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5 things learned from Sept. 27 preseason games

Yamamoto continues to impress Oilers; Guentzel has another big night for Penguins

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / NHL.com 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.

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

 

Yamamoto earning his keep

Kailer Yamamoto, the No. 22 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, remains an option to start the season with the Edmonton Oilers when they open against the Calgary Flames at Rogers Place next Wednesday (10 p.m. ET; SN, TVA Sports, NHL.TV).

Yamamoto (5-foot-8, 154 pounds) wasn't expected to be in that discussion at the start of training camp, but the right wing has six points (five goals, one assist) in four preseason games. He leads the Oilers with a 62.5 shooting percentage on eight shots.

Though Yamamoto didn't score in a 4-0 win against the Carolina Hurricanes at SaskTel Centre in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, he could remain with the Oilers for nine regular-season games before his entry-level contract kicks in. The Oilers could then return him to Spokane of the Western Hockey League.

"I didn't think he was as spectacular as he was some other nights and I thought that had a little to do with playing with Connor (McDavid); he was deferring to him a lot," Oilers coach Todd McLellan told the Edmonton Journal. "Every time he got the puck he was looking to get it to Connor.

"But you're a pretty talented young man yourself, Connor will be fine without it for a while. Do your thing. But he's been tremendous throughout training camp and probably deserves the right to carry on."

 

Devils conclude positive preseason

The energy and enthusiasm many of the young players and new acquisitions have helped instill into the New Jersey Devils have paid dividends.

The Devils finished 5-1-1 in the preseason following a 4-1 win against the Washington Capitals at Capital One Arena. New Jersey outscored opponents 25-12 in seven games.

Forward Nico Hischier, the No. 1 pick in the 2017 draft, finished tied for the Devils lead with seven points (four goals, three assists) in four games, and had a plus-7 rating and a 36.4 shooting percentage. Veteran right wing Drew Stafford, who the Devils signed to a one-year contract on Aug. 25, also had seven points (four goals, three assists) and a 28.6 shooting percentage. Forward Marcus Johansson, who the Devils acquired in a trade with the Capitals on July 2, had six points (one goal, five assists) in four games.

"I think the most important thing for us is we've been pretty consistent in how we've wanted to play and how we've wanted to practice," coach John Hynes told the Devils website. "One of our main goals coming into the preseason was to form an identity and play with an identity and continue to do that, and we feel like we were able to do that game in and game out."

 

Guentzel has another big night

Center Jake Guentzel continued his impressive preseason with a goal and two assists to help the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 5-4 win against the Buffalo Sabres at PPG Paints Arena.

Guentzel, who had 33 points (16 goals, 17 assists) in 40 games as a rookie last season, leads the Penguins with nine points (three goals, six assists) in three preseason games. He has a plus-3 rating and a 60 percent shooting efficiency. 

Guentzel, who played on a line with Conor Sheary and captain Sidney Crosby, is out to prove last season was not a fluke.

"You've got to show you can do it over a full season," Guentzel told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "You don't really want to have those slumps. I think you kind of implement that in your training over the summer and be ready for this year."

Video: BUF@PIT: Guentzel buries Crosby's great feed

 

Babcock still uncertain of roster cuts

Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock was pleasantly surprised with the performance of many players on the cusp of making the final 23-man roster in a 4-2 win against the Montreal Canadiens at Videotron Centre in Quebec City.

"Give them credit, they're making it hard," Babcock told the Toronto Sun. "We just went through our (postgame) ratings and it's clear as mud again. We don't have a clue, so we'll just keep going."

Among the players making a good impression are forwards Eric Fehr, Carl Grundstrom, Andreas Johnsson and Josh Leivo, and defenseman Martin Marincin, according to the Sun.

"It's hard to go through the lineup and find guys who weren't good tonight," Babcock said. "These guys are working for jobs, trying to send a message. They know their time is running out."

 

Dano gets on the board

Center Marko Dano scored the game-winning goal with 6:48 remaining in the third period to give the Winnipeg Jets a 5-3 win against the Ottawa Senators at Bell MTS Place. 

Dano, who had 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in 38 games last season, has one goal and six shots on goal in four preseason games.

"He got better as the game went on," coach Paul Maurice told the Winnipeg Sun. "We're looking for strength out of him along the walls, being able to control the puck and drive the game. He's a powerful man and he's got a good set of hands. Speed is something that we're constantly looking to improve so we can get to those places a little faster and a little quicker."

The Jets finished 3-for-7 (42.8 percent) on the power play and are 12-for-37 (32.4 percent) in the preseason, second behind the San Jose Sharks (5-for-15, 33.3 percent). Winnipeg has scored at least one power-play goal in five of its six preseason games.

The Jets conclude their preseason schedule against the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome on Saturday and open the regular season at home against the Maple Leafs next Wednesday (7 p.m. ET; SN, TVA Sports, NHL.TV). There are 30 players left in training camp.

Video: OTT@WPG: Dano finishes two-on-one to put Jets ahead

 

Golden Knights back home

The Vegas Golden Knights will play the Colorado Avalanche in their second preseason game at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas to highlight nine games on the schedule on Thursday.

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

 

WATCH THIS GAME ON NHL.TV

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

Lightning at Panthers, 6 p.m.

Bruins at Flyers, 7 p.m. (TCN-PH, NHL.TV)

Blackhawks at Red Wings, 7:30 p.m. (NHLN, CSN-CH+, NHL.TV)

Blue Jackets at Predators, 8 p.m.

Wild vs. Blues in Kansas City, 8 p.m.

Flames at Canucks, 10 p.m. (SN, NHL.TV)

Avalanche at Golden Knights, 10 p.m. (ATTSN-RM, ALT, NHL.TV)

Sharks at Ducks, 10 p.m.

Coyotes at Kings, 10:30 p.m. (NHLN, PRIME, NHL.TV)

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