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Youthful Rangers focused on getting better after changes

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GREENBURGH, N.Y. (AP) — Chris Kreider and the New York Rangers have put last season’s struggles behind and are just focusing on trying to get better.

”Show up and compete every single day,” Kreider said Friday as players skated in groups for on-ice testing. ”We want to win games. It’s not a developmental league. Right now everyone is 0-0-0 across the board. It’s a clean slate for players, clean slate for teams.”

The Rangers are in a rebuilding mode after dealing several stars in a youth movement at the trade deadline last winter and then finishing 20 points out of a playoff spot while missing the postseason for the first time in eight years.

There’s also a new coaching staff with David Quinn making the jump from Boston University to the NHL as the head coach to lead a younger team with some veterans.

”You lose teammates every year, there’s always turnover,” Kreider said. ”At the same time I think there’s a good buzz around the group right now. I think everyone’s excited about the group that we have, about the coaching staff, about the players.”

Mika Zibanejad returned from his home in Sweden feeling energized after helping his country win the world championships in May. He credited that experience for fueling his summer workouts.

[Three questions facing the Rangers]

”Got to finish off the season in a better way, personally,” Zibanejad said. ”Got that win and I felt more motivated in the training. Now, I’m just coming back here and get excited again.”

Both Kreider and Zibanejad had positive things to say about their new coach. Kreider, who played at Boston College, said he nearly went to Boston University, and ”a big part of that was Coach Quinn.” Zibanejad was appreciative that Quinn traveled to Sweden during the summer to meet with him, goalie Henrik Lundqvist and Jesper Fast.

When Quinn met with reporters on Thursday, he stressed patience, as well as the importance of practicing hard.

”It’s going to take a little bit of time,” he said. ”Once we get on the ice I’ll have a clearer picture of what everybody is capable of doing, their strengths and weaknesses. … We want to be a fast, physical, relentless hockey team. You can’t play that way unless you practice that way.”

That will begin Saturday when the team breaks into three groups for daily practices.

Some other things to know as the Rangers open training camp:

BETWEEN THE PIPES: The 36-year-old Lundqvist is back for his 14th season after going 26-26-7 with a 2.98 goals-against average – the highest of his career. It was also just the second time he finished with fewer than 30 wins; the other was the lockout-shortened 2012-13, when he was 24-16-3.

”I think he’s in a great mindset,” Quinn said. ”He wants to be part of the next wave and win a Stanley Cup here. He’s in incredible shape, he’s an incredible competitor and he’s one of the best in the business.”

Alexandar Georgiev went 4-4-1 with a 3.15 GAA in 10 games down the stretch, and Marek Mazanec was signed after compiling a 8-13-4 mark with a 2.98 GAA in 31 career games for the Nashville Predators.

HEALTHY AGAIN: Zibanejad and Kreider are among several players who are healthy now after dealing with injuries last season. Zibanejad, who missed nearly two months witha broken left leg in the 2016-17 season, was out for about 10 games with a concussion last November. He had 11 goals and 11 assists in 22 games before the injury, and finished the season with 20 goals and 27 assists.

Kreider missed two months after having a rib removed to help alleviate a blot clot in his right arm. He said he recently received ”a clean bill of health” after meeting with his pulmonologist to make sure he wasn’t predisposed to blood clots.

Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk is also healed after a knee injury in January ended his season.

LOGJAM ON DEFENSE?: Shattenkirk, Brady Skjei and veteran Marc Staal are assured of their spots on defense. After that it could be an open competition.

Adam McQuaid, a nine-year veteran, was acquired from Boston earlier in the week. The 6-foot-4, 212-pound 31-year-old is similar in size to Rob O'Gara, who also came over from the Bruins last February. Fredrik Claesson was signed this summer, Tony DeAngelo is getting another look, and Neal Pionk had a goal and 13 assists in 28 games after making his NHL debut last season. Youngsters Ryan Lindgren, Libor Hajek, and Joey Keane are also among others in camp.

CENTER DEPTH: Zibanejad and Kevin Hayes figure to be the top two centers again. Lias Anderson, 19, and Filip Chytil, who turns 20 next month, could key the youth movement. Both appeared in fewer than 10 games last season after being taken in the first round of the 2017 NHL draft.

