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Habs prospect Reway: ‘It’s going to be difficult’ in comeback from heart condition

BROSSARD, Quebec (AP) Martin Reway was happy just to be on the ice with other prospects when the Montreal Canadiens opened rookie camp Thursday.

The 22-year-old Slovak missed a full season recovering from a heart problem, setting back the development of one of the most gifted players in the Canadiens’ system.

Reway would not say exactly what the illness was, other than it was a virus that put him in hospital for a month and required most of a year to overcome.

“After a long time, it’s a great opportunity for me to be back,” the 5-foot-8, 170-pound forward said. “I know it’s going to be difficult to get on track again but I’m working hard in practice here, trying to get better and I’m hoping it’s going to go as quickly as possible.”

The Canadiens are just as anxious to see what effect a year off has had on Reway, who dazzled while leading underdog Slovakia to a bronze medal at the 2015 world junior championship.

He was drafted in the fourth round in 2013, while he was putting up 112 points in 90 games over two seasons with the Gatineau Olympiques of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He later played for Sparta Prague in the Czech Republic and had a short stint with Fribourg in Switzerland before falling ill.

Doctors found a problem during a routine checkup a week before Reway was to leave for the Canadiens’ rookie camp last summer.

“I didn’t feel well so they kept me there and found out I had a serious problem with the heart, so I had to rest,” he said. “I had high fever. It happened so quickly I don’t know. I wasn’t able to do any workouts or any movements in the first three or four months. When you’re a hockey player, you know how hard it is to stop doing what you love. I had to rest up for a bit. But when you come back, you’re more excited, I think.”

Reway spent the season resting and resuming the economics studies he’d let slide when he joined Gatineau. He described his year as a “bore,” adding “I hope I’m not going to have to study any more because I’m not interested. I spent more time with my family. That was the positive part of the virus.”

Now he wants to make up for lost time. Reway received the green light by Canadiens doctors to resume skating five weeks ago and was working out with a Slovak team before heading to camp.

On the first day, he didn’t look up to full speed but said his fitness will come gradually. He’s to take part in the main camp next week. It would be a longshot for him to make the NHL club this season, so he’s expected to begin the season with team’s AHL affiliate, which starting this season will be based nearby in Laval.

“I was surprised that my hands weren’t as bad as I expected,” he said. “Obviously, the legs, the cardio, weren’t that good, but that’s understandable after a year of not playing.

“Now I think it’s getting better every day that I’m on the ice. I believed all the time that I was going to come back. Sometimes in life, the things that happen to you, you can’t change. You have to fight it. I’m really happy I came through. It’s a good experience for me and I hope nobody’s going to see the difference.”

Reway said no longer needs to take medication and is confident there should be no further problems with his heart.

Reway was among 23 prospects in camp. They leave Friday for a rookie tournament in Toronto against Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators hopefuls.

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    Ducks’ duo of Getzlaf and Perry could reportedly be reunited

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    The Anaheim Ducks appear to be putting the band back together.

    With three preseason games remaining for head coach Randy Carlyle to nail down different line combinations ahead of the beginning of the regular season, reports out of Anaheim suggest he may be reuniting a duo that has had success in the past.

    From the Orange County Register:

    And there appears to be the reunion of Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry as linemates after the two largely played apart from each other last season. Perry did finish up with Getzlaf in the playoffs after Patrick Eaves went down to injury.

    The combination of Perry and Getzlaf has over the years, been able to dominate the opposition at times, using both their size — Perry is apparently the smaller of the two, listed at 6-foot-3 and 213 pounds — and skill to help drive the Ducks offensively.

    That doesn’t mean they haven’t been subject to separation in the past, just like any other line around the league at one point or another. That included last season, as the pair went through an offensive slump.

    Last season, the now 32-year-old Perry scored only 19 goals, which, if you exclude the 2013 lockout-shortened season, is the third lowest total for his entire career, and the lowest since 2006-07. Perry and Getzlaf were once again united during the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs, as the Ducks looked to jump-start the former while he endured a down year in the scoring department.

    “It’s a line I’m comfortable with,” Perry told the L.A. Times at the time of Carlyle’s playoff decision. “We played a lot of the year together and we had some good success in past years as well.”

    Canadiens’ Drouin ‘day-to-day’ with upper body injury

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    Some mildly concerning news for the Montreal Canadiens on Monday as the team announced Jonathan Drouin will not play in their preseason game tonight due to an upper body injury.

    He is currently listed as being day-to-day. He will be replaced in the lineup tonight by veteran forward Torrey Mitchell.

    At this point it is just something that is keeping him out of a preseason game, so it’s not really a huge deal at this point. Seeing as how the game doesn’t count there is no sense in risking further injury for a player that is going to be a key piece of this year’s roster. But the fact he still has something that is bothering him enough to keep him out of a game has to be at least a little bit of a concern for Canadiens fans.

    The Canadiens acquired Drouin this summer for top defense prospect Mikhail Sergachev and are counting on him to be an impact player. They also immediately signed him to a six-year, $33 million contract extension.

    The plan right now seems to be to try him out at center to help fill what might be the Canadiens’ biggest organizational need — a top-line, No. 1 center.

    Drouin is an exceptional talent and still has superstar potential and is coming off of a season that saw him take a huge step forward. In 73 games with the Lightning he scored 21 goals and added 32 assists. His 53 total points would have made him the third-leading scorer on the Canadiens. If he takes another leap in his development and solidifies that No. 1 center spot his addition could be a total game-changer for the Canadiens’ roster.

    The Rangers are keeping J.T. Miller at wing

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    When the New York Rangers traded center Derek Stepan to the Arizona Coyotes this offseason it created an opening at a pretty important spot in their lineup. With that new vacancy at center it seemed reasonable to conclude that J.T. Miller, coming off of a career year that saw him score 22 goals and record 56 points, would move back to his natural position on a more permanent basis.

    According to Rangers coach Alain Vigneault on Monday, that will not be the case to start the season.

    Vigneault announced on Monday that Miller is going to open the season playing on the wing, not necessarily because of anything he has or has not done, but because of the play of the other centers in Rangers camp.

    This would seem to be good news for 2017 first-round picks Filip Chytil and Lias Andersson. Both have not only been impressing the team at camp, but still remain in the running for a roster spot. With Jesper Fast currently sidelined due to an injury, Vigneault said it is possible both of the Rangers’ first-round picks could start the season on opening night roster.

    Along with the two draft picks, the only other move the Rangers made this offseason to address the center position was to bring in veteran David Desharnais.

    Mika Zibanejad, who was limited to just 56 games a year ago due to injury, will also be expected to take on a bigger role in what will be his second year with the team.

    The Rangers traded Stepan to the Arizona Coyotes over the summer in a deal that brought them back the No. 7 overall pick (used to select Andersson) and defenseman Anthony DeAngelo in an effort to create some cap space and help rebuild their defense.

    Jets’ Wheeler: ‘It just felt right to take a stance’

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    Winnipeg Jets captain Blake Wheeler was one of the few NHL players to make some sort of an unprompted statement in response to President Donald Trump’s weekend comments regarding NFL players and their protests during the National Anthem.

    During a speech in Alabama on Friday the President urged NFL owners to fire players that “disrespect” the flag by taking a knee during the National Anthem.

    On Saturday, Wheeler was critical of the President’s comments in a series of Tweets.

    On Monday, Wheeler was asked about why he spoke out and ended up talking for several minutes on the subject.

    “I think crossing over into the sports world it hits home a little more,” said Wheeler, via the Jets’ website. “I think a lot of people, similar to my wife and I, it has been kind of a slow boil. The rhetoric over and over, he has just kind of gone a little too far too many times. It just felt right to kind of take a stance.

    “There have been a lot of players who have felt a certain way, one way or the other, when you start coming into their territory a little bit. Some of the language that he used referencing NFL players, I think that was kind of the last straw for a lot of guys, whichever way they feel about it to voice their opinion.”

    Wheeler was later asked if he would support a teammate if they decided to take a knee during the National Anthem.

    “I’m absolutely for the first amendment,” said Wheeler. “I’m a big believer that what makes America a special place is you’re allowed to stand up for what you believe in. With just cause, if someone were electing to do that they would 100 percent have my support. Even if I don’t necessarily agree with why they do it it is their right to feel that way, it is their right to behave that way. If I didn’t agree with it, I would absolutely sit down, have a coffee, talk about it, try to understand why they feel that way and maybe you become a little more sympathetic.”

    His entire media session is available via the Jets.

    Jets coach Paul Maurice said he supported Wheeler’s Tweets while adding that Wheeler is “one of the finest gentlemen I’ve ever met.”

    During NFL games on Sunday pretty much every team took part in some sort of a protest during the National Anthem, including the Pittsburgh Steelers, Seattle Seahawks and Tennessee Titans who remained in the locker room prior to their games.

    The Pittsburgh Penguins, meanwhile, announced that they will be accepting their invitation to visit the White House just one day after the NBA’s Golden State Warriors announced they would not be attending.