Pre-game reading: Arguing for a play-in game

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— Up top, P.K. Subban was in tough against Lawson Crouse on Saturday. Bit of a reach advantage for the 6-foot-4 Coyotes forward.

— ESPN’s Craig Custance makes a case for a play-in game between the No. 8 and No. 9 seeds in each conference. “Imagine a one-game playoff between Steven Stamkos‘ Lightning and Alex Ovechkin‘s Washington Capitals, two teams with Stanley Cup aspirations. The current standings suggest it wouldn’t be out of the question. Or what about a one-game play-in game between Connor McDavid and the Oilers versus Patrik Laine and the Jets?” The NHL, for the record, has shown absolutely no interest in this idea. (ESPN)

— We weren’t the only ones to recognize the Metropolitan Division as the new power division in the NHL. Writes Sportsnet’s Sean McIndoe: “Here’s something to keep an eye on: If things keep trending in this direction, we have the possibility of running into a scenario that’s long been possible in the NHL but rarely actually happens: a top-eight team in a conference not making the postseason. That would require the relatively unlikely outcome of one division’s sixth place team ending up ahead of the other’s third place finisher, and we’re almost there right now…. The Devils (or Hurricanes) could theoretically finish eighth or even seventh in the East and still miss out on a postseason invite.” (Sportsnet)

— The Tampa Bay Lightning are enduring a tough start to the season, but they should still be considered Stanley Cup contenders. And you know what else? They’ve got a pretty good group of prospects, including six invitees to Team Canada’s World Juniors camp. “It’s a credit to the management staff in Tampa Bay for the prospects they’ve put into their system,” said forward Mitchell Stephens, the 33rd overall pick in 2015. “It shows they’re one of the top teams in the league for a reason.” (Canadian Press)

— On the annual Rookie Orientation Program, a joint initiative between the NHL and NHLPA, which aims to help rich, young athletes stay rich. “At the end of the day, it’s your money and you want to know what’s happening with it,” said Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl, who could be a lot richer very soon. “I think it’s really important that you know what’s going on and that you watch your money and you have good people surrounding yourself.” (Canadian Press)

— The Detroit Red Wings are having all sorts of trouble scoring, but at least they’ve got Jimmy Howard back. The veteran netminder stopped 35 of 36 shots in Sunday’s 1-0 OT loss to Philadelphia. He is now 5-5-1 with a .945 save percentage. Sunday’s loss marked the fourth time this season that the Wings have been shut out. No regular netminder has received worse goal support than Howard has. (MLive)

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Report: Blue Jackets RFA Anderson in contact with Hockey Canada about 2018 Olympics

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The preseason is well underway and Josh Anderson is still without a contract.

Anderson, who scored 17 goals and 29 points last season for the Columbus Blue Jackets, is one of two remaining restricted free agents without a new deal. The other is Andreas Athanasiou of the Detroit Red Wings.

While there were reports this summer about Athanasiou potentially going to the KHL for this season, John Shannon of Sportsnet reported on Thursday that Anderson’s representatives have reached out to Hockey Canada’s staff about the 2018 Olympics. 

Anderson’s entry-level contract, with an AAV of just over $894,000, expired at the end of last season.

Meanwhile, here is the latest on this ongoing contract situation.

Making an impression: Sergachev has ‘NHL written all over him’

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Mikhail Sergachev has, over the summer, stated his belief he can play in the NHL this season.

He had a small taste of NHL action last season, appearing in four games for Montreal — the team that selected him ninth overall in 2016 — before getting sent back to junior and then being traded in June to Tampa Bay, as part of a blockbuster involving Jonathan Drouin to the Habs.

Well, Sergachev made a statement Wednesday in his preseason debut for the Lightning.

He scored once. He also played more than 22 minutes, which led all Lightning players on the night. That included time on the power play and penalty kill. If he was looking to make a favorable impression, to show that he belongs at the NHL level when the regular season begins, this seems to be another step in that direction.

“You watch this kid skate, shoot, stickhandle, he’s got NHL written all over him,” Tampa Bay’s associate coach Rick Bowness told the Tampa Bay Times. “Now we’ve got to give him experience. How much can he handle?”

There is competition on the blue line, with eight defensemen under contract in Tampa Bay for this season. That includes Sergachev, who is still only 19 years old. After getting sent back to junior last season, he recorded 43 points in 50 games with Windsor and then won the Memorial Cup that spring. That said, he’s made it a point of saying going back to junior “is not an option” for him.

Related:

Looking to make the leap: Mikhail Sergachev

Report: Lupul will have ‘independent medical exam’

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Joffrey Lupul issued a statement Wednesday, saying he wouldn’t seek a second medical opinion after the Maple Leafs announced he didn’t pass his training camp physical.

A day later, reports have surfaced that the 33-year-old forward will, in fact, undergo another, independent medical test.

That is according to James Mirtle of The Athletic:

Earlier this week, Lupul made accusations against the Maple Leafs on Instagram.

“I’m ready … just awaiting the call,” Lupul wrote in the comments section of the Instagram post, per a screen grab. “haha failed physical? They cheat. Everyone lets them.”

Lupul, who didn’t pass his physical for a second year in a row, issued an apology yesterday. But those comments — which have since been deleted — seem to have grabbed the attention of the league.

Darren Dreger of TSN added to that, saying it’s the NHL pursuing a second medical opinion on this matter.

“The National Hockey League has that right to pursue the second opinion. That’s exactly what they’re engaging in right now,” Dreger reported Thursday.

“The reasoning behind it is because of the comment that Lupul made on social media. I’ll go back a year ago. The league didn’t step in a year ago but Lupul stayed quiet at that point. So they want to make sure — ‘They’ being the National Hockey League — that the medical evaluation from the Toronto Maple Leafs is 100 per cent above the board.”

Team USA won’t include NHL draft-eligible prospects at 2018 Olympics

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) General manager Jim Johannson has ruled out the possibility of the U.S. men’s hockey team having NHL draft-eligible prospects competing at the Winter Olympics in February.

Johannson tells The Associated Press he doesn’t view anyone from the 18-and-younger pool of prospects capable of cracking the projected lineup of non-NHL players, many of whom are opening this season playing in Europe.

USA Hockey’s assistant executive director says he’s also targeting a number of established college players, and would not rule out keeping a spot or two open for members of the U.S. team competing at the World Junior Championships this winter.

Johansson spoke in Buffalo, New York, on Thursday, where he is attending USA Hockey’s sixth annual All-American Prospects game. The game features the top 42 U.S.-born players eligible to be selected in the NHL draft in June.