Pre-game reading: The NHL wants to play some games in China

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— Up top, relive the best moments of the Blue Jackets’ winning streak, which came to an end last night in Washington.

— The NHL wants to play some games in China. So says deputy commissioner Bill Daly, who will visit the country later this month. “I think it’s fair to say we hope to be in a position to stage NHL games there, probably initially preseason games and then potentially on a longer-term basis, regular-season games. We’re working on that possibility potentially as early as next year and with this visit, we’ll know a lot more about whether we can pull that off or not.” (Yahoo Sports)

— Ottawa Senators GM Pierre Dorion, on the state of trade talks around the league: “I’ve been on the phone all day pretty much with my other counterparts. As quiet as it was before Christmas, I think talks are heating up, but it’s very difficult to make trades. Sometimes budget comes into it for other teams, sometimes it’s the number of contracts … So, working hard at it, I’m always looking to improve our team but there’s nothing imminent or at the forefront right now.” (Ottawa Sun)

Patrick Maroon had a hat trick last night in Boston, and he threw in a fight with Zdeno Chara for good measure. The big Oilers winger now has 14 goals on the season, all for the low, low cap hit of $1.5 million. And in case you’re wondering, no, he doesn’t always get to play with Connor McDavid. (Edmonton Journal)

— Pierre LeBrun continues his series on the upcoming expansion draft, this time with a look at the Tampa Bay Lightning. “The Bolts have four players on a list of 66 guys who must be protected in the expansion draft (unless the players agree to waive them) as per the memo that the league sent to all 31 teams in November: Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman, Valtteri Filppula and Ryan Callahan. The last two players are an issue, to be sure — quality guys but players whose contracts have outgrown their actual value on the ice these days.” (ESPN)

— It wasn’t long ago that Nikita Tryamkin couldn’t get into a game for the Vancouver Canucks, and there was pressure on the big Russian defenseman to accept an AHL assignment. He never did go down to the AHL, but it’s turned out pretty well all the same. These days, Tryamkin is playing regularly and making a positive impact for the Canucks. “He wanted to play,” said coach Willie Desjardins. “He did not want to sit. He was not happy when we didn’t play him. I felt, for him to be his best, he had to change his (fitness) to be ready. It’s not that he ever accepted it, but he worked at it and did it.” (The Province)

Enjoy the games!

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.