Author: Ryan Dadoun

Devan Dubnyk
AP Photo

NHL on NBCSN: Wild, Avs enter season with plenty to prove


NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2015-16 campaign tonight when the Colorado Avalanche host the Minnesota Wild at 8:00 p.m. ET.

If there’s a common thread between the Avalanche and Wild, it’s how much each club has on the line this season. The reason for their heightened stakes is where the differences start to become apparent.

The Avalanche surprised pundits by taking the Central Division in 2014, but at the same time attracted calls that they overperformed based on their unflattering fancy statistics. So when they fell short on the playoffs last season, it not only was expected by some, but interpreted as confirmation that they were never as good as their 2013-14 showing suggested.

It’s up to Colorado now to show that GM Joe Sakic and head coach Patrick Roy are leading this franchise in the right direction after those two polar opposite campaigns. The potential for them to do just that is there, especially if Nathan MacKinnon can rebound from his rough sophomore season and firmly join Gabriel Landeskog, Matt Duchene, Erik Johnson, and Semyon Varlamov as one of the cornerstones of this franchise.

Minnesota didn’t have nearly as rough a campaign, but there was a time when it seemed like the Wild would miss the playoffs as well. When they acquired goaltender Devan Dubnyk on Jan. 14, the Wild were eight points out of a playoff spot. Had he not posted an unreal 1.78 GAA and .936 save percentage in 39 starts following the trade, their season would have likely ended very differently.

Which begs the question: Can Dubnyk maintain anything close to that level of play going forward? And if he can’t, what does that mean for the Wild?

On top of that, simply being able to tread water might not be seen as much of a victory in Minnesota. Since the Wild acquired Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, they have made the playoffs in three straight campaigns, but have failed to get past the second round. The obvious hope after signing two elite players to massive contracts was that the move would help the Wild capture the Stanley Cup. If Year Four of their tenure comes and goes without any tangible progress then it will be reasonable to ask if they’re on the right course.

In short, a poor showing by either franchise in 2015-16 could lead to substantial changes. But both have an opportunity to prevent that, starting today.

PHT Morning Skate: Niederreiter flies strapped on top of plane

TORONTO, ON - MARCH 23:  Nino Niederreiter #22 of the Minnesota Wild skates prior to playing against the Toronto Maple Leafs during an NHL game at the Air Canada Centre on March 23, 2015 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Over the summer, Nino Niederreiter flew over the Alps on a plane — not in a plane, but on top of it. (StarTribune)

NHL players voice their opinions about putting advertisements on jerseys. (The Globe and Mail)

Here are the highlights from San Jose’s 5-1 victory over Los Angeles:

Here’s a fun fact: 33% of those playing in the NHL were born after Jaromir Jagr‘s NHL debut on Oct. 5, 1990. (Sportsnet)

Ex-Oilers coach Dallas Eakins’ long and unusual path has led him to the AHL’s San Diego Gulls. (San Diego Union-Tribune)

You can see the highlights from the Rangers’ 3-2 victory over the Blackhawks below:

The Ottawa Senators’ practice on Friday has been rescheduled so that the players can go to the Toronto Blue Jays’ playoff game. The Maple Leafs will host Ottawa on Saturday. (Wayne Scanlan)

Speaking of the Maple Leafs, they probably won’t be good this season, but they might not be as bad as some are predicting. (The Globe and Mail)

Senators select Kyle Turris as alternate captain

Chris Neil Kyle Turris Dustin Tokarski

Kyle Turris is gearing up for his fifth season with the Ottawa Senators, but this campaign will be a little different.

Ottawa announced that Turris will be joining Chris Neil as one of the team’s alternate captains. Turris is assuming that role from Chris Phillips as the 37-year-old defenseman remains out indefinitely due to a back injury.

Since being acquired from the then Phoenix Coyotes in 2011, Turris has established himself as one of Ottawa’s top forwards. He tied for second in the team’s scoring race last season with 64 points in 82 contests and gelled with rookie linemate Mark Stone.

With the Senators favoring a youth movement, Turris actually stands out as one of the Senators’ more experienced players at the age of 26. He’s also set to play a big role with the Senators for years to come as he’s locked to an affordable $3.5 million annual cap hit through 2017-18.

Meanwhile defenseman Erik Karlsson is getting ready for his second season as the team’s captain.