Olli Jokinen

Jokinen ‘wanted to start playing tomorrow’ after talk with Laviolette

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When the Nashville Predators signed Olli Jokinen to a one-year contract, it gave the Preds an offensive player up the middle the team was sorely lacking.

While the Preds aren’t exactly a team known for its goal scoring, Jokinen said there was one major factor that led him to sign there: New head coach Peter Laviolette. As Joshua Cooper of The Tennessean shares, that was all the motivation the 35-year-old Finn needed.

“Obviously with the excitement and the passion about the game and ideas of how he was going to coach this team, that was one of the biggest reasons I decided to come here,” Jokinen said. “Speaking with him, I got excited. I wanted to start playing tomorrow.”

Last season with the Winnipeg Jets, Jokinen had 18 goals and 43 points. If you put those numbers on last season’s Predators team, he would’ve been fifth on the squad in goals and points.

With the addition of James Neal to the team, the Preds are in need of someone to get him the puck to score goals. Jokinen will have competition to do that with Mike Fisher and Craig Smith, but he has an established career of setting other players up. Just ask Jarome Iginla from his days in Calgary.

Mixing in Laviolette’s brand of hockey could help all parties involved to boost their numbers. Having to do it in an obscenely loaded Central Division won’t make it easy.

Video: Rangers shut out red-hot Sidney Crosby and the Penguins

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The New York Rangers are likely too far behind the Washington Capitals to take any legitimate run at the Atlantic Division down the stretch.

But winners now of four straight, the Rangers have opened up a bit of a gap between them and other Eastern Conference teams in the playoff race. New York scored a 3-0 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, winners in six of their last seven games, on Wednesday.

In the process, they held a red-hot Sidney Crosby off the score sheet, which has been a difficult, sometimes impossible task for opposing teams since about the middle of December. He entered this game with a seven-game scoring streak.

(In fact, New York held No. 87 to without a shot on goal in the entire game.)

Henrik Lundqvist stopped all 34 shots he faced for the shutout.

Kevin Hayes gave the Rangers the lead in the first period, before Dominic Moore and Jesper Fast put the game away in the third.

Pittsburgh remains in the second Wild Card spot in the East. The Rangers now move three points clear of the rival Islanders for second in the Metropolitan.

Video: Wideman hearing ‘a tricky case’ as NHLPA hopes to get 20-game suspension reduced

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There is no certain timeline for when NHL commissioner Gary Bettman might rule on Dennis Wideman‘s appeal, according to a report from hockey insider Darren Dreger on NBCSN, as the Calgary Flames defenseman hopes to get his 20-game ban for hitting linesman Don Henderson reduced.

“Now, ultimately what they’re hoping from a Wideman perspective and the Players’ Association is that commissioner Gary Bettman will rule and he will reduce the number of games suspended down from 20,” said Dreger during a segment on NBCSN.

“Is he going to reduce it by three games? Five games seems a bit of a stretch. And when might he do that? There’s no timeline on this.”

Report: Coyotes shut down Vitale (concussion) for the season

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Joe Vitale will not play again this season.

The Arizona Coyotes have shut Vitale down for the remainder of the 2015-16 campaign due to “concussion-related issues,” according to a report from Sarah McLellan of azcentral sports on Wednesday.

Vitale, a 30-year-old veteran center, appeared in only one game for the Coyotes this season. That was back on Oct. 17, when he suffered a concussion and broken orbital bone in a fight with Kevan Miller of the Boston Bruins.

Sens announce Frattin, acquired in Phaneuf deal, will stick with AHL Marlies

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Matt Frattin was traded by the Leafs to Ottawa yesterday as part of the Dion Phaneuf blockbuster.

But for now, he’s staying in Toronto.

On Wednesday, Sens GM Bryan Murray announced that Frattin will remain with the Leafs’ AHL affiliate — the Toronto Marlies — on loan, but will be available for selection should Ottawa require his services down the road.

Frattin, 28, has spent all of this season with the Marlies, scoring nine goals and 22 points in 47 games. His last NHL appearance came during the ’14-15 campaign, with the Leafs.

Prior to that, the former North Dakota standout had spent time in Los Angeles and Columbus.