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Sabres’ Kyle Okposo returning to ice after health scare

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Here’s some heartwarming hockey news for you: apparently Kyle Okposo is playing hockey tonight.

Considering his late-season health scare, it was promising enough that the Buffalo Sabres expect him to be ready by training camp. But in mid-July? This is even more promising.

Apparently he’s one of many NHL-relevant participants in … “Da Beauty League?”

Again, there are a lot of familiar names, as you can see based on this lineup sheet:

Wow. Along with Okposo, there are many other noteworthy participants, including Dustin Byfuglien, Ryan McDonagh, and Zach Parise.

Here’s more insight on the event, via their “About Us” section:

Da Beauty League was established in the Fall of 2015 by local business people in an effort to bring professional hockey to Minnesota on a year round basis. Da Beauty League centers itself on bringing fans fast paced professional hockey in a casual environment. For the players, Da Beauty League serves as a training ground for the players as they prepare for their upcoming professional seasons. Da Beauty League provides fans with 3 fast paced regular season games played out of Braemar Arena on a nightly basis during the summer. Fans will experience a relaxed atmosphere to watch hockey and enjoy typical intermission entertainment while watching the best hockey talent in the world.

Really, though, it’s just great to see that Okposo’s apparently feeling close to 100 percent.

(H/T to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.)

PHT Morning Skate: The top 50 Russians in NHL history

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Remember that Preds fan who missed out on the Stanley Cup Final tickets? Well, the Predators are making it up to him by inviting him to the home opener next fall. (NHL.com/Preds)

–Russian magazine Sports-Express put together a list of the top 50 Russian players in NHL history. Interestingly enough, Alex Ovechkin and Pavel Bure aren’t first or second. Also, Evgeni Malkin may not have made the NHL’s top 100 list, but he couldn’t be any higher on this one. (The Hockey News)

–Two NHLers made Sports Illustrated’s list of the 50 most fashionable athletes of 2017. To no ones surprise, Henrik Lundqvist and P.K. Subban are the ones who were able to crack the top 50 (Lundqvist was ranked sixth, Subban was 15th). “My style is true to who I am and definitely different than everyone else’s style. I’m always looking for things that are uncommon and unique,” said Subban. (NHL.com)

–The Carolina Hurricanes haven’t made the playoffs in quite some time, and it’s definitely hurting them at the gate. The ‘Canes currently own the second worst home attendance numbers in pro sports right now (the Chicago White Sox are the only team below them). the News Observer’s Abbie Bennett writes: “Over the last 10 years, attendance at Canes home games dropped 32 percent, with just 64 percent of all seats filled. Average home game attendance for the Canes is 11,776.” (Charlotte News Observer)

–Speaking of the Hurricanes, The Score gives us three reasons why they believe they’ll end their eight-year playoff drought. The addition of Scott Darling is huge for them. If he can give them some consistency between the pipes, they could earn a trip back to the postseason. (The Score)

–Some Golden Knights prospects got together to serve their community by preparing meals for those in need in the Vegas area:

Rangers sign Lias Andersson to entry-level contract

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We wrote yesterday that Lias Andersson would “get every opportunity” to make the New York Rangers next season.

Today, Andersson — the seventh overall pick in last month’s draft — agreed to terms on his entry-level contract with the Blueshirts.

The Rangers were able to select the 18-year-old center with the pick they received from Arizona, along with Anthony DeAngelo, for Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta.

“Obviously my goal is to play in the NHL,” Andersson said after he was selected. “I know it’s tough, and if I don’t make it, maybe play in the American League or play back home in Sweden. I don’t know yet. We’ll figure something good out.”

Report: Duchene could start next season with Avs

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If you’ve been wondering why Matt Duchene is still a member of the Colorado Avalanche, here’s an update from Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman:

Everyone decided to take a deep breath and go back to their corners when Matt Duchene wasn’t traded July 1. It sounds like everyone is realizing the possibility he could start next season in Colorado. But remember this: Avalanche assistant GM Chris MacFarland was with Scott Howson in Columbus when Howson waited until July 20, 2012, to trade Rick Nash. Sometimes the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour, and MacFarland could be following that blueprint. I wouldn’t be surprised if interested parties (Boston, Columbus, Nashville, Pittsburgh, maybe Calgary) try again to see if anything shakes loose.

Friedman goes on to say that Duchene’s contract, which has two years left on it, could be a stumbling block.

We’ve written about that in the past. If Duchene only had one year left, an acquiring team could immediately sign him to an extension, like when the Avs traded Ryan O’Reilly to Buffalo.

But with two years left, it’s more complicated because an extension can’t be signed until next summer. That means an acquiring team would have to trust that Duchene wanted to stay long-term. And even if he said he did, there’d still be a risk he could change his mind.

Another factor in all this is that the Avs absolutely have to nail this deal. Certainly, they need to do better than what they got for O’Reilly.

To illustrate, it’s been reported that the Columbus Blue Jackets offered defenseman Ryan Murray to Colorado as part of a package for Duchene.

With all due respect to Murray, the second overall draft pick in 2012, he is not the franchise defenseman the Jackets had hoped he’d be. If the Avs are going to trade Duchene, they’ll need to get a guy with a higher ceiling than Murray’s.

And that’s the toughest part for GM Joe Sakic. As we’ve said before, fixing a defense with trades is not easy to do. Sure, the Jackets were able to get a good, young defenseman in Seth Jones, but they had to give up Ryan Johansen to get him.

The key there? Johansen was under club control for more than two years.

Related: Cale Makar goes fourth overall to Avs

Andersson to get ‘every opportunity’ to make Rangers next season

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The New York Rangers partially addressed their lack of depth at center by signing David Desharnais to a one-year, $1 million deal.

But the Blueshirts may also have another new player who can play the middle next season.

He’s just a little young, that’s all.

“I have to say that I really liked what I saw from (Lias) Andersson at our development camp,” said head coach Alain Vigneault, per the New York Post. “He’s got great hands and he can play. He’s going to get every opportunity.”

Anderson, 18, was the seventh overall pick in last month’s draft. At the time, he wasn’t sure where he was headed next season.

“I have a contract back home with Frolunda, so we’ll see what’s happening, see what the Rangers want,” he said. “Obviously my goal is to play in the NHL. I know it’s tough, and if I don’t make it, maybe play in the American League or play back home in Sweden. I don’t know yet. We’ll figure something good out.”

Despite Vigneault’s remarks, it’s probably a long shot for Andersson to make the Rangers as a teenager. Development camp is one thing. The NHL is quite another — especially for a center.

But long term, the Blueshirts are looking pretty decent down the middle with Mika Zibanejad, Kevin Hayes, Andersson, and possibly J.T. Miller.

Of those four, the oldest is Hayes, and he just turned 25.

Related: Optimism replaces pessimism after changes to Rangers defense