Joe Yerdon

Veteran goalie Leighton off to KHL

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The NHL won’t have Michael Leighton to kick around this season.

The former Flyers and, more recently, Blue Jackets goalie is off to the KHL to play for Donbass Donetsk in the Ukraine according to the team’s website.

Leighton is best known as the goalie who helped lead the Flyers to the Stanley Cup Final in 2010, but his career since then has seen him battle injury, bouts in the AHL and a trade to Columbus last season.

Last season, he played in just one game for the Flyers and was bombed on for five goals allowed in a loss to Tampa Bay. With Donbass, he’ll get to suit up with former Flyers teammates Ruslan Fedotenko and Oskars Bartulis.

Daniel Alfredsson’s troll game is strong

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It’s been the summer for offseason drama that never stops in Ottawa as new Detroit Red Wing Daniel Alfredsson and Senators owner Eugene Melnyk have traded versions of their story of what happened and who to blame for him signing with the Wings.

The fun never ends, however, as players are back in Ottawa skating in preparation for training camp and that includes Alfredsson. Allen Panzeri of the Ottawa Citizen snapped this picture of him skating with some of his former Sens teammates and wearing very familiar gear.

Daniel Alfredsson may not win any personal awards this season, but he’s locked down the “Troll Job of the Year.”

Colorado’s defense could lead to an avalanche of goals against

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One thing the Avalanche weren’t very good at last season was preventing opponents from scoring goals. They were 27th in goals allowed which was a leading reason why they wound up in the NHL Draft lottery and picking first overall.

A big part of the blame for that fell on their defensemen. Bad news Avs fans: Not much has changed back there.

The two subtractions from last year’s team were Shane O’Brien and Greg Zanon. The latter was brought in to be a defensive stopper and failed to do much stopping at all. Meanwhile, O’Brien struggled to get into the lineup most of the season.

The only addition made to this year’s team was Cory Sarich who came over in a four-player swap with Calgary and he played rough third-pairing minutes on an equally defensively inept Flames team. He also wasn’t very good.

There are a couple of young guys who offer hope and will get thrown into the fire more this season.

Tyson Barrie is just 21-years-old but he led the team in average time on ice over his 32 games (21:35). Incredibly, he also led all defensemen in points with 13. His advanced numbers were strong which means he could (should?) see more responsibility on the blue line.

Likewise, Stefan Elliott, 22,  should get more time this season. In 18 games last season he had a goal and three assists and, like Barrie, put up respectable advanced numbers. The play of those two made it acceptable to part ways with Zanon and O’Brien.

The rest of the group with Hunwick, Erik Johnson, Jan Hejda, Ryan Wilson, and Andre Benoit all offer complementary parts but not an overly dominating game.

Johnson should be the best of the bunch but has never taken the reins as a true No. 1 defenseman. Hejda is their “defensive stopper” and Wilson has a steady all-around game. Benoit and Hunwick could wind up fighting for the sixth spot with Sarich.

Long story short, it’s a flawed bunch with a pair of hopeful youngsters and a third, Duncan Siemens, waiting down the road. Semyon Varlamov and Jean-Sebastien Giguere had better be ready for another busy season in goal.

Colorado’s crew of centers will lead the way

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Say what you will about the Colorado Avalanche but one thing you have to admit is they’re loaded with talent up the middle.

They were already a strong team last season at the center position with Paul Stastny, a revitalized Matt Duchene, and a retained Ryan O’Reilly. This summer they added No. 1 overall pick in the draft Nathan MacKinnon and suddenly the Avs aren’t lacking for scoring ability anywhere at the pivot.

With four guys who could run the show at center, coach Patrick Roy already said he was relieving the logjam by moving O’Reilly to left wing to relieve the pressure. It’s a good problem to have if you’re a first-time NHL coach but it shows how much the Avalanche have going for them.

As it is, Roy mapped out how he sees his top three lines as is and it looks good.

Alex Tanguay – Paul Stastny – Gabriel Landeskog
Ryan O’Reilly – Matt Duchene – P.A. Parenteau
Jamie McGinn – Nathan MacKinnon – Steve Downie

If MacKinnon comes as advertised, the Avs are rolling with three lines that can put the puck in the net. McGinn has shown the ability to finish and Downie, who’s returning from injury, can score a little and get rough as needed.

There’s a lot to like about what the Avs have going up front and the kind of production they got from Duchene (17-26-43) and Stastny (9-15-24) last season shows the top two lines will be well taken care of. Duchene and Parenteau each had 43 points last year. A healthy Landeskog and Tanguay should help Stastny pick up his offense.

If nothing else this season, the Avs will be able to score goals in bunches.

Hitchcock says Halak is healthy and ready to start

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Remember the rumors of there being issues between Blues goalie Jaroslav Halak and coach Ken Hitchcock at the end of last season? There was even talk that it could lead to the goalie being moved this summer.

Turns out all was well with Halak and he’s healthy and ready to get started on a new season as Hitchcock tells Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

“He’s a really young guy and you don’t want to have an injury-plagued career. So he wanted take the question marks out of it by having a really high fitness level. He’s done a really good job of finding that fitness level.”

Part of the talk of that discord last season centered around him not getting into games late in the season. As it turned out, he just wasn’t 100 percent healthy.

Even more encouraging for Halak was the talk from Hitchcock how he didn’t lose his starting job because of his play but because of his health. Since there will be three-way competition to play in St. Louis between him, Brian Elliott, and Jake Allen, things are looking up for Halak.