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Melnyk thinks Sens can make deep playoff run

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OTTAWA, Ontario (AP) Senators owner Eugene Melnyk has new priorities following a life-saving liver transplant — and renewed focus on some old ones, too.

Away from the rink, he’s taking up a close-to-home fight. Melnyk launched his new foundation, The Organ Project, on Wednesday, with an aim on ending wait lists for transplant patient. Melnyk received a live liver donation in May 2015 and wants to take an active role in creating more awareness about organ donation.

Meanwhile, at Canadian Tire Centre, Melnyk’s hockey team is making a push for the postseason.

In the 14 years since he bought the Senators, Ottawa has played in the Stanley Cup Final once, in 2007. Since then, Ottawa has not made it past the second round.

Entering Wednesday night’s games, the Senators (29-19-6) were tied for second place in the Atlantic Division. A postseason berth is a real possibility, and Melnyk sees reason to be hopeful.

“I think now, finally, (we) have dug out of a three-year hole,” he said. “It was kind of sad. One out of three years you get into the playoffs, and you get blown out and the others you don’t get in. Now it’s exciting.

“I just think we have the potential, first, of getting into the playoffs and secondly, potentially going into the second, third and even the fourth round. I think finally I’ve become optimistic cautiously.”

With the trade deadline two weeks away, the Senators are still interested in adding a few pieces. However, Melnyk said he would wait until after Saturday’s game against Toronto before sitting down with general manager Pierre Dorion to discuss how to proceed.

“Did you see what they want for (Colorado forward Matt) Duchene and stuff? Oh my God,” Melnyk said. “It’s going to be silly because there’s so many competitive teams, especially in our conference. From bottom to top, even if I was at the bottom I’d still have hope. I think it will be way too expensive, and we’re not going to jeopardize our future. Everyone wants our young stars and I don’t blame them.

“I think we’re going to be smart about it to build a longterm base and a longterm team, but we’re urgently wanting to win of course.”

Melnyk said he’s not opposed to bringing in a player or two, but doesn’t want to spend excessively. He added that team payroll is connected to how well the Senators can draw on home ice.

Over 31 home games this season, the Senators have averaged 16,336 spectators at Canadian Tire Centre. That’s well below the arena’s capacity of 18,572.

“It’s a catch-22,” he said. “You need more people to come to the games to spend more to get a better team and the better your team is the more people come.”

Melnyk is also hopeful the league will soon announce an outdoor game for December.

“We’re done as far as the Senators are concerned, we’re all in,” he said. “We’ve made our deals. I think all the other parties, which includes the city, OSEG, the NHL, they have to do their deal. That’s the only reason. We’re done. We’re in. I want to do it. I’m excited about it.”

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.