NHL Rink Wrap: Hurricanes stay undefeated; Draisaitl on fire

NHL Rink Wrap: Hurricanes stay undefeated; Draisaitl still on fire
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Top players from Wednesday in the NHL

Cole Sillinger, Blue Jackets

You’ll see plenty in this post about two other noteworthy three-point players in the NHL on Wednesday: Leon Draisaitl and Bowen Byram.

So let’s focus on the youngest of a young trio of three-pointers: Cole Sillinger.

Sillinger scored two goals in the Blue Jackets’ OT win against the Avalanche, and the 18-year-old also assisted on Jake Bean‘s game-winner.

A three-point game is quite the way to argue that you deserve to burn the first year of your entry-level contract. Not surprisingly, Sillinger’s production has been up-and-down so far. He collected an assist in his first NHL game, and scored his first goal in his fourth. He’d been held pointless in four straight before Wednesday’s eruption, though.

Overall, Sillinger has generated five points (3G, 2A) through his first nine games. Not bad for an immediate jump from the 2021 NHL Draft (the Blue Jackets selected Sillinger 12th overall).

It should be interesting to see if the Blue Jackets keep Sillinger up or not. Either way, here’s hoping Cole Sillinger doesn’t bounce around the league like his oft-traded father Mike Sillinger. (Though Cole Sillinger may not complain if he plays at least 1,049 games.)

Highlights from Wednesday in the NHL

Heading into the third period, the Avalanche sported a 2-1 lead over the Blue Jackets. Things turned quickly in that final frame, however, as Columbus scored three goals before the midway point of the third. For a while, it looked like Columbus would earn a surprise 4-2 win.

Then Bowen Byram and the Avalanche stormed back. They scored two goals with their net empty, forcing that contest into OT. To Columbus’ credit, Jake Bean won it in OT.

Like the Avs, the Blues scored a late goal to earn a “charity point,” but ultimately lost.

Slick stuff from Seth Jarvis for the first goal of his NHL career to help the Hurricanes stay undefeated.

Probably best just to soak up all of the Draisaitl/McDavid goodness. Matt Duchene‘s sneaky little snipe was pretty sweet, too.

Wednesday’s NHL takeaways

Maybe the Jack Eichel trade will be worth the wait — for the Sabres, anyway?

If you feel like the Jack Eichel trade talks are eternal, we’re with you. On Wednesday, there seemed to be some excitement about a possible deal happening. As this post notes, the Golden Knights and Flames stand as the (latest) frontrunners in the Jack Eichel trade sweepstakes.

Yet, as of this writing, it instead feels like we’ve once again been swindled by The Insiders Who Cried Trade. That’s not totally fair — these things take time to come together — but that’s how it feels.

But if Wednesday indicated anything, it’s that the NHL is buzzing about a Jack Eichel trade actually managing a decent return for the Sabres. A memorable Kevin Weekes tweet really turned some heads.

Maybe Matthew Tkachuk plus futures wouldn’t have been that appealing of a Jack Eichel trade package months ago. Especially before it was clear that Eichel’s neck surgery situation was tricky.

But now, in the beginning of November? That sounds pretty spiffy.

Granted, it’s not necessarily a win for anyone else. If things moved more efficiently, Eichel could be deep into recovery from neck surgery. Essentially, a Jack Eichel trade bidder may have lost part of a season of value after the Sabres dragged things along.

Remarkably, it seems like the Sabres have a chance at actually getting a meaningful return. Some even balk at the cost Weekes floated.

What could happen doesn’t necessarily translate to what will happen. We’ll see. It’s a shame we didn’t see it yet, but maybe it really will happen soon?

(Studio audience rudely laughs.)

Hurricanes narrowly stay undefeated

For a chunk of Wednesday’s NHL action, it seemed like the Blackhawks would churn out their first winning streak, handing the Hurricanes their first loss in the process. With a goal just 1:35 in, the Blackhawks took a 1-0 lead. Almost midway through the second period, Chicago grew its lead to 3-1.

It turns out, a 3-1 lead wasn’t enough to put away the undefeated Hurricanes.

The first goal of Seth Jarvis’ career really opened the door, reducing the deficit to 3-2 through two periods. Then, Jesper Fast and Martin Necas scored twice in the first 3:26 of the third period to give the Hurricanes a decisive 4-3 lead.

With that, the Hurricanes remain undefeated at 9-0-0. The undefeated Hurricanes are a win away from tying a record for the best season-opening winning streak in NHL history.

If the Hurricanes want to tie (then break) that record, they’ll need to earn it. They next face the Panthers in Florida on Saturday, then the Lightning in Tampa Bay on Tuesday (Nov. 9).

This win against the Blackhawks began a three-game road trip for the Hurricanes. The challenges don’t end there, either. They’ll play those two road games, two contests in Carolina, then face a six-game road trip. If the Hurricanes still look hot toward the end of November, then look out.

(Even if they slow down, the Hurricanes are certainly on plenty of radars already.)

Draisaitl and McDavid are on another planet right now

Usually, when we refer to Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, it’s as “McDavid and Draisaitl.” It’s not meant as an insult to Draisaitl. Anyone would get second billing to one of the most sensational hockey players ever.

Yet Draisaitl forgot to take off his most sensational hockey player ever Halloween costume. With three points in Wednesday’s game, Draisaitl now leads the NHL with 20 points in nine games (one ahead of McDavid).

So, it’s Draisaitl and McDavid — at least in the Art Ross race.

Draisaitl generated four points in the Oilers’ win against the Kraken, so he’s molten-hot at the moment. During his current five-game point streak, Draisaitl scored seven goals and five assists for 12 points. While McDavid isn’t as scalding in the short term, he’s been electric, and has at least a point in every game this season. (Seven of McDavid’s nine games have been multipoint outputs. Yeah.)

Thursday’s big story

Revive the Southeast Division, it’s a clash of Capitals vs. Panthers

Remember the Southeast Division? (Waits a moment for Capitals fans to fondly recall braining the Atlanta Thrashers over and over again.)

Well, the Panthers rarely served as “rivals” for the Capitals during the days of the Southleast, but they were neighbors for quite some time. So, it might feel a bit quaint to Alex Ovechkin to see a potent Panthers team (8-0-1) face his Capitals crew, which is still chugging along (5-1-3).

Sure, the Panthers are grasping for normalcy as much as they’re trying to prove their supremacy. Even so, they’ll likely be motivated to face a Caps team they very well might meet in the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Just another chance to prove that they’re not the same cuddly Cats Ovechkin’s Capitals dominated time and time again back in those Southeast days.

Wednesday’s NHL scores

Oilers 5, Predators 2
Hurricanes 4, Blackhawks 3
Blue Jackets 5, Avalanche 4 (OT)
Kings 3, Blues 2 (SO)

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.

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    Maple Leafs sign defenseman Rasmus Sandin to 2-year deal

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    TORONTO — Rasmus Sandin has signed a two-year, $2.8 million contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the club announced on Thursday.

    The 22-year-old from Sweden was the 29th overall selection in the 2018 draft. Sandin had 16 points in 51 games with Toronto last season. He’s played in 88 career regular-season games, with six goals and 22 assists, and has one goal in five playoff games.

    “Got a great set of tools,” fellow defenseman Jake Muzzin said. “With experience, I think they’re only going to get better.”

    The signing comes as the Leafs’ blueliners been hit hard by injuries. Muzzin has been dealing with a back issue, and Timothy Liljegren recently had surgery for a hernia.

    Toronto then lost Jamie Benn (groin) and Carl Dahlstrom (shoulder) in Wednesday’s 3-0 preseason victory over the Montreal Canadiens, pressing forwards Calle Jarnkrok and Alexander Kerfoot into defensive roles for two periods.

    Back with Wild, Fleury welcomes big workload as clear No. 1

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    ST. PAUL, Minn. — With his ever-present smile, tireless approach and long list of accomplishments in the net, Marc-Andre Fleury has always embraced a heavy workload.

    The Minnesota Wild sure haven’t shied away from leaning hard on their new – and 37-year-old – goalie. After arriving in a deadline-day trade in March and re-signing with the Wild in July, the guy everyone calls “Flower” is still fully abloom as he begins his 19th season in the NHL.

    “They say, `You play,’ I play, unless maybe I’m hurt or something,” Fleury said. “But other than that, I like playing.”

    Wild general manager Bill Guerin initially planned to bring back both Fleury and Cam Talbot, who made the All-Star team and went 13-0-3 in his last 16 regular season starts before being benched in favor of Fleury for the first-round playoff series against St. Louis. The Wild lost in six games, after Talbot got the cold start in the elimination game and gave up four goals on 26 shots.

    Guerin changed his mind, though, after signing Fleury to a two-year, $7 million contract. Realizing Talbot’s frustration from the lack of postseason action, he didn’t want to risk any tension or discontent. Talbot was traded to Ottawa for Filip Gustavsson, who will be the No. 2 goalie while top prospect Jesper Wallstedt gets more development in the AHL.

    Gustavsson has only 23 career regular-season starts, nearly 200 fewer than Talbot, so it’s a good bet that Fleury will get the majority of the games.

    “I was ready to share the load with him, but things didn’t work out and happy to be having the chance to play maybe a bit more. It’s fun to play. It’s more fun than sitting on the bench,” said Fleury, who went 28-23-5 in 56 combined starts for Chicago and Minnesota last season with a 2.90 goals against average and a .908 save percentage.

    The Wild reconvened for training camp last week, beginning their quest to recapture the mojo they enjoyed last season while setting franchise records for points (113), wins (53) and goals (305). The only team that finished ahead of them in the Western Conference was Colorado, which went on to win the Stanley Cup, but they never met the Avs in the playoffs because the Blues got to them first.

    There’s a strong chemistry in place, at least, to build upon.

    “We still have a lot of guys here who were here last year. We’re just trying to make it even better, just trying to listen to everybody,” center Joel Eriksson Ek said. “We want to set a standard and a way for how hard this team’s going to work.”

    The Wild start the regular season by hosting the New York Rangers on Oct. 13.

    COMINGS AND GOINGS

    The most significant roster move of the summer amongst the skaters was the inevitable salary-cap-driven trade of second-leading scorer Kevin Fiala to Los Angeles. Fiala had a career-high 33 goals and 52 assists last season. Guerin otherwise dabbled mostly in two-way contracts in free agency for depth. Former Anaheim center Sam Steel signed with Minnesota last month, one day after defenseman Dimitry Kulikov was dealt to the Ducks.

    MORE POWER

    The Wild were done in during the playoffs by abysmal special teams. They went just 4 for 24 on the power play against the Blues, and head coach Dean Evason had the team working on that on the first day on the ice. The penalty kill that lagged last season was a focus of the second practice.

    “It has to get better, no question,” Evason said.

    BLUE LINE SHUFFLE

    Captain Jared Spurgeon has been placed with Jonas Brodin on the first pair on defense, and Jake Middleton has joined Matt Dumba on the second unit. Dumba and Brodin are close friends who’ve been paired together for several seasons.

    “Dumbs is a shooter too,” said Middleton, who re-signed for three years and $7.35 million. “It’s pretty exciting. I can get some cookies passing him the puck. That’d be a big plus. I think it’ll work well. He loves hitting guys too. He plays a gritty game as well so I think we’ll be a good combo.”

    UP FRONT

    With Jordan Greenway recovering from offseason surgeries, Tyson Jost will get the first chance to skate with Eriksson Ek and Marcus Foligno. The departure of Fiala has opened at least one spot for a rookie to make the team, with 2020 first-round draft pick Marco Rossi in line for it.

    ON THE SLATE

    This is the first time in eight years the Wild will play their regular-season opener at home. After three more games at Xcel Energy Center, they don’t hit the road until a five-game trip that starts Oct. 22 at Boston. The Wild have a season-long nine-game homestand from Feb. 9-21.

    Stars expect to open camp without unsigned scorer Jason Robertson

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    FRISCO, Texas — Young 40-goal scorer Jason Robertson is expected to miss the start of training camp for the Dallas Stars because the team and the restricted free agent haven’t agreed on a new contract.

    General manager Jim Nill said there’s been steady, ongoing negotiations over the last couple of weeks with Robertson and his representatives. Nill wouldn’t say what has kept the two sides from reaching a deal, adding there have been “very good discussions.”

    The Stars, with new coach Pete DeBoer, open camp Thursday in Cedar Park, Texas, at the home of their AHL team. They have three days of work there before returning to North Texas for their exhibition opener at home on Monday night. They open the regular season Oct. 13 at Nashville.

    “I think he’s disappointed he’s not at camp, we are too,” Nill said before the team departed for the Austin area. “I think it’s very important for a younger player and as you mentioned, the (new) coaching staff. … We do have some time on our side, but we wish he gets here as soon as he can.”

    Robertson had a base salary of $750,000 last season, the end of a $2.775 million, three-year contract. He still has five more years before he has the opportunity to become an unrestricted free agent.

    The left wing turned 23 soon after the end of last season, when he had 41 goals and 38 assists for 79 points in his 74 games. Robertson joined Hockey Hall of Famer Mike Modano, Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin as the only 40-goal scorers since the franchise moved to Dallas in 1993.

    A second-round draft pick by the Stars in 2017, Robertson has 125 points (58 goals, 67 assists) in his 128 NHL games. He had one goal and three assists in his first postseason action last season, when Dallas lost its first-round playoff series in seven games against Calgary.

    DeBoer said he looks forward to coaching Robertson, but that the forward’s absence won’t change his plans for camp.

    “It doesn’t impact what I’m doing,” DeBoer said. “Listen, I laid awake at night with the excitement of coaching Jason Robertson, 40-plus goals, but he’s not here. So, you know, until he gets here, I can’t spend any energy on that.”

    Nill said the Stars are open to a long-term extension or a bridge contract for Robertson, who was part of the team’s top line last season with veteran Joe Pavelski and Roope Hintz. They combined for 232 points, the second-most in franchise history for a trio.

    “We’re open to anything. But other than that … I’m not going to negotiate through the media,” Nill said. “As I said, we’ve had good conversations. We’ll see where it goes.”

    Training camps open around NHL after another short offseason

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    Training camps open around the NHL after another short offseason, a third in a row squeezed by the pandemic. That doesn’t bother Colorado Avalanche star Nathan MacKinnon one bit.

    For one of hockey’s best players and his teammates, it’s already time to get back on the ice and defend their Stanley Cup title, less than three months since they knocked off the back-to-back champion Tampa Bay Lightning.

    “I still feel like I just was playing,” MacKinnon said. “I took two weeks off, and then I started skating again. It’s just fun. I enjoy it, and I like the short summer. It feels like the season’s just kind of rolling over again.”

    The NHL rolls into fall coming off an entertaining playoffs and final with the chance to finally get back on a normal schedule. That means full camps for teams that got new coaches and the benefits of a regular routine.

    That means a mere 88 days between Game 6 of the final and the first-on ice practice sessions.

    “We’re kind of used to it now,” Tampa Bay goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy said after he and the Lightning lost in the final for the first time in three consecutive trips. “It’s a little harder, of course, because you don’t have that much time to rest. It’s basically a few weeks and you have to get back at it. But, yeah, I can’t complain. You want your summers to be short every year.”

    It was a little longer for Connor McDavid and the Oilers after losing to Colorado in the West final. Despite the lack of downtime, McDavid “wouldn’t trade that in for anything” and aims to make it even further since Edmonton shored up its goaltending situation by adding Jack Campbell.

    A few spins of the goalie carousel ended with the Avalanche acquiring Alexandar Georgiev from the New York Rangers and Cup winner Darcy Kuemper landing with Washington. Joining new teammates, many of whom hoisted the Cup in 2018, Kuemper is not worried about less time off.

    “It was definitely a very unique summer,” Kuemper said. “With how short it was, you start getting back into the gym and you’re kind of a little bit worried that your training’s going to be so short. But you kind of felt like you weren’t getting back into shape. You were already there.”

    NEW COACHES

    The Oilers are one of several teams settling in for training camp under a new coach. Jay Woodcroft took over as interim coach in February but has the full-time job now.

    “Looking forward to a camp with him,” McDavid said. “He did a great job coming in during the middle of the season, but it’s never easy on a coach, for sure. I’m sure there’s things that he wanted to touch on that you wasn’t able to kind of in the middle of the year, so he’ll be able to to touch on all of it this year.”

    The same goes for Bruce Boudreau in Vancouver, 11 months since being put in charge of the Canucks. Philadelphia’s John Tortorella, Boston’s Jim Montgomery, Vegas’ Bruce Cassidy, Dallas’ Peter DeBoer, Florida’s Paul Maurice, Chicago’s Luke Richardson, Detroit’s Derek Lalonde and the New York Islanders’ Lane Lambert are all starting the job fresh.

    CAMP TRYOUTS

    Roughly 40 players are attending a camp on a professional tryout agreement with the chance to earn a contract for the season. James Neal has that opportunity with the Blue Jackets, and Derek Stepan returned to Carolina to seek a job with the Hurricanes.

    The most intriguing situation involves 37-year-old center Eric Staal, who agreed to the tryout with Florida the same time brother Marc signed a one-year contract. Younger brother Jordan was with Eric and Marc on the 18th green at Pebble Beach to witness the occasion.

    “They’re both just super pumped, as was I,” said Jordan Staal, who is the captain of the Hurricanes. “Eric is excited about the opportunity and Marc, as well. Really cool. Really cool thing.”

    EARLY START

    Before the puck drops on the NHL season in North America on Oct. 11, the Nashville Predators and San Jose Sharks play twice in Prague on Oct. 7 and 8. And those are not exhibitions.

    “We still play two important games,” said Sharks forward Tomas Hertl, who is a native of Prague. “It’s not just preseason where you coming here to warm up.”

    Colorado and Columbus will also play two games in Tampere, Finland, on Nov. 4-5 as part of the NHL’s Global Series.

    And just as the league gets used to a regular schedule, work is ongoing between the league and NHL Players’ Association to stage a World Cup of Hockey in February 2024, which is popular among players even if it knocks the calendar off kilter again.

    “I think they missed out on a huge, huge portion of the international game that’s really going to be missed,” McDavid said. “We need to figure out a way to get an international tournament in as quickly as possible.”