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Stars win third straight to move into wild-card spot

DALLAS (AP) Tyler Seguin feels like the Dallas Stars have been getting better for some time. They finally have a streak that shows that.

Seguin had two goals and an assist and the Stars beat the lowly Colorado Avalanche 4-2 on Thursday night for their first three-game winning streak of the season.

“Definitely, it’s something that we’ve been needing, and obviously not enough yet,” Seguin said. “We’re making strides. It’s about playing all together. Got over the hump of two wins in a row. Got three, and want to keep going.”

After being the top seed in the Western Conference playoffs last season, the Stars are nearly halfway through this season — and moved up into eighth place with their latest win.

“Winning’s a lot of fun, so we’re going to try and keep this going,” said Jamie Benn, their captain who had three assists.

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Seguin’s 12th goal of the season, a one-timer from the middle of the left circle on a pass from Benn, put the Stars up 2-0 in the first period. He added his 13th into an empty net in the closing seconds.

Seguin and Benn assisted on Jamie Oleksiak‘s wrister from the right circle for a 3-1 lead early in the second period, right after Benn had a shot ricochet off the crossbar.

The Stars are 4-0-1 their last five games, and have won five of seven.

“We’ve played pretty sound hockey for a good period of time,” coach Lindy Ruff said. “We’re getting more and more guys on the scoreboard, getting our key guys, our big guys are scoring.”

Colorado has won only three of its last 17 games, and has the NHL’s worst record at 12-22-1.

“We just got to keep going, keep digging in and try to win some hockey games,” coach Jared Bednar said.

Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen stopped 13 of 14 shots before coming out of the game with 15 minutes left because of NHL concussion protocol after being barreled over by Jarome Iginla. Lehtonen was back on the bench before end of the game and Ruff said he was OK.

Antti Niemi took over in net, and about 2 1/2 minutes later gave up Mikhail Grigorenko‘s goal off a rebound that got the Avs within a goal.

Calvin Pickard started in goal for Colorado had 30 saves while Semyon Varlamov missed another game because of a groin injury.

Matt Duchene got his 400th career point late in the first period when he scored his 13th goal of the season. The net was open with Lehtonen out of position after another shot slipped under his pads. But Duchene was then shoved from behind by Radek Faksa and fell backward on the ice after his face hit the crossbar.

Duchene, the third overall pick in the 2009 draft by Colorado, became only the second member of that draft class to reach 400 NHL points. The other is New York Islanders captain John Tavares, who was the first overall pick that year and reached 400 points late in the 2014-15 season.

“I didn’t really think about it much. It’s obviously nice to get there and get that out of the way,” Duchene said. “It’s something that maybe I’ll enjoy later on in the year or after the season’s over, but it’s never really anytime to celebrate when you lose a game.”

 

Preds GM Poile still has work to do, with Johansen in need of a deal

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David Poile got some work done Saturday.

The Nashville Predators re-signed Viktor Arvidsson on the day the two sides had an arbitration hearing scheduled. The new deal? Seven years at a total of $29.75 million — an annual average value of $4.25 million for a player that just scored 31 goals while playing on the top line with Ryan Johansen and Filip Forsberg.

The Predators made a run at the Stanley Cup last month, doing so with great goaltending from Pekka Rinne, a top-four group of defensemen that you can argue sets the standard around the league and a talented group of forwards — a number of them with age on their side.

They didn’t win it all, but Poile was recognized for his work by claiming General Manager of the Year.

This is likely among the reasons why.

Roman Josi still has three years left on his deal, while Mattias Ekholm, who was a valuable and reliable top-four d-man playing alongside P.K. Subban, has five years remaining on his deal.

With the Arvidsson contract completed, the priority is now to get Johansen — a restricted free agent — signed. At age 24, he’s Nashville’s No. 1 center coming off a 61-point season, which completed his three-year, $12 million deal.

He was also in the midst of a terrific playoff performance before he suffered a thigh injury and postseason-ending surgery. He’s in line for a significant raise from the $4 million AAV he made on his last contract.

