Jason Brough

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They ‘don’t have superstars,’ but the Wild are off to a hot start

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Eight games into the season, nobody on the Minnesota Wild has more than three goals, but nine players have scored at least twice, and seven more have done it once.

Indeed, it’s been a very balanced attack that’s helped the Wild to a 5-2-1 start. They smoked the Sabres, 4-0, last night in Buffalo. Four different players got goals, including defenseman Ryan Suter.

“That’s how we have to win,” Suter told reporters. “We don’t have the superstars. We need everybody on the team participating.”

It’s interesting that Suter would mention the lack of superstars, because that’s the exact same message head coach Bruce Boudreau was pushing when he took the job in May.

“As much as I like Ovechkin and Getzlaf and Perry, you don’t need those guys to win,” Boudreau said. “You can do it the old-fashioned way. You do it as a team.”

It’s only been eight games, so the Wild still have a lot to prove. They were outshot, 38-22, last night, and their possession stats propose the possibility that an unsustainably high shooting percentage and great goaltending from Devan Dubnyk (4-1-1, .944) have been the real keys to their winning start.

“He’s carrying us right now,” d-man Matt Dumba said of Dubnyk, “so we’ll ride that wave.”

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with getting great goaltending, and the Wild shouldn’t have to apologize for burying their scoring chances either. Puck possession isn’t everything in hockey, and at any rate, possession stats don’t have the greatest predictive power so early in the season.

For now, Boudreau’s superstar-less group gets the benefit of the doubt.

The Wild host Dallas Saturday and Buffalo Tuesday before hitting the road for games in Denver, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Ottawa.

With Lindholm signed, Ducks GM hopes to keep team together

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Just because they got Hampus Lindholm signed doesn’t mean the Anaheim Ducks need to make a trade right away.

First of all, the 22-year-old defenseman won’t be able to play until he gets a work visa, and that could take a week or two.

Secondly, even when he’s back in the lineup, Simon Despres (who’s got a suspected concussion, which is a “very sensitive issue”) and Nate Thompson (who ruptured his Achilles and may not be back before the trade deadline) will not be.

And with Despres and Thompson on LTIR, GM Bob Murray has some wiggle room, at least for now.

“I wanted to give this group another shot, and I’m going to do everything in my power to keep it that way,” Murray told reporters on a conference call, adding that he was thankful for owners who’ve allowed him to spend to the cap.

Which brings us to Cam Fowler. Here’s what the O.C. Register had to say about him:

Cam Fowler has long been seen as a potential cap casualty once Lindholm signed, but the Ducks do not want to trade him, given Fowler’s ability and meaning to the team. Fowler, who’s off to a hot start with three goals and four assists in eight games, has two years left on his deal at $4 million per season.

The Ducks have gone 3-0-1 since dropping their first four to start the season. Their next game is Friday at home to Columbus.

Related: Fowler surprised he wasn’t traded at draft

Vigneault explains decision to put McIlrath on waivers

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The New York Rangers took a gamble today, placing defenseman Dylan McIlrath on waivers for the purpose of assigning him to the AHL.

While it wouldn’t be a surprise if McIlrath gets claimed, for GM Jeff Gorton and head coach Alain Vigneault, it was a decision that couldn’t be put off any longer.

“Gorts and I and our staff had a long talk last night after the game, and we just felt that at this time, Dylan needed to play,” Vigneault said this morning. “We all appreciate him as a person, he’s done everything that has been expected of him, and more. But on our team right now, he’s our eighth defenseman, and keeping him here and not having him play and the money going against the cap…”

Vigneault added that Gorton “looked around” in search of a trade, but obviously no deal was made.

“Selfishly, I hope he clears waivers and goes to Hartford and plays,” said Vigneault. “But if somebody would pick him up and give him an opportunity, I’d be very happy for him.”

McIlrath, meanwhile, held himself accountable for the situation. The big blue-liner has appeared in just one game this season, and he only logged 9:14 in it.

