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5 things learned from Sept. 21 preseason games

Predators optimistic about power play; Suzuki makes case with Canadiens

by Jon Lane @JonLaneNHL / 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 Saturday:


Predators making progress on power play

The Nashville Predators are seeing improvement with their power play this preseason. 

The top unit of Matt Duchene, Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg, Viktor Arvidsson and Roman Josi got goals from Forsberg and Arvidsson and were on the ice with the extra skater when Duchene scored the game-tying goal with four seconds left in the third period of Nashville's 5-4 overtime win against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Bridgestone Arena.

The hiring of assistant coach Dan Lambert and the presence of Duchene have the Predators optimistic the power play will show significant improvement after it was last in NHL during the 2018-19 regular season (12.9 percent) and 0-for-15 in a six-game loss to the Dallas Stars in the Western Conference First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"Adding Duchene helps a lot," Josi said. "He's unbelievable in front of the net, and you saw today that play he made to [Arvidsson], and I think Coach Lambert puts a lot of emphasis on moving the puck quick, moving it around quick. I thought we did a pretty good job today. We had two goals, but we had some pretty good looks other than that too, so it's been good so far and we're going to keep working on it and keep building on it."


Shesterkin 'outstanding' in first start with Rangers

Igor Shesterkin played a whole game with the New York Rangers for the first time in the preseason, making 36 saves in a 4-1 loss against the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center. 

Though it's likely the 23-year-old, who stopped 31 of 33 shots at even strength, will begin his first season in North America with Hartford of the American Hockey League, he made an impression on Rangers coach David Quinn and took another step toward possibly becoming the heir apparent to Henrik Lundqvist.

"Our goalie was outstanding, that's for sure," Quinn said. "I loved how he competed, I loved how he squared to the puck. He battled. You don't see a lot of net. I just really liked his game." 


Devils building depth up front

The New Jersey Devils continued to show off their skilled forward depth in a 4-3 win against the New York Islanders at Prudential Center. 

Nico Hischier had three assists while centering Nikita Gusev (one goal, one assist) and Jesper Bratt (two assists) one night after Taylor Hall (one goal, one assist), Jack Hughes (one goal, one assist) and Kyle Palmieri (one assist) combined for two goals and three assists in a 4-2 win against the Rangers. 

The Devils appear deep at center with Hischier, Hughes and veteran Travis Zajac, a luxury that's important to coach John Hynes.

"They play the offensive side of the game really well and they also understand and are committed when they don't have the puck, so it's nice to see that combination," Hynes said to The Record. "It seems as though whoever is playing with Nico and Jack, regardless of the wingers, there's some chemistry. And that's a good thing. That's why the center ice position is so important." 

Forward Jesper Boqvist also contributed by scoring his first two NHL preseason goals. The 20-year-old, who was chosen in the second round (No. 36) of the 2017 NHL Draft, is quickly finding his game during his first season in North America.

"He's a talented player, he's a skilled player, but he's a competitor," Hynes said. "And that's the thing that's made us so intrigued with him right now. Sometimes you can say it might take a little bit more time for a player like that to get used to the North American sheet. I think he's accelerated his learning curve."


Suzuki, Kinkaid stake claims for spots with Canadiens

Nick Suzuki is making his case to break training camp with the Montreal Canadiens. 

The 20-year-old, who was selected with the No. 13 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft by the Vegas Golden Knights and was traded to the Canadiens on Sept. 10, 2018, had an assist in 16:02 of ice time and skated at right wing with Phillip Danault and Tomas Tatar in a 4-0 win against the Ottawa Senators at Canadien Tire Centre. 

Suzuki has three assists and is plus-3 in three games for Montreal, which remained undefeated in the preseason (4-0-0). 

"We see his potential, it's huge," Danault said. "He's like a little magician. He's very intelligent; he's always in the right place. He can play defense and he has good speed on top of exceptional hands. His hockey sense is really a step above the rest."

Keith Kinkaid also gave the Canadiens something to consider over who will back up goalie Carey Price by making 27 saves in his preseason debut.  

"A very good performance," coach Claude Julien said. "The other team tried to bother him a bit; I think he handled it well. A solid game with some big saves. I really liked his game."

Kinkaid is competing for a roster spot with Charlie Lindgren. Cayden Primeau was reassigned to Laval of the AHL on Sunday.

"I want to see him perform," Julien said. "We still have decisions to make. Even though we signed Kinkaid this summer, you still can't erase names like Lindgren, who has played well at this level. We want to see Kinkaid play the way we think he can. He's a good, solid goaltender."


Montembeault mighty for Panthers in shutout

Sam Montembeault moved one step closer to securing the role of backup goalie to Sergei Bobrovsky for the Florida Panthers by making 30 saves in a 6-0 win against the Dallas Stars at BOK Center in Tulsa.

Montembeault, 22, has stopped 90 of 95 shots (.947) in three preseason games. Chris Driedger, Ryan Bednard and Philippe Desrosiers are the other goalies on Florida's preseason roster.

"He was outstanding," coach Joel Quenneville said. "A lot of those looks were high-quality, down the barrel, especially early in the game. He looked solid and quick and had good rebound efficiency. He was excellent."

Montembeault won his first preseason game (1-1-1) after making 42 saves in a 5-4 loss at Montreal on Thursday. 

"I wish it was the real season, so I could get a real shutout," Montembeault said. "I felt pretty good once the game started. I saw a lot of pucks. The guys did a good job keeping them away from me as much as possible. It was a great night all around for the team."


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

Blue Jackets at Blues, 3:30 p.m.

Penguins at Red Wings, 5 p.m. (NHLN, FS-D)

Wild at Avalanche, 7 p.m.

Flames at Jets, 8 p.m. (NHLN, TSN3)

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