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Preds see teams piling up talent, fighting to be West’s best

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Predators captain Roman Josi heard about San Jose trading for Erik Karlsson just before talking with reporters at the start of Nashville’s training camp.

Yep, the Predators haven’t even raised the banner yet for winning the Presidents’ Trophy as the NHL’s best team in the regular season, and it’s already ancient history – at least in the arms’ race that is the Western Conference.

Even with all the trades last season and more deals and signings during the offseason, the pace has only quickened as NHL teams prepared to open training camps. First, Vegas added Max Pacioretty from Montreal on Monday, and the Sharks tried to top that by picking up two-time Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson from Ottawa.

”Those are two great players, and yeah it’s definitely a tough conference and we’re in a tough division too,” Josi said. ”The whole season is tough. I mean your first goal is to make it into the playoffs, and it’s not an easy thing in our conference, in our division. You’ve got to be ready for it. It’s going to be a battle all year.”

The Predators essentially stood pat this offseason after posting 117 points to win their first Central Division title and Presidents’ Trophy. Their biggest move was signing defenseman Ryan Ellis to an extension before the season started and extending some other players. General manager David Poile did his best work during the season with a three-way trade bringing Kyle Turris to Nashville in November and adding Ryan Hartman at the deadline.

Nashville wound up losing in the Western Conference semifinals in seven games to Winnipeg. Still, the standard had been raised.

”It’s very competitive …,” San Jose general manager Doug Wilson said. ”When teams go out and get better, it forces other people to get better.”

That’s exactly what everyone in the West has been trying to do.

Paul Stastny went from St. Louis to Winnipeg at the trade deadline last season, then he went to the Vegas Golden Knights this offseason as a free agent. The Sharks added Evander Kane last season and re-signed him to keep him around. This offseason, St. Louis acquired Ryan O'Reilly from Buffalo . Calgary signed forward James Neal after he spent a season with Vegas, and the Los Angeles Kings signed Ilya Kovalchuk .

”The West is like loaded right now,” Poile said. ”It feels like anybody could not only make the playoffs, there’s going to be some unbelievable top teams that don’t make the playoffs this year. It should be fun and exciting for the fans and the players. It’s probably going to be nerve-wracking for us. If you’re going to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best, and I think the West certainly has more than its share of top teams.”

Turris can sympathize with what Karlsson will go through being traded. At least Karlsson will make the move during the preseason, but Turris said all the trades makes every game feel like a playoff game because of the competition.

”You got to bring you’re A-game every night,” Turris said. ”Every team feels they have a shot, and (the conference), it’s just really tough.”

Defenseman P.K. Subban was involved in one of those big trades himself on June 30, 2016, when Montreal sent him to Nashville for another All-Star defenseman in Shea Weber. Subban said it’s a little different game going from the East to the West, but he cautions against thinking the West absolutely is the conference to beat when it matters.

”Everybody had a Western Conference team pegged to win the whole thing, and Washington ends up winning,” Subban said.

”So I think as the season goes on, I think the body of work and through the games and with the amount of games that we play and the parity in the league, we see it. It’s tough every night, and it’s probably more clear who the top teams are. But once you get in the playoffs, it doesn’t really matter. Anything can happen.”

AP Hockey Writers Stephen Whyno and John Wawrow contributed to this report.

Follow Teresa M. Walker at http://www.twitter.com/teresamwalker

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/tag/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

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    The Buzzer: Petersen gets first win for Kings; Skinner scores again for Sabres

    AP
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    Three Stars

    1. Cal Petersen, Los Angeles Kings. With injuries to Jonathan Quick and Jack Campbell, the Kings have had to resort to their third-and fourth-string goalies Cal Petersen and Peter Budaj. On Friday night in Chicago it was Petersen getting the start and he was absolutely fantastic in a 2-1 shootout win over the Blackhawks stopping 34 shots through regulation and overtime to pick up his first NHL win. This is only the sixth win of the season for a Kings team that has struggled from the start. It also snapped what had been a three-game losing streak. The Blackhawks, meanwhile, have now lost nine of their past 10 and have managed just four goals in their past four games.

    2. Jeff Skinner, Buffalo Sabres. Things are starting to look good for the Buffalo Sabres who have now won four in a row and five of their past six thanks to a 2-1 shootout win over the Winnipeg Jets on Friday night. At the center of this recent surge has been Jeff Skinner, their biggest offseason acquisition. His goal early in the third period on Friday was the game-tying goal and his 14th of the season, which keeps him in second place in the league’s goal-scoring race. He has been especially hot lately with five goals in his past four games and 13 goals in his past 12 games. He has been everything the team hoped he would be when they acquired him from the Carolina Hurricanes over the summer.

