Kreider won’t shy away from crashing crease vs. Price, Canadiens

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NEW YORK (AP) The New York Rangers don’t mind starting the Stanley Cup playoffs on the road.

After all, they led the NHL with 27 road wins in the regular season.

And the Rangers had 21 wins at Madison Square Garden this season, tied for the fewest home wins among the 16 teams that reached the postseason.

So playing the opening two games of their series at the Bell Centre in Montreal is not a big problem.

“Starting on the road here will give us a good chance to establish our playoff game,” Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi said. “Hopefully we’ll have good Games 1 and 2 and that’ll carry over to our barn for 3 and 4. I just think we’re worried about Game 1 and play that way throughout the whole playoffs.”

The teams last met in the playoffs in the 2014 Eastern Conference Final, best remembered for when Rangers forward Chris Kreider slid into Montreal goalie Carey Price and knocked him out for the series . The Rangers won the series in six games before losing to the Kings in the Stanley Cup Final.

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“My game hasn’t changed,” Kreider said. “For me to be effective, I need to go get to the crease. That’s where I’m going to score goals.”

Kreider, who led the Rangers with 28 goals in the regular season, expects to hear from the Canadiens fans.

“That’s one thing in particular that I remember is that rink being energetic and really emotional,” he said. “They’ve got an incredibly passionate fan base so it’s a fun place to play.”

Here are some other things to look for in the matchup between Original Six franchises beginning with Game 1 on Wednesday night:

SEASON SWEEP

The Canadiens swept all three meetings in the regular season. Price had a 2.27 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage in those matchups and is 15-5-1 with a 1.82 GAA and .940 save percentage in his career against the Rangers.

“They’ve had some success against us the last couple of years, but I think our focus is definitely what we did a couple of years ago in the playoffs,” Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist said.

“They’re a great team. They have a lot of speed, good structure, a great goaltender, so it’s a going to be a good test and a great challenge for us.”

KING HENRIK

Going into the playoffs, Lundqvist leads all active NHL goaltenders in playoff appearances (116) and playoff wins (55), and he is tied for first among active goaltenders in playoff shutouts (nine).

INJURIES

Max Pacioretty, who led the Canadiens with 35 goals in the regular season, left practice Tuesday after getting hit by a stick. Coach Claude Julien said Pacioretty is expected to play. Canadiens defenseman Alexei Emelin will miss Game 1 with an injury. Shea Weber and Jordie Benn are expected to play.

FRESH START

The Canadiens fired coach Michel Therrien during the season and brought back Julien for his second stint with Montreal. The Canadiens went 16-7-1 under Julien and won the Atlantic Division after missing the playoffs in 2015-16.

“Every year it’s tough to make the playoffs so when you have that opportunity, you want to take advantage of it,” Julien said.

“You want to stay even-keel. You want to get ready to play. We play tomorrow and we’ll deal with the next day afterward.”

SLOW FINISH

The Rangers finished the regular season 8-9-4 but welcome the chance of a fresh start. They have reached the playoffs for the seventh straight season.

“Everybody has a clean slate and a great opportunity in front of them to make a difference and an impact in the playoffs,” coach Alain Vigneault said.

“This is what we worked for the whole season and what every player and coach works for, to get an opportunity to play for the Stanley Cup. We’re one of the 16 teams that have that opportunity.”

For more NHL coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey

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.