Ryan Spooner and Vladislav Namestnikov – both acquired in trade-deadline deals – are also centers on the roster, along with Boo Nieves. Peter Holland, Steven Fogarty and Gabriel Fontaine will also get looks.

Follow Vin Cherwoo at http://www.twitter.com/VinCherwooAP

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

PHT Morning Skate: Meaning of NHL regular season; Kadri regrets cross-check

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• Format not to blame for wild Round 1 upsets. (Sportsnet)

• The cascade of issues that not having a Canadian team in the playoffs creates. (Angus Reid Institute)

• Perhaps your favorite team is out and you’re looking to cheat on them with a new team. Here’s a bandwagon guide. (CBC)

• The regular season means nothing. (FiveThirtyEight)

• Torn ACL likely to mean Zach Hyman will miss the beginning of next season. (NHL.com)

• Mike Modano getting himself into eSports. (TSN)

• A timeline of the recently-ended Calgary Flames season. (Calgary Sun)

• The tragic consequences of the NHL’s science denial. (The Atlantic)

• The seve…. eight deadly sins of Round 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. (Deadspin)

• The Washington Capitals’ Russian contingent heading to the World’s after their shocking playoff exit. (TSN)

Craig Smith is none too pleased with the Nashville Predators season ending in Round 1. (Tennessean)

• Game 7 controversy could have a ripple effect in the college game. (Jamestown Sun)

• Dubas not playing games after Maple Leafs tossed. (The Score)

Nazem Kadri regrets his silly cross-check. (TSN)


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Sharks’ Pavelski unlikely for Game 1 after scary injury

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SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — San Jose Sharks captain Joe Pavelski is unlikely to play Game 1 in the second round of the playoffs against Colorado after being knocked out and bloodied in the first-round clincher.

Coach Peter DeBoer said Thursday that Pavelski is officially day to day but is not expected to be cleared for Game 1 against the Avalanche on Friday night.

Pavelski got hurt Tuesday in a Game 7 victory over Vegas when he was cross-checked by Cody Eakin after a faceoff and fell awkwardly, with his helmet slamming on the ice. He was knocked out and bleeding on the ice before being helped to the locker room. The Sharks scored four goals on the ensuing power play and eventually won 5-4 in overtime.

Pavelski was at the practice facility Thursday but didn’t take part in practice. DeBoer says he is still feeling the effects of the injury.

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

The Playoff Buzzer: Coyle plays OT hero; Tarasenko puts on show

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  • The Boston Bruins brushed off a 13-second disaster in the third period as Charlie Coyle scored the game-tying goal and then the game-winner in OT against the Blue Jackets
  • Blues picked up right where they left off in Round 1 thanks to Vladimir Tarasenko, Jordan Binnington and others. 

Boston 3, Blue Jackets 2 [OT] (BOS leads 1-0)

Everything looked breezy for Boston before Brandon Dubinsky and Pierre-Luc Dubois scored 13 seconds apart in the third period to turn the tide of the game. That was until the Charlie Coyle Show made its second-round debut. In the first episode, Coyle played hero, scoring the game-tying goal and then the winner in the ensuing overtime frame. The Bruins deserved it based on metrics and they ended up winning it on merit.

Blues 3, Stars 2 (STL leads 1-0)

The Blues needed Tarasenko to get going and they needed to rally around the same defensive structure that helped them see off the Winnipeg Jets. Job done in Game 1. Tarasenko had scored a brace. The Blues held the line and Binnington took care of the rest. The Blues were also able to penetrate a penalty kill that had gone 15-for-15 in Round 1, so there’s more joy to be had in Joyland for St. Louis.

Three stars

1. Charlie Coyle, Boston Bruins

Depth. It matters.

Coyle scored his fourth and fifth goals of the postseason, a game-tying goal late in the third period to force overtime and the game-winner off a slick feed from Marcus Johansson in the extra frame.

Boston was dangerous with their two top lines. If they’re getting continued scoring their bottom six, watch out everyone.

2. Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues

The Blues needed more from Tarasenko if they were going to taste success in their Round 2 series against the Dallas Stars.

Tarasenko had two power-play goals in Round 1 but didn’t get much-done five-on-five. Tarasenko scored once again on the power play in Game 1 against the Stars and then extended a third-period lead to 3-1 with his first five-on-five goal of the playoffs.

This is a good start.

3. Jordan Binnington, St. Louis Blues

This guy. On Jan. 6 he didn’t have a win in the NHL, now he has five playoff wins under his belt spread across two rounds.

Binnington couldn’t care less about his likely snub in the rookie of the year race. He’s got a much bigger trophy on his mind. Binnington made 27 saves in the game, including 16-of-17 in the third period as the Stars searched for a tying goal. Something about Binnington’s calmness…

Highlights of the night

OT winners are always better:

Don’t give this man this kind of space:

Factoids

Friday’s games

Game 1: Hurricanes at Islanders, 7 p.m. ET, NBCSN (Live stream)
Game 1: Avalanche at Sharks, 10 p.m. ET, NBCSN (Live stream)


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Tarasenko takes over, Blues snag Game 1 vs. Stars

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If you needed a star player to score a big goal in a playoff game, who would you pick?

Most hockey fans would tab Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, and other players who’ve already won at least a Stanley Cup. Maybe you’d lean toward Patrik Laine, Auston Matthews, or Nikita Kucherov, if you wanted to mix things up.

St. Louis Blues fans would insist that Vladimir Tarasenko should be on the tip of your tongue, and in a tight 3-2 Game 1 win (and 1-0 series lead) for the Blues against the Dallas Stars, he added to his robust big-game resume.

(Game 2 airs on NBC at 3 p.m. ET on Saturday; stream here.)

While Ben Bishop will be haunted by allowing the Blues 1-0 goal early in Game 1 via Robby Fabbri, you wonder if there’s only so much anyone could do to stop Tarasenko on both of his goals. In particular, Tarasenko showed why his nickname is “Tank” on his second goal, as he absolutely powered his way past Miro Heiskanen and roofed a fantastic goal by Bishop. Tarasenko simply would not be denied:

At the time, Tarasenko’s second goal of Game 1 made it 3-1, but with Jamie Benn scoring a strange 3-2 goal that survived a goal review after an ill-timed whistle, the Blues needed every one of those Tarasenko tallies. Tarasenko’s nicest goal of the evening ended up counting as the game-winner.

With this result, Tarasenko now has an outstanding 26 goals in his last 50 playoff games. That ties Tarasenko with Sidney Crosby for the fourth-most postseason goals since 2013-14, and Crosby hit that mark in 82 playoff contests. None of that is meant to insult Crosby; instead, the point is that Tarasenko’s been an absolute superstar in the postseason.

Interestingly, Tarasenko was pretty quiet in Round 1, only managing two goals in six games against the Winnipeg Jets. The Blues were carried by other players like Jaden Schwartz with Winnipeg’s top line carrying the way, but on Thursday, it was the Tarasenko show.

***

While it was a tough night at times for Bishop (who took a scary puck to the head), Jordan Binnington was a mix of brilliant and a touch scrambly. Binnington also felt some content during Game 1, as this scuffle began when the rookie goalie was bumped by Blake Comeau:

Binnington gave up a juicy rebound or three in Game 1, yet he really locked it down when Dallas tried to wage a comeback; Binnington stopped 16 out of 17 shots in the third period alone.

This loss stings, but the Stars can feel comfortable that they weren’t merely facing a struggling Predators team. Dallas was absolutely able to hang with a St. Louis squad that was a buzzsaw at times down the stretch this season, and honestly, the Stars sometimes looked flat-out better.

The Blues found a way to win Game 1, which in this case, meant riding Tarasenko’s dominant scoring and Binnington’s brilliant netminding. If this one was any indication, more wins against Dallas won’t come easy, so the Blues might need more of that from their biggest star, and their rising star in net.

The Stars will try to even up the series against the Blues as Game 2 takes place at the Enterprise Center on Saturday at 3 p.m. ET (NBC; stream here).

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.