<span class="vcard">Mike Halford</span>

Montreal Canadiens v Boston Bruins

Report: KHL club monitoring Khokhlachev situation in Boston (Updated)

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A new wrinkle in the Alexander Khokhlachev-Bruins saga.

Just a few days after Khokhlachev said Boston “should make a decision with me” and “give me a chance,” reports out of Russia say KHL powerhouse SKA St. Petersburg is keeping an eye on the talented center.

Per Russian news agency TASS, SKA — which acquired Khokhlachev’s rights this summer — is “closely following” the situation, with KHL board of directors member Roman Rotenberg reportedly saying a return to Russia is “possible.”

Khokhlachev, 22, was the 40th overall pick in 2011 and has proven to be a quality scorer at the AHL level, notching 100 points in 126 games with Providence over the last two years. “Koko” has only seen limited time with the Bruins, however — four games — and appears frustrated at his inability to secure a full-time spot at the NHL level.

“I’ve been waiting two years so [the Bruins] should make a decision: give me a chance [in the NHL] or…I don’t know,” he said recently, per CSNNE. “We’ll see what they do. I’m not a young guy anymore. I’m 22 already.

“If they don’t give me a chance to play while I’m here…I won’t play in Providence all of my life. I’m still waiting for [my chance].”

Khokhlachev has one year left on his entry-level contract, and is in tough to crack the B’s roster out of camp (he’s also waiver exempt, so they can send him to Providence without losing him.)

He’d presumably need to beat out either veteran Chris Kelly or first-year Finnish signing Joonas Kemppainen for a spot at center, though the Bruins could toy with the idea of moving Khokhlachev to the wing.

Updated: CSNNE’s Joe Haggerty spoke with Khokhlachev’s agent, Alexei Dementiev.

“At the present time Alexander Khokhlachev is at the Boston Bruins training camp, has one more year [on his] NHL deal and does his best to be the Bruin,” he said. “In this circumstance we can’t and we don’t talk to SKA St. Petersburg, the KHL team, who has his rights in Russia.

“Regarding Alexander’s interview several days ago, all I can say that we really want hockey people to hear how much he wants to be an NHL player and nothing about complaints or other innuendo — just a simple statement of facts.”

Ahead of schedule: Lehtera (ankle) ready to return to Blues practice

Jori Lehtera
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Looks like Jori Lehtera‘s surgically-repaired ankle is doing well.

Lehtera, who went under the knife on Aug. 4, is set to return full team practice in St. Louis tomorrow, the team announced on Thursday. The announcement comes after the club initially said Lehtera would need 6-8 weeks of recovery time before he started skating, let alone get back to practice.

https://twitter.com/allsmandrew/status/647082607247622145

It’s a good development for the Blues.

Lehtera, 27, is coming off a very good first year in St. Louis — he scored 14 goals and 44 points in 75 games, earning a nice three-year, $14.1 million extension in July.

 It’ll be interesting to see where Lehtera fits in the lineup this year, though. He spent most of last season centering Vladimir Tarasenko, but Tarasenko opened camp with Paul Stastny as his new center, and the pair looked dangerous together in St. Louis’ preseason opener against Columbus.

Detroit sends ’15 first-rounder Svechnikov back to junior

Evgeny Svechnikov
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Evgeny Svechnikov’s first NHL training camp is done.

Svechnikov, Detroit’s first-round pick (19th overall) at this year’s draft, has been returned to his junior team in the Quebec League, the club announced on Thursday.

The 18-year-old never had a chance of cracking the Red Wings roster this year, so his demotion shouldn’t come as any sort of surprise. Svechnikov got a brief taste of NHL hockey, appearing in Detroit’s 5-4 OT loss to the Blackhawks on Tuesday, getting just over 12 minutes of ice time.

Out since January, Franzen (concussion) suits up for Wings

Detroit Red Wings v Edmonton Oilers
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Detroit forward Johan Franzen will play for the first time in seven months tonight when the Wings host the Penguins in exhibition action at the Joe.

Franzen, plagued by post-concussion symptoms since taking this hit from Edmonton’s Rob Klinkhammer in January, was medically cleared to return prior to training camp and has been practicing regularly over the last few weeks.

But he knows he’s pretty susceptible to another concussion.

“If I would get a really bad hit again, and I would feel the same way again, that’s probably it,” he said earlier this week, per WXYZ Detroit.

Franzen is a Red Wing to watch this season.

His lengthy deal — an 11-year, $43.5 million contract with five years left on it — has always been a bone of contention with Detroit fans, partially due to the fact the 35-year-old has had troubles staying healthy.

Franzen has missed 77 games over the last two seasons, and scored a career-low seven goals in ’14-15.

Zuccarello to play first game since skull fracture

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Tonight will be a special night for Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello, as he’ll play for the first time since suffering a brain contusion that left him unable to speak.

Zuccarello, who had his skull fractured by a Ryan McDonagh shot during New York’s opening-round playoff win over Pittsburgh in April, will skate on a line with Rick Nash and Derick Brassard on Thursday evening when the Rangers take on the Bruins in Boston.

“I just want Zucc to have fun tonight,” Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault said.

The 28-year-old, who underwent weeks of speech therapy following the incident, has been medically cleared to resume play and build upon last year’s solid campaign, in which he scored 49 points and averaged a career-high 17:16 TOI per night.

This year also marks the start of Zuccarello’s contract extension — a four-year, $18 million pact that carries a $4.5M average annual cap hit.