Jason Brough

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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.

After reportedly trying to trade him, Rangers put McIlrath on waivers

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The New York Rangers are rolling the dice that Dylan McIlrath won’t get claimed. They’ve put the 24-year-old defenseman on waivers, not long after reportedly trying to trade him.

McIlrath was the 10th overall draft pick in 2010, a selection that many felt was a reach by the Rangers. Six years later, he’s yet to establish himself as a regular in head coach Alain Vigneault’s lineup.

The big blue-liner has appeared in just one game this season, and he only logged 9:14 in it. Vigneault seems to have chosen offseason trade acquisition Nick Holden over McIlrath.

Despite the Rangers’ inability to trade him, it would not be a huge surprise if McIlrath gets claimed. His possession stats were solid last season, and defensemen with size and toughness are still coveted in today’s faster NHL.

McIlrath’s cap hit is $800,000. He can become a restricted free agent this summer.

A group wants to build an arena in Scottsdale, but the Coyotes don’t seem interested

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The Arizona Coyotes still don’t have a place to play next season, and based on a report, they don’t seem very interested in working with a group that wants to build a new arena in Scottsdale.

From Arizona Sports:

Multiple sources said the developer group working with the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community had a meeting scheduled with the Coyotes the day after the team’s Faceoff Luncheon and the day before the season opener on Oct. 15 to discuss the possibility of the Coyotes playing there, but the Coyotes cancelled the meeting at the last minute for unspecified reasons. No make-up date has been scheduled.

When reached Wednesday evening, Coyotes president and CEO Anthony LeBlanc had this to say: “Throughout this process we have had a number of groups solicit our involvement. This particular group and site are not one with which the Coyotes are working.”

Why the Coyotes don’t have interest in this particular project isn’t clear. It may be they’re 100 percent focused on another site, or it may be the deal just isn’t right for them.

But they’ll need to figure something out soon. Their lease at Gila River Arena expires after this season, and while they could probably extend that for a few years while a new arena gets built, they’ve been adamant that they’ll be leaving Glendale as soon as possible.

Certainly, this week’s news out of Seattle won’t quell the speculation that the Coyotes could be on the move, even if ownership has insisted over and over that the team has a bright future in the desert.

Ducks come to terms with Lindholm, so what happens now?

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And now we wait for the other shoe to drop, because according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, the Anaheim Ducks have come to terms with defenseman Hampus Lindholm on a six-year contract extension with a cap hit of $5.25 million.

It’s a win for the Ducks, who succeed in their quest to get Lindholm locked up with a lower cap hit than the Sabres got Rasmus Ristolainen ($5.4 million).

But will the Ducks now have to make a trade? It’s been rumored for a while that Cam Fowler could be dealt once Lindholm’s deal got done. Anaheim may prefer to trade a veteran like Kevin Bieksa or Clayton Stoner, but Bieksa has a no-movement clause, and there may not be a market for those two anyway.

The Ducks won’t get Lindholm back in the lineup right away, so there’s plenty of time for GM Bob Murray to make any moves that need to be made.

Lindholm, 22, had 10 goals and 18 assists in 80 games last season, logging 22:00 of ice time per game.