“I’m never going to blame this on the coaches,” he said, per Brett Cyrgalis of the New York Post. “This was all about my play and not earning a spot in the lineup.”

It’s still early, but Preds looking nothing like Cup contenders

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The acquisition of P.K. Subban, after last season’s addition of Ryan Johansen, made the Nashville Predators a trendy preseason pick to win the Stanley Cup.

Six games into their schedule, however, and the outlook doesn’t seem so rosy. Last night’s 6-1 loss in Anaheim left the Preds with a 2-4-0 record, and one frustrated head coach.

“We have to be tougher to play against, just generally speaking,” said Peter Laviolette, per NHL.com. “[Even-strength] play wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either. Specialty teams just swung the pendulum tonight in the wrong direction, the shorthanded goals and the power-play goals were too much for any team. We have to do a better job just being harder to play against, defending our goaltender and defending our end better. We gave up too many chances.”

The Ducks scored three times on the power play and twice while shorthanded. Obviously, special teams was the big factor last night.

But like Laviolette noted, the Preds weren’t great five-on-five either, and they haven’t been great in that situation all season. In fact, per Hockey Analysis, they’ve been outscored 12 to 6 in five-on-five action. It’s their power play, which has converted 10 times already, that’s kept their start from being a serious disaster.

It’s only been six games, so there’s no need to panic quite yet. But the Preds play tonight in Los Angeles and Saturday in San Jose, so it’s not going to get easier any time soon.

Canucks recall a forward, the day after Virtanen complained about ice time

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The Vancouver Canucks have recalled forward Mike Zalewski from AHL Utica. To make room on the roster, they’ve placed defenseman Chris Tanev on injured reserve (lower body).

With Zalelwski recalled, the Canucks now have an extra forward, and that’s somewhat noteworthy after 20-year-old winger Jake Virtanen aired some grievances yesterday.

The way Virtanen sees it, he hasn’t been able to get in a groove this season because he hasn’t played enough with the same linemates.

“The lines have been changed pretty much every day and you like to have good chemistry with your linemates. And with Bo (Horvat) and Baertsch (Sven Baertschi), we do have good chemistry,” Virtanen told reporters Wednesday, per the Vancouver Sun. “But when we’re switched around a lot, it’s hard to get going, but I just have to suck it up and play my game every night. But it’s hard to keep it going.”

Virtanen, the sixth overall draft pick in 2014, made the Canucks out of training camp, in part because of an injury to winger Anton Rodin. At the time, GM Jim Benning warned that, should Virtanen’s play fail to meet an NHL standard, the AHL could be an option down the road.

In five games this season, Virtanen has no points and is averaging just 9:56 of ice time. His most common linemates have been Horvat and Baertschi, but he was on the fourth line in Tuesday’s disappointing loss to Ottawa, and he barely saw the ice in the third period.

Head coach Willie Desjardins told TSN 1040 radio this morning that Zalewski is unlikely to play, unless there’s an injury, so don’t expect Virtanen to sit Friday against the Oilers. But the situation will be monitored closely in Vancouver, because Virtanen has yet to meet the standard that’s been set for him.

“I think Jake maybe is a little frustrated with things, so I understand that,” said Desjardins. “I think with his game, there’s certain expectations we have. … I think Jake has the talent to be a top-nine (forward) for sure, even a top-six. He could be a power forward. He’s got power, he can shoot the puck, he goes to the net, he’s got lots to his game that makes him a good player.

“But obviously if he was doing all those things right now, I’d be playing him more and he’d be playing up the lineup with regular players.”

Desjardins added that there have been “numerous” conversations with Virtanen about expectations, and that if Virtanen isn’t “pushing himself” in Vancouver, “then maybe he does have to get ice time some place else,” i.e. in Utica.

But for now, Virtanen still has a chance to stick in the NHL. It’s up to him whether he remains, said Desjardins.