News: Mikael Backlund's abdominal strain is worse than originally thought, Kristen Odland of the Calgary Herald reports. Analysis: Mikael Backlund was originally expected to be ready for the start of the regular season, but head coach Bob Hartley stated Monday that he's worried about Backlund's status. The team hasn't given any sort of timetable for the center's return, so keep an eye out for an update in the next few days.
News: Trevor Daley was held out of Sunday's team scrimmage due to a sore hip, Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News reports. Analysis: Trevor Daley suffered the injury when he collided with the boards during Saturday's practice, but he isn't expected to miss much time as a result. The Stars could choose to keep Daley out of a few exhibitions just as a precaution, but it won't change his standing with the team with his role virtually assured for the start of the season. The 30-year-old is expected to join Alex Goligoski on the Stars' first defensive pairing, where he'll look to build on last season's career-high nine goals.
News: Cody Almond is competing for a gig as the Wild's 12th or 13th forward in training camp, Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. Analysis: Cody Almond was signed to a one-year, one-way contract by the Wild in July, after a two-year stint in Switzerland in which he accrued 26 goals and 64 points over 83 games. The one-way deal means Almond will have to pass through waivers if he gets cut during training camp, after which he'd have to decide to play with the Wild's AHL affiliate in Iowa or return to Switzerland. The 25-year-old previously appeared with the Wild for 25 games over parts of three seasons from 2009 to 2012, but that won't necessarily give him an edge over the other skaters competing for depth roles. Should Almond somehow end up claiming a roster spot, he'd likely be relegated to checking-line status, with limited ice time coming his way.
News: Kyle Brodziak hasn't skated either of the last two days due to a back ailment, Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. Analysis: The injury will keep Kyle Brodziak out of the Wild's preseason opener Monday against the Jets, but the team isn't classifying the ailment as a major concern. Brodziak is probably again ticketed for fourth-line duty with the Wild this season, after compiling eight goals, 16 assists, and 61 penalty minutes a year earlier.
News: Jason Spezza will be used on the second line next to fellow Senators transplant Ales Hemsky when the Stars play their exhibition opener Monday vs. the Blues, Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News reports. Analysis: Coach Lindy Ruff could still shuffle around his top-six forwards before the start of the regular season, but given the chemistry Jason Spezza showed with Hemsky last season, it's highly probable that the duo will combine to form two-thirds of the second line. Valeri Nichushkin, Colton Sceviour and Antoine Roussel are among the players competing for a spot alongside Spezza and Hemsky or the top-line duo of Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. No matter whom ultimately lands on the left side of Spezza, scoring opportunities should be plentiful for the 31-year-old, both at even strength and on the power play.
News: Brandon McMillan is not playing Monday due to a lower body injury, Sarah McLellan of the Arizona Republic reports. Analysis: The lower body issue is reportedly not serious, so Brandon McMillan should be able to return to action at some point this week, and is expected to be fully healthy for the regular season.
News: Capitals head coach Barry Trotz indicated Evgeny Kuznetsov and Marcus Johansson are going "head to head" for the second-line center position during a press conference prior to Monday night's preseason game against the Flyers. Analysis: The declaration at least puts to bed some concern that Brooks Laich was also involved in the competition, but Trotz's words and Laich's appearance on the left wing during Sunday's preseason action against Buffalo seem to corroborate the idea that the second-line center job will go to either Evgeny Kuznetsov or Marcus Johansson. A popular pick to win the Calder Trophy this season, Kuznetsov's value will certainly rise if he can win the job. Keep an eye on the situation, as the talented Russian is oozing sleeper potential at the moment.
News: Capitals head coach Barry Trotz indicated Marcus Johansson and Evgeny Kuznetsov are going "head to head" for the second-line center position during a press conference prior to Monday night's preseason game against the Flyers. Analysis: Marcus Johansson spent most of last season alongside Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom on the team's top line, but the new regime seems to think Johansson could contend for the second-line center job. It's worth noting that Johansson has been handed that role before and failed to generate the kind of production needed to keep the job. Keep an eye on this battle through training camp, as Johansson needs to be on a scoring line to have much fantasy impact.
News: Jonathan Drouin (upper body) as shown little improvement in his injury over the last week and has been sent for further testing, reports Eric Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune. Analysis: Expect him to miss the rest of the week as a result. We're a little worried about the lack of progress -- fingers crossed there's no surgery in his future. Jonathan Drouin is expected to play an integral role with the Bolts this season.
News: Jon Merrill (head) will resume workouts either Monday or Tuesday, Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record reports. Analysis: Jon Merrill collided with Ruslan Fedotenko Sunday, but head coach Peter DeBoer said the defenseman is already feeling better, and should continue working out again soon. He'll continue to progress, and should be ready to go for the start of the regular season.