Author: Ryan Dadoun

Jake Virtanen
The Canadian Press via AP

Video: Canucks first-rounder Virtanen scores with shot off his face


If training camp for young players is all about standing out, then Vancouver’s Jake Virtanen certainly accomplished that late in the second period of tonight’s game, albeit in a scary way.

Virtanen was in front of Edmonton Oilers goalie Cam Talbot while the Canucks worked to take advantage of a power-play opportunity. Yannick Weber fired a shot towards the net, but it struck Virtanen in the face. Virtanen went down as the deflected puck went over Talbot’s shoulder.

Virtanen left the ice after that incident, although he waved to the crowd as he did so, earning a round of applause from the crowd in Edmonton, per the Vancouver Province’s Jason Botchford. He was able to return to return for the third period.

He also earned an assist earlier in the game. The 19-year-old forward, who was taken with the sixth overall pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, is in the running for a roster spot.

Kucherov doesn’t complete game due to lower-body injury (Updated)

Nikita Kucherov
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Forward Nikita Kucherov showed why Tampa Bay values him when he scored during his first shift of tonight’s game against the Dallas Stars, but whether or not Lightning fans will get to see him in the season opener on Oct. 8 is now in question.

Roughly five minutes after that goal, Kucherov absorbed a hard hit by Remi Elie. Kucherov sustained a lower-body injury, which caused him to miss the remainder of the game, per the Tampa Bay Times.

The good news is that Kucherov was able to skate off the ice on his own. He also returned midway through the first period to test the ice during a timeout, although the fact that he didn’t take another shift even after that suggests the results of that test were less than great.

This isn’t the first scare that the Lightning have endured during the preseason. Defenseman Victor Hedman couldn’t finish Tuesday’s game, but his injury is regarded as minor. Before that, forward Cedric Paquette was shaken up after blocking a shot Saturday and fortunately his X-rays came back negative.

Perhaps this will prove to be a similar case, although it would certainly be a significant blow for the Lightning if they ended up missing one-third of The Triplets line for an extended period.

Updated: Lightning coach Jon Cooper is optimistic about his chances of being available for the season opener, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

Caps expecting to be without Backstrom for first four games

Nicklas Backstrom
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Nicklas Backstrom wasn’t sure how long he’d be sidelined for, but Capitals coach Barry Trotz now seems to have a rough idea of how much time he’ll miss.

“He won’t start the season,” Trotz said, per the Washington Post. “I know that for sure. I wouldn’t think that’d he’d play through those first four games.”

In other words, Backstrom isn’t expected to participate in Washington’s opening homestand, but he hasn’t been ruled out for the Capitals’ first road game on Oct. 20 in Calgary.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that he’ll be able to play against the Flames, but at this point Trotz would term a return at the start of November as the “worst-case scenario.” Washington plays 10 games in October.

Backstrom had arthroscopic hip surgery in May and previously stated that he’s not returning until he’s 100 percent.

While he’s gone, Evgeny Kuznetsov is projected to play alongside Alex Ovechkin on the top line while Andre Burakovsky will center the second unit. His health might also influence how the Capitals handle Derek Roy, who has been attending their camp on a tryout basis.

Jacobs not sure if there’s desire to expand, has concerns about Quebec

Jeremy Jacobs
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For those that want to believe that the NHL will ultimately expand to Las Vegas and Quebec City, Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs’ words might feel like a splash of cold water.

“There’s a lot of content there. There’s a lot of capability there, but I don’t know if there’s a desire or will within the board of the existing franchises for expansion yet,” Jacobs told ESPN. “They both made pretty interesting proposals. Both have very legitimate arenas in place and organizations in place. There’s a capacity out there, but I don’t know if there’s a will from a league standpoint.”

Jacobs feels the league is doing pretty well with 30 teams. Additionally, given the current geographical setup of the NHL, he would rather see expansion teams sprout up in the west. Las Vegas certainly fits that desire, but Quebec City obviously doesn’t.

That’s not the only thing that gives him pause about the Quebec bid though.

“Take a look at what’s gone up in Nevada — it’s scary. I mean, it really is. It’s a heck of an arena built there, and there’s a strong interest there,” Jacobs said. “Balance the fact, Quebec has a great hockey interest, [but] it’s an extraordinarily small market.”

By contrast, Jacobs feels a franchise in Seattle would be “natural” and he’d love to see a team in Houston. But Quebecor and Bill Foley were the only ones to apply for expansion for Quebec City and Las Vegas respectively, which he feels “speaks volumes.”

In order for the NHL to expand, three-quarters of the Board of Governors would have to give the plan their blessing. The executive committee will make a recommendation before they vote, but it’s worth emphasizing that NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said that there’s no timetable on that process.

If the league does ultimately expand, Jacobs does believe it won’t take those teams long to become competitive thanks to the salary cap system.


Vegas group makes expansion pitch, fields ‘a lot of really good questions’

Quebec City’s NHL bid has a former Canadian prime minister on its side

Elias to open season on IR

Patrik Elias
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The New Jersey Devils will open the season with their all-time leader scorer on the injured reserve list, per

Patrik Elias is dealing with a sore knee that’s kept him off the ice since the start of the Devils’ training camp. It was declared that he wouldn’t play in any preseason games last week, but he wasn’t ready to dismiss the possibility of playing in the opener at that time.

The question now shifts to how long New Jersey will be without Elias’ services as they haven’t provided a timetable for his return.

The 39-year-old forward is entering the final season of his three-year, $16.5 million contract. Although he’s been fortunate enough to be fairly durable over the course of his lengthy career, he has been limited to less than 70 games in each of his last two campaigns.

Meanwhile, Kyle Palmieri sustained an undisclosed injury during a preseason game on Wednesday, but the Devils expect him to be fine for the opener.