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John Carlson can’t forget that he is fighting for the NHL lead for points among defensemen because his Washington Capitals teammates keep razzing him about it.”The guys do a good job of pumping that up in the locker room Adidas Adam Cracknell Jersey ,” Carlson said.Carlson’s 61 points have him tied with the Dallas Stars’ John Klingberg, and he is a dark horse candidate for the Norris Trophy as the league’s top defenseman.”John’s having just a whale of a year,” teammate Matt Niskanen said. ”Monster year – production, been carrying the load all year. He’s been a stalwart back there for us.”This breakout season with a career-high 15 goals and 46 assists is coming at a perfect time for Carlson, who is set to be an unrestricted free agent this summer but has been flying under the radar compared to New York Islanders captain John Tavares. Carlson command upward of $7 million per season on a deal that’s almost certain to be eight years if Washington re-signs him or seven if he hits the market July 1.The 28-year-old has outperformed the six-year contract he signed in 2012 that pays him just under $4 million a year. He has shown the ability to be a dominant No. 1 defenseman by averaging 25 minutes a game, running the point on the top power-play unit, killing penalties and drawing the toughest matchups.A 2008 first-round pick of the Capitals, Carlson likes Washington and would like to stay if the fit is there. General manager Brian MacLellan has said he believes each side wants to get a deal done but will wait until after the season to try to make it happen.The big question is whether the Capitals can make it work under the salary cap, which might require trades even though the ceiling is expected to go up to between $78 million and $82 million from $75 million.Carlson might not reach the $7.875 million annual salary of Tampa Bay defenseman Victor Hedman, who along with Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings is a Norris front-runner, but he might not be far off. Carlson has more of an offensive punch than San Jose Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, whose new deal pays him $7 million a year, and he has almost double the points of the next-highest potential free agent defenseman, former Capitals teammate Mike Green, who’s 32.”He’s always been steady Adidas Josh Jooris Jersey ,” Washington goaltender Braden Holtby said of Carlson. ”His role’s expanded, obviously, which shows: time on ice and points and such. He’s got all the tools of a great defenseman. “Carlson isn’t the only player excelling in a contract year. Here are some others:JAMES VAN RIEMSDYKThirty-goal scorers get paid handsomely in free agency because they are so rarely available. Van Riemsdyk’s 33 goals are 11th-most in the NHL, and the 6-foot-3, 217-pound left-winger has gotten better around the net. Van Riemsdyk, the second overall pick in 2007, has another one of the league’s best bargain contracts at $4.25 million a year, which Toronto inherited from Philadelphia. The Maple Leafs have expressed interest in keeping the 28-year-old.JOHN TAVARESUndoubtedly the best pending free agent, Tavares still not having a new contract with the New York Islanders is generating buzz and whispers like Steven Stamkos two years ago. Stamkos re-upped with Tampa Bay on the eve of free agency, which Tavares could do. The Islanders will miss the playoffs for the second consecutive season and sixth time in Tavares’ nine years in the league. The point-a-game player with 32 goals and 43 assists could fetch $10 million a year or more if he isn’t back with New York.DAVID PERRONThe expansion Vegas Golden Knights struck gold with Perron, whose 66 points are a career high and a big reason they are leading the Pacific Division. The soon-to-be 30-year-old winger got his game back after bouncing around to four different teams the past five seasons and could easily re-sign with Vegas like teammate Jonathan Marchessault did.JOE THORNTONKnee surgery knocked Thornton out of the San Jose Sharks’ lineup in January, cutting short a season in which he had 36 points in 43 games at age 38. If Thornton shows he can still play at the top of his game when he returns, he will be in demand for another one-year contract.RICK NASHGoing from the New York Rangers to Boston appears to have reinvigorated Nash’s game after just 28 points in 60 games before the trade. The 33-year-old power winger’s contract year won’t truly be judged until the playoffs, where he gets another chance to exorcise some past demons.— NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Yes Adidas Timothy Liljegren Jersey , Predators forward Filip Forsberg has watched the video of his jaw-dropping goal against Colorado a couple times, and even he agrees putting the puck through not only his legs but a defender’s with a dangle ranks as his most creative yet.”I had some opportunities, but I haven’t finished any of them off,” Forsberg said. ”But it was good.”The Colorado Avalanche showed that they can give Nashville fits with their speed and too-young-to-know-better attitude with the youngest roster this postseason. Having a chance in this first-round Western Conference series against the NHL’s Presidents’ Trophy winners will mean figuring out a way to slow down the Predators’ top scorer.Forsberg’s two goals in the third period not only rallied Nashville to a 5-2 win in Game 1 , the forward is averaging more than a point per game for his career against Colorado. Forsberg now has 26 points (15 goals, 11 assists) and five game-winning goals in 21 games.He also outscored Colorado’s top line as Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen each had assists setting up the Avs’ opening goal.Coach Jared Bednar said he thought his Avalanche, playing without top defenseman Erik Johnson (knee injury), did a nice job on Forsberg most of the game. Sam Girard played 22 minutes, 7 seconds in his postseason debut against the team that drafted him.”He uses his skill and beats a guy one-on-one,” Bednar said of Forsberg. ”The go-ahead goal at 3-2 was a lucky bounce. They shot it wide, and he got to the right spot on the ice and hit maybe his stick and a shin pad. He just goes to the hard areas.”The Avalanche are catching Forsberg at a bad time. The 23-year-old forward from Ostervala, Sweden, now has 32 points in his last 31 games after leading the balanced Predators with 64 points in the regular season.The Predators have a chance Saturday in Game 2 at something they haven’t managed yet as a franchise: Taking a 2-0 series lead in their own building.”We’ve got to be better to get this done,” Forsberg said.Some things to watch Saturday:—Devils at Lightning, Tampa Bay leads 1-0 (3 p.m EDT Adidas Tyler Ennis Jersey , NBC/CBNBC)The Lightning look and sound like a team rejuvenated by playing meaningful games again.The Atlantic Division champions spent the final three weeks of the regular season essentially biding time while awaiting the start of the playoffs. Captain Steven Stamkos said it was important to re-establish an edge in the series opener, and now the top seed in the Eastern Conference can take a commanding lead on the underdog Devils.”There’s a wealth of experience in this room, with guys that have been in this situation,” Stamkos said. ”I think you could tell, once the puck dropped, that we were very determined to set the tone and play the right way.”About half of New Jersey’s roster entered this series with no playoff experience. Coach John Hynes expects that to be less of a factor in Game 2.”I don’t really want to get into what the exact message with our team was, but it (basically) was don’t get too high, don’t get too low,” Hynes said. ”We have to make sure we understand the areas we’ve got to be better at, and I think mentally make sure that we’re ready to play a certain way.”—Maple Leafs at Bruins, Boston leads 1-0 (8 p.m. EDT, NBC)The Bruins may be without forward Tommy Wingels, who did not skate Friday after taking a hit from Toronto forward Nazem Kadri. Boston coach Bruce Cassidy said Wingels was being evaluated by doctors and lists him as questionable as the Bruins try to take a 2-0 lead.If Wingels can’t play, a possible replacement could be rookie forward Ryan Donato. Cassidy said the former Harvard star could make his postseason debut Saturday. Donato skated with Noel Acciari and David Backes in practice. Cassidy said they have options with Brian Gionta as a right wing and Danton Heinen, who can slide over.”I think Ryan played really well when he was here for his 12 games Adidas Antoine Roussel Jersey ,” said Cassidy. ”We plan on using Ryan, just want to pick the right time.”The Maple Leafs know they have to play better on special teams after giving up three power-play goals. They also spent Friday waiting to learn what punishment the NHL would give Kadri.”I don’t know what they’re going to do so might as well get prepared,” Toronto coach Mike Babcock said.—Sharks at Ducks, San Jose leads 1-0 (10:30 p.m. EDT, NBCSN)The Ducks looked largely lifeless as they gave away their home-ice advantage by failing to maintain the momentum from their impressive finish to the regular season. This is a familiar pattern for the veteran Ducks, who have lost Game 1 at home in four of their last five playoff series over the past three seasons. They won two of those series.Perhaps Evander Kane’s gritty two-goal performance in his playoff debut will get the Ducks’ attention, reminding them that they can’t play into the Sharks’ hands by skating on the perimeter of the ice and failing to generate consistent traffic in front of Martin Jones.Or maybe the Sharks are hitting their stride after losing five of their final six games in the regular season. San Jose was better on both ends to win the opener 3-0 .”They played how you’re supposed to play in the playoffs,” Anaheim forward Andrew Cogliano said of the Sharks. ”They played patient and played the right way. When you get chances, you have to score on them. You just execute the game plan. They did that. It seemed like we were stuck in the regular season and trying to make plays in the neutral zone, or turning the pucks over.”San Jose coach Peter DeBoer cautioned against getting excited about seeing Sharks center Joe Thornton on the ice in pregame warmups. Thornton has not played since Jan. 25 because of an injured right knee. DeBoer said the 38-year-old veteran is improving or wouldn’t be on the ice.”It’s not gamesmanship,” DeBoer said. ”He wants to be around the group, and he’s getting closer.”—AP Sports Writers Fred Goodall and Greg Beacham contributed to this report.—
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