Not much action last night, but this was easily the best of the bunch.
The way the Washington Capitals have been steamrolling their opponents in 2017, it was no surprise to hear GM Brian MacLellan say he doesn’t expect to make major changes ahead of Wednesday’s trade deadline.
“This year, I don’t feel that pressure or that need to do anything,” MacLellan said, per CSN Mid-Atlantic’s Tarik El-Bashir. “We’re not going to mess with lines or defensive pairs. If we can upgrade on the fringes, we might do it.”
Gilbert is currently with AHL Hershey but could be called upon soon after Matt Niskanen was forced to leave last night’s win over the Flyers.
MacLellan said today that Niskanen is day-to-day with a lower-body injury, adding that it wasn’t anything “serious.”
“We’ll make sure he’s 100 percent before he comes back,” the GM said, per CSN Mid-Atlantic.
The Caps’ next game is Friday at home to the Oilers. On Saturday, they’re in Nashville to take on the Predators.
Calgary head coach Glen Gulutzan set the record straight about Johnny Gaudreau missing a team bus for an outdoor practice in New York earlier this month, and Gaudreau’s subsequent fourth-line demotion a week later.
“I can tell you this — it wasn’t a big deal,” Gulutzan explained, per the Calgary Sun. “We were in a gong show that day — we were dressing in a hotel ballroom, it was a real mess.
“He was with the trainer, so he came over with him. It was a 10 a.m. bus and I said, ‘hey do your thing, everyone else get there.’ So he jumped in a cab with (head therapist) Kent (Kobelka).”
The incident occurred on Feb. 4, and made for quite the scene — Gaudreau, decked out in full gear, jumped out of a taxi at Central Park just prior to practice. He then played over 19 minutes the following night against the Rangers, tallying an assist, but two games later was dropped to the bottom line in an ugly 5-0 loss to Arizona.
The initial assumption was Gaudreau got demoted because of an offensive zone turnover at the end of a lengthy shift. But given his history — last year, he was scratched after showing up late for practice following a reported “epic” Super Bowl party — there was some speculation he’d been subjected to another team punishment.
Not the case, said Gulutzan. From the Sun:
He insists no team rules were broken and no discipline was needed.
Gulutzan and other team officials said exceptions weren’t made for the superstar, nor were there whispers on the bus about him getting preferential treatment.
It’s been an up-and-down year for Gaudreau. He missed the entire preseason embroiled in contract negotiations before inking a monster six-year, $40.5 million extension.
He’s oft been the subject of targeting this season, and missed 10 games with a broken finger from an Eric Staal slash. As a result, his production is down — just 11 goals and 39 points through 50 games — and has found the back of the net just once in his last 20 contests.
That said, Gaudreau’s still shown off his incredible offensive talent. In Tuesday’s wild 6-5 OT win over Nashville, he racked up four assists, which included a helper on Mark Giordano‘s winner in the extra frame.
Justin Schultz is hoping to play Saturday when the Penguins host their rivals from Philadelphia outdoors at Heinz Field.
The 26-year-old offensive defenseman was back at practice today after missing three games with a concussion suffered a week ago.
“It’s good to be back,” Schultz told reporters. “The legs feel really good. Not cleared for contact yet. Hopefully I can be ready for the game.”
Schultz is enjoying a career year with nine goals and 30 assists in 56 games, and the Pens may need him Saturday since Kris Letang is now “day-to-day with an upper-body injury,” according to head coach Mike Sullivan.
No word how Letang was injured. The 29-year-old managed to log 28:49 of ice time in Tuesday’s 3-1 win in Carolina, but he skipped practice today.
Suffice to say, the Pens’ defense is in a real state of flux at the moment. Trevor Daley is expected to miss the rest of the regular season due to knee surgery, and Olli Maatta is out long term as well. Those two injuries likely hastened GM Jim Rutherford to pick up Ron Hainsey in a trade today with Carolina.
“I’m familiar with him because I signed him in Carolina,” Rutherford said of Hainsey. “He’s a real character guy. He’s a good penalty killer.”
Rutherford added that the Pens may be in the market for another defenseman still.
Pittsburgh has two games left before the March 1 deadline, Saturday against the Flyers and Tuesday in Dallas.
Busy day in Carolina — shortly after sending veteran d-man Ron Hainsey to Pittsburgh, the ‘Canes placed forward Bryan Bickell on waivers.
Bickell, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis earlier this season, has been training and skating in advance of a comeback.
He’s been out since Oct. 30, and missed the last 48 games.
Today’s move is based on the assumption Bickell, 30, will need more than the standard two-week conditioning stint in the AHL, so the