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Sens, Avs to play pair of regular-season games in Sweden

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NEW YORK (AP) The Colorado Avalanche and Ottawa Senators will play two regular-season games in Sweden next season.

The NHL and NHL Players’ Association on Friday announced their new Global Series games Nov. 10 and 11 in Stockholm.

The Avalanche and Senators will play the NHL’s first regular-season games in Europe since 2011. It’s the NHL’s sixth trip to Europe and the seventh and eighth games played in Sweden.

Colorado’s captain is 24-year-old Swedish forward Gabriel Landeskog. Ottawa’s captain is 26-year-old Swedish defenseman Erik Karlsson, winner of the 2012 and 2015 Norris Trophy.

Other Swedes currently playing for the two clubs include Ottawa’s Frederik Claesson (Stockholm) and Viktor Stalberg (Gothenburg), and Colorado’s Anton Lindholm (Skelleftea) and Carl Soderberg (Malmo).

Commissioner Gary Bettman says with more Swedish players than ever, it’s a good chance to showcase the game there. Eighty-four Swedes have played in the NHL this season, roughly 9 percent of the league.

“We have more Swedish players than ever in the NHL, and we are extremely pleased that the 2017 SAP NHL Global Series will allow us to showcase a number of those players, with their NHL teams, in their homeland,” Bettman said. “The return of regular-season NHL games to the international stage will provide yet another highlight for our Centennial celebration.”

Another demoralizing loss for the Avalanche

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DENVER (AP) Laurent Brossoit didn’t get a lot of action when he came into the game, but the backup goalie’s presence sparked a rare third-period comeback for the Edmonton Oilers.

Drake Caggiula and Jordan Eberle scored 1:10 apart to break a tie late in the third period, and the Oilers rallied to beat the Colorado Avalanche 7-4 on Thursday night.

Eberle scored twice in Edmonton’s five-goal third period and also added an assist. Zack Kassian and Leon Draisaitl also scored in the rally that moved Edmonton into a tie with Anaheim for second in the Pacific Division with 89 points.

“The first two periods we weren’t at our best,” said Caggiula, who had his first goal since Jan. 26. “We had pretty tough talk among ourselves. We had the resiliency to come back and have our best performance at the end.”

Brossoit came in relief of Cam Talbot for the second straight night to start the third period and stopped all six shots he faced for his second career victory. It was enough to let his teammates come through with a five-goal outburst in the third and improve to 6-17-3 when trailing entering the final 20 minutes.

“It’s not easy, the games like this when I’m coming in relief,” Brossoit said. “We just changed our energy level, you could tell that everyone was doing the details and little things and battling.”

Andrej Sekera had a goal and two assists, Milan Lucic also scored for Edmonton, which lost to the Ducks on Wednesday but salvaged the two-game road trip.

The Oilers tied it early in the third and then scored three times in the final 2:11. Caggiula beat Jeremy Smith on a pretty pass from Draisaitl to give Edmonton a 5-4 lead, Eberle added to it and Draisaitl scored into an empty net in the final minute to seal it.

Mikko Rantanen had two goals, J.T. Compher and Rene Bourque had a goal each and Nathan MacKinnon finished with two assists for Colorado.

“We were in complete control of the hockey game. We get a big kill that we needed at 4-4, the game’s still there for us,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. “With the exception of one or two shifts we just didn’t push.”

The Avalanche got early goals from Rantanen and Compher to take a 2-0 lead but Edmonton tied it with goals by Sekera and Lucic 57 seconds apart spanning the first and second periods.

Rantanen broke the tie at 4:22 of the second with his second of the night, and Bourque’s 12th of the season at 17:45 made it 4-2.

Talbot gave way to Brossoit to start the third, but it was Edmonton’s offense that sparked the comeback. Kassian started it when he snuck behind Smith to knock in the puck sitting in front of the empty net at 2:44 of the third.

“I feel like it happens every game. We lead in the third period, and then we just give up easy goals,” Rantanen said. “We could have probably kept four of those away but we can’t do it.”