The Predators have about $14.5 million remaining in cap space, per CapFriendly.

Vegas GM doesn’t appear to be in any hurry to move extra d-men

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The Vegas Golden Knights currently have 10 defensemen under contract — and that is without Nate Schmidt signed.

Schmidt and the Golden Knights have an arbitration hearing scheduled for Aug. 3, so there is still plenty of time for them to negotiate a new deal for the restricted free agent blue liner without having a neutral third party decide the matter.

Schmidt’s agent, Matt Keator, told the Las Vegas Review Journal that talks with the Golden Knights have been positive, which lends to optimism that perhaps the club and player will avoid this whole process with a deal.

A new contract between Schmidt — left unprotected by Washington in the expansion draft — and Vegas would put the Golden Knights at 11 d-men less than two months before training camp opens.

Granted, that number is considerably less than what Vegas had following the expansion draft, when they stockpiled 15 defensemen and eventually moved players like David Schlemko, Trevor van Riemsdyk and Marc Methot.

While it seems more moves are likely on the back end for Vegas, general manager George McPhee doesn’t seem to be in any particular hurry right now, per the Vegas Review Journal.

“We’re at a manageable number right now,” said McPhee. “We’re pretty close to where we want to be and we’re comfortable with the roster we have.”

Their blue line also includes five players — Jason Garrison, Luca Sbisa, Clayton Stoner, Brayden McNabb and Deryk Engelland — that are pending unrestricted free agents at the end of next season. As far as Vegas’ defensive group is concerned, this could mean future trades during the season as other clubs, perhaps playoff bound, look to possibly add a rental late in the year.

One thing McPhee has made clear in the past: He planned on keeping Schmidt and fellow d-man Shea Theodore (only 21 years old). Now, they just have to get Schmidt under contract.

Related: Vegas has more ticket revenue than Boston, Philly and Pittsburgh, says Foley

Predators sign Arvidsson to seven-year, $29.75 million deal

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Viktor Arvidsson has cashed in on his impressive, breakout 2016-17 campaign.

Playing in the final year of his entry-level contract — and making $640,000 in total salary, according to CapFriendly — the 5-foot-9 tall Arvidsson erupted for 31 goals and 61 points playing on the top line last season for a Nashville Predators team that eventually made its way to the Stanley Cup Final.

The two sides had an arbitration hearing scheduled for Saturday.

From The Tennessean:

Viktor Arvidsson received a new contract Saturday befitting a breakout star, with the Predators signing the energetic forward to a seven-year, $29.75 million contract, Arvidsson’s agent told The Tennessean. 

Few unheralded NHL players last season surprised more than Arvidsson. Expected to be a secondary contributor, Arvidsson erupted offensively with 31 goals and 61 points as part of Nashville’s top line, tying for the team lead in each category. 

Update: The Predators have since confirmed the deal, which pays Arvidsson an annual average value of $4.25 million per season, through the 2023-24 season.

Nashville’s general manager David Poile has work remaining this offseason. The Predators still have restricted free agents Ryan Johansen — another member of that vaunted top line in Nashville — and Austin Watson left to get under contract.

Watson and the Predators have an arbitration hearing scheduled for Monday. Watson is reportedly seeking $1.4 million in arbitration.

Flames re-sign RFA goalies Gillies and Rittich

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The Calgary Flames have re-signed goalies Jon Gillies and David Rittich to one-year, two-way contracts, the club announced Saturday.

Both spent the majority of last season in the American Hockey League, but did get in some game action with the big club in Calgary. The 23-year-old Gillies, the Flames’ third-round pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, played in 39 games with the Stockton Heat, posting a .910 save percentage.

He then made his first career NHL start on April 6 against the L.A. Kings and stopped 27 of 28 shots faced for the win. He then began the playoffs as Calgary’s back-up because of an injury to Chad Johnson.

Rittich made his debut two days later, allowing one goal on 10 shots in 20 minutes of ice time versus San Jose.

The Flames have already taken care of their goaltending situation at the NHL level for next season, bringing in Mike Smith from Arizona and Eddie Lack from Carolina.