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5 things learned from Sept. 20 preseason games

Lundqvist gets test with Rangers; Hall impressed by Devils teammate Hughes

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / Staff Writer

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 Friday:

Lundqvist gets back to work with Rangers

Henrik Lundqvist was happy to shake some of the rust off and return to work for the New York Rangers.

The 37-year-old goalie, who begins his 15th season, made 21 saves on 24 shots in his first preseason game, including all 10 shots faced in the second period, in 30:20 of ice time in a 4-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils on Friday.

"I felt more in control in the second period," Lundqvist said. "The good thing for me in this game was there were a lot of shots, and I was looking for a lot of feedback from the first start. That's what you really want the first couple starts of the season. Now I can watch video and know what I need to work on in practice. I think that's more important than the actual results right now; they had a pretty good lineup on the other side."

Lundqvist, who finished with the highest goals-against average (3.07) and lowest save percentage (.907) of his NHL career last season, ranked sixth among NHL goaltenders in games with 30 or more saves (27). 

"The past is the past," he said. "Every year there are new challenges. You have to look at the possibilities and the good things we can accomplish this year. We're moving forward and that alone gives you a lot of positive energy. We have some skilled players but also a young team. We have to figure out how good we can be this year."


Hall impressed by Devils teammate Hughes

Jack Hughes has yet to disappoint while being given every opportunity to excel alongside different linemates during the preseason.

Hughes scored twice, including the overtime winner, playing center for Nikita Gusev and Miles Wood, in a victory against the Boston Bruins on Sept. 16. He had a goal and an assist playing with Taylor Hall and Kyle Palmieri against the Rangers on Friday. The 18-year-old who was the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, has four points and leads all NHL rookies with three goals in two preseason games.

Hall, who was making his preseason debut and playing his first game since Dec. 23, 2018 after missing the final 47 games last season with a left knee injury that required arthroscopic surgery in February, enjoyed working with Hughes.

"He's a stud," Hall said of Hughes. "He played probably about as well as he could have. He had the puck a lot. It seemed like whenever he had the puck, he had it with speed and with a lot of timing. He was definitely deserving of the first star and was a guy that stood out and obviously a lot of fun to play with. He carried our line and that's what you want to see. So hopefully he can keep that going into the regular season, but that was a great showing."

Hughes likely will begin the season at center with Gusev and Wayne Simmonds or Jesper Bratt.

Video: NYR@NJD: Hall nets laser from circle for PPG


Stars align for Lightning

Nikita Kucherov appears ready to pick up where he left off with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The 26-year-old forward, who won the Hart Trophy as the most valuable player in the NHL after scoring 128 points (41 goals, 87 assists) last season, scored twice in his first preseason game, a 3-1 victory against the Nashville Predators on Friday.  

Kucherov was one of seven skaters playing his first preseason game for the Lightning, including forwards Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, and Cedric Paquette and defensemen Victor Hedman, Braydon Coburn and Mikhail Sergachev.

Johnson centered the top line with Kucherov and Palat. Paquette centered on the second line with forward prospects Carter Verhaeghe and Alexander Volkov.

There could be as many as two forward spots open in a bottom-six role, according to The Athletic. 

"There are so many things we're looking for," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "We're really driving to see guys that are competitive. Are you going to be able to play 10-12 minutes, and are you going to be able to contribute? Can you make plays? There are so many things that go into it. But it's in the players' hands and (up to) them to show us what they can do."


Nylander looks comfortable with Maple Leafs

William Nylander hasn't had to worry about a new contract this season and it seems to be making all the difference for Toronto Maple Leafs.

The 23-year-old forward is looking to make up for last season, when he had 27 points (seven goals, 20 assists) in 54 games after missing the first 28 games of the season before agreeing on a six-year contract Dec. 1. He's been playing with renewed confidence on a line with Auston Matthews and Andreas Johnsson and coach Mike Babcock has taken notice.

"I thought they were good," Babcock said. "Willie might have had the puck as much (on Friday) as he did last year. I'm not kidding you, so he's got to be feeling good about himself."

Nylander has three assists in three preseason games. He had 15 shot attempts and six shots on goal in 16:53 of ice time in a 3-0 win against the Buffalo Sabres on Friday.

"Our line was skating well out there and having the puck a lot," Nylander said. "It would be nice to maybe hit the net on a few too, give me a chance to score. It's coming though, it's getting better and better in practices and games. I'm feeling better."

Matthews, who leads the Maple Leafs with four points (three goals, one assist) in two preseason games, said Nylander can free up space for himself. 

"The way he can skate and his edgework, he obviously looked good," Matthews said. "He was flying all over the ice, he's just got to hit the net."

Video: BUF@TOR: Matthews finishes Nylander's setup down low


Ho-Sang adjusting with Islanders

Joshua Ho-Sang said he's beginning to understand what it will take to become the playmaker New York Islanders coach Barry Trotz envisions.

The 23-year-old forward had 13:40 of ice time and his first point, an assist, in his second preseason game in a 4-3 win at the Detroit Red Wings on Friday. The No. 28 pick in the 2014 NHL Draft is hoping to land a significant role on the Islanders with a strong training camp. 

"I feel like I understand how to generate offense more this year than I did last year," Ho-Sang told Newsday. "I just came back and it seems a lot easier. It's like, 'Whoa, I actually get it now.'"

Ho-Sang had one goal and an assist in 10 games for the Islanders last season, and has 24 points (seven goals, 17 assists) in 53 NHL games in three seasons. He was playing on a line with Derick Brassard and forward prospect Arnaud Durandeau.

Ho-Sang said Trotz may have a defense-first structure, but it also generates plenty of offense.

"(It's) actually a really offensive system if you do it right because you get a lot of turnovers and you're getting a lot of odd-man rushes," he said. "I would say wingers have more responsibilities in this system than any system I've played."


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

Penguins at Blue Jackets, 2 p.m. (NHLN, ATTSN-PT)

Avalanche at Wild, 6 p.m (FS-N+)

Hurricanes at Capitals, 7 p.m. (NBCSWA)

Islanders at Devils, 7 p.m.

Rangers at Flyers, 7 p.m. (NHLN, NBCSP+, MSG)

Maple Leafs at Sabres, 7 p.m. (SN, MSG-B)

Canadiens at Senators, 7:30 p.m. (TSN5, RDS)

Golden Knights at Sharks, 8 p.m. (KTNV)

Panthers vs. Stars, Tulsa, Oklahoma, 8 p.m. 

Lightning at Predators, 8 p.m. 

Bruins at Blackhawks, 8:30 p.m. (NBCSCH+)

Ducks at Coyotes, 9 p.m. 

Canucks vs. Kings, Salt Lake City, Utah, 9 p.m. (NHLN-US [JIP], PRIME)

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