N.H.L. Preview: Pittsburgh Seeks Another Cup; Vegas Seeks Its First Win

N.H.L. Preview: Pittsburgh Seeks Another Cup; Vegas Seeks Its First Win


The Oakland Raiders of the N.F.L. are likely to join the Golden Knights in a city once avoided by pro leagues because of its robust gambling scene.

Enthusiasm has been high for the Golden Knights, and the team’s majority owner, Bill Foley, claimed his club is in the top 10 in ticket revenue.

On the ice, the Golden Knights, coached by Gerard Gallant, appear to have filled their cupboard for the future by making 12 selections in this year’s entry draft as well as stockpiling prospects, future selections and other assets.

For now, the team may not have designs on the Stanley Cup or even the playoffs, but it does feature some prominent players, including Fleury, the former Penguin, in goal and the ex-Nashville Predators wing James Neal.

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The N.H.L. decided not to suspend its season or make its players available for the 2018 Winter Olympics.

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Matt Slocum/Associated Press

A Changed Olympics

The 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, will be the first Games without N.H.L. players since 1994, when Peter Forsberg’s dramatic shootout goal earned a gold medal for Sweden and a spot in hockey lore.

Fearful of lost revenue, shared costs and potential risks associated with sending players to the Olympics, N.H.L. owners opted not to suspend their season for the Games or allow their players to go. That decision was unpopular among the International Olympic Committee, many hockey fans and the players themselves.

Without N.H.L. players, national teams will be made largely of players from European professional leagues, the minor leagues and college teams.

It remains to be seen what will happen in 2022, when the Winter Games will be held in Beijing. The N.H.L. held exhibition games in China last month, hoping to gain attention in the enormous sports market there.

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Oilers forward Connor McDavid, 20, right, is the reigning Hart Trophy winner as the league’s most valuable player.

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Perry Nelson/USA Today Sports, via Reuters

The Next Phase for 2 Teams

The Toronto Maple Leafs and the Edmonton Oilers combined to win nine playoff games last season. That may seem like a modest total, but it was impressive for once-revered franchises who have experienced prolonged struggles. This season, both teams could emerge as Cup contenders, hoping to end the 24-year championship drought for Canada.

The Oilers doled out hefty contract extensions to their cornerstone forwards Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. McDavid’s contract will pay him $100 million over eight years, a deal that could set the market for marquee players (the Islanders’ star John Tavares, for one, will be a free agent in the summer of 2018).

The Oilers, who finished second in the Pacific Division and were eliminated in seven games in the second round of the playoffs, have an elite 1-2 scoring punch with a serviceable supporting cast and a workhorse goalie, the former Ranger Cam Talbot. Edmonton enters the season without a top defender, Andrej Sekera, whose recovery from a torn anterior cruciate ligament may persist into 2018.

Toronto, which sneaked into the playoffs last season and lost a tight first-round series to the Washington Capitals, finds itself up against the salary cap. The Maple Leafs wield firepower with the young forwards Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander, but could stand to improve on defense. They veered from their youth movement and signed the durable former San Jose Sharks forward Patrick Marleau, 38, who won a pair of Olympic gold medals for Canada under Toronto Coach Mike Babcock.

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Ken Hitchcock, who coached Dallas from 1995 to 2002, returned to the Stars’ bench this off-season.

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LM Otero/Associated Press

High Expectations in Dallas

After a disappointing and injury-riddled 2016-17 season, the Dallas Stars made sweeping changes on the bench and behind it.

They rehired Ken Hitchcock, who took the team to its only Stanley Cup in 1999 and to the finals in 2000. Then Dallas was the most active team in the off-season.

The Stars shored up deficiencies on the back end by acquiring the starting goaltender Ben Bishop and the stalwart defenseman Marc Methot via trades. They selected Miro Heiskanen, the top defenseman in the draft. They also signed two of the top forwards on the free-agent market: wing Alexander Radulov and center Martin Hanzal.

Dallas, which already had the high-scoring duo of Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, may well go from non-playoff team to Cup contender.

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A concourse at Little Caesars Arena, the new home of the Red Wings. Detroit hosts Minnesota on Thursday for its season opener.

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Paul Sancya/Associated Press

What’s New?

The Detroit Red Wings closed out Joe Louis Arena last year and are set to officially open their new, $700 million facility, Little Caesars Arena, on Thursday against the Minnesota Wild.

Hitchcock’s return to Dallas is one of six coaching changes. For the first time since 2009, Dave Tippett is not on the Arizona Coyotes’ bench, replaced by Rick Tocchet. The Kings, who won two Cups in the past five years, fired Coach Darryl Sutter and General Manager Dean Lombardi, replacing them with John Stevens as coach and Rob Blake as G.M.

There are a handful of rule changes. In another move possibly designed to increase scoring, teams will no longer be able to call timeout after they ice the puck and give players on the ice an extra breather.

Slashing will be enforced more closely in the wake of serious injuries that resulted from slashes, and face-off infractions will also a point of emphasis for officials.

Coaches who want to use video review to challenge offsides on goals will no longer cost a team a timeout. The catch? An unsuccessful challenge results in a two-minute minor penalty and a power play for the opposing team. This was implemented to reduce the number of offsides challenges, which have become increasingly controversial.



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