Jason Brough

GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 18:  Valeri Nichushkin #43 of the Dallas Stars during the NHL game against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on February 18, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. The Coyotes defeated the Stars 6-3.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Stars GM hopes a ‘more mature’ Nichushkin will return to Dallas after KHL stint

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It sounds like Jim Nill has accepted the fact that Valeri Nichushkin is headed to the KHL.

“The good news is he’s 21 years of age, he’s going to play over there and keep developing,” Nill said yesterday, per Wrong Side of the Red Line. “I just hope we get a more mature player when he decides to come back over. It’s not the end of the world.”

CSKA Moscow announced today that Nichushkin had agreed to a two-year deal. “The agreement will be signed in the near future,” the club said in a statement.

This is not the first time a talented Russian youngster has chosen to leave the NHL for the KHL. The Winnipeg Jets lost Alexander Burmistrov for a couple of years, before he returned for last season.

Nichushkin’s biggest issue seems to be with Stars head coach Lindy Ruff. According to one report, the former 10th overall draft pick wants to return to Dallas one day, but he doesn’t want to play for Ruff.

Late last month, the Stars signed veteran winger Jiri Hudler, perhaps with the expectation they’d be losing Nichushkin.

Team USA facing long odds tonight against Team Canada

U.S. goalie Jonathan Quick stretches before an exhibition hockey game against Finland, part of the World Cup of Hockey, Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
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Including the exhibition schedule, Team Canada has played four games at the World Cup and outshot its opponents by a combined margin of 179 to 101.

That’s an average margin of 45 to 25, and it underscores the challenge Team USA will face tonight in Toronto. A loss of any kind for the Americans and they’ll have no chance of advancing to the semifinals.

At online sportsbook Bovada, Team Canada is at -300 on the moneyline, meaning a bettor would need to risk $300 to win just $100 on a Canadian victory. That’s a pretty measly return, but then, so are the chances of an American upset, according to most observers.

Jonathan Quick will be in goal again for Team USA. He was the main reason the Americans were able to beat the Canadians, 4-2, on Sep. 9 in exhibition play, stopping 29 of 30 shots in two periods, before Ben Bishop went nine for 10 in the third.

That same game, Carey Price struggled in Team Canada’s net, but it was his first start in nine months so he had a pretty good excuse. He’s since rediscovered his old form.

On Saturday, Quick allowed three goals on just 17 shots in a dismal loss to Team Europe, but he could hardly be blamed for the result. The first goal came on a 2-on-1; the second was on a 2-on-0. Even the third was tricky, as Pierre-Edouard Bellemare was able to tip a wobbly one-timer home.

“I think we’re going to be able to chip out some of the glorious odd-man rushes we gave them early on for a couple of freebies,” said head coach John Tortorella. “I think we’ll get those chipped out, but the part of the game that bothers me most is creating some scoring chances, some better quality scoring chances.”

So not only will the Americans need a big game from their goalie, they’ll need to find a way to score some goals. That’s no easy task against a stacked Canadian side that takes a ton of pride in its defensive game. The Canadians, dating back to the 2014 Olympics, haven’t surrendered a goal in their last three meaningful games. The Americans, in stark contrast, haven’t scored in their last three meaningful games.

As expected, Dustin Byfuglien will replace Jack Johnson in the Team USA lineup. Up front, it’ll be Brandon Dubinsky — not David Backes — who comes out to make way for Kyle Palmieri.

Related: Mike Babcock warns against Canadian complaceny

Isles sign Strome for two more years — can he bounce back?

Ryan Strome
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The New York Islanders have come to terms with forward Ryan Strome on a two-year deal with a reported cap hit of $2.5 million.

Strome, 23, was a restricted free agent. He had 28 points (8G, 20A) in 71 games last season for the Isles. He then added four points (1G, 3A) in eight playoff games.

But it was hardly a smooth year for the former fifth overall draft pick. He was sent to AHL Bridgeport for eight games in November, and he was an occasional healthy scratch in the playoffs. His point total fell from 50 (17G, 33A) in 2014-15.

That’s why, even after today’s announcement, there’s considerable pressure on Strome to bounce back this season. It remains to be seen how much leverage he’ll have, and where he’ll be, when his next contract negotiation takes place.

Shattenkirk, who expected to be traded, will wear an ‘A’ for the Blues

ST LOUIS, MO - MAY 23:  Kevin Shattenkirk #22 of the St. Louis Blues skates against the San Jose Sharks in Game Five of the Western Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scottrade Center on May 23, 2016 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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Kevin Shattenkirk expected to be traded this summer. His agent even called it “inevitable.”

And while it’s still possible the 27-year-old defenseman could be dealt in the next few weeks, it looks more and more like he’ll start the season as a member of the Blues, while wearing an ‘A’ on his jersey to boot.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has an informative story on Shattenkirk’s situation, and includes this tidbit about a phone call from head coach, Ken Hitchcock:

The Blues grew concerned about Shattenkirk’s state of mind because of the constant rumors, so Hitchcock phoned him.

“I was kind of in limbo, and I get a call from ‘Hitch,’” Shattenkirk said. “He said, ‘I don’t care where you are a year from now, or two years from now, I care where you are five minutes from now.’ I think that was good for me, to assume that mentality myself and know that I had to come in here and just enjoy it.”

“We talked about, ‘Can he put everything behind him to become a leader?’” Hitchcock said. “Where things go at the end of the year is out of our reach as a coaching staff. But we need to know how locked in you are … and he said he’s very locked in and wants to have a hell of a year. That’s when we put him in the leadership position.”

Shattenrkirk is a pending unrestricted free agent, which is why the trade rumors started in the first place. A realist about the business, he understands that the speculation about his future “is something that I think is going to go on all year.”

A lot could depend on how the Blues fare this season. If they’re good again, trading him at the deadline becomes less likely, at least according to their general manager.

“If you get to a part of the year and you have guys that are unrestricted and your team is no good, then you make those decisions,” Doug Armstrong said over the summer. “But if you have a good team and you have guys that are unrestricted, you just play it out.”

Related: Blues GM says he might just keep Shattenkirk

‘Make no mistake,’ Ryan Miller is still the No. 1 goalie in Vancouver

Ryan Miller
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It should be obvious by now that Jim Benning is extremely loyal to Ryan Miller. The Canucks’ general manager was instrumental in the drafting of the American netminder (almost two decades ago in Buffalo), and one of Benning’s first moves in Vancouver was to sign Miller to a three-year, $18 million deal.

And while 26-year-old Jacob Markstrom is most definitely on the rise, Benning insisted today that Miller, whose contract expires after this season, is still the man for the Canucks.

“Ryan Miller is our No. 1 goalie,” Benning told TSN 1040 radio (audio). “He’s a guy that, he has the experience, he had a good season for us last year. So let’s make no mistake about that, first and foremost, Ryan’s our No. 1 goalie, but I feel we have two real good goalies and that’s a strength of our team.”

Benning did watch Markstrom make a surprise start for Sweden yesterday at the World Cup, and he was “really happy” to see his young netminder stop all but one of the 28 shots he faced in a 2-1 win over Russia.

“I think this is a good step for him in his confidence and going forward, so I was happy that he played real good and his team won,” said Benning.

The message for Markstrom is that he’ll have to outplay the 36-year-old Miller to become the No. 1, and that’s certainly fair enough. Both goalies had similar save percentages last season. Markstrom’s was .915 in 33 games, Miller’s was .916 in 51 games.

Related: Canucks extend Markstrom through 2019-20