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PHT Morning Skate: Top selling jerseys in the first half of the season

–Three former goalies, Kevin Weeks, Martin Biron and Steve Valiquette, broke down Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist‘s recent struggles. “There were some really big holes technically in his game at times this year,” said Biron. “When Hank is on top of his game and things are rolling along, it’s very structured: A to B, B to C, and so on with his movements. That hasn’t been the case consistently enough.” (Yahoo)

Erik Karlsson sat down for a Q & A with the NHL’s website. He talked about a number of things including why he believes the Senators have exceeded expectations in 2016-17. “I think that our structure has been really good. I think the system that Guy (Boucher) brought in is very different from what most people play, but for our team it’s been working really well. We’ve been doing really well against the teams that are really good and it’s because everybody really bought into it and everybody is doing the same thing.” (NHL.com)

–Which Eastern Conference GMs are under the most pressure between now and the trade deadline? According to Sean McIndoe, Boston’s Don Sweeney is at the top of the list. The Bruins have missed the playoffs in back-to-back years and they may be headed for a third straight year if they don’t start winning with a little more regularity. (Sportsnet)

–The Canadiens and Predators swapped P.K. Subban for Shea Weber last summer. At first, most people thought the Preds got the better of that deal, but things haven’t unfolded that way this season. Weber has shown that he’s still difficult to play against and he still has plenty left in the tank. “He’s physical and he’s mean,” Tampa Bay defenseman Victor Hedman said of Weber. “He’s one of the top defensemen in the whole league. What separates him is his massive shot. You try to block it, but sometimes you pray to God that the puck doesn’t hit you.” (New York Times)

–Norris Trophy favorite Brent Burns got to speak to Bobby Orr during All-Star weekend. Not only did Orr share some wisdom with the Sharks defenseman, but they also took an unusual (and hilarious) picture together. “That was probably the best thing I took away from that weekend getting a cool picture with Bobby Orr, tugging my beard. It was awesome.” (Mercury News)

–On Tuesday, we found out that Sidney Crosby, Auston Matthews and Patrick Kane had the top three selling jerseys in the first half of the NHL season. There were also a few surprises in the top 15, as Shayne Gostisbehere, Dylan Larkin, Rick Nash and Ryan McDonagh also found themselves on the list. (NHL Shop)

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    Video: Whoa, this is one sweet Mike Hoffman backhand goal

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    Monday’s game won’t help the Ottawa Senators defy critics about last season running on luck, at least in that it doesn’t count in the standings.

    Senators sniper Mike Hoffman didn’t seem to care.

    Hoffman owned last night’s pre-season NHL highlight reel (sorry Nico Hischier), scoring two very different goals.

    The best one can be viewed in the video above this post’s headline, as he burst through the Maple Leafs defense for a ridiculous backhander on the rush. Wow.

    His first of the night was memorable for a different reason, as Hoffman shook off a near-miss (eventually) to score this goal.

    Weird/cool/good, indeed.

    Prediction: Hoffman will score a lot of goals that will “count” in 2017-18, too.

    Wild extend captain Mikko Koivu’s contract for two years, $11M

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    Minnesota Wild fans fearing that the 2017-18 season could be Mikko Koivu‘s last can breathe a sigh of relief, and that suspense didn’t even carry into opening night.

    Instead, the Wild signed Koivu to a two-year contract extension worth $11 million.

    That $5.5M cap hit kicks in during the 2018-19 campaign and ends after 2019-20. It represents a minor cut in pay for Koivu, as he’s entering the final year of a deal with a $6.75M cap hit.

    Koivu, 34, enjoyed a strong first season under Bruce Boudreau, becoming a Selke finalist for the first time in his underrated career. He’s been Minnesota’s captain since 2008-09.

    Koivu’s deal would qualify as a 35+ contract, according to Cap Friendly.

    The Finnish forward likely valued stability, maybe taking a little less in AAV for the sake of peace of mind.

    This continues a busy week-or-so for the Wild, who also broke their impasse with RFA Marcus Foligno by handing him a four-year, $11.5M deal.

    Opinion: this Koivu deal is a much, much easier decision to justify, even taking into account his advanced age.

    Predators captain announcement looming; they have some great options

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    Multiple reporters* indicate that the Nashville Predators will name their captain (and alternates) on Wednesday.

    Mike Fisher briefly held the title, and before him, Shea Weber wore the “C.” Both were safe, obvious choices; this time around, there are some intriguing options. The Tennessean’s Adam Vignan reports that the Predators themselves realize that there are quite a few logical captains in their midst (which probably isn’t a bad problem to have).

    “It’s totally different this time around,” Pekka Rinne said. “I think Mike last year, I think everybody saw that coming. Everybody agreed. Everybody was really comfortable with it. I think now we have, in my opinion, at least four great options to choose from.”

    Note: the Predators would be wise not to pull a Canucks with Roberto Luongo as captain experiment, even if Rinne’s easily one of the team’s leaders.

    Some of the most obvious options include young-yet-veteran defenseman Roman Josi, big-dollar-center Ryan Johansen, and star blueliner P.K. Subban.

    (Honestly, though, it’s difficult to imagine Subban wearing the “C” after all the weird, Listerine-scented stuff with the media happened during the 2017 Stanley Cup Final.)

    As strong as those options are, it sure feels like Josi is the favorite, especially since he’s been around longer than Subban, Johansen, and Viktor Arvidsson.

    Vegas oddmakers agree:

    And so do reporters covering the team on a day-to-day basis:

    One moment of devil’s advocacy, though: Subban, Johansen, Arvidsson, Filip Forsberg, and Mattias Ekholm all have more term on their contracts than Josi, who is a bargain at $4M for three more seasons.

    OK, that’s kind of a weak argument, but hey … sometimes it’s a pain to have to deal with captain questions so often, and you never know if the team might determine that Josi is expendable, considering their deep war chest on the blueline.

    Nah, Josi’s probably the easy and correct choice. Right?

    * – Including Cory Curtis of WKRN-TV and Justin Bradford of 102.5 The Game.

    Duchene dusts off ‘one day at a time’ for Avalanche trade questions

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    The Denver Post’s Mike Chambers posted an exclusive video interview with Matt Duchene, who was verbose …

    … Compared to the terse statement he provided, without questions, last week regarding what must seem to him like ubiquitous Colorado Avalanche trade rumors.

    Check out Duchene’s comments in the video below, which seem to mix saying a lot of the right things – and finding a new way to use the “one day at a time” cliche – with a little bit of edge that makes you wonder how well he’ll contain his frustration in other situations.

    How often will he be available for such questioning on the road, particularly in big media markets and/or around reporters covering teams who’ve long been connected to Duchene?

    Either way, Chambers’ video is another reminder that, for all the times people roll their eyes at canned responses during press conferences and locker-room interviews, reporters can get less-guarded moments where you can parse out greater truths.

    (And, hey, it’s nice to give Duchene a chance to make faces that seem a little less … depressed?)

    Chambers transcribes an especially intriguing part at the end of the interview (click here for more transcriptions from Chambers at the Denver Post, if video isn’t an option or your preference).

    What if he’s not traded? “I’m not looking that far (ahead),” he said. “I’m taking one day at a time.”

    Hmm, interesting, right?

    /Refreshes the #FreeDuchene hashtag.