So far, Ducks – Oilers series has been about ‘road-ice advantage’

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What we have learned during the second-round playoff matchup between the Anaheim Ducks and Edmonton Oilers is that home-ice advantage means nothing.

One of these clubs will take a 3-2 lead Friday night when the series moves back to the Honda Center in Anaheim.

The best-of seven set is now a best-of-three after each team won twice on the road.

Edmonton took the first two games, giving up a total of four goals. However, when the series shifted to Rogers Place, so did the Oilers’ hopes of a quick conclusion.

Anaheim got a goal from Jakob Silfverberg 45 seconds into overtime Wednesday night for a 4-3 win in Game 4 to even the series.

The Ducks moved into position to do so after cruising to a 6-3 victory on Sunday behind two goals from Silfverberg, who has emerged as an unsung playoff hero for Anaheim with seven goals, including two game-winners.

The right wing entered the playoffs with eight goals in 48 career postseason games.

Ryan Getzlaf, meanwhile, keeps producing for the Ducks. He had two goals and two assists, including one on Silfverberg’s Game 4 winner. It was the longtime center’s fifth multi-point game of the playoffs to give him a team-best 13 points.

Getzlaf also is tied with Silfverberg for the team lead with seven goals.

“It’s just another exclamation point on the type of player Getzy’s been for our hockey club,” Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. “He’s our captain. He’s our leader. He’s done a lot of things that go unnoticed.

“Now in these situations in the playoffs, he’s been a guy that’s stepped to the forefront and taken the bull by the horns.”

Anaheim’s captain, who turns 32 on Wednesday, has three goals and three assists in four home playoff games in 2017.

Though the Oilers are in the postseason since 2006, they’re in a familiar situation.

Edmonton’s opening-round series with the San Jose Sharks was tied at two games apiece after the Oilers were blasted 7-0 on April 18 in California. Coach Todd McLellan’s team responded by taking the next two games to advance and he expects the team to step up.

“We won two games in (the Ducks’) building. Obviously, it’s a road series,” he told the Edmonton Journal. “We’ll take road-ice advantage into Game 5.”

If Connor McDavid, the Oilers’ 20-year-old captain, is worried, he’s not showing it.

“We were in this same position last series,” he told the NHL’s official website. “We’re going into a building where we’ve had success before, we’re comfortable playing there.”

“You never want to play a series where you lose both games at home, but that’s the case for both teams. Now it’s a race to two.”

McDavid (four goals, three assists) is tied with former Duck Patrick Maroon for second on the team in playoff scoring, three points behind Leon Draisaitl.

The native of Germany has registered all 10 of his postseason points over the last six games. That included a four-point effort in a 5-3 victory to open the series on April 26 in Anaheim.

Getzlaf and Draisaitl rank first and second, respectively, in playoff scoring this season among Western Conference players.

Game 6 is scheduled for Sunday night in Edmonton.

NHL hopes to make inroads in China with preseason games

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SHANGHAI (AP) As the Vancouver Canucks held their first practice in Shanghai before their exhibition game with the Los Angeles Kings, a dense fog settled over the ice. The humidity in the arena was high and the players could barely see the puck.

Large dehumidifiers were rolled in and the mist eventually cleared, but the NHL has perhaps a bigger visibility problem in China – a country with little tradition of winter sports, hockey included. The league is hoping to turn that around with a major push in the country, beginning with its first two preseason games between the Canucks and Kings in Shanghai and Beijing this week.

The timing couldn’t be better for the NHL. With Beijing set to host the 2022 Winter Olympics, the government is putting a massive emphasis on developing winter sports. Hockey training programs and youth leagues are expanding across China, and the nation’s first professional team, the Kunlan Red Star, plays in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League.

With interest on the rise, the NHL believes it now has an opportunity to crack a market that has traditionally been more fixated on basketball and soccer.

