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preseason

5 things learned from Sept. 25 preseason games

Dubinsky injury creates lineup opportunities for Blue Jackets; Backes making impression on Bruins

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

With the 16-day, 107-game NHL preseason in its final week, we continue to take a closer look at the players, teams and stories that are making headlines leading up to the start of the regular season Oct. 2.

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

 

Next man up in Columbus

Brandon Dubinsky's wrist injury has opened a spot on the roster of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Several forwards are trying to make a case to claim it, a battle that continued in the game against the Buffalo Sabres.

Dubinsky, who had offseason wrist surgery in 2017, is out for the start of the regular season. The veteran of 12 NHL seasons had 14 points (six goals, eight assist) in 61 regular-season games in 2017-18.

The Blue Jackets have four forwards in the running for three roster openings: Emil Bemstrom, Marko Dano, Jakob Lilja and Sonny Milano. Bemstrom, Dano and Lilja (one assist) each played in a 4-3 overtime loss at KeyBank Center.

Milano, chosen No. 16 in the 2014 NHL Draft, is in his sixth training camp with the Blue Jackets and has 24 points (nine goals, 15 assists) in 70 regular-season NHL games. He had 24 points (11 goals, 13 assists) in 27 games for Cleveland of the American Hockey League last season. 

"[Milano] doesn't always have to make an offensive play every time he's on the ice, that's what puts him in a jam," Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella told The Athletic. "I think he understands positioning. It's when he has the puck and he's trying to make something out of nothing that is the problem."

 

Rinne appreciates preseason

Pekka Rinne said he likes what he has seen from the Nashville Predators and is ready to start the regular season.

"Any team wishes they have a really strong core that stays together, and you can build your team on that," the goalie told The Tennessean after making 32 saves in a 3-0 victory against the Carolina Hurricanes at Bridgestone Arena. "I think this team has had it for a long time. It also helps the new guys when you have the same group, for the most part. There's already that culture and that atmosphere in the locker room.

"It's a pretty confident group going into the regular season right now."

Nashville (47-29-6) won the Central Division last season but was eliminated by the Dallas Stars in the Western Conference First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. 

Rinne has been a huge part of the success the Predators have experienced the past five regular seasons. Their 229 wins during that span is the fourth-most in the NHL. Teammates say they believe Rinne is ready to excel again.

"It's almost like you forget how good he is because he's that good all the time," defenseman Mattias Ekholm told the Predators website. "An unbelievable performance as usual, and it seems like he's in midseason form already."

 

Olofsson looks to add scoring for Sabres

Victor Olofsson could be a sleeper in the discussion of Calder Trophy finalists as NHL rookie of the year this season.

The 24-year-old left wing, selected in the seventh round (No. 181) of the 2014 draft, could earn a top-six role out of training camp after earning the trust of Sabres coach Ralph Krueger. Olofsson has played on the top line alongside center Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart to build chemistry.

"They're just such smart hockey players," Krueger told the Sabres website. "Victor's come in there and he's going to feed on that. We're looking forward to seeing that group jell and grow. But Sam and Jack just feed off each other. There's an instinct there, there's a synergy off the last year that we continue to build on."

Olofsson scored a goal and had two shots on goal in 18:47 of ice time against the Blue Jackets. He's scored three goals on five shots in three preseason games. 

Last season, Olofsson had four points (two goals, two assists) in six games for the Sabres after his first NHL call-up.

 

Boqvist on the bubble

Jesper Boqvist is making a strong push to earn a roster spot for the New Jersey Devils.

The left wing will either play for the Devils or be returned to Brynas of the Swedish Hockey League, where he had 35 points (13 goals, 22 assists) in 51 games last season.

Boqvist had no points and one shot on goal in 13:42 of ice time playing with center Nico Hischier and Jesper Bratt in a 2-0 loss to the Boston Bruins at TD Garden. He's scored two goals on seven shots in four preseason games.

"A couple things that jump out at you are his speed and his high hockey IQ," Devils coach John Hynes said. "He can make plays and he's a skilled player who can play in some structure defensively.

"The big question for us was (his adjustment) to the style of hockey in North America and on the smaller rink but he's been good in confrontations, competitive in board battles and he doesn't shy away from any situation."

 

Backes hopes to solidify spot with Bruins 

David Backes is doing everything he can to impress and earn a roster spot out of training camp with the Boston Bruins.

The 35-year-old right wing, who had an NHL career-low 20 points (seven goals, 13 assists) last season, has three points (one goal, two assists) in three preseason games. 

He found some chemistry with Anders Bjork and Par Lindholm in the win against the Devils, scoring his first preseason goal off a backhand 1:22 into the third period. Backes had a game-high five shots in 17:06 of ice time.

"Personally, I've been satisfied so far [in camp]," Backes told the Bruins website. "That being said, it's not over. Take tonight for what it's worth and we're back to work tomorrow and continue to work my butt off and that's not going to end for the rest of my career as long as that lasts."

Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said he liked how the line showed urgency and compete throughout.

"That line was excellent," Cassidy said. "Obviously, they know time's running out. They were told time was running out, if we're going to play more of our lineup Saturday. I'm glad they took a good step forward."

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