Jason Brough


Still no arena announcement, but Coyotes president is ‘more confident and excited’ than ever


The Arizona Coyotes don’t have a place to play beyond this season, and you’d think that would cause some concern.

Publicly, however, the club has maintained an optimistic attitude that a new arena will, indeed, get built in the Phoenix area.

“I’ve never been more confident and excited about the process than I am today,” team president and CEO Anthony LeBlanc said Sunday, per Arizona Sports. “Admittedly, these things take more time than any of us expected and humbly, this is the first time I’ve ever been involved in such an extensive development project so I didn’t appreciate that, but people should be comforted by the knowledge that we anticipate communication in the very near future.”

The Coyotes announced in June that they’d picked a site to build the rink; however, they did not name the site. LeBlanc also said at the time that there was a backup plan in case the site did not pan out.

The club has not handled expectations very well during this process, but if it can get something done, all that will be forgotten by the fans.

The Coyotes’ lease in Glendale expires on June 30. It’s possible they could extend the lease while a new arena is built, but you know the drill by now — we’ll have to wait and see how it all shakes out.

Related: The Coyotes ‘have every intention of leaving Glendale as soon as practicable’

Rodin making a good second impression with Canucks


Anton Rodin‘s second stint in North America is off to a promising start. The 25-year-old winger scored his second goal of the preseason last night for the Vancouver Canucks. Both goals have been one-timers, the first off a pass from Troy Stecher, the second from Bo Horvat.

It’s the kind of finishing the Canucks have been looking for, after they finished with the second-fewest goals in the NHL last season.

Rodin was originally drafted by Vancouver, all the way back in 2009. In 2013, after two disappointing seasons in the AHL, he returned to Sweden and found his game with SHL club Brynäs IF.

In January, Rodin suffered a freak, season-ending knee injury during practice, but with 37 points (16G, 21A) in 33 games up to then, he’d already done enough to be named the MVP of the league. The Canucks signed him in March.

“The knee gets sore after games and some practices, but I think I just have to get used to all the work I have to do – the icing and stretching a lot,” Rodin said recently, per The Province.

“I have to live with it for a while. But I’m stronger and more confident than the last time I was in the NHL and it’s easier for me now. But I still have to bust my ass every day and that’s how I play my best. If I’m a hard worker, I’m a better player and if I’m not, I won’t be.”

There is plenty of competition for a roster spot among the Canucks forwards. Rodin has made a good impression. So have youngsters Brendan Gaunce and Joseph Labate. Ditto for veterans on PTOs Tuomo Ruutu and Jack Skille.

It could mean that 20-year-old Jake Virtanen, currently out with a shoulder injury, starts the season in the AHL. But there are still three preseason games to go, so for now, everything is up in the air.

Barret Jackman to announce retirement tomorrow in St. Louis

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He finished his career in Nashville, but Barret Jackman will always be remembered for his hundreds of games in a St. Louis Blues uniform.

That’s why Jackman will officially retire from the NHL tomorrow afternoon during a press conference at Scottrade Center, the home of the Blues. The 35-year-old defenseman played 803 games for St. Louis, before signing with the Predators last summer. He was bought out by Nashville in June.

Jackman was the Blues’ first-round draft pick (17th overall) in 1999. A tough, stay-at-home defenseman, he won the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s rookie of the year in 2003 and went on to finish with 186 points (29G, 157A) in 876 career games.

Jackman’s press conference will be attended by Blues owner Tom Stillman and GM Doug Armstrong, as well as two former Blues defensemen who are now in Hall of Fame, Chris Pronger and Al MacInnis.

Murray: Ristolainen’s good-faith gesture unlikely to sway talks with Sabres


BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) Buffalo Sabres general manager Tim Murray tells The Associated Press he doesn’t believe defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen‘s decision to join the team for practice without a contract will have any effect on thawing negotiations.

With a big laugh, Murray on Friday said the only way Ristolainen could speed up contract talks is if “he got all lovey-dovey” and elected to take the Sabres’ latest offer.

Ristolainen is a restricted free agent whose rights were retained by the Sabres in June. After representing Finland in the World Cup of Hockey, Ristolainen reported to the Sabres on Thursday in what was regarded as a sign of good faith.

Though he’s not allowed to play because he’s not under contract, Ristolainen is practicing with the team and also taking part in meetings. Ristolainen is not making himself available to reporters.

Murray says he didn’t see anything wrong with allowing Ristolainen to practice, saying he’d rather the player be in Buffalo than working out elsewhere.

Murray says the two sides are still negotiating.

In three seasons, Buffalo’s 2013 first-round draft pick has established himself as the Sabres’ top defenseman. Last year, Ristolainen led the team in averaging more than 25 minutes of ice time per game, and led Buffalo defensemen with 41 points (nine goals, 32 assists).

Schwartz injury increases focus on Blues who could step up


It was already going to be interesting to watch the St. Louis Blues without David Backes and Troy Brouwer.

Then came today’s news that they’ll be without Jaden Schwartz for at least the first two weeks of the regular season.

Now the focus really turns to players like Ty Rattie, the 23-year-old winger who’s piled up the points in the AHL but still has to establish himself as a regular NHLer.

Can he help fill the void?

“It’s him, it’s (Kenny) Agostino, it’s (Samuel) Blais, it’s (Magnus) Paajarvi,” said Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock, per In The Slot. “These are guys that, man, they can make our team be a little bit different here, quite a bit different and really be one of those teams where we’re dangerous right throughout our lineup if they can make the grade.”

Backes had 21 goals last season, while Brouwer chipped in 18. The Blues did partially answer their departures with the David Perron signing, but they’ll need others to step up as well. That includes veteran Alex Steen, whose goal totals have fallen from 33 to 24 to 17 in three consecutive seasons, and 20-year-old Robby Fabbri, who had 18 goals last season as a rookie, but has the talent to score more. Paul Stastny only had 10 goals last season. He can do better.

Schwartz, too, will need to stay healthy when he returns. He only played 33 games last season after fracturing his ankle in October. He has to be doubly frustrated after sustaining yet another injury in practice.

And, of course, Vladimir Tarasenko will need to keep scoring. He had 40 goals last season, the fourth most in the NHL. Any falloff there would hurt.

The Blues finished 2015-16 with 107 points, then made it all the way to the Western Conference Final for the first time since 2001. They still consider themselves Stanley Cup contenders.

But first things first, they have to get back into the playoffs.

“This is my sixth season in the Central Division and this looks like the most challenging year yet,” Hitchcock told The Associated Press yesterday. “The crunching between the top and bottom started last year, and it’s going to be closer this year.”