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5 things learned from Sept. 28 preseason games

Young Rangers centers vie for roster spots; Bergeron returns to Bruins after groin injury

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 Wednesday.

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


Young centers make cases to start season with Rangers

The New York Rangers, like other teams whose preseason schedules ended Saturday, are facing decisions on how to pare down the opening-night roster to 23 players by 5 p.m. Tuesday.

Thirty-one players remain in camp and competition for roster spots at center proved stiff throughout the preseason, which the Rangers finished 2-4-0 after a 4-2 loss to the New York Islanders at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

Lias Andersson, Filip Chytil and Brett Howden, all chosen in the first round of the NHL Draft, are in a tight race to start the season against the Winnipeg Jets at Madison Square Garden on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; MSG, TSN3, NHL.TV) playing behind Mika Zibanejad and presumably Ryan Strome

Andersson, the No. 7 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, had an assist against the Islanders and three points (two goals, one assist) in five games.

"I did everything I could, and I'm happy with the way I played and the way I battled," Andersson told the Rangers website. "I gave it all and I'm happy with it."

Chytil, the No. 21 pick in 2017, did not have a point and was minus-3 in four games. Howden, selected by the Tampa Bay Lightning with the No. 27 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft and traded to New York on Feb. 26, 2018, played on the wing next to Chytil on Saturday. He had one goal and one assist in three games.

"Obviously more experience and a little bit more comfortable," Rangers coach David Quinn said before the game. "But I also think that guys coming back to the second year feel a little bit added pressure internally because they have expectations from within themselves, not only making it but having another level of success. Brett's no different."

Video: Chris Drury on the Rangers' prospect pool


Bergeron back, ready for opener with Bruins

Patrice Bergeron and the Boston Bruins made it clear they're ready to start the regular season at the Dallas Stars on Thursday (8:30 p.m. ET; SN360, FS-SW, NESN, NHL.TV). The veteran center made his preseason debut in an 8-2 win against the Chicago Blackhawks at TD Garden after managing a groin injury. 

"Good to get the first one out of the way," Bergeron told the Bruins website. "It's always good to get back and get your legs underneath you and start getting your timing back and rhythm and everything. It was what I was expecting, and it was fine."

David Pastrnak and Jake DeBrusk each had hat tricks against the Blackhawks, who had most of their regular players in Germany for the 2019 NHL Global Series. The Bruins ended the preseason 4-0-2 after goals from Charlie Coyle and Karson Kuhlman and three assists by Torey Krug. 

Kuhlman, an undrafted center who made his NHL debut last season and looked good playing with DeBrusk and David Krejci on the second line, scored one goal on nine shots in the preseason.

"I know he can play there, I've seen it," Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. "I haven't seen him with Krejci this particular preseason, but I'm comfortable with how he plays. We've just got to make the decision, what's best for the team. We've got some new players in here; do they get a look first? So we'll talk about all of that stuff. But to answer your question, yes. I like the way Kuhlman plays."


Canadiens prospects make closing arguments

Three 20-year-old prospects each received their final chance to break camp with the Montreal Canadiens in a 4-3 overtime win against the Ottawa Senators at Bell Centre. 

Forward Nick Suzuki, chosen by the Vegas Golden Knights with the No. 13 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft and traded to the Canadiens on Sept. 10, 2018, had two shots on goal and two hits in 19:22 of ice time, second among Montreal forwards on Saturday. He had four points (one goal, three assists) in five preseason games.

"I think I've done everything in my power," Suzuki told the Canadiens website. "I know there's room for improvement for sure, but I've been proud of myself through this whole camp, with coming to work hard every day and having a lot of fun here. My goal is definitely to stay here."

Ryan Poehling, a forward selected with the No. 25 pick in 2017, returned from a concussion after a 10-day absence.

"You can put me in a position where you want me to be an offensive guy, and you can also put me in a position where you want me to be a defensive guy," Poehling said. "I have that gift where wherever you put me, I can contribute in a positive way. I thought we did a pretty good job of that tonight."

Cale Fleury, a defenseman, played 15:20 against the Senators. He finished the preseason with one assist in five games.

"We don't have any announcements to make tonight, but there will be one in the next few days," Canadiens coach Claude Julien said. "We still have to reduce our number to 23, so there are decisions to be made in the next few days."

Montreal opens at the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; FS-CR, TSN2, RDS, NHL.TV).


Senators make final cuts

The Senators will start their season against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Arena on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET; SN, SN360, TVAS, NHL.TV) with 22 healthy players, according to the Ottawa Sun.

Forwards Logan Brown and Vitaly Abramov, and defenseman Christian Jaros, were assigned to Belleville of the American Hockey League on Sunday. Brown played 16:38 against the Canadiens on Saturday and was minus-2 centering Brady Tkachuk and Connor Brown in the absence of the injured Colin White and Artem Anisimov

Defensemen Erik Brannstrom, the No. 15 pick by the Vegas Golden Knights in the 2017 NHL Draft and traded to the Senators on Feb. 25, will break camp with Ottawa and could start the season on the second pair with Ron Hainsey.

"They're difficult decisions because you just see guys that want to be here and they've given everything they've got," Senators coach D.J. Smith told the Sun after the game Saturday. "Unfortunately, you can only keep so many guys. We're going to keep the best team for now but also (keep) in mind that there's some young players that we're looking out for their future.

"We want the best team going forward. We don't want to ruin anyone's development by keeping certain guys here."

Video: OTT@MTL: Chlapik breaks tie off a turnover by Price


Sandin projected to break camp with Maple Leafs

Rasmus Sandin is expected to start the regular season with the Toronto Maple Leafs, coach Mike Babcock all but confirmed Saturday after a 5-0 win against the Detroit Red Wings.

Babcock, asked how he would approach filling the remaining spots at defenseman, singled out the 19-year-old among a group of four others (Morgan Rielly , Jake Muzzin, Tyson Barrie and Cody Ceci) who are certain to make the team.

"What we've got basically is we've got 10 guys," Babcock said. "We've got four, well, and then Sandin, and then we've got to figure out what we're going to do. So we're just in there doing that right now, grinding away and debating."

Sandin, the No. 29 pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, had two assists in four preseason games and played a Maple Leafs-high 30:35 in a 4-3 overtime win against the Red Wings on Friday.

Dave McCarthy


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

Capitals at Hurricanes, 1:30 p.m. (NBCSWA)

Blackhawks at Berlin, 1:30 p.m. at Berlin, Germany (NHLN, NBCSCH+)

Jets at Wild, 2 p.m. (TSN3)

Blues at Blue Jackets, (canceled)

Sharks at Golden Knights, 8 p.m. (NHLN, KTNV)

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