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5 things learned from Sept. 30 preseason games

Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury finding his form, Patrik Laine makes Jets debut

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / Deputy Managing Editor

Now that the 15-day, 106-game 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. 12.

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

'Flower' in full bloom: Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, whose nickname is "Flower," made 24 saves in a 1-0 victory against the Chicago Blackhawks at Consol Energy Center on Friday. It was nearly seven months since his last win, March 31 against the Columbus Blue Jackets. During that game Fleury sustained a concussion; while he was recovering, he lost his starting job to Matt Murray, who was in goal when the Penguins won the Stanley Cup.

It was Fleury's second preseason game. He was sharper Friday than in a 4-2 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Sept. 27.

"I felt better [Friday], definitely," Fleury told the Penguins website. "My [defensemen] were good too, helping me out, moving guys in front of me so I could see the puck. That's always a big help, also."

Fleury got into one Stanley Cup Playoff game after recovering from his concussion; he started Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning. With Murray likely to miss at least some of the regular season because of a broken hand sustained while playing for Team North America during the World Cup of Hockey 2016, Fleury needs to get the feel for playing games again as quickly as possible.

"I think it's just getting back into game shape a little bit, getting the timing back," he told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "Over the summer I do a lot of shots and drills. Then in the game you kind of stand there sometimes with nothing to do for a while. You have to stay focused, with traffic and people crashing the net."

Video: CHI@PIT: Fleury stops Motte's chance with poke check

Holland, Marner make solid connection: The Toronto Maple Leafs scored eight times in their 8-1 victory against the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center on Friday, one night after topping the Sabres 1-0 in a shootout.

The line of Tyler Bozak, Peter Holland and Mitchell Marner combined for two goals and two assists.

Marner, the fourth pick of the 2015 NHL Draft, is tied for the League lead with four assists in two preseason games.

"Marner has unbelievable hands so you always have your stick on the ice when he has the puck," Holland told the Toronto Sun.

But Marner was as proud of his defensive reliability as he was his offensive output.

"We played a sound game, shutting them down in the neutral zone and were rewarded for it," he told the Sun. "The defense kept the gaps tight on their forwards and made it easy to come back and help.

"We stuck to the system even with the score [out of hand]. That's when it can fall apart. That's important, me being an outlet for the defense at all times."

Laine debuts, Scheifele steals the show: Forward Patrik Laine, the No. 2 pick in the 2016 draft, made his preseason debut against the Edmonton Oilers, but his teammate, Mark Scheifele, was the headliner in the Winnipeg Jets' 5-1 win at MTS Centre.

Scheifele, also making his preseason debut, scored a goal and had three assists. He helped set up the Jets' first two goals, and after the Oilers scored to cut the Jets' lead to 3-1, he scored a power-play goal at 14:22 of the third to make it 4-1. At 17:57 he found an open Kyle Connor for a goal to close the scoring.

Laine, who played with Team Finland at the World Cup of Hockey 2016, had one shot on goal in 13:57 of ice time, including 1:03 on the power play.

"It's nice to get some feeling on the power play, but the shots weren't so good," Laine told the Winnipeg Sun. "I have to improve my game a lot and I will. When the season gets going, it's always easier."

Teammates also are confident that Laine, who was named most valuable player of the 2016 IIHF World Championship and won the Jari Kurri Award as MVP of the 2016 playoffs in Liiga, Finland's top professional league, will find his groove.

"He jumps off the page with his ability, and he does a lot of really good things out there," Jets captain Blake Wheeler said. "A lot of God-given ability. For any young player it's just about trying to be on the same page with everyone else. This is all new to him. Training camp is new to him, our system is new to him. Once he feels comfortable he's going to explode because he's quite a player."

Grigorenko feeling good: Colorado Avalanche forward Mikhail Grigorenko said increased confidence helped him score two goals in a 3-1 victory against the Los Angeles Kings at Pepsi Center.

Grigorenko had a personal NHL-best 27 points last season, including 13 points in his final 30 games. The 22-year-old has raised his level higher during the preseason, with three goals in two games.

"Last year helped me a lot and I felt like getting somewhere and proving [myself]," he told "Then this year since the start of camp I was feeling good and my confidence is at a good level."

Coach Jared Bednar has liked what he's seen so far. Bednar is the fourth coach Grigorenko has played for since making his NHL debut months after the Buffalo Sabres selected him with the 12th pick of the 2012 draft. The Sabres sent him to the Avalanche as part of the Ryan O'Reilly trade on June 26, 2015.

"I thought he was outstanding tonight," Bednar said. "Poise with the puck, making plays, moving his feet. That's the best I've seen from him in this training camp. He's been good but [Friday] I thought he was exceptional. He was the driving force behind that line. … Some of the plays he's making, the give-and-go's and finding ice. He did a real nice job both offensively and defensively."

Blues get offense from defense: The St. Louis Blues got three power-play goals from defensemen in their 4-1 defeat of the Dallas Stars at Scottrade Center.

Colten Parayko scored at 18:58 of the first period to tie game 1-1, Jordan Schmaltz gave the Blues a 2-1 lead at 9:24 of the second, and Petteri Lindbohm closed the scoring at 12:22 of the third period.

The goals were significant for Lindbohm and Schmaltz, who are fighting for playing time on a deep defense.

"It's interesting," coach Ken Hitchcock told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch prior to the game. "Nobody's emerged yet. Schmaltz is in the picture now. We've got a lot of guys who are good players. Nobody's emerged, either good or bad. They're there, they're knocking at the door, that's why we're going to really give these guys the exposure to make an impression. You've got Lindbohm, you've got [Robert] Bortuzzo, you've got Schmaltz. You've got a number of guys that are really knocking on the door. [Chris] Butler's had a great camp. These guys are right there. We want to give them a chance to play as much as possible over the next three games and see where they're at."

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