Eberle, who assisted on Lucic’s goal, tied it at 4:34 with his 15th of the season.

“I didn’t think we were the best team and we were lucky enough to win the game,” Oilers coach Todd McLellan said. “Had a little bit of puck luck.”

 

Goalie nods: Vezina candidates clash as Bobrovsky faces Holtby

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Sergei Bobrovsky leads the NHL in GAA, at 2.04. Braden Holtby sits second, at 2.05.

Bobrovsky leads the NHL in wins, with 39. Holtby sits second, with 37.

Holtby leads the NHL in shutouts, with eight. Bobrovsky sits third, with six.

Perhaps you see where this is going.

Tonight, the two will square off in a much-anticipated game, as the Jackets travel to Washington to take on the Caps.

“It’s a great opponent,” Bobrovsky said, per NHL.com. “It’s going to be interesting. It’s one of the best teams in the League, so we’ll see. We’ll see who’s going to be better.”

Holtby is the reigning Vezina winner, while Bobrovsky captured the trophy three years prior. Both have already been unofficially shortlisted for this season’s award — along with Devan Dubnyk and, perhaps, Cam Talbot — but tonight’s game is about much, much more than goaltending.

The Caps head into the tilt two points up on Columbus for first spot in the NHL (and just one up on Pittsburgh). Columbus has made it clear it would love to capture the first Preisdents’ Trophy in franchise history, and a victory tonight would be a big step towards it. The Jackets, Penguins and Capitals all have 10 games left in their respective seasons, and Columbus will have one more shot at each this year.

Elsewhere…

— The Bolts begin a back-to-back set tonight, and will start Peter Budaj against the Bruins. Tuukka Rask will likely be in for the B’s, after allowing three goals on just 22 shots in a loss to Ottawa on Tuesday.

Keith Kinkaid, who’s seen more playing time that usual down the stretch, will get another start when the Devils take on the Leafs in New Jersey. Curtis McElhinney goes for the Leafs, after Frederik Andersen beat Columbus last night.

— It’s Matt Murray versus Mike Condon as the Penguins take on the Sens.

Eddie Lack, who’s played very well since being verbally lambasted by head coach Bill Peters, looks to start when the ‘Canes take on the Habs in Montreal. Carey Price will be in goal for the Canadiens.

— After Reto Berra’s first start in over a year on Tuesday, the Panthers will go back to James Reimer against Arizona. The visiting Coyotes will start Mike Smith.

Ryan Miller goes up against his old Blues teammates as the Canucks visit St. Louis. Jake Allen, who continues to be one of the better comeback stories this season, looks for his seventh win in his last eight starts.

Chad Johnson gives Brian Elliott a night off as Calgary takes on Nashville. Looks as though the Preds are going back to Pekka Rinne, after he earned his third straight win over the Coyotes on Monday.

— It’s Steve Mason versus Devan Dubnyk as Philly travels to Minnesota.

Corey Crawford will look to bounce back after allowing four goals on 10 shots (and getting hooked) against Vancouver on Tuesday. The visiting Stars look like they’ll go with Kari Lehtonen.

— Some thought Cam Talbot, the NHL’s leader in starts, would get a rest tonight in Colorado after getting hooked against Anaheim last night. Nope. Talbot’s back in, going up against Jeremy Smith for the Avs.

— In the late game, Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck gets back in goal after Michael Hutchinson scored a rare win on Tuesday. He’ll be in against Ben Bishop, who looks to keep the Kings’ faint playoff hopes alive.

Columbus started extension talks with key youngsters Wennberg, Anderson

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Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen was a busy man on Tuesday, signing three players — center Lukas Sedlak, left winger Markus Hannikainen and blueliner Scott Harrington — to two-year extensions.

Kekalainen’s also working on some more significant deals as well.

Per the Dispatch, he’s begun preliminary extension talks with three Columbus’ brightest young players — forwards Josh Anderson and Alex Wennberg, and goalie Joonas Korpisalo — all of whom are pending restricted free agents.

