Cup champions in just two seasons. We are excited to welcome him to the organization and look forward to his contributions to the coaching staff.”

Senators avoid arbitration with Ryan Dzingel

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The Ottawa Senators have narrowly avoided arbitration with Ryan Dzingel.

Per Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, Dzingel has signed a two-year deal with a cap hit of $1.8 million.

Dzingel’s hearing was scheduled for today. Last season, the 25-year-old forward had 14 goals and 18 assists in 81 games.

Earlier this week, the Sens also avoided arbitration with Jean-Gabriel Pageau, though that case didn’t go down to the wire like Dzingel’s did.

Pageau and Dzingel were the only Sens with arbitration hearings scheduled.

Related: Sens want to avoid arbitration with Dzingel