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preseason

5 things learned from Sept. 19 preseason games

Galchenyuk impresses with Penguins; Bruins building chemistry; Upshall looks to earn contract with Stars

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

Now that the 16-day, 107-game NHL preseason schedule has begun, it's time to take a closer look at the players, teams and stories that are making headlines in the weeks leading up to the start of the regular season Oct. 2.

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

 
Galchenyuk finding place with Penguins

When the Pittsburgh Penguins acquired forward Alex Galchenyuk from the Arizona Coyotes as part of the Phil Kessel trade June 29, the hope was he could slot in at left wing on Evgeni Malkin's line and provide some punch on the power play. 

In the Penguins' 4-1 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets at PPG Paints Arena on Thursday, Galchenyuk scored a power-play goal and tied for the team lead with four shots on goal in his preseason debut. 

"I think they have the potential to be a real good tandem," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said.

Galchenyuk tied for the Coyotes lead with 19 goals last season. He scored his first with the Penguins on his first shot on goal.

"Jake (Guentzel) made a nice pass across, and it was a good screen by Horny (Patric Hornqvist)," Galchenyuk said. "I decided to take a shot and I saw an opening, and I'm happy it went in. On the power play, when you've got the shot, you've got to make sure you take it."

Video: CBJ@PIT: Galchenyuk buries Guentzel's dish for PPG

 

Suzuki continues to push for spot with Canadiens

Nick Suzuki again looked like a player ready for a full-time NHL spot with the Montreal Canadiens. In a 5-4 shootout win against the Florida Panthers at Bell Centre on Thursday, he played 18:48, second most among Canadiens forwards, had two assists and scored a spectacular goal in the shootout.

Tweet from @CanadiensMTL: OK, Nick Suzuki. 🤯#GoHabsGo pic.twitter.com/g0Njn6I0oV

It was his shootout goal that was the talk of the locker room after the game.

"It was pretty nice," teammate Brendan Gallagher said. "I can't do it, so it was pretty special to see. They're confident. These kids are confident and they should be. They're good players. He showed it off again tonight."

The 20-year-old forward has caught the attention of coach Claude Julien.

"He's so intelligent," Julien said. "Every time he's on the ice, something happens. These are gifted players. Right now, he's really confident with his game and it shows."

Suzuki said he knows he has to stay at the same level or improve if he wants to be with the Canadiens for the regular-season opener against the Carolina Hurricanes on Oct. 3.

"It's going to keep ramping up as we move along, and the time and space is going to go down," he said. "But I'm getting more comfortable out there to see what I can do personally, and just being comfortable for me is huge and I'm using my linemates to the best of my advantage."

 

Bruins building chemistry

The Boston Bruins have experimented with a line of Charlie Coyle centering left wing Anders Bjork and right wing Danton Heinen during training camp and the result was positive in a 3-1 win against the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center on Thursday.

Coyle set up Heinen for the game's first goal, and Bjork had an assist in the third period.

"They have been together for a bit in camp now, so when you get to play 2-3 days in a row, it doesn't sound like much, but this time of year it allows you to feed off of and read off of each other, so they did a good job," Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said.

Coyle said he and Heinen have had good chemistry since Coyle joined the Bruins in a trade with the Minnesota Wild on Feb. 20.

"We just know our tendencies and what we are going to do," Coyle said. "He knows what type of player I am, and vice versa. I think that helps. He's an easy-going guy off the ice, we've gotten to know each other, and I think that helps a lot. Like I said, we want to improve on last year."

 

Upshall pushing for spot with Stars

Scottie Upshall is with the Dallas Stars on a tryout contract and helped his cause for earning an NHL contract by scoring a goal in a 2-1 win against the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center on Thursday.

The forward, who will turn 36 on Oct. 7, didn't play last season after knee surgery but looked good as he raced past Avalanche defenseman Mark Alt to score.

"It's been a long road," Upshall said. "Having the opportunity here with these guys to showcase what I can still do, you've got to take advantage of it. Playing in games like this with a young team, you've got to be a leader, you've got to show what it's like to play hard hockey."

Upshall played 12:40, led the Stars with four shots on goal and had a game-high six hits, and earned the praise of coach Jim Montgomery.

"I thought we were really getting overmatched in the first 10 minutes, but [Upshall] had that big hit on the forecheck and I thought the last 10 minutes of the first period we started establishing some O-zone time and getting some shots and bodies to the net," he said.

 

Lizotte earning coach's trust

Blake Lizotte continues to be one of the surprises of the preseason for the Los Angeles Kings, with a goal and an assist in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Vegas Golden Knights at Staples Center on Thursday.

He had an assist on Dustin Brown's second-period goal and scored off a rebound in the third. 

The 21-year-old forward, who played one game with the Kings last season after signing as an undrafted free agent on April 2, was critical of his play.

"My compete level wasn't as high," he said. "I lost a few battles in the corner tonight. That's just not my game. I'm usually really high on compete level and battle level, so I think that can get higher."

Regardless of Lizotte's self-assessment, he's earned the trust of coach Todd McLellan.

"When a coach trusts a player it's a lot better for the team, it's a lot better for the coach and the individual," McLellan said. "I'm gaining a big trust in Blake. ... When you're able to analyze your own game as an individual, he knows his game better than I do right now, so if that was his comment and his belief, then I'm going to go with that. He also did some really good things tonight. If there's more there and he's going to show us more, that's great."

 

Here is the full schedule for Friday (all times ET)

Sabres at Maple Leafs, 7 p.m. (SN1, MSG-B)
Predators at Lightning, 7 p.m.
Rangers at Devils, 7 p.m. (NHLN, MSG+, MSG)
Islanders at Red Wings, 7:30 p.m.
Blues at Jets, 8 p.m. (TSN3)
Flames at Oilers, 9 p.m.

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