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Davidson could make Habs debut, replacing Emelin

Montreal Canadiens fans may get their first look at Brandon Davidson tonight in Vancouver.

Davidson, acquired last week in a trade with Edmonton, is expected to make his Habs debut against the Canucks. The 25-year-old defenseman is likely to replace struggling veteran Alexei Emelin.

“I really hope that I’m able to get in there,” said Davidson, per the Montreal Gazette. “It’s been a little while now. I sat a couple of games before the (trade) deadline trying not to get hurt. So I’m ready, I’m excited. I can’t wait to go.”

As for Emelin, head coach Claude Julien doesn’t expect the 30-year-old Russian to be out for long.

“He should be an everyday line-up guy. He’s that good,” Julien said of Emelin. “He’s just struggling a little bit. Some decision-making, with the puck, without the puck. Sometimes, just taking a step back and maybe give him an opportunity to watch, if that’s the case, he’ll come back a better player. I know we need him. He’s a very physical player. He’s a hard player to play against.”

The Habs kick off their Western Canada road trip riding a five-game winning streak. They’re in Calgary Thursday and Edmonton Saturday.

Frustrated Panthers need to pounce on Rangers

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The Florida Panthers, desperate for wins, need to take advantage of a tired opponent when the New York Rangers pay a visit tonight.

The Rangers played a hard-fought game last night in Tampa, where they beat the Lightning, 1-0, in overtime.

The Panthers, meanwhile, haven’t played since Saturday when they lost, 2-1, at home to Dallas.

After sweeping a five-game road trip, Florida has now dropped five of its last six.

Read more: Tom Rowe calls out Reilly Smith after loss to Dallas

“I would be lying if I said we weren’t frustrated,” captain Derek MacKenzie said, per the Miami Herald. “We may not be playing our best hockey, but we’re doing enough good things to come up with a few more points.”

Added forward Nick Bjugstad, “We need to find ways to score. Last game we had 40-something shots and I, for one, had great chances and just need to bear down on them.”

The Panthers will enter tonight’s action two points back of the Islanders for the second wild-card spot in the East. The Toronto Maple Leafs are also in the mix, and they host Detroit tonight.

NHL GMs discuss evolution of the game

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Meeting today in Florida, NHL general managers were asked to gaze into their crystal balls and imagine the league five or 10 years down the line.

It was a brainstorming session, pure and simple. No idea was too radical to propose.

The topics the GMs ended up discussing ranged from awarding three points for a win in regulation to making it illegal for players to slide to block a shot.

“You need an act of God to get a puck through from the point into where a goalie has to make a save,” said Flames GM Brad Treliving, per NHL.com’s Dan Rosen.

It’s not clear if any idea gained much traction, or if there were really any new ideas. In 2008, then-Canadiens GM Bob Gainey proposed a rule that said players had to have at least one skate on the ice to block a shot. Obviously, that proposal didn’t go anywhere.

At the very least, it’s refreshing that GMs were asked to get creative and come up with ways to improve the game. Traditionalists may balk at some of the proposed ideas, but the action on the ice is constantly evolving. Sometimes, changes are warranted.

Tomorrow it’s expected the discussion will focus on the offside challenge and how the video review process in general can be sped up.

Pre-game reading: Who are the top college free agents?

— Up top, Henrik Borgstrom is a Florida Panthers prospect who’s currently ripping it up for the No. 1-ranked University of Denver. The 19-year-old forward, a first-round draft pick in 2016, has scored a number of spectacular goals for the Pioneers.

— Starting with Northeastern’s Zach Aston-Reese, NHL.com has a list of the top 10 undrafted college free agents that will soon be able to sign with NHL teams. Aston-Reese is a 22-year-old forward who has 30 goals and 32 assists for the Huskies this season. (NHL.com)

Adam Clendening is none too pleased about coming out of the Rangers’ lineup tonight in Tampa. “I’m a little bit surprised, for sure. Just when I thought I was getting my chance and looking to take advantage of my opportunity because of the couple of injuries — that you never want to see, but happen — I had the game Saturday where I think the stat line looked worse than it actually was.” Clendening will be replaced by call-up Steven Kampfer. (New York Post)

— A profile of Connor McDavid, the Edmonton Oilers’ 20-year-old superstar. Says Bobby Orr: “He’s one of those that comes along every once in a while.” And Orr should know, because he was one of those too. (Sports Illustrated)

— An interview with Golden Knights GM George McPhee, who signed the franchise’s first-ever player today. McPhee has already complete three mock expansion drafts. He called them “time-consuming and intense,” but necessary and useful too. “We’re pretty comfortable with where we are. We’re prepared to do it today if we had to, but we’ll keep working because things continue to change.” (National Post)

— The heart-warming story of 11-year-old Flames fan Olivia Lettich, whose new electronic glasses helped her watch a game on Sunday. “It’s super important because everyone else tells me what they see and sometimes I wish I could see it. These help a lot.” (Calgary Herald)

Enjoy the games!

With growth of Schultz, a ‘tough call’ looms for Penguins

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Sunday against Buffalo, Justin Schultz picked up his 11th goal and 33rd assist of the season.

With 44 points, the 26-year-old trails only Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson, Victor Hedman, and Duncan Keith in the scoring race among NHL defensemen.

To say the least, that is some fine company to be keeping.

Schultz has seen his career turn on a dime since being traded to Pittsburgh from Edmonton last season. He won a Stanley Cup in June, and now he’s become a “priority” for the Penguins to re-sign this summer.

“I don’t know where I’d be if I didn’t get traded,” Schultz told NHL.com recently. “Maybe I’m still there. My confidence was at an all-time low and I needed a change of scenery. I’ve got nothing against Edmonton at all. I enjoyed my time there. It was tough to get traded. I had a lot of good friends there, met a lot of people. But it was time for a change of scenery and it worked out well.”

Schultz’s play may also have changed the Penguins’ plans for the upcoming expansion draft. Obviously, they’re going to protect Kris Letang. And protecting Brian Dumoulin seems an obvious choice too. That means if Schultz is to be protected as well, they’d either have to trade Olli Maatta, leave Maatta exposed, or protect only four forwards (as opposed to seven).

“That’s a tough call,” GM Jim Rutherford said last month, per the Post-Gazette. “We have a bunch of good players at forward, and a bunch on defense. That’s something we won’t decide until after the year.”

Maatta has not played since Feb. 16 due to a hand injury. The 22-year-old has just one goal and six assists in 54 games this season.

A first-round draft pick in 2012, Maatta has struggled to build on the promise he showed as a rookie in 2013-14. He has a $4.1 million cap hit through 2021-22.

Related: The Penguins are playing Schultz to his strengths