    3. Ryan O'Reilly, St. Louis Blues. After his 10-game point streak came to an end on Wednesday night against the Chicago Blackhawks, Ryan O’Reilly was able to get back on the scoresheet with a pair of goals on Friday in a 4-1 win over the Vegas Golden Knights. O’Reilly has been the Blues’ best player by a substantial margin this season and is already up to 10 goals and 23 total points this season in only 17 games.

    Highlights of the Night

    The Washington Capitals were 3-2 overtime winners in Colorado on Friday night and it was Devante Smith-Pelly getting them on the board by finishing this beautiful tic-tac-toe passing play.

    Morgan Rielly continued his incredible season on Friday night with the game-winning overtime goal for the Toronto Maple Leafs. With the win Toronto takes over the top spot in the NHL standings while Rielly continues to pace all defenders with 25 points in 20 games. Ottawa Senators rookie Thomas Chabot and San Jose Sharks defender Brent Burns are the only other players at the position with more than 20 points so far this season.

    Factoids

    This is a tremendous stat from the Washington Capitals-Colorado Avalanche game, where both Avalanche goalies are former long-time Capitals netminders, and the Capitals two goalies on Friday have barely played for the team.

    The Dallas Stars win over the Boston Bruins did not have a lot of offense, but it certainly had a lot of excitement thanks in large part to Brad Marchand. Still, it was the Stars getting the 1-0 overtime win. That is something that had never happened in Stars franchise history.

     

    Scores

    Dallas Stars 1, Boston Bruins 0 (OT)

    Buffalo Sabres 2, Winnipeg Jets 1 (SO)

    Los Angeles Kings 2, Chicago Blackhawks 1 (SO)

    Washington Capitals 3, Colorado Avalanche 2 (OT)

    St. Louis Blues 4, Vegas Golden Knights 1

    Toronto Maple Leafs 2, Anaheim Ducks 1 (OT)

    MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

    Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

    Brad Marchand pulls a Roger Neilson, waves ‘white flag’

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    It was another eventful for night for Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand.

    After a series of penalties in the second period of his team’s 1-0 overtime loss in Dallas, he decided to pull a Roger Neilson and wave the white flag by sticking a towel on the blade of his hockey stick and … well … waving it from the penalty box. This was presumably a form of surrendering to the referees.

    Or simply Brad Marchand doing Brad Marchand things.

    His adventure started in the second period when he was given a double-minor for roughing Radek Faksa after Marchand came to the defense of his linemate, Patrice Bergeron, who was sent flying into the boards at the hands of Faksa. Bergeron briefly exited the game before returning.

    Here is the entire sequence.

    After serving his four minutes for that altercation, Marchand returned to the ice and was almost immediately sent back to the box for slashing stars goalie Ben Bishop.

    Nobody from Boston liked the call at all, with Marchand at being at the top of the list.

    That was when he waved the white flag and was sent off for 10 additional minutes.

    That might look familiar to you because you might recall former long-time NHL coach Roger Neilson doing something similar during the 1982 playoffs when he was coach of the Vancouver Canucks.

    Marchand has been in rare form this season, even for him. Earlier this month he was given a 10-minute misconduct for mocking Nashville Predators forward Colton Sissons for embellishing a high-sticking call, which came after he bloodied Washington Capitals forward Lars Eller in the season-opener after Eller taunted the Bruins’ bench.

    In the playoffs the NHL had to instruct Marchand to stop licking opposing players.

    No matter what you think of Marchand as a player you at least have to admit this: It is never boring with him around.

    MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

    Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

    Josh Archibald suspended two games for hit on Ryan Hartman

    via NHL DoPS
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    After holding a hearing with Josh Archibald earlier on Friday, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety suspended the Arizona Coyotes forward two games for his “high, hard hit” on Ryan Hartman of the Nashville Predators.

    The league’s explanation video explains that Hartman’s head was “the main point of contact” and that contact with the head was avoidable.

    During the game itself (a 2-1 win for the Coyotes on Thursday), Archibald received a minor penalty. He doesn’t have a history of supplemental discipline at the NHL level, which may have prompted a lighter punishment. Hartman eventually returned to that loss for Nashville.

    Here’s the explanation video via the NHL’s DPoS:

    Archibald will be eligible to play for the Coyotes again on Nov. 23.

    MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

    Penguins’ Matt Cullen fined $1,000 by NHL for dangerous trip

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    NEW YORK (AP) — Pittsburgh Penguins forward Matt Cullen has been fined $1,000 by the NHL for a dangerous trip of Tampa Bay Lightning forward J.T. Miller.

    The infraction came during the first period of Thursday night’s game, a 4-3 victory by Tampa Bay. Cullen was assessed a minor penalty for tripping.

    In announcing the fine, the league said Friday the money will go the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.