Blackhawks send second line hopeful Pirri to AHL


It looks like Michal Handzus will be Chicago’s second line center to start the season.

After tonight’s final preseason game, the Blackhawks sent hopeful second line candidate Brandon Pirri along with winger Jeremy Morin and goalie Antti Raanta to AHL Rockford.

Much has been made of the competition through training camp for the right to play between Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa. Handzus was essentially auditioning to keep his job and fending off Chicago’s 2009 third-round pick in Pirri was his final battle. Second-year forward Brandon Saad was in the running early on before he was moved back to wing.

The demotions put Chicago’s roster at 24 players and one more cut to make. Expect a defenseman, either Ryan Stanton or Mike Kostka, to be the last to go. Chicago opens the season on Tuesday night at home against Washington at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Sabres’ Ristolainen makes team, Zadorov out two weeks (finger)


It was a good news/bad news day for both 2013 first-round picks of the Buffalo Sabres.

First up, the good news. Eighth overall pick, defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen, has made the team. After an impressive training camp, he made the cut as Bill Hoppe of the Olean Times Herald shares.

At 6’3″ 207 pounds, he’s been a physical player and a smart one through camp for Buffalo. It also marks the second year in a row the team’s top pick has made the team out of camp (Mikhail Grigorenko did last year).

The bad news centers around 16th overall pick Nikita Zadorov. He injured his finger blocking a shot on Friday night and will miss two weeks of action as Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News shares. Coach Ron Rolston says his finger was “smashed” at the tip. Gross.

Rolston says his injury status won’t dictate if he makes the team. More from Hoppe:

“Will we keep him?” Rolston asked. “We’ll have to discuss that. It’s two weeks. We could have him here and he could be working out and be on the ice because it’s not anything lower body.”

Buffalo is poised to be one of the youngest teams in the league. Keeping a pair of first-round picks from this year’s draft and last year’s (Grigorenko and Zemgus Girgensons) would make them a very green team.

Laich’s status for Caps opener up in the air


Brooks Laich wants to be in the Capitals opening night lineup, it’s just a question of whether his hip will let it happen.

Thanks to a hip flexor problem, Laich has missed plenty of time during Washington’s training camp. As coach Adam Oates tells Katie Carrera of The Washington Post, he’s hoping he can play against Chicago on Tuesday.

“No decision [for Saturday],” Oates said. “One skate, I don’t know. I think Tuesday makes more sense but we’ll see.”

Laich is key to the Capitals’ success and whether he’s playing center or on Mikhail Grabovski’s left wing, he provides a strong defensive presence as well as some goal scoring abilities. They’ve gone without Laich before in the past, but that’s not an optimal situation for them.

Lightning weighing decision heavily to keep Drouin


The Tampa Bay Lightning have a big decision on their hands with 2013 first-round pick Jonathan Drouin. Will he stay or will he go back to juniors?

Erik Erlendsson of The Tampa Tribune hears from GM Steve Yzerman about what they’re thinking about most when it comes to their top pick.

“Mostly, we want him playing. And if he’s not going to play regular (in the NHL), I want him playing. I don’t really have a timetable on it because we do have the luxury …to stagger their games and delay it for as long as you really want. So, it’s not like we are under a time crunch or anything.”

The Lightning, like any team with a player who’s junior eligible, can have Drouin play in nine games before making a decision. If he plays in more than that, they’ll burn the first year of his contract.

Drouin comes to Tampa with high expectations and a lot of talent. That said, sometimes it takes time for guys to be ready. At 18 years old, he may not be totally ready to go. Expect him to get a long look through at least his first nine games before a decision is made.

Related: Drouin: ‘Exciting’ to play with Stamkos, St. Louis on Bolts’ top line

Penguins injuries could open up cap space for Kobasew signing

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The Pittsburgh Penguins have been bitten lately by the injury bug as Tomas Vokoun (blood clot) and now Kris Letang (lower body) are each out indefinitely. That could open the door for them to add some forward help, however.

Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports if the Penguins put one or both players on long-term injured reserve (LTIR), that would give them the salary cap space to add Chuck Kobasew.

Kobasew is in Pens camp on a professional tryout and they’ve liked what they’ve seen from him this far. The Pens may need help on their fourth line and his veteran skills could give them better depth up front. If Matt D’Agostini isn’t ready to start the season, he’s been slowed down by a lower body issue, Kobasew could slip into his spot.