Four Erik Karlssons? Not quite, but Predators’ vaunted D poses toughest test yet for Penguins

Cracking one Erik Karlsson is tough enough. But four of him? Good luck.

Talk out of Pittsburgh ahead of Monday’s Stanley Cup Final opener has centered on how, exactly, the high-powered Penguins offense will fare against a vaunted Predators blue line that indiscriminately shut down its opponents’ top forwards while cutting through the Western Conference. It’s the matchup that should make for an intriguing series.

The trade winds have been swirling around the Avalanche and Matt Duchene for some time now. It makes little sense for both player and team to enter another season with a malcontent on the roster, so it’s high time a deal gets done. Yet here we are.

Avs GM Joe Sakic is asking a lot: a young defenseman plus some combination of top prospects or draft picks and possibly the moon.

The Islanders reportedly offered Travis Hamonic and a first-rounder, but that ship has sailed. Montreal remains a suitor, especially after Radulov’s departure, but may no longer have the assets to meet those demands with Mikhail Sergachev now in Tampa. Columbus is in hot pursuit as well and would seem to be the best fit.

Though Sakic has every reason to hold out for the right return for his 26-year-old star, his rivals can play the waiting game, too.

It was a huge win for the Capitals, who were bounced from the playoffs by the Penguins in the second round of last year’s playoffs before Pittsburgh went on to win the Stanley Cup.

He checks a lot of boxes for us, Flames general manager Brad Treliving said after sending multiple draft picks, including a 2018 first-rounder and a pair of future second-round selections, to New York for the 26-year-old Hamonic.

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Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo makes statement to be among NBA’s best

LeBron James, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry would lead most people’s shortlist of greatest players currently in the NBA, but one young man not usually in that conversation is starting to make his case.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, 22, is playing on another level right now. Though his Bucks lost Sunday, 111-98 to the Hawks, “The Greek Freak” showcased his many skills.

After recently voicing his opinion that he would be among the leading All-Star voters in the Eastern Conference if his name were easier to pronouce, Antetokounmpo scored 33 points with eight rebounds, six assists, three blocks and two steals.

The final member of the Raptors’ stars, Jonas Valanciunas, came into the game having endured a tough time recently. Coach Dwane Casey even said he wouldn’t play his center late in games if he couldn’t “dominate.”

Valanciunas dominated Thursday, scoring 18 points with 13 rebounds and zero turnovers.

Rudy Gobert led the Jazz with 15 points and 16 rebounds. Both teams have the look of strong playoff contenders.

Westbrook is now the only player with multiple triple-doubles with 10-plus turnovers in a season since turnovers were compiled as an official stat (1973-74).

On the plus side, this was Westbrook’s 19th triple-double of the season, the most by any player in a season since Wilt Chamberlain had 31 in 1967-68.

Don’t look now, but the T-Wolves are starting to mesh. Minnesota’s disappointing start was a head-scratcher considering all of its blossoming stars. Karl Anthony-Towns — the brightest of those Super Cheap Jerseys China stars — scored 29 points with 17 rebounds. Ricky Rubio, who runs hot and cold, had 14 Pittsburgh Penguins Cheap Jerseys points and 14 assists.