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5 things learned from Sept. 22 preseason games

Stamkos has two assists in return from knee injury; Lightning pay tribute to Boyle

by Jon Lane @JonLaneNHL / Staff Writer

Now that the 16-day, 109-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 on Oct. 4.

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

Stamkos looks sharp in return for Lightning

Center Steven Stamkos had two assists in his first game since Nov. 15 to help the Tampa Bay Lightning to a 3-1 win against the Nashville Predators at Amalie Arena.

Stamkos, who tore the lateral meniscus in his right knee more than 10 months ago, set up Victor Hedman's goal on his first shift, 33 seconds into the game. He finished with 19:05 of ice time.

"When you don't play for as long as I have it's tough to see how the body is going to respond," Stamkos said. "I couldn't have felt any better tonight than I expected so that was a very positive thing."

Stamkos also assisted on Nikita Kucherov's goal that made it 2-0 at 15:37 of the first period and looked comfortable on a line with Kucherov and left wing Brayden Point. Most important, he was encouraged by the way his knee reacted during and after the game.

"Coming into camp, I really didn't have any restrictions," Stamkos said. "Just to finally get bumped or be put in a position where you have to take a hit to make a play where in camp guys aren't going to finish you or bump you in certain areas -- little battles, faceoffs. You know you've got to get pretty low, a lot of torque on the knees in faceoffs, and it felt fine tonight so it was all positive. Looking to just build off it and continue to get better."

Forward Ryan Callahan also returned after missing most of last season with a hip injury. Callahan played 8:25 and assisted on Yanni Gourde's goal that gave the Lightning a 3-0 lead 3:26 into the third period.

"I felt good," Callahan told the Tampa Bay Times. "I felt like I missed nine months the first period or so. It's just timing, getting your legs. But once I got going, I got more comfortable."


Lightning pay tribute to Boyle

Center Brian Boyle played three seasons in Tampa Bay before he was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Feb. 27. Boyle, now with the New Jersey Devils, was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia, a rare but treatable form of cancer, on Sept. 19, though he's hoping to play in New Jersey's season opener against the Colorado Avalanche on Oct. 7.

The Lightning acknowledged Boyle's contributions with a video tribute during the first media break of the game on Friday.

"If there's anyone who can handle it and find a way to get through that, it's [Boyle]," Stamkos told the Lightning website after the morning skate Friday. "We all know what he's meant to our organization, our community. Everyone in (the locker room) wishes him and his family nothing but the best, and I think we're all pretty confident he'll find a way and looking forward to seeing him back on the ice."

Tweet from @BBurnsNHL: Tribute video for Brian Boyle being shown on Lightning Vision. Huge applause from crowd. Great moment. #Bolts

Bennett takes advantage of opportunity with Flames

Sam Bennett made the most of his chance to skate on the Calgary Flames' top line, finishing with three assists in a 4-2 win against the Arizona Coyotes at Scotiabank Saddledome.

Playing in place of Sean Monahan, who had the night off, Bennett took a big step toward what he and the Flames hope will be a bounce-back season after his points total fell from 36 as a rookie to 26 in 2016-17.

"This game is a mental battle. Confidence is a huge part of it," Bennett told the Canadian Press after finishing plus-2 and taking six shots on goal. "Wherever you can get it, however you can get it, you want to use it to your advantage and just roll with it."

Flames goalie Mike Smith made 15 saves in his first game against his former team. He spent the past six seasons with Arizona before being traded to Calgary on June 17.


Dubois excels in natural position for Blue Jackets

Columbus Blue Jackets forward Pierre-Luc Dubois, the No. 3 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, scored twice in a 4-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins at Nationwide Arena.

Dubois, 19, did not score in four games during his first training camp a year ago before he was returned to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, where he had 55 points (21 goals, 34 assists) for Cape Brenton and Blainville-Boisbriand.

"Last year I put a lot of pressure on myself," Dubois said. "I wanted to play well and I wanted to make the team. This year I'm having a lot more fun. I know the staff. I know the guys. I feel a lot more comfortable.

"It's my first goal in the preseason. It's good to get that off my back."

Dubois played much of the game at left wing, his natural position.

"They told me before camp started they might put me on wing," he said. "They said it could be right wing or left wing and to just play hockey. That's what happened tonight."

"At wing, it's easier to get used to the game, you have a little less responsibility in the D-zone so that's easier. in the offensive zone, it's pretty much the same thing. Wherever they put me, I'll play. I played every position last year so I don't mind."

Yamamoto continues to impress Oilers

Forward Kailer Yamamoto scored two goals in the Edmonton Oilers' 5-3 win against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Place.

Yamamoto, selected with the No. 22 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, has scored in three straight games. His four goals are tied with Vancouver Canucks forward Brock Boeser for the most during the preseason, and his five points are tied for second.

"I expected to come in (to camp) and work as hard as I can and just be the player I am, not try and do too much and just stick to what I can do," said Yamamoto, whose 18:25 of ice time led all Oilers forwards. "Everything on the ice you can get better at. I'm still trying to figure out the systems a little bit, but I think my game is good but I can work on all of it and be better."


Rangers to unveil top D pair against Devils

Kevin Shattenkirk and Ryan McDonagh are projected to skate together for the first time as the New York Rangers' top defensive pair against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center. Goalie Henrik Lundqvist is expected to make his second preseason start for New York, with Cory Schneider slated to start for New Jersey.



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

Avalanche at Wild, 6 p.m. (FS-N, NHL.TV)

Bruins at Red Wings, 7 p.m. (NHLN, FS-D+, NHL.TV)

Hurricanes at Capitals, 7 p.m. (CSN-DC, NHL.TV)

Canadiens at Senators, 7 p.m. (TSN5, RDS, NHL.TV)

Rangers at Devils, 7 p.m. (MSG, MSG+2, NHL.TV)

Maple Leafs at Sabres, 7 p.m. (SN, SN1, MSG-B, NHL.TV)

Stars at Blues, 8 p.m.

Blue Jackets at Blackhawks, 8:30 p.m. (NHLN [joined in progress], CSN-CH+, NHL.TV)

Sharks at Coyotes, 9 p.m.

Jets at Oilers, 9 p.m. (TSN3, NHL.TV)

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