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preseason

5 things learned from Sept. 17 preseason games

Kapanen fits in on Maple Leafs top line; Hughes appears to be OK for Canucks

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 Tuesday:

 

Kapanen finding chemistry on Maple Leafs top line

With Kasperi Kapanen going to a new position on a new line, playing left wing with center John Tavares and right wing Mitchell Marner, growing pains were expected.

But Kapanen scored off a Marner pass for the Maple Leafs in their 3-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday at Mile One Centre in St. John's, Newfoundland.

"First game together it's always hard getting the chemistry going right way," Kapanen said. "We haven't been practicing too much anyway. Thought there were a lot of good things in our game that I didn't think we'd be doing, some things we need to be better at. It's the first game of the preseason so it's all good."

Kapanen said he felt more comfortable playing with Tavares and Marner as the game went on. He said the onus is on him to show that he should stay in that spot when the regular season begins against the Senators at Scotiabank Arena on Oct. 2.

"He (coach Mike Babcock) is giving me the opportunity right now," Kapanen said. "I'm trying to do everything I can to play with those guys. They're amazing players and I have to play my game and do what I do best, which is use my speed, be heavy and get under the skin of the opponent. Everything you saw last year, but better."

 

Hughes appears to be OK

The Vancouver Canucks were feeling good about more than just their 4-2 win against the Edmonton Oilers at Rogers Arena on Tuesday.

Defenseman Quinn Hughes was removed from the game in the third period for precautionary reasons after being hit in the face with a high stick during the first period.

Coach Travis Green said there was no major injury.

Hughes, the No. 7 pick of the 2018 NHL Draft, is expected to play a big role for the Canucks this season, keying their transition play at 5-on-5 and providing a threat from the point on the power play.

Green has worked to tamp down some of the hype surrounding Hughes, who had three assists in five games last season.

"I hope he's great, but I'm not going to sit here and say, 'Tonight he has to be dynamite,'" Green told The Athletic. "I want him to be as good as everyone else in this city does, but I also don't need to put the heat on him."

 

Jones pushing for spot with Ducks

Max Jones is one of several young forwards fighting for a spot with the Anaheim Ducks this season, and he helped his cause by scoring the game-winning goal in a 4-3 victory against the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center.

Tweet from @AnaheimDucks: Nothing preseason about this beauty!#LetsGoDucks | @Jones_Max19 pic.twitter.com/UIq3eGmJQK

The 21-year-old forward, selected by the Ducks with the No. 24 pick of the 2016 NHL Draft, had five points (two goals, three assists) in 30 games with Anaheim last season, his first as a pro, after he had 29 points (14 goals, 15 assists) in 29 games to start the season with San Diego of the American Hockey League, where he played for new Ducks coach Dallas Eakins.

Jones played left wing on a line with right wing Daniel Sprong and center Devin Shore and also saw time on the power play.

The 22-year-old Sprong is part of Jones' competition, along with Troy Terry, 22, Sam Steel, 21, Max Comtois, 20, and Isac Lundestrom, 19. Not all that talent is going to start the season with the Ducks, but a game like Tuesday could push Jones to the top of a talented young list.

 

Sherwood makes impact for Blue Jackets

Kole Sherwood did more than score the game-winning goal for the Columbus Blue Jackets in their 4-1 victory against the Buffalo Sabres at Nationwide Arena.

Tweet from @BlueJacketsNHL: The hometown kid, @92KSherwood. pic.twitter.com/qAOZXpD1zN

The 22-year-old also led Blue Jackets forwards in ice time at 18:04, and topped all Columbus players with four hits.

The Blue Jackets left room for young forwards to have key roles this season after Artemi Panarin, Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel signed elsewhere as unrestricted free agents, and the only significant signing up front was Gustav Nyquist. 

"That's why we didn't really go out and try to sign a lot of veteran players, because we feel the prospects we have who are ready that deserve a chance, deserve a long look at where they're at and what they can do for our team now," general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said at the start of training camp.  

Sherwood, who was born in Columbus, played two games for the Blue Jackets last season and had 25 points (16 goals, nine assists) in 56 games with Cleveland of the American Hockey League.

"His energy was there all night long," Cleveland coach Mike Eaves, who ran the Blue Jackets bench Tuesday, told the Columbus Dispatch. "That's the kind of thing I think Kole knows he needs to bring to the team."

 

Zykov has strong showing for Golden Knights

Valentin Zykov took a big step in earning a spot with the Vegas Golden Knights this season with a goal and an assist in a 5-0 win against the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center.

Zykov scored Vegas' first goal 4:08 into the first period, powering around Avalanche defenseman Bowen Byram, and closed the scoring by setting up Brandon Pirri for a power-play goal.

Video: VGK@COL: Pirri nets PPG for second goal of the night

Pirri was marveling about the patience Zykov showed to make the play that led to his goal.

"His talent, you can't deny it," Pirri said. "When he holds onto the puck, he has the confidence to make plays. I know what I am, so I try to get guys like that the puck and go to the net. Pretty special play he made to me on the last goal. We all expect the of him and he's capable of it."

Zykov had two goals in 10 games last season for the Golden Knights, his third team after being waived by the Carolina Hurricanes and Edmonton Oilers. But if Zykov can add a bit of scoring on a lower line, he could be a one-team player this season.

"He played really well," Vegas coach Gerard Gallant said. "He and Pirri connected on a nice goal, and that line played really well for us. Both showed up and played good hockey."

 

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

Devils at Rangers, 7 p.m. (MSG, MSG+)

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

Lightning at Hurricanes, 7 p.m.

Canadiens vs. Panthers, Kraft Hockeyville, at Bathurst, New Brunswick, 7 p.m. (NHLN, SN1, TVAS)

Maple Leafs at Senators, 7:30 p.m. (TSN5, TSN4)

Wild at Jets, 8 p.m. (TSN3)

Red Wings at Blackhawks, 8:30 p.m. (NHLN-US (JIP), NBCSCH+)

Sharks at Flames, 9 p.m.
 

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