Under pressure: Rick Nash

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When Rick Nash arrived in New York in a trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets, the pressure was on him to resuscitate an offense that had gone dormant under then head coach John Tortorella.

After a year under Alain Vigneault and an appearance in the Stanley Cup Final that saw Nash not exactly carry the load offensively throughout the playoffs, there’s a lot of pressure on Nash to prove his worth now more than ever.

Such is the price to pay when you’re under the bright lights in New York City.

Nash’s first season with the Rangers was a strong one as he scored 21 goals with 42 points in 44 games of the lockout-shortened 2013 season. Last season, his first under Vigneault, things didn’t go quite as well as he scored 26 goals with 39 points in 65 games.

Things didn’t get better in the playoffs. Nash scored three goals with 10 points in 25 postseason games and the Rangers ultimately fell to the Los Angeles Kings in five games.

Nash’s regular season point total was his worst in a full season since his rookie year. His playoff performance had Rangers fans howling for him to do more while a host of other forwards including Derick Brassard, Mats Zuccarello, and Chris Kreider all put up more points.

Vigneault and Nash both stressed that the chances were there and that he was doing other things to help them win, but it’s goals and points that people remember and not opportunities.

After seeing the Rangers come as close to the Stanley Cup as they’ve been since winning it in 1994 and coming up short, Nash is the guy who faced the most criticism. He’s also the guy that will head into the new season with a target on his back if he doesn’t return to the form that made him the 40-goal scorer the Rangers thought they were getting.

With the number of free agent departures New York had this summer, some think the team could slip and wind up in a fight to make the playoffs. It’ll be up to Nash to try and make sure that doesn’t happen while also feeding his critics a bowl of crow.

Preds announce Fiala done for year with fractured femur

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Most knew that, based on the visuals and stretchering off, the injury Kevin Fiala suffered during Nashville’s series-opening win over St. Louis last night was pretty bad.

Today, the Preds confirmed it.

Fiala suffered a fractured left femur on the play, one that will sideline him for the remainder of the year. The club went onto explain that the 20-year-old underwent successful surgery last night, and would soon be returned to Nashville.

It’s an incredibly unfortunate end to what was a promising campaign.

The 11th overall pick in 2014, Fiala scored 11 goals in 54 games for the Preds this year, and famously scored the OT winner in Game 3 of the opening round against Chicago.

Report: ‘Hawks to sign Czech League standout Kampf

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Given the success they’ve had with Artemi Panarin, it’s not surprising to learn the Blackhawks are back scouting Europe for undrafted talent.

Per TSN, Chicago is on the verge of signing Czech League forward David Kampf to a two-year, entry-level deal. Kampf, 22, is coming off a solid campaign with Pirati Chomutov, establishing career highs in goals (15) and points (31) in just 51 games played.

A two-time member of the Czech team at the World Juniors, Kampf is listed at 6-foot-2, 192 pounds and should have a chance to push for minutes in Chicago next season.

It’s unrealistic to expect similar production to Panarin, who’s emerged as one of the club’s top scorers. But the talented Russian did come over from the KHL at around the same age as Kampf — Panarin was 24 when he signed — and, like Kampf, joined Chicago after posting personal scoring highs with his club team (SKA Saint Petersburg).

It’s also worth noting that Chicago GM Stan Bowman promised significant changes this offseason, following a disappointing first-round sweep at the hands of Nashville. The Kampf signing comes after the club fired assistant coach Mike Kitchen, and AHL bench boss Ted Dent.

Caps without Alzner, again, for Game 1 versus Pens

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The upper-body ailment that kept Karl Alzner out of most of Washington’s first-round series against Toronto will force him to miss the start of the second as well.

On Thursday, the Caps officially ruled Alzner out of tonight’s Game 1 versus Pittsburgh, per the Washington Post. The news comes after the 28-year-old participated in the morning skate, but was out mostly with the extras.

Alzner is now facing a near two-week layoff, having last played in Game 2 of the Leafs series on Apr. 15. He skated 26:17 that night in a double-OT loss, and hasn’t drawn back into the lineup since.

With him sidelined, the Caps have used Nate Schmidt on defense — and yielded solid results. Schmidt has good skating ability and foot speed, and he seemed to make a fairly significant difference against Toronto, as the Caps were often forced to try and match the younger and faster Maple Leafs.

Adam Larsson has become an ‘anchor’ for the Oilers

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Last summer’s Taylor Hall-for-Adam Larsson swap wasn’t popular in Edmonton, and it probably still isn’t now, but it likely stings a lot less today.

Larsson came up huge in Game 1 of their best-of-seven series against the Anaheim Ducks, as he scored a pair of goals and an assist in the 5-3 victory.

The 24-year-old’s first goal extended Edmonton’s lead to 3-1 in the third period, while his second tally gave them a 4-3 lead (it proved to be the game-winner) with under five minutes remaining in regulation.

Larsson finished Game 1 with a plus-2 rating, two shots on goal, three hits and two blocked shots in 18:47 of ice time (it’s the first time he’s played less than 21 minutes this postseason).

He now has four points in seven games during these playoffs, and he’s averaging 22:41 of ice time.

“We needed to improve our blue line and we needed to have an anchor back there and Larsson has become that,” said head coach Todd McLellan after his team’s win in Game 1, per the Edmonton Sun. “We could have kept floundering without fixing that hole and I think Peter Chiarelli and his staff did a tremendous job of addressing that issue. What he did to change the complexion of our team took a lot of courage. That’s not an easy thing to do when you are trading a player of Taylor’s caliber and popularity.”

Of course, we’ll never know if the Oilers would’ve made it this far had they not made that blockbuster deal last off-season, but it’s a good sign that Larsson has turned into a solid option for a team that was clearly lacking talent on defense.

Game 2 of the series will take place in Anaheim on Friday night at 10:30 p.m. ET. Don’t forget, you can stream the game via the NBC Sports app, which you can find right here.

Related:

Todd McLellan named finalist for 2017 Jack Adams Award

Oilers showed off their depth beyond McDavid in beating Sharks