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Nylander rounding in form, 'Bulin Wall waived

by Brian Hunter
A few thoughts while we try to figure out which players are worth drafting in our European fantasy leagues:

Another weapon – The Washington Capitals had the NHL’s eighth-best offense last season, not surprising when you have a guy named Alexander Ovechkin on your squad. But just think about how many more goals they could have scored if they had Michael Nylander for the entire season.

Coach Bruce Boudreau and Nylander’s teammates hope to find out that answer this season, now that the playmaking center is fully recovered from the shoulder injury that limited him to just 40 games after he signed as a free agent from the Rangers the previous summer.

Nylander made a pair of nifty passes in Monday’s 3-2 win over the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center, setting up goals by Mike Green and Boyd Gordon. He’s looking like he hasn’t missed a beat and said he’s eager to prove he’s the same guy who has put up 646 points in 848 career games.

“I am just going to play the way I know I can play, and be the same player I have been in the past,” Nylander said. “I want to get back to that level. I know my level. I want to be there and I am going to get there.”

Boudreau has no doubt Nylander will get there after seeing his effort against the Devils. With the game scoreless in the second period, Nylander took a pass from Nicklas Backstrom, skated to the left side of goaltender Kevin Weekes and then slid a pass across the crease to a wide-open Green, who scored into an open net. Later in the period, he sent a pass from the right circle to Gordon in front for a backhander that found the net.

“I think he is a little on a mission himself,” Boudreau said of Nylander, who now has two goals and four assists in three preseason games. “Here is a guy who got 89 points two years ago and he gets hurt and misses the last half of the year, and the team succeeds without him.

“So he has come in here and said: ‘I am a good hockey player. I am one of the elite players in the NHL.’ And he was two years ago when we signed him. So he is a proud man and he has come back with a vengeance.”

Selanne ready to go – Given what the Anaheim Ducks accomplished last season once Teemu Selanne returned to the lineup, there’s a lot of reason for optimism knowing he’ll be around from the start this time.

Selanne missed the first few preseason games while the Ducks figured out a way to clear enough salary cap room to sign him, but he quickly made up for lost time by striking for a pair of goals in a 5-4 shootout loss Sunday to the Vancouver Canucks. He also came away sounding like a player who means serious business at age 38, entering his 16th NHL season.

“I didn’t want to miss any day in this camp,” Selanne said. “There are a lot of things to prove, for myself and the whole team. I have a good feeling about this. Everybody is hungry. The attitude is the joke is over on what happened last year. Now, it’s back to work.”

After winning the Stanley Cup with the Ducks in 2007, Selanne and teammate Scott Niedermayer each sat out a lengthy amount of last season debating retirement before both returned to play. The Ducks went 20-5-1 after Selanne returned to the lineup, but after finishing fourth in the Western Conference were ousted by the Dallas Stars in the first round of the playoffs.

Khabibulin hits the road
– From the moment the Chicago Blackhawks signed free-agent goaltender Cristobal Huet to a four-year, $22.4 million contract on the opening day of free agency, the clock was ticking on Nikolai Khabibulin’s tenure in the Windy City.

Once the preseason started and Khabibulin didn’t get into any of the Blackhawks’ first three exhibition games – Huet started once and won, while the team chose to give prospects Corey Crawford and Antti Niemi looks in the other two – it became even more clear the veteran’s future was probably elsewhere.

Chicago placed Khabibulin on waivers on Monday. After helping lead the Tampa Bay Lightning to the Stanley Cup in 2004, he signed a four-year, $27 million deal with the Blackhawks that will expire after this season. Khabibulin has battled injuries and inconsistency since then, posting a 65-72-17 record.

Blackhawks General Manager foreshadowed the possibility of Monday’s move back in August when he said, “We’re going to do what’s best for the Chicago Blackhawks. If that means keeping Nick, we’ll do that. If not, we’ll move on.”

Road-weary Panthers head home – Long periods of time away from home can be taxing on any team, but the Florida Panthers seemed to get a lot out of an eight-day, six-game road trip through Canada to begin the preseason.

The Panthers played twice in Calgary, twice in Edmonton, once in Montreal and once against the Islanders in Prince Edward Island. They headed home a very respectable 2-2-2 and now have some down time before playing their final tune-up game against the Islanders on Oct. 6 at the BankAtlantic Center.

“I thought the things we wanted to accomplish on the trip we accomplished,” new Panthers coach Peter DeBoer said. “We had a real good work ethic every night. With the travel and the schedule, it weighed a little here and there. The PEI game (Saturday) was probably our poorest, but I chalk a lot of that up to our travel getting out there.

“But I thought we really established our aggressive forecheck, especially in the first two games (in Calgary and Edmonton) when we had our veterans in the lineup, especially when we went into Edmonton and outshot them something like 16-1 in the first period.”

The old reliable – When they traded for Olli Jokinen during the offseason, the Phoenix Coyotes knew they were getting a center who has consistently put up over 30 goals and 70 points per season. They’re also getting a durable player they can count on to be in the lineup day in and day out.

Starting with his lone season with the Islanders back in 1999-2000, Jokinen has missed just seven games in eight seasons, and none since the 2002-03 campaign. It’s an accomplishment he takes pride in and one he’s put a lot of effort into achieving.

“I try to raise the bar year after year,” Jokinen said. “I think it’s the work I do every day. I have been lucky to not break any bones, but I think that’s due to a lot of what you do off the ice and how you treat your body.”

Jokinen broke in to the League with the Kings during the 1997-98 season and spent his early days learning from guys like Luc Robitaille, Rob Blake and Ray Ferraro. Even if he didn’t fully comprehend the importance of their work ethics back then, he’s come to realize it over time.

 “When I was young, I used to laugh at the guys when they were doing bike rides, stretching, and all that stuff, and now I am one of those guys,” Jokinen said. “When you get older, you have to put extra work in. If you do that, you will stay healthy.”
Material from wire services and team media was used in this report.

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