“You don’t quite know what to expect the first time the game is coming here, but I’ve always believed that hockey is a game you need to see live,” Los Angeles Kings coach John Stevens said after Wednesday’s practice. “And once you see it live, you become hooked as a fan.”

A glance at the numbers shows just how far the NHL has to go. According to the International Ice Hockey Federation, China has just 1,101 registered players, compared with nearly 556,000 in the U.S. and more than 631,000 in Canada.

And the fan base in a nation of more than 1.2 billion people is still in its infancy. On Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, the NHL has just 47,000 followers, some of whom are obviously new to the sport. (One posted a question about the temperature of the arena and what was suitable to wear to the game.) The NBA, which hosted its first preseason exhibition games in China in 2004, boasts more than 33 million followers on Weibo.

“We’re learning a lot about how to market here and we’re learning a lot about how tickets are sold,” says David Proper, the NHL’s executive vice president of media and international strategy. “We’re just viewing this as Year 1 of a multi-year project and in Year 1 we may not knock it out of the park . but we can still build over time.”

Media exposure certainly helps. State broadcaster CCTV now televises five games per week to Chinese audiences and the Internet giant Tencent streams 14 games per week on its digital platforms, including the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The NHL also has an influential partner on the ground in Zhou Yunjie, the billionaire founder of a Chinese drinks packaging company who has devoted significant time and resources to building the game he fell in love with as a youth in Beijing. Zhou’s company, ORG Packaging, is the presenting partner for this week’s exhibition games.

“Hockey was actually quite common in northern China back in the ’60s and ’70s, so there is a foundation among the kids in those areas,” Zhou told The Associated Press at his company’s newly opened hockey training base in a Beijing suburb, which includes a fully stocked gym, physical therapy room and a hotel for players attending training camps.

Zhou said China’s hockey revival should focus on both universities and a professional league, using the North American, northern European and Russian systems as models.

“It will take time before ice hockey really becomes like a religion with young people as it is in the West,” he said. “But ice hockey will definitely catch on with lots of kids.”

One thing that will certainly help is developing a home-grown star similar to Yao Ming in basketball and Li Na in tennis. There are promising signs on this front, too.

Song Andong became the first China-born player to be drafted in the NHL two years ago, selected by the New York Islanders. The 20-year-old Song has committed to play at Cornell this season.

On Monday, the Vancouver Canucks signed 21-year-old Sun Zehao to an amateur tryout contract to serve as the team’s third goaltender for the China preseason games.

“He’s working with our goalie coach,” Vancouver coach Travis Green said. “He liked how quick (Sun) was, how competitive he was. . I just think it’s a great experience for him.”

The NHL should also get a boost in China as excitement builds for the 2022 Olympics. The league angered its players by deciding not to interrupt its season to allow them to take part in the 2018 Games in South Korea in February. That stance may change for 2022 in the much larger Chinese market.

To some, skipping the Pyeongchang Olympics is a missed opportunity to gain a bigger foothold in China.

“With 2022 coming up, winter sports are taking the leading focus of all sports in China right now – more so than football,” said Mark Dreyer, founder of the China Sports Insider website. “They’ll be promoting the Korea Olympics more than ever before.”

For now, the league is focused on taking its first baby steps in China, giving spectators in Shanghai and Beijing a good show.

“It’s going to be pretty cool, especially for people who have never really experienced it before,” Kings forward Tanner Pearson said. “It’s going to hopefully start something good here.”

 

Report: Up to eight teams have recently expressed interest in Duchene

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Another day, another development in the ongoing, lengthy Matt Duchene trade saga.

“Many teams are interested and many teams have been talking with (general manager) Joe Sakic of the Colorado Avalanche. Up to as many as eight teams over the last stretch of days,” said TSN’s Darren Dreger during Insider Trading.

“But the reality is none of these teams think they’re getting him. If you look at the Ottawa Senators, Pierre Dorion has been among the more aggressive and you look at the need he has with Clarke MacArthur out and Colin White out. But I’m pretty sure Ottawa doesn’t think they’re getting Matt Duchene. And the same applies to Montreal, Calgary, Vancouver, the Los Angeles Kings, the Nashville Predators and the Columbus Blue Jackets.”

