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5 things learned from Sept. 28 preseason games

Varlamov returning to form for Avalanche; DeBrincat makes case to stay with Blackhawks

by David Satriano @davidsatriano / NHL.com Staff Writer

With the 16-day, 109-game preseason schedule nearing its end, it's time to take a closer look at the players, teams and stories that are making headlines in the final days leading up to the start of the regular season on Oct. 4.

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

 

Varlamov returning to form for Avalanche

Goaltender Semyon Varlamov improved to 3-0-0 in the preseason by making 34 saves in a 4-2 win for the Colorado Avalanche against the Vegas Golden Knights. Varlamov has stopped 92 of 97 shots in the preseason (.948 save percentage).

The 29-year-old had season-ending hip surgery in January in hopes that it would put an end to the groin injuries he has dealt with in recent seasons. He was 6-17-0 with a 3.38 goals-against average and an .898 save percentage in 24 games last season.

"I think he's looking good and he's working like he always is," captain Gabriel Landeskog told the Avalanche website. "He has kind of always been the heartbeat of this hockey team, and we know when he's playing well, we're feeding off of him. It's good to have him back between the pipes."

Colorado hopes Varlamov, who had won at least 26 games in each of the previous four full NHL seasons prior to last season, can return to the form he showed in 2013-14, when he was 41-14-6 with a 2.41 goals-against average and .927 save percentage and was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy.

Video: COL@VGK: Varlamov shuts the door on odd-man rush

 

DeBrincat impresses again with Blackhawks

Forward Alex DeBrincat was in a battle for a roster spot when the Chicago Blackhawks began training camp. After getting a goal and an assist in a 4-2 win against the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday, he has one more game to prove he belongs in Chicago as opposed to spending one final year in juniors.

DeBrincat, 19, has three points (two goals, one assist) in four preseason games. The No. 29 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft led the Ontario Hockey League in scoring last season with 127 points (65 goals, 62 assists) in 63 games and was named the OHL's Most Outstanding Player. He has yet to make his NHL debut.

"You got to like the way he plays," coach Joel Quenneville told the Blackhawks website. "I thought he's gotten better every single game. His presence with the puck, patience, play recognition ... high-end. It's been a good progression for him in this preseason "

The Blackhawks have one more preseason game (Saturday vs. Boston Bruins) for DeBrincat to showcase his talent.

"I'm giving it my all out here," DeBrincat said. "I am trying to show I am ready, but it is up to them."

Video: CHI@DET: DeBrincat beats Mrazek with speedy PPG

 

Kings getting offensive boost from Cammalleri

Following their 4-1 win against the Arizona Coyotes, the Los Angeles Kings have scored at least three goals in five of six games, averaging 3.33 goals per game in the preseason (4-1-1).

Last season, the Kings tied for 24th in the League in goals per game (2.43). They signed forward Michael Cammalleri to a one-year, $1 million contract on July 1 to try and boost the offense; he had his first two goals of the preseason against Vegas and finished with six shots on goal.

"I think getting puck action at the net is a great way to create offense," Cammalleri told LA Kings Insider after the game. "So [six shots on goal] is a good number. I feel great physically and I'm really enjoying playing with this group."

Cammalleri had 10 goals and 31 points with the New Jersey Devils in 61 games last season but is a seven-time 20-goal scorer, including twice with the Kings (2005-06 and 2006-07).

Added coach John Stevens, who replaced Darryl Sutter after the Kings missed the playoffs last season: "We all know he can score, but we want the whole game from him, and clearly I think that was the best game since he's been here and that's good to see."

Video: ARI@LAK: Cammalleri tips in Muzzin's shot for PPG

 

McCann makes case for roster spot with Panthers

Florida Panthers forward Jared McCann made a case for a spot on the roster with a solid performance in a 5-2 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

McCann scored three goals and had a strong all-around game, according to coach Bob Boughner.

"You have to give him credit," Boughner told the Panthers website. "Everybody notices the three goals but what I noticed was his compete level. He was physical, he finished hits, he won a lot of battles in the D-zone, he won his fair share of faceoffs and then obviously the goals. ... He took the most of his chances tonight."

McCann, who has four goals this preseason, had one goal and seven points in 29 games with the Panthers last season. He's one of several players competing for a bottom-six role.

"You can always do more," McCann said. "I feel like I passed up some opportunities to shoot the puck. It's something to learn from. ... I am still trying to stay mellow. I know I am still not a shoo-in for anything. I've got to earn it. Moving forward, I've still got to work hard and play every game like it's my last."

 

Flames continue to struggle

The Calgary Flames lost for the fifth time in six preseason games, 3-1 at the Vancouver Canucks. Calgary was 1-for-7 on the power play and won 41 percent of faceoffs.

The Flames have allowed at least five goals in four of their six games and have been outscored 25-16.

"I'm a little concerned, certainly after this game, and my biggest concern is the compete level," coach Glen Gulutzan told the Flames website. "We just think it's going to happen, and our compete level is not where it needs to be. We're going to find out in the next few days what it's like not to compete."

Goalie Mike Smith who was acquired from the Arizona Coyotes on June 17 for goalie Chad Johnson, defenseman Brandon Hickey and a conditional pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, allowed three goals on 30 shots and has allowed nine goals on 60 shots in three preseason games (.850 save percentage).

"If you're going to make mistakes, now is the time to do it I guess," Smith said. "You know, preseason is a funny thing. It doesn't really have an inkling on how the season's going to go. But I think this last game coming up, there's got to be, (a) sense of urgency that has to pick up."

The Flames end their preseason schedule Saturday against the Winnipeg Jets at Scotiabank Saddledome.

Video: CGY@VAN: Smith makes save in close after turnover

 

Canadiens try for first preseason win

The Montreal Canadiens take an 0-6-0 record into their game against the Panthers at Bell Centre on Friday. The Canadiens are the only team that's winless in the preseason.

Fans can catch the game, along with three others, on NHL.TV.

 

[NHL.TV: Full Preseason Schedule | Subscribe Now]

 

Here is the full schedule for Friday (all times ET):

Panthers at Canadiens, 7 p.m. (RDS, TSN2, NHL.TV)
Islanders at Sabres, 7 p.m. (MSG-B, MSG Plus, NHL.TV)
Capitals at Hurricanes, 7:30 p.m. (NHLN, CSN-DC, NHL.TV)
Maple Leafs at Red Wings, 7:30 p.m. (SN, FS-D+, NHL.TV)

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