Pre-game reading: A list of All-Star snubs, starting with Cam Atkinson

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— Up top, learn more about the early days of Maurice “The Rocket” Richard, the late Canadiens superstar whom Alex Ovechkin tied last night with his 544th career goal.

— A list of 17 All-Star omissions. Cam Atkinson is the first name mentioned, and there’s no doubt he was deserving of consideration. Only five players in the entire league have more goals than Atkinson’s 19. But with each team requiring at least one representative, he didn’t make the cut out of the star-studded Metropolitan Division. A pair of Blue Jackets, Seth Jones and Sergei Bobrovsky, did receive invites. In a related story, Max Pacioretty, David Pastrnak, and Michael Grabner also have 19 goals and didn’t make it. (Sportsnet)

— The one guy with 19 goals who did get invited was Ovechkin. “I don’t think he gets enough credit for the minutes he plays, keeping himself healthy, playing as many games as he has,” Capitals teammate Jay Beagle said. “He sometimes gets a bad rap, but seeing him from the inside and seeing what he does and how hard he works, it’s a special thing.” (Washington Post)

— It still remains to be seen if NHLers will participate in the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang, but it’s worth noting that not a single American goalie was named to the All-Star Game. Granted, Jonathan Quick is hurt, so he couldn’t play anyway. But both Ben Bishop and Cory Schneider, USA’s other two goalies at the World Cup, are having down seasons. If NHLers do go to South Korea, it will be interesting to see which three American netminders make the cut. John Gibson and Connor Hellebuyck should be in the running as well. Maybe even Scott Darling, too. (Olympic Talk)

— The Boston Bruins could probably use a winger like Gabriel Landeskog, but Joe Haggerty argues they’d be nuts to trade Brandon Carlo or Charlie McAvoy in order to make it happen. “The notion of trading McAvoy or Carlo should be a non-starter, even for a talented 24-year-old player like Landeskog who has years of solid productivity in front of him. It appears the Bruins agree, especially now that Carlo has impressed in his first half-season in the NHL and McAvoy dominated all the big moments in helping Team USA win the World Junior championship.” (CSN New England)

— Halfway through the NHL season, it doesn’t look like Canada will get skunked again. After no Canadian teams made the playoffs in 2015-16 (for the first time since 1969-70), at least one, Montreal, seems a sure thing to be in the postseason come April. And if the playoffs started today, three others — Ottawa, Calgary, and Edmonton — would join the Habs. The remaining three — Winnipeg, Vancouver, and Toronto — are hardly out of the race either. (CBC Sports)

Enjoy the games!

Andrei Markov opts for KHL after saying goodbye to Canadiens

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Andrei Markov wanted to play his entire career with the Montreal Canadiens. With that option officially off the table, Markov announced that he’s headed for Russia and the KHL.

“I didn’t see myself with any other NHL team,” Markov said during a conference call wrapping up his lengthy stay with the Habs. “I didn’t see myself wearing another jersey.”

(At least not the jersey of another NHL team.)

The 38-year-old also noted that he hasn’t closed the door to a return to Montreal. That makes sense since it seems like it was largely the Canadiens’ decision to part ways with Markov, essentially replacing him with Mark Streit at a heavily discounted rate.

Beyond the comforts of home, Markov was almost certainly motivated to play in the KHL because of the 2018 Winter Olympics.

The veteran blueliner did not mention which KHL team he’ll end up playing for. There were some rumblings that Markov might sign with the Florida Panthers, but that turned out to not be true.

If it’s a one-year deal, a return to the Habs is at least feasible in 2018-19. Considering his age, it sure seems like this is the end of Markov’s lengthy run with the Canadiens, though.

After making NHL debut, Jones re-ups with Isles

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One of the Isles’ feel-good stories from last season wrote a new chapter on Thursday.

Connor Jones, the undrafted 26-year-old that made his NHL debut in April, has signed a one-year, two-way extension, the club announced.

Jones certainly earned his way to the show. He spent four years at Quinnipiac before catching on with the Oilers, spending time with both their AHL and ECHL affiliates before jumping to the Isles organization in 2015.

Though he’s not an offensive producer — just 19 points in 58 games with Bridgeport last season — Jones emerged as a good energy guy that proved an effective penalty killer.

With AHL Bridgeport, he also played alongside his twin brother, Kellen, who was in attendance as Connor made his NHL debut in April.

Connor would go on to play four games for the Isles, averaging just under 12 minutes per night.

Report: Dwight King could be KHL-bound

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Dwight King, the burly forward that won a pair of Stanley Cups in Los Angeles, may be on his way to Russia.

Per News 1130 in Vancouver, King is set to sign in the KHL after failing to land a contract this summer. The 28-year-old finished last season in Montreal after spending the first seven years of his NHL career in Los Angeles.

For a time, King was an effective skater for L.A. He posted a career-high 15 goals and 30 points during the ’13-14 campaign, and followed that up with a 13-goal, 26-point effort the year following. He also had a nice showing during the Kings’ 2014 Cup run, finishing with 11 points in 26 games.

King’s biggest issue is his skating ability. At 6-foot-4, 229 pounds, he was never the fleetest of foot, but had been working on his speed this offseason.

More, from Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman:

King is still looking for work after finishing the season in Montreal. There are a few Western Conference teams poking around.

“I’m just looking for an opportunity at this point. I’m going to be on the ice more this year, doing a little more skills and skating. Any bit of improvement I can find.”

King is going to try a couple new teachers, then decide which route to take. One also works with former teammate (and new Golden Knight) Brayden McNabb. King is quite the physical specimen, but will take a new approach. He regularly played at 230–231 pounds, but is going to go to 225–226. And he believes the Western Conference is better for him.

News 1130 reported that Vancouver had shown “mild interest” in King, who just wrapped a three-year $5.85 million deal with a $1.95M cap hit.

King appeared in 17 games for the Habs after being picked up at the deadline last season, scoring once. He went pointless in six playoff games.

McLellan excited about addition of ‘utility player’ Strome

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To hear Todd McLellan explain it, Ryan Strome could be wearing many hats next season.

That’s what the Oilers head coach said on Wednesday of the former Isles forward, acquired earlier this summer in the Jordan Eberle trade. McLellan expressed excitement over Strome’s ability to play both center and wing.

“He (Strome) is a utility player,” McLellan said, per the Sun. “He has the ability to play center and has in the past. He’s been able to win faceoffs and he’s comfortable on the wing. We have the luxury of moving players around, and as the fans here know, we like to do that.”

That last sentence is clearly a reference to Leon Draisaitl. Draisaitl has flipped back and forth between playing as Edmonton’s No. 2 center and as a winger on the top line alongside Connor McDavid. The talented German’s had success at both, which is why Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli is still unsure if Draisaitl is a center or a winger.

More: Strome pumped at prospect of playing with Draisaitl, McDavid

As for Strome, he certainly gives Edmonton some flexibility — on the ice, and on the books.

With a $2.5 million cap hit (compared to Eberle’s $6M), he’s provided Chiarelli with more cap space to get the Draisaitl contract done. And there’s also the potential for him to be a real bargain. Remember, Strome is only two years removed from a sophomore campaign in which he scored 17 goals and 50 points in 81 contests. His subsequent two years with the Isles were a disappointment, but the talent is still there.

The wildcard in all this is the fact that Strome’s heading into a contract year. He’ll be a restricted free agent next July, so the ’17-18 campaign will go a long way in determining his value… and, potentially, his future in Edmonton.