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Preseason Buzz: Drouin day to day for Canadiens

Upper-body injury will prevent forward from playing against Maple Leafs on Monday

NHL.com @NHL

Welcome to the 2017 preseason!

This is a busy time, with preseason games underway, rookies looking to make a name for themselves and veterans aiming to lock down roster spots. Each day, we will have all the updates of note right here.

Here is the preseason news for Monday:

 

Drouin day to day with upper-body injury

Montreal Canadiens forward Jonathan Drouin is day to day with an upper-body injury and won't play against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Ricoh Coliseum in Toronto on Monday (7:30 p.m. ET; TSN4, TSN2, RDS, NHL.TV).

Drouin was originally expected to center the Canadiens top line with Max Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher, but was scratched after the morning skate. Forward Torrey Mitchell will replace Drouin in the lineup.

Drouin, the No. 3 pick of the 2013 NHL Draft, was acquired in a trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning for defenseman Mikhail Sergachev, the No. 9 pick in 2016, on June 15. He signed a six-year contract with Montreal on June 15.

 

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Miller back at wing for Rangers

The New York Rangers' experiment of moving J.T. Miller to center is over. Miller will start the season on the wing, coach Alain Vigneault said Monday.

Miller opened training camp at center largely because of the uncertainty of the Rangers' depth down the middle behind Mika Zibanejad and Kevin Hayes, but Vigneault said the play of 18-year-old rookie centers Lias Andersson and Filip Chytil, as well David Desharnais and rookies Cristoval Nieves and Vinni Lettieri in preseason games, has pushed Miller back to the wing.

Andersson, Chytil, Nieves and Lettieri are scheduled to play against the Philadelphia Flyers at Madison Square Garden on Monday. Vigneault said at least Andersson and Chytil will also be in the lineup against the Flyers at Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday.

"The games that the kids [Andersson and Chytil] have played and some other guys like 'Boo' [Nieves] and Vinni, all those guys have played real well," Vigneault said. "We've got some tough decisions to make here as far as who we're keeping with our team."

Vigneault said Miller's versatility of being able to play all three forward positions allows for him to be shifted around. He added that at some point he'll likely be at center, but it won't be at the start of the season.

"I know what I need to do at all three positions and I don't think that changes my mindset when I wake up and come to the game," Miller said.

Vigneault said Andersson and Chytil, each selected in the first round of the 2017 NHL Draft, have impressed him with their skill set, skating ability and hockey IQ.

Vigneault also said he's not opposed to starting the season with two 18-year-olds on the opening night roster. The Rangers haven't had an 18-year-old on the roster since goalie Dan Blackburn in the 2001-02 season. They haven't had an 18-year-old skater since Manny Malhotra in 1998-99.

"It's a possibility," Vigneault said.

-- Dan Rosen

 

Karlsson making progress

Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson continues to make progress in his recovery from foot surgery.

Karlsson skated Saturday for the first time since he had the procedure to repair torn tendons in his left foot on June 14. On Monday, coach Guy Boucher said Karlsson came out of it feeling good.

"He was supposed to be two days without going on the ice to see what the repercussions of going on the ice," Boucher said. "Apparently, it went really well and even the skin part, which was the issue, because he would have been on the ice before but it was the skin part that was taking a bit more time to heal than expected. Now, apparently, it's going really well. That's a positive."

Karlsson did not take part in the morning skate at Credit Union Place before the Senators' game against the New Jersey Devils at Kraft Hockeyville Canada (6 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN1), an absence that was expected and planned.

Boucher said that Karlsson is expected to skate Wednesday. Ottawa has a day off on Tuesday.

Despite the positive news, the timeline for Karlsson's return remains uncertain. Boucher said Karlsson is just entering the second step of the process. The first step was the off-ice rehabilitation and the second stage began with his first organized skate.

"Now, it's the second step, which to grow the on-ice [work]," Boucher said. "I'll be honest with you, I have no clue where it is at right now. It's really a medical thing. It won't be a hockey thing; is his mind ready, are his skills ready? It's really a medical thing and I am waiting for the trainers to tell me we are going on to Step 3, which will be, at some point, to push hard and get the physicality in practice, but we are not there yet."

The Senators open the regular season against the Washington Capitals at Canadian Tire Centre on Oct. 5.

-- Shawn P. Roarke

 

Letang returns after seven-month absence

Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang played in his first game in seven months Sunday and the results were encouraging.

Letang, who had neck surgery on April 13 and hadn't played since Feb. 21, had one shot on goal in a 4-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in the Kraft Hockeyville USA game. He didn't dress for any of the Penguins' first three preseason games.

"It was just fun for me to get out there and get that step over the hurdle, and be able to play the game that I love so much," Letang said. "I was comfortable with [the ice time] I got tonight."

"First period was kind of like putting my big toe in the water but after that it went well and I was able to get my timing back a little bit. After that first shift, I was good."

Letang, 30, had 34 points (five goals, 29 assists) in 41 games last season.

"I thought he did a real good job given the fact that he hasn't played in a long time," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. "It was his first game back and he didn't look tentative. I thought he was assertive out there. You can see that his timing needs to improve and get better and that will. ... I was really encouraged with what we saw out there."

-- David Satriano

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