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5 things learned from Oct. 2 preseason games

Auston Matthews plus-2 in debut; Oilers top line puts on show

by Jon Lane @JonLaneNHL / Staff Writer

The 15-day, 106-game NHL preseason schedule is in full swing, and each day will take a closer look at the players, teams and stories that are making headlines in the days leading up to the start of the regular season Oct. 12.

Here are five things we learned from the preseason games Sunday:

Auston Powers: Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews was a plus-2 with two shots on goal in 18:23 of ice time during his preseason debut, a 3-2 overtime win against the Montreal Canadiens at Air Canada Centre. The No. 1 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft may not have filled the score sheet, but he showed composure in his first game since playing for Team North America at the World Cup of Hockey 2016. 

"I mean, it's hockey out there, so I think kind of having that World Cup experience under my belt gives you confidence going into this that you can perform at this level and make an impact," Matthews said.

Matthews also drew a holding penalty against Canadiens defenseman Mikhail Sergachev two minutes into the second period and had his best scoring chance when he hit the crossbar with under five minutes to play.

Video: MTL@TOR: Matthews dangles past defender for shot

"I kind of tried to show like I was going to pass and sneak one in there," Matthews said. "It was open, and I knew it was open. Saving [the goals] for the regular season, I guess."

Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock also made his preseason debut after coaching Team Canada to victory at the World Cup. He returned wanting to see more from Matthews and linemates William Nylander and Zach Hyman.

"They tried passing a lot at the net," Babcock said. "What I saw tonight is we have a different skill set than we had last year, but we don't know how to play yet," Babcock said. "We were perimeter and light at times and we didn't want to attack the net. It felt like we were handing out points for stickhandling and not shooting and not getting on the inside."

McDavid makes things happen: Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid teamed with linemates Jordan Eberle and Milan Lucic to put on a show at Kraft Hockeyville Canada.

McDavid, the No. 1 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, had a goal and assist in a 3-2 win against the Los Angeles Kings. He converted his own rebound off a pass from Eberle in the second period and set up a 2-on-1 rush in the third, finishing with a cross-ice pass that Eberle put past Kings goalie Jack Campbell.  

"He was flying tonight," Eberle said of McDavid, who had another apparent goal waved off when the whistle blew because Oilers defenseman Brandon Davidson was injured behind the play. "With his speed, he opens up so much, especially on the rush. Both our goals were on the rush, so we still need to try to find a way to work each other's game on the cycle. 

Video: LAK@EDM: Eberle cashes in on 2-on-1 opportunity

"Lucic and his big body is going to open up a lot of space, so if we can get offense from that, along with the stuff we're getting off the rush, we'll be a good line."

Oilers forward Jesse Puljujarvi, the No. 4 pick of the 2016 draft, scored his first goal of the preseason, a 30-foot shot that beat Campbell in the first period.

Staal stands out: Minnesota Wild forward Eric Staal provided a glimpse of what could be a revival season in the Twin Cities. Staal had a goal and an assist in a 3-1 victory against the Carolina Hurricanes, where he spent 12 NHL seasons before he was traded to the New York Rangers on Feb. 28. 

Staal, who signed a three-year, $10.5 million contract with the Wild on July 1, centered a top line of left wing Zach Parise and Charlie Coyle. His 13 goals and 39 points last season were his lowest since his rookie season of 2003-04 (11 goals, 31 assists).

"As a line, we definitely saw glimpses of some very good things we can be excited about, but it's one game," Staal told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "We aren't going to score two every game, but we want to make sure we're controlling pucks … playing in the offensive zone and [playing] good defensively. We showed some good signs."

Wild coach Bruce Boudreau liked how Coyle played at right wing after spending a good part of his career in Minnesota switching between center and wing.

"Our plan is to leave him there," Boudreau said. "And I think he can be a top-notch power forward. He's got great hands for a big man. He's good along the boards with the puck. You never know how it's going to work out, but you've got a 220-pound guy and then you've got a 6-foot-4 guy in Staal.

"It means Zach doesn't have to do all the corner work, which I think wears him down toward the end of the year." 

Jarry generating attention: Goalie Tristan Jarry is making a case to be the Pittsburgh Penguins' No. 2 goaltender with Matt Murray out 3-6 weeks because of a broken hand. Jarry made 24 saves in a 2-0 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena on Sunday.

"My goal coming into camp was to get better every day," Jarry told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette after earning his second preseason shutout. "That's still my mindset. Even during practice, I want to be better than the day before. Every day is a clean slate. Every day is a new day, something else to work on."

Though Penguins coach Mike Sullivan isn't ready to declare Jarry the backup to Marc-Andre Fleury, he is encouraged by what the 21-year-old is doing.

"We know how good of a goalie he is," Sullivan said. "He has the ability to be a real solid goalie, what you've seen the last couple of games."

Video: CHI@DET: Frk hammers home one-timer after faceoff win

Frk flying: Forward Martin Frk is making a late run to break training camp with the Detroit Red Wings after he had a goal and assist in a 6-3 win against the Chicago Blackhawks at Joe Louis Arena. 

Frk, chosen with the No. 49 pick in the 2012 draft, has yet to appear in an NHL game. He'll have two or three more games to prove he's ready after splitting the 2014-15 seasons with Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League and Toledo of the ECHL. He showed promise in Grand Rapids with 27 goals and 44 points in 67 games last season.

"Marty Frk has taken steps in the right direction pretty much every year," Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill told "When he came into the American League, he went through some struggles learning how to play, what I would say the right way. To his credit, including getting sent down to Toledo, he has worked and worked and worked and worked and worked.

"If you ask anybody in Toledo, anybody in Grand Rapids, they'll tell you he's the first guy to the rink every day. In Toledo, he was running to the rink to make sure he was in great shape. He's a worker. I think he's taking steps in the right direction and he does have a skill-set. He can obviously really shoot the puck."

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