Though talks will reportedly be sidelined as the team focuses on its playoff run, Kekalainen insisted all three deals would get done.

“They’re all restricted,” he said. “And they’re all going to be re-signed.”

Of the three, Wennberg and Anderson have made the biggest impact this season.

Wennberg, 22, has done a terrific job filling the hole left at center from the Ryan JohansenSeth Jones trade. The 14th overall pick in ’13 leads the team in assists this year, with 42, and sits second in scoring with 54 points.

“He’s been probably one of our best play-makers,” Tortorella said of Wenneberg, per NHL.com. “When you talk play-makers, everyone thinks offense, but coming out of our end zone, too, he makes plays. He’s not an off-the-glass guy. He wants to try to make a play so we keep possession. For such a young man, I just love his poise, and that’s what you need. You can’t be afraid to make a play and he has shown that.”

Anderson, also 22, has made a major impact in his first fulls season with the Jackets. He’s found the back of the net 16 times — more than Henrik Zetterberg, Nathan MacKinnon, Claude Giroux, Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf — and has been a physical presence, sitting third on the team with 119 hits.

Korpisalo’s had a smaller role this season, though that has to do with the heavy workload shouldered by No. 1 netminder Sergei Bobrovsky (and the fact now-Maple Leaf Curtis McElhinney spent time as the backup). But the organization is high on Korpisalo who, at 22, projects to be a potential goalie of the future.

It’s fair to suggest Wennberg will get the biggest raise this summer. The question will be if the club tries to sign him to a bridge deal, like it did with Boone Jenner, or negotiate a long-term deal, like it did with Jones.

Kekalainen also has a few UFAs to make decisions on, with the most interesting being Sam Gagner. Signed on the cheap last summer — one year, $650,000 — he’s done an excellent job of reviving his career, notching 18 goals and 44 points through 70 games.

Erik Johnson had a very sobering analysis of Colorado’s horrific year

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The Colorado Avalanche lost last night.

This is nothing new. It was the 49th time it happened this season, the 52nd if you count OT and shootout losses. There have been plenty of defeats in Denver, which makes you wonder if they have even an effect anymore.

Individually? Hard to say. But cumulatively? Yeah, it’s starting to take a toll.

With just 10 games left until the season is (mercifully) done, the reality of the situation seems to have hit the Avs. They’re about to become one of the least successful teams in recent history.

Or, as veteran d-man Erik Johnson so bluntly put it to the Denver Post — “We’re the worst team in 20 years.”

More:

Johnson noted the statistical points: The Avalanche has pulled off the difficult feat of being last in the league in goals scored (1.94 per game) and goals allowed (3.31). He could have added, but didn’t, that it goes hand in hand with managing to have the worst record in the league, by far, while scraping the league’s salary-cap ceiling.

“If I had an answer, I’d love to give it to you,” Johnson said. “It’s tough to put into words the way this season has gone.

“I was thinking about it the other day. From last year, we’re missing only (Brad) Stuart, (Nick) Holden and (Nate) Guenin that were regulars, so realistically it’s the same team, maybe with some added pieces, and we had 90 points. We probably should have made the playoffs if we didn’t go on a skid the last six games. So I don’t know how there can be such a faceplant from last year. I don’t understand it, but it’s happened and it’ll be interesting to see what happens over the course of the next six months.”

Colorado currently has 43 points and, at its current pace, will finish the year with 48. That would make the Avs the worst team of the salary cap era, rivaling some truly horrific squads all time.

The most staggering aspect is, as mentioned above, that the Avs weren’t actively tanking this season. They have six players making at least $5.5 million annually, and three — Johnson, Nathan MacKinnon and Matt Duchene — earning $6M per.

There’s also a tremendous amount of term committed to certain players. MacKinnon and Johnson are locked in through 2023, captain Gabriel Landeskog through 2021, and d-man Tyson Barrie through 2020. Those lengthy contracts reflect a front office and ownership group that figured it had the core of its team, and wanted to keep it around long term.

That same core has put forth one of the worst efforts the league has seen in a long time.