Yesterday, it was reported in the Ottawa Sun that the Senators were making quite an aggressive push to try to land Duchene, the Avalanche center who has been for months the focus of trade speculation following yet another disastrous season for Colorado’s NHL team. That said, the same report added that the two sides aren’t close.

Duchene has two years remaining on his current contract — five years, $6 million annual cap hit — before he’s eligible for unrestricted free agency.

The Senators are dealing with a list of injuries up front right now, including the aforementioned MacArthur and White, the prospect center who got only a small sample of NHL playing time this past spring after his college season ended and he turned pro. The former did not pass his physical at the beginning of camp and the latter was announced as being out six to eight weeks with a wrist injury.

Last week, Duchene reported for training camp and gave a brief statement to reporters but didn’t take questions. He has since spoken to Mike Chambers of The Denver Post, calling his future with the Avalanche “day to day.”

“I’m not going to predict the future on my longevity here,” Duchene told The Denver Post. “I’m day by day. I’m just enjoying playing hockey. A lot got blown out of proportion. I said what I wanted to say then. Nothing’s changed since Thursday. I’m here to get better, I’m here for those reasons — that I said on Thursday.”

Trocheck’s upper-body injury not believed to be ‘anything serious’

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Vincent Trocheck scored a goal during Tuesday’s exhibition game versus Nashville, however the 24-year-old forward had his night limited by an upper-body injury.

Trocheck recorded 6:49 of ice time — the vast majority of that taking place on the power play — in the first period and missed the second and third periods.

Per reports, Trocheck was to have the injury re-evaluated today.

“He had an upper-body injury, I don’t think it’s anything serious,” Panthers coach Bob Boughner told 560 WQAM Sports Radio on Wednesday. “I expect him back for practice in the next couple days.”

Originally a third-round selection in the 2011 NHL Draft, Trocheck enjoyed a breakout season in 2015-16 with 25 goals and 53 points, emerging as one of Florida’s promising young forwards.

He followed that up with 23 goals and 54 points last season. That point total led the Panthers, a team that was decimated by injuries to a number of key players, particularly Aleksander Barkov, Aaron Ekblad and Jonathan Huberdeau.

After ‘a tough recovery and a long road,’ Tyler Myers is feeling healthy again

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The 2016-17 season wasn’t an easy one for Jets defenseman Tyler Myers.

The 27-year-old was limited to just 11 games because of a nagging groin injury that just didn’t want to go away. It was the first time in his NHL career that he was forced to sit out that long.

The good news, is that he appears to be fully healthy heading into this season.

“It was a tough recovery and a long road, but we got through it. I’m feeling good now and it’s exciting for me to be back on the ice with the guys,” said Myers, per the Winnipeg Sun. “You just have to put last year behind you and I don’t feel like it’s going to take too long to get back into the swing of things.”

On top of going through his own physical ailments, the Myers family was dealt another blow when their son, Tristan, was born five weeks prematurely and suffered a stroke.

Thankfully, Tristan’s now doing well, according to his father, and things are looking up for the entire family.

“There were so many things going on last year. I was getting treatment and then the personal stuff came up. It was a very strange year, but it was never in my mind that I wasn’t going to get back. I always knew I’d get back to this point. It just took a little bit longer, given what was going on.”

The Jets didn’t make the playoffs last season, but they have one of the deepest blue lines in the league heading into this season.

Myers is part of a group that includes Dustin Byfulgien, Toby Enstrom, Jacob Trouba, Josh Morrissey and Dmitry Kulikov, who signed with Winnipeg in free agency.

If the Jets miss the postseason again, it won’t be because of their blue line.

Getting back to Myers, it sounds like he’ll be making his preseason debut tonight against the Oilers: