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5 things learned from Sept. 26 preseason games

Curtis McElhinney holding strong to Blue Jackets spot; Mitchell Marner continues solid camp with Maple Leafs

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / Staff Writer

Now that the 15-day, 106-game 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. 12.

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

McElhinney still has game

Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Curtis McElhinney isn't ready to let the competition for a roster spot pass him by.

Blue Jackets president of hockey operations John Davidson said he expected there to be a stiff competition for the backup goaltender role behind Sergei Bobrovsky, and could include prospects Joonas Korpisalo and Anton Forsberg.

Video: CBJ@BOS: McElhinney keeps a go-ahead goal out

But McElhinney staked his claim to retaining the No. 2 job with 29 saves in a 3-2 shootout win against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden in Boston.

"Plain and clear, I want my job back," McElhinney told the Columbus Dispatch. "I don't take kindly to what happened last season." He went 2-7-3 with a 3.31 goals-against average and .890 save percentage in 18 games last season. He also missed 29 games because of ankle and knee injuries but said he is healthy now.

Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella made it clear that McElhinney, Korpisalo and Forsberg will be given every opportunity to earn the backup job this season. McElhinney, who is in his fourth season with the Blue Jackets, is in the final season of his contract.

"I'm not throwing any odds down," Tortorella said. "Everybody's in camp. There's no secret that the two kids [Korpisalo and Forsberg] played so well last season. I thought [McElhinney] played really well [Monday]. So he stays in the race and keeps on going here."

Korpisalo, 22, is the likely candidate to challenge McElhinney, 33, based on his NHL experience when Bobrovsky was injured last season. He went 16-11-4 with a 2.60 GAA and .920 save percentage in 31 games for the Blue Jackets.

Magical Marner

Toronto Maple Leafs center Mitchell Marner, the fourth pick of the 2015 NHL Draft, continued his strong preseason with two assists in a 6-3 loss to the Ottawa Senators at Scotiabank Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He also impressed with his speed and playmaking ability.

"He seemed more mature in camp and you just wondered if it was going to translate to a real live game," Maple Leafs assistant coach Jim Hiller told the Toronto Sun. "I think he answered that question [Monday] for all of us. I thought he looked terrific. He might have started four or five breakouts on his own. Not easy to do, but he has a special awareness on the ice."

Marner played on a line with Brooks Laich and Colin Greening.

"Last year I felt like I wasn't myself on the ice and this year I felt like I was back in my zone," Marner said. "It was a great four days [of training camp] and I learned a lot."

Lappin strikes for Devils

New Jersey Devils forward Nick Lappin made a good first impression in the preseason opener when he scored two goals in a 2-0 win against the Philadelphia Flyers at Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. 

Lappin (6-foot-1, 174 pounds), signed a two-year, entry-level contract with the Devils on March 8. He had 17 goals and 33 points in 31 games as a senior at Brown University in 2015-16, and in four seasons he had 51 goals and 106 points in 123 games.

He played 16:31, including 3:59 on the penalty kill, against the Flyers. 

"I hope they just know that every game I go out there I'm trying to work as hard as I can," Lappin told the Devils website. "I've been dreaming about playing [in the NHL] since I was a little kid. It was always in the back of my mind. I had a pretty good sophomore year [13 goals, 32 points in 30 games]. In my senior year I was doing pretty good. So I thought it was possible."

Wilson injured

Washington Capitals right wing Tom Wilson left 17:05 into the second period of a 2-1 overtime loss to the Carolina Hurricanes at Verizon Center in Washington for precautionary reasons after sustaining an upper-body injury.

Wilson was injured after a collision with Carolina center Jordan Staal. Staal was called for an elbowing penalty.

"He was getting evaluated [Monday] and will be re-evaluated [Tuesday] morning and see where he's at," Capitals associate coach Todd Reirden told the Capitals website.

Wilson had seven goals, 23 points and 163 penalty minutes in 82 games last season.

Happy Hudler

Dallas Stars forward Jiri Hudler, 32, is out to prove he still can make major contributions when called upon.

Video: Hudler "feels great" after first preseason game

Hudler, who signed a one-year contract with the Stars on Aug. 24, had a goal and an assist in a 3-1 win against the St. Louis Blues at American Airlines Center in Dallas. He played left wing on a line with center Jason Spezza and right wing Patrick Sharp.

"It was great," Hudler told the Stars website. "I couldn't wait to play a game, and it was a nice thing to win."

Hudler had six goals and 11 points in 19 games with the Florida Panthers last season, and one assist in six Stanley Cup Playoff games. He had been acquired by the Panthers in a trade with the Calgary Flames prior to the 2016 NHL Trade Deadline; Hudler had 10 goals and 35 points in 53 games with the Flames.

In 11 NHL seasons, Hudler has 161 goals and 417 points in 676 regular-season games with the Panthers, Flames and Detroit Red Wings. He has 16 goals and 42 points in 83 playoff games. He helped the Red Wings win the Stanley Cup in 2008.

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