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He’s not going to the All-Star Game, but Pacioretty has been ‘phenomenal’ for Habs

MONTREAL (AP) Max Pacioretty will have to wait at least another year to get his time in the All-Star spotlight.

The Montreal Canadiens’ captain was left off this year’s All-Star roster despite being one of the league’s most consistent scoring threats.

He built a strong case for this month’s event in Los Angeles, right there among the league leaders with 19 goals and he’s been on a roll since the middle of November.

The 28-year-old’s star power still needs a boost, falling well short of his production on the ice.

Only three players have scored more goals (173) than the American winger since 2011: Alex Ovechkin (243), Steven Stamkos (202) and Joe Pavelski (178).

His 129 even-strength goals are bettered only by superstars Ovechkin (139) and Stamkos (139).

“I don’t know about (the media), but we don’t (take him for granted),” Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said recently. “We appreciate what he’s capable (of doing). The last two months he’s been phenomenal with us.”

After a slow start — just two goals in the first 14 games — Pacioretty has been on a roll.

He’s tied with Sidney Crosby and Jeff Carter for the NHL lead in goals since Nov. 12 with 17. He scored four in three games last week, including back-to-back overtime winners, the second one giving him the franchise lead in OT goals.

His 38 winning goals over the past five-plus seasons trail only Ovechkin’s 42.

Therrien raved about his play, pointing to his “passion” in particular, and positive influence on the dressing room of the first-place Canadiens.

“He wants to make a difference every game,” Therrien said of Pacioretty, on pace to hit 38 goals and establish a career best with 68 points. “And he’s doing a hell of a job for us.”

Teammate Mark Barberio thought Pacioretty’s consistency as a scorer – in an era when goals continue to trend downward and goalies get bigger and better – was underrated.

In fact, Pacioretty has been one of the league’s most consistent scoring threats, one of only four players to hit 30 goals in each of the previous four full seasons – the others being Ovechkin, Pavelski and the Ducks’ Corey Perry.

Yet, he’s rarely in the conversation of the league’s top players.

He has probably been overshadowed by star teammates Carey Price, P.K. Subban, Shea Weber and Alex Radulov. He’s also never been the best or even second-best player on his team and his game lacks the sizzle of Ovechkin or Stamkos.

While he may not be flashy, Pacioretty is plenty effective.

Formerly of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Barberio joined the Habs last year and was struck by the quickness of his new teammate’s release, describing his shot as “world-class”.

“He’s deceptive,” Barberio said. “And when he brings it to the net he brings it with a lot of force and I think that’s what surprises goalies the most.”

“Not everybody has a shot like that,” he added. “There’s (only) a few guys in the league that can just beat a goalie clean one-on-one and he’s definitely one of them. We’re lucky to have him.”

Pacioretty’s wrist shot, in particular, has been the NHL’s most potent over the past six seasons. He tops all players with 111 goals on his wrist shot in that span, trailing only the Blues’ Vladimir Tarasenko and Jets’ Mark Scheifele with 12 this season.

Pacioretty doesn’t just score either. Underlying stats that suggest he’s one of the more effective penalty-killing forwards in the NHL, albeit in a secondary role. He’s also one of Montreal’s top puck possession players (53.8 percent), a long 6-foot-2, 215-pound winger who’s spent the season with a variety of linemates because of injuries for the Habs.

Only one Atlantic Division forward, Toronto’s Auston Matthews, has more goals than Pacioretty so far and, heading into Tuesday’s games, only three had more than his 34 points (Nikita Kucherov, Brad Marchand and Matthews).

But it was not enough to earn him a first-time All-Star nod with Price and Weber both garnering spots for Montreal.

“Maybe he flies under the radar but not in this room,” Barberio said. “We know what he brings.”

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.