As a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins, defenseman Matt Niskanen had his fair share of experience playing against the rival Washington Capitals, but he was also watching them for a different reason.
“Really my whole career, I’ve always kind of kept an eye on the Caps, because of (Alex) Ovechkin, so it’s just a fun team to watch and has been for a long time. So I’ve been pretty familiar with the people here and how they play,” Niskanen said, per the Monumental Network.
The Capitals’ core of forwards is a big part of what convinced him that this team was capable of competing for the Stanley Cup despite their previous shortcomings.
The fact that they hired head coach Barry Trotz and assistant coach Todd Reirden also peaked his interest. He already had experience working with Reirden in Pittsburgh and Niskanen felt continuing that relationship would be the best way for him to continue his growth after recording 46 points last season.
“That was a big factor, familiarity with (Reirden) … what he’s done for my career, building my confidence, helping me become a better player,” Niskanen said.
Niskanen obviously didn’t have the same kind of relationship with Trotz, but after talking to the bench boss, he was left with the impression that he’ll work well in Trotz’s system.
He also got a chance to speak with Ovechkin and is looking forward to playing alongside him. Niskanen is already used to dealing with star forwards on the ice from his time with Pittsburgh and his goal will be to get the puck to Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom as quickly as possible.
“(Ovechkin)’s a force. If he keeps going, if (Trotz) gets everyone on the same page, I think he’ll have another outstanding year,” Niskanen said.
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
—Pens redefining defense by committee
—Four things the Pens need to do to eliminate the Sens
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.
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.
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.