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5 things learned from Sept. 24 preseason games

Gibson looking good, healthy for Ducks; Panarin returns for Rangers, excels on top line

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 Tuesday:


Gibson goes the distance for Ducks

The success of the Anaheim Ducks this season will hinge on the health of John Gibson. He looked good in a 4-1 win against the San Jose Sharks at Honda Center with 31 saves and has a 1.29 goals-against average and .960 save percentage in two preseason games. 

"We're blessed to have an excellent goaltender like that," Ducks coach Dallas Eakins said. "He was very good. Very calm in the net. He really exhibited a lot of his game he's brought here for a number of years."

When healthy, Gibson is one of the top goalies in the NHL with at least 20 wins in each of the past four seasons. His .922 save percentage is third, and his 2.42 GAA is tied for seventh with Sergei Bobrovsky during that span among goalies to play at least 50 games. 

He's missed at least 10 games because of injury in each of the past three seasons (10 in 2017-18, 10 in 2018-19, 13 in 2016-17) since he became the No. 1 goalie after the Ducks traded Frederik Andersen to the Toronto Maple Leafs on June 20, 2016.


Panarin returns, delivers on top line

Artemi Panarin scored two goals in his first game back from a groin injury for the New York Rangers in a 3-1 win against the New York Islanders at Madison Square Garden. 

"Every game I feel better and more confident," Panarin said. "In the first games, not everything works out but it's a process. If you work really hard, the goals and points will come."

The left wing was removed from a 4-3 loss to the New Jersey Devils on Sept. 18 for precautionary reasons. 

The projected top line of Panarin, Mika Zibanejad and Pavel Buchnevich combined for four points (two goals, two assists). Panarin also scored against the Devils last Wednesday.

"They had a good night and Panarin's first goal was a highlight-reel goal," Rangers coach David Quinn said. "They were buzzing pretty good. There are some areas they could get better at. I think sometimes when you put three skilled players like that together, it becomes a Harlem Globetrotter hour but we're going to have to be a little more aware that we're going to have to get inside a little more and have a little more net-front presence. It doesn't have to be a beauty contest, so we'll work towards that."


Monahan, Flames getting in 'game mode'

Sean Monahan said he can sense the Calgary Flames are rounding into shape through six games. The center scored his second goal in a 2-0 win against the Winnipeg Jets at Scotiabank Saddledome. 

Monahan scored on the power play, skating on the top unit with forwards Johnny Gaudreau, Milan Lucic, Elias Lindholm and defenseman Mark Giordano. He says he knows there is work ahead for the Flames one season after finishing first in the Western Conference with 50 wins and 107 points before a five-game loss to the Colorado Avalanche in the Western Conference First Round.

"You're just trying to get your feet under you, obviously, and you want to get up to speed where it's an intense regular game," Monahan said. "That's what preseason is for. You get the kinks out of that summer hockey you're playing and get back into game mode."


Bobrovsky debuts for Panthers

Bobrovsky was in regular-season form during his preseason debut for the Florida Panthers with 12 saves in 31:08 of a 6-3 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning at BB&T Center.

"He's only going to get more comfortable, get more familiar," Panthers coach Joel Quenneville said. "He's quick. [It's good to] get him some live action in front of him, seeing bodies and moving in tight areas and pushing and shoving around the net. That's going to help him. [We want him to] just do his thing, be comfortable and confident."

Bobrovsky is expected to get more work in the final two preseason games for the Panthers, each against the Lightning, on Thursday and Saturday. 

"He's been unreal in the practices," Panthers center Aleksander Barkov said. "His work ethic, his professionalism, everything you see him doing here is just awesome. To play in front of him is a good feeling. We're going to try and make his job easy."


Dickinson looks to improve for Stars

Jason Dickinson has waited to play a key role with the Dallas Stars. A first-round pick (No. 29) in the 2013 NHL Draft, he hopes he gets that opportunity in his second NHL season.

The 24-year-old, who is expected to earn a top-nine spot in the lineup, has a goal, an assist and six shots on goal in three games. He was one of the more active players in a 2-1 win against the St. Louis Blues at Enterprise Center. He scored a shorthanded goal, had two hits and two blocked shots in 15:59 of ice time. He played center with Mattias Janmark and Denis Gurianov.

"I think by the end of the (last) season I had more confidence to take pucks to the net and I was more effective offensively than I was earlier," Dickinson said. "So yes, I think if I start the way I finished, I'll definitely bring more production.

"We're trying to really hammer home how we want to play, how we want to be relentless like we were at times last year. We can say it all we want, but until we do that on the ice, it's not going to matter."

Dickinson had 22 points (six goals, 16 assists) and was fourth among Stars forwards in hits (106) and blocked shots (50) in 67 games last season. 

"He played great (on Tuesday)," Stars coach Jim Montgomery said. "Skill, great execution."

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