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Johnson signs seven-year extension with Avalanche

Tuesday, 09.22.2015 / 7:50 PM / News

NHL.com

Defenseman Erik Johnson signed a seven-year contract extension with the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday.

Financial terms were not disclosed, but the contract reportedly has an average annual value of $6 million.

Johnson, 27, is signed through the 2022-23 season. He is entering the final season of a four-year, $15 million contract.

Capitals set to entrust Kuznetsov with enhanced role

Tuesday, 09.22.2015 / 5:13 PM / 2015-2016 Season Preview

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

WASHINGTON -- Center Evgeny Kuznetsov is going to have to do his best Nicklas Backstrom impersonation to help the Washington Capitals start off strong this season.

Backstrom, the Capitals' longtime No. 1 center, is expected to miss at least a handful of games in October while he continues to recover from hip surgery he had in May. That means Kuznetsov is expected to be Washington's new No. 1 center for the time being, likely playing between Alex Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie.

Team USA's Tortorella, Lombardi find quick chemistry

Tuesday, 09.22.2015 / 4:51 PM / World Cup of Hockey 2016

Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

In all their years working in the NHL, Los Angeles Kings general manager Dean Lombardi and John Tortorella never crossed paths. But when Lombardi, the GM for Team USA at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, approached Tortorella about being his coach, it didn't take long for a connection to form.

Tortorella was announced as coach for Team USA on Monday. He said Tuesday that after being asked to interview with Lombardi and his management staff, he put together notes for the initial meeting. Then he heard Lombardi speak at his introduction as Team USA GM in August and something clicked.

"I listened to him speak … and I looked at my notes and the bullet points I had, and I said I think we're thinking pretty similar," Tortorella said. "It's pretty neat for me. I just thought it was a good connection. In the time and process I've gone through with him, I think I've connected with him. It doesn't always happen that way."

Sabres' Eichel recalls star turn at '14 prospects game

Tuesday, 09.22.2015 / 4:27 PM / Prospects

Joe Yerdon - NHL.com Correspondent

BUFFALO -- The perspective on the CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game has changed a lot in a year for Jack Eichel.

A year ago, Eichel arrived in Buffalo for the first time and won the Most Outstanding Player award in the 2014 game. Now he's trying to make the Buffalo Sabres roster and is helping to provide an example to future American players as they prepare for the 2015 All-American Prospects Game on Thursday at First Niagara Center (7 p.m. ET; NHLN-US).

"It was really important for me," Eichel said about playing in the game. "Obviously this game is pretty highly touted and there's so many great prospects and great players here. I just wanted to come in here and have a good start to my year, and I think I did that. It was a great experience for me getting here, seeing a lot of my friends, and playing a game in front of thousands and thousands of people. It's a really exciting event to be a part of. These kids are really going to enjoy it; it's a night they're never going to forget."

Blue Jackets' Saad to miss games Tuesday: report

Tuesday, 09.22.2015 / 9:14 AM / News

NHL.com

Columbus Blue Jackets forward Brandon Saad will not play in either of their split-squad preseason games Tuesday against the St. Louis Blues.

Saad was hit in the mouth by a puck during practice Monday, according to the Columbus Dispatch. Coach Todd Richards said he could return Thursday when the Blue Jackets host the Minnesota Wild.

Canucks' Cracknell hometown hero at Hockeyville

Tuesday, 09.22.2015 / 3:00 AM / Kraft Hockeyville

Kevin Woodley - NHL.com Correspondent

VICTORIA, British Columbia -- Playing street hockey while growing up in Victoria, forward Adam Cracknell imagined scoring a lot of game-winning goals for the Vancouver Canucks one day.

On Monday, his dream came to fruition.

Wearing a Canucks jersey for the first time and playing in front of family and friends in his hometown as part of Kraft Hockeyville, Cracknell scored the only goal 1:39 into 3-on-3 overtime to lead the Canucks to a 1-0 preseason victory against the San Jose Sharks at Q Centre.

With his picture hanging from a minor hockey wall of fame in the concourse at the other end of the arena and an extra Canucks skater on the ice for a delayed penalty, Cracknell walked into the high slot and beat Sharks goalie Aaron Dell cleanly over the blocker.

Five Questions: Stamkos on Hedman, playoff success

Tuesday, 09.22.2015 / 3:00 AM / Five Questions With…

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

NHL.com's Q&A feature called "Five Questions With …" runs every Tuesday. We talk to key figures in the game and ask them questions to gain insight into their lives, careers and the latest news.

The latest edition features Tampa Bay Lighting center Steven Stamkos:

TORONTO -- The questions are simple and direct. The answers leave room for debate and conjecture.

To Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos: Do you consider yourself a right wing or a center?

"I'm a natural center, have played center my whole life, so if the question is where am I more comfortable, I'm more comfortable playing center," Stamkos told NHL.com during the NHL's Player Media Tour earlier this month. "But I think I proved last year I could play both and still be effective."

To Lightning coach Jon Cooper: Is Stamkos going to play center or right wing?

"Steven has clearly played more at center than on the wing in his career so obviously he's more comfortable at center," Cooper said. "However, he just proved in the playoffs that he can excel on the wing. It's a great weapon as a coach to have players that can play both center and wing."

Analysis of 2015-16 NHL.com fantasy mock draft

Pete Jensen - NHL.com Fantasy Insider

The NHL preseason is underway and fans around the world are putting together their fantasy leagues, so we've created a simulation to help you be as prepared as possible for draft day.

NHL.com's fantasy staff of Matt Cubeta, Pete Jensen, Brian Metzer, David Satriano, Eric Goodman and Sean McCullen joined LNH.com's Sebastien Deschambault, Yahoo's Scott Pianowski and NHL.com's Brian Compton, Mike Morreale, Darryl Haberman and Thomas Imperato to participate in this 12-team mock draft. The league has 192 draftees and standard Yahoo scoring.

Below are the results of the simulation with commentary pertaining to the first eight rounds and observations for later rounds. Fantasy owners shouldn't expect every trend of this mock draft to translate to your league format, but we recommend using NHL.com's top 250 ranks, analysis stories, Yahoo average draft positions and this exercise to shape your draft-day decisions.

Eric Staal, Ward among Hurricanes' X-factors

Tuesday, 09.22.2015 / 3:00 AM / 2015-2016 Season Preview

Kurt Dusterberg - NHL.com Correspondent

RALEIGH, N.C. -- The Carolina Hurricanes' six-year absence from the Stanley Cup Playoffs has led management to evaluate the long-term direction of the franchise. With a full season under their belts, general manager Ron Francis and coach Bill Peters will use 2015-16 to make a number of critical decisions.

Here are three X-factors that will have an impact on how quickly change occurs in Carolina:

The cornerstones -- Center Eric Staal and goaltender Cam Ward, the last remaining players from the Hurricanes' 2006 Stanley Cup-winning team, are entering the final seasons of long-term contracts. Their futures with the Hurricanes are unresolved. Each would like to remain, but Francis has explored trades for them during the past two summers.

Staal consistently reached the 70-point plateau for most of his career, but he's dropped to 61 and 54 points, respectively, the past two seasons.

Hurricanes seek more offense to get back to playoffs

Tuesday, 09.22.2015 / 3:00 AM / 2015-2016 Season Preview

Kurt Dusterberg - NHL.com Correspondent

NHL.com continues its preview of the 2015-16 season, which will include in-depth looks at all 30 teams.

RALEIGH, N.C. -- The Carolina Hurricanes have missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs for six straight seasons. While no one in the organization is making any lofty pronouncements about 2015-16, the vibe surrounding the team is changing.

The Hurricanes are hoping to take another step in a youth movement while looking for bounce-back seasons from a handful of veterans. Carolina's non-shootout total of 183 goals was 27th in the NHL, and the offense must improve in order for the Hurricanes to make any noise in the Eastern Conference standings.

Management made a few roster adjustments in the offseason, but key personnel decisions loom as Carolina tries to forge a winning identity in 2015-16.

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