Mike Halford

Edmonton Oilers v Arizona Coyotes

Oilers split camp: Reinhart in NHL group, Nurse in AHL

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Some interesting developments in Edmonton on Tuesday.

Like he did during his time in San Jose, head coach Todd McLellan created a clear divide in training camp by comprising one group mostly of NHLers, and the other of players destined for the American League.

The divide has already created a buzz on the Oilers’ blueline.

Griffin Reinhart, the former No. 4 overall pick acquired from the Isles at the draft, was in the NHL group while Darnell Nurse, the seventh pick in ’13 and considered the club’s top d-man prospect, was in the AHL group.

Not that Nurse was bothered by it.

“There’s a lot of guys in that first group who have played in the NHL or played pro hockey for a while,”  he said, per the Edmonton Journal. “I have some things to prove but it doesn’t matter what group you’re in, you’re in training camp and you are battling no matter what.”

The eight d-men in the NHL group were Reinhart, Andrej Sekera, Mark Fayne, Oscar Klefbom, Justin Schultz, Andrew Ference, Eric Gryba and Nikita Nikitin. All of them have extensive pro experience save Reinhart, who appeared in just eight games for the Isles last year (though he did play 59 games for AHL Bridgeport.)

The group doesn’t appear to be that tough to crack.

Despite skating with the AHLers, Nurse should be able to challenge for promotion to the NHLers — if anything, this is probably a motivational tactic, or something to remind the 20-year-old that everything is earned/nothing is given.

McLellan has already said as much. During his opening meeting with players, he explained that this is how camp would go, adding that it “creates a little bit of a competitive environment.”

Foley not expecting Vegas expansion approval at next week’s BOG

Gary Bettman, Bill Foley
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From the Review Journal:

Prospective NHL team owner Bill Foley said he does not anticipate the National Hockey League awarding Las Vegas a new franchise at league meetings next week.

NHL officials are meeting Tuesday in New York to discuss NHL matters.

He expects at the meeting to answer questions about his application for a new team that would play at the MGM Resorts International-AEG arena now under construction.

This shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. Earlier this month, ESPN reported that Tuesday’s meeting will largely be for information purposes, with a potential announcement coming at the next meeting in December.

That said, this upcoming gathering will still hold some significance for Vegas and the Quebec City bids. Per Pierre LeBrun, it’s believed the two parties will “present to the board’s executive committee ahead of the full board meeting,” for “the first time in an official capacity.”

Preds captain Weber (dislocated kneecap) returns tonight

Shea Weber

There will be a welcome sight for Preds fans in Wednesday’s tilt against Tampa — Shea Weber will be back in the lineup for the first time since dislocating his kneecap during Game 2 of last year’s opening-round playoff loss to the Blackhawks.

Weber, who underwent surgery in the offseason, will be eased back into the lineup and could see a reduction in minutes this year. He turned 30 in August and, just prior to the start of the preseason, Preds head coach Peter Laviolette told The Tennessean he was looking to trim Weber’s time on ice.

“Certainly, ideally you’d like to bring those minutes down a little bit if you could,” Laviolette explained. “Sometimes in the course of the game, it becomes a little bit challenging.

“I do think that we have the support and the depth to try to accomplish that this year, to see if we can’t bring it down a little bit.”

Weber has averaged at least 25 minutes per game over the last five seasons, eclipsing the 26 mark in each of the last two.

Bruins lose another: Seidenberg (back) out eight weeks

Boston Bruins v Colorado Avalanche
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The preseason continued to be unkind to the Bruins on Wednesday, as the club announced veteran defenseman Dennis Seidenberg would undergo back surgery, and be sidelined for the next eight weeks.

From the club:

Seidenberg is scheduled to undergo a lumbar microdiscectomy on Thursday, September 24 to repair a lumbar spine disc herniation.

The surgery will be performed by Dr. Louis Jenis at Massachusetts General Hospital. Seidenberg is expected to make a full recovery and will be sidelined approximately eight weeks.

Seidenberg, 34, had missed the start of the training camp with the injury and, as mentioned above, is the second Bruin to go down this preseason; B’s sophomore Seth Griffith, who had 10 points in 30 games as a rookie, suffered an MCL sprain that’ll sideline him for 3-4 weeks.

The Seidenberg injury is more significant, however.

After the Dougie Hamilton trade and Matt Bartkowski exiting in free agency, the veteran German was supposed to be a key part of a whittled down blueline comprised of himself, Zdeno Chara, Torey Krug, Adam McQuaid, Kevan Miller and Matt Irwin.

It’s very possible that GM Don Sweeney goes out and tries to add a veteran stopgap in the interim. The Bruins can ill afford a slow start to the year, especially coming off last year’s playoff miss.

Avs sign Johnson to seven-year, $42M extension

Edmonton Oilers v Colorado Avalanche
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After rumblings that an extension was close, Colorado and top defenseman Erik Johnson made it official on Tuesday.

The Avalanche announced that the deal is for seven years, while ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun puts the annual cap hit at $6 million, making it a hefty $42 million overall.

“Erik is a big part of the core of this team,” Avs GM Joe Sakic said. “We felt it was important for our franchise to secure his rights for the long term as he enters the prime years of his career.”

Johnson, 27, is in the last season of a four-year, $15 million deal with a $3.75M average annual cap hit. With his new contract, he leapfrogs Francois Beauchemin as Colorado’s highest-paid defenseman.

Johnson’s big payday comes after taking his game to a new level last season, scoring a career-high 12 goals while averaging a career-high 24:25 before a knee injury ended his campaign in January.

The extension was important for both parties. Johnson was a pending UFA and would’ve been one of the more sought-after blueliners on the open market; with him locked up, Colorado now has a top defenseman for the forseeable future.

The organization is light on blueline prospects, thanks partly to the fact six of its last seven first-round picks were used on forwards — the only d-man selected, Duncan Siemens (11th overall in 2011), has yet to make his NHL debut.

That said, the club did acquire former Buffalo first-rounder Nikita Zadorov in the Ryan O'Reilly trade, and has a talented offensive defenseman in Tyson Barrie, who finished eighth among NHL d-men in scoring (53 points) last year.