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Toffoli expects to be ready for training camp following knee surgery

Last season was frustrating for the L.A. Kings and, individually, for forward Tyler Toffoli, a sentiment he expressed during a conference call with reporters on Thursday.

The Kings missed the playoffs and finished 25th in the league in scoring with 199 goals for — a big reason why they didn’t qualify for the postseason. Failure to finish in the top eight in the Western Conference ushered in change, with general manager Dean Lombardi and coach Darryl Sutter getting fired.

For Toffoli, he missed 19 games because of a lower-body injury. It was later revealed after the season that the 25-year-old forward underwent surgery on his left knee.

“Things just didn’t go my way and it didn’t go the right way for a lot of the guys,” said Toffoli. “I think we’re all ready to just put that behind us … and be ready to come back next season.”

On Wednesday, the Kings signed Toffoli to a three-year, $13.8 million contract extension. There was more promising news the following day, as he confirmed he should be ready for the start of training camp.

Toffoli has been a critical offensive component for the Kings, particularly since the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs. He is a year removed from scoring a career-high 31 goals and 58 points, although his bottom-line offensive totals declined this season with just 16 goals and 34 points in 63 games.

As he alluded to in his comments, it wasn’t just Toffoli who struggled offensively last season. But he tried his best Thursday to put last season behind him. Of course, health can play a factor in a player’s production. He’s currently going through therapy following the operation on his knee, but seemed optimistic about its progress.

“Slowly getting it stronger and back to normal.”

 

Report: Sabres prospect Rasmus Asplund to remain in Sweden

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In the wake of the massive shakeup in the Buffalo Sabres organization earlier this offseason, prospect center Rasmus Asplund has reportedly decided to remain in Sweden for next season.

The Sabres selected the now 19-year-old Asplund in the second round, 33rd overall, of last year’s NHL Draft. He has spent the last three seasons with Farjestads BK in the Swedish Hockey League.

From the Buffalo News:

Asplund will remain in Sweden for another season, he told Värmlands Folkblad, a Swedish news service. He said he discussed the decision with new Sabres GM Jason Botterill.

“It’s very turbulent in Buffalo right now, considering that they will have new coaches in both NHL and AHL,” Asplund said, according to Translate.Google.com. “They want to have as many contract places as possible as they get together both NHL and AHL troops. And because I would not have played in NHL or AHL next season, there’s no need to mess up now.”

The Sabres, then under the direction of general manager Tim Murray, took Asplund with the second-round pick they acquired in the Dmitry Kulikov trade with the Florida Panthers. He scored six goals and 19 points in 39 games in Sweden this past season, while registering seven points in seven games at the world juniors.

The Sabres made headlines earlier this spring when they fired Murray and coach Dan Bylsma, and hired Botterill in May.

Home ice advantage: Predators well aware of reality they need a road win

With the Stanley Cup Final now a best-of-three series, the Nashville Predators face a reality if they are to win it all: They need to win at least once on the road.

They have a 5-5 record on the road in these playoffs, although that record took a hit earlier in this series with a pair of defeats in Pittsburgh, despite the Predators controlling the play during large portions of those games. Think back to the opener, when Nashville didn’t allow a shot on goal for 37 minutes.

And then Jake Guentzel snapped that by scoring on the first shot against Pekka Rinne since the first period and that turned out to be the winner. The biggest question facing the Predators after two games in Pittsburgh was the play of their goaltender, who entered this series with a .941 save percentage and as a Conn Smythe Trophy favorite.

The series flipped in Nashville, in part because Rinne returned to his earlier form.

“We know we can play better in this building,” said Predators captain Mike Fisher on Wednesday. “We know we’re going to have to. This is a team that Games 1 and 2, there were a few minutes where we liked our game for some of it, then other parts of it, they took over. They capitalized. We did a better job of managing the game that way in Games 3 and 4.”

One of the telling statistics in this series is that both teams have yet to win on the road — a trend the Penguins hope will continues with home ice advantage in Game 5 and, if necessary, Game 7.

“I’ve said it a few times, usually desperation wins the day,” said Predators coach Peter Laviolette on Thursday. “If you’ve got a team that has momentum and a team that’s got desperation, for me anyway, the scarier team is the one that’s got desperation.

“They still have home ice. Desperation should probably still fall on our side here where we know we’ve got to win a game in Pittsburgh. We know we’ve got to win one road game and then a home game to boot.”

Report: No negotiations yet between Wild and pending RFAs Granlund, Niederreiter

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Mikael Granlund had a career year.

Nino Niederreiter had a career year.

Both Minnesota Wild forwards are also on expiring contacts, pending restricted free agents and due for raises after scoring 26 goals and 69 points, and 25 goals and 57 points, respectively. In fact, Granlund had never scored more than 13 goals in a single season, before doubling that amount in a breakout 2016-17 campaign.

As of this week, the Wild had not started negotiations with either Granlund or Niederreiter, per Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

With key dates coming up in the NHL offseason — the expansion draft, a waiver/trade freeze, and the entry draft — Niederreiter’s name had reportedly come up in trade rumors last month.

From Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet:

An unusual name started circulating in trade circles the last few days: Minnesota’s Nino Niederreiter. The 24-year-old winger had a career-high 25 goals in 2016–17, and, after making a few calls, it sounds like teams are looking at the Wild’s expansion/cap situation, wondering if he could be available. Two years away from unrestricted free agency, Niederreiter is arbitration eligible and will get a nice raise from the $2.7 million he just earned.

The Wild also need to re-sign Mikael Granlund. As an exec from another team put it, “It may not be their first choice, but if you make it worth their while, it’s possible.” All GM Chuck Fletcher would say is, “We are actively listening… on everything.”

Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher has previously stated he’d like to keep both forwards in Minnesota. Of course, it depends on a number of variables. According to CapFriendly, Minnesota has $61.5 million committed to 15 players for next season.

“We’re going to try to find a way to keep them both here,” Fletcher told the Minneapolis Star Tribune last month. “Certainly there are ways to do it, but you can’t control everything. We need the cap ceiling, we need to know what will happen with expansion, there are other opportunities out there to improve our team.”

Pekka Rinne is ‘just living my dream’ in the Stanley Cup Final

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Pekka Rinne‘s time in the Nashville Predators organization predates the second lockout.

He’s been with this club since the 2004 NHL Draft. In their nine previous playoff appearances, the Predators never made it beyond the second round. The second round? They didn’t achieve that feat until 2011.

They showed signs last year of a team that could go on a prolonged playoff run. They lost in Game 7 of the second round with a roster full of promising young talent, and then went out in the offseason and landed P.K. Subban to add to an already good blue line.

This season didn’t start out so great for the Predators, and they qualified for the playoffs with a wild card position. Where they finished in the standings has become a distant memory.

After all of that time spent stopping pucks for Nashville and after those previous postseason defeats, Rinne and the Predators find themselves in the Stanley Cup Final, tied 2-2 against the Penguins with Game 5 on Thursday, in what has become a best-of-three situation for a championship.

He’ll take it.

At 34 years of age, and with more than 500 games played in the NHL, this is his first trip to the final.

“It’s amazing,” said Rinne, who was sensational in Games 3 and 4 in Nashville, helping the Predators even the series. “Best time of my life. Obviously you don’t want to look back yet, but I’ve been playing for a long time and never had this opportunity. So, it means everything to me right now. I’m just living my dream right now.”

Another Nashville veteran, Mike Fisher, who has been with the Predators since 2011, is in the midst of his second Stanley Cup Final appearance. He made it this far with the Ottawa Senators in 2007, but they were outmatched against the Ducks, losing quickly in five games.

The Predators captain is 37 years old, having celebrated the date two days ago with a win. After going through three rounds without even registering a point, Fisher has four assists in the final. But, as a pending UFA, he also currently doesn’t have a contract for next season, and at this juncture of his playing career, he may not get another opportunity to reach this point again.

“I’m trying to enjoy everything. I think the whole run is incredible,” said Fisher. “It’s a grind. It’s hard to get here, so when you do get here, you’ve got to make the most of it. I think our guys have done a good job of just staying focused and realizing what we’ve got to do.”

Despite the fact they’ve carried play for large portions of this series — not allowing a single shot on goal for a 37-minute stretch in Game 1 — the Predators fell behind 2-0 in the series, after the Penguins were able to score eight goals combined against Rinne in Games 1 and 2.

But in Nashville, the tables turned. The Predators not only dictated the play at times, but they were able to solve Matt Murray, while Rinne stood on his head. It has all come together to set up this scenario.

“It’s pedal down,” said Fisher. “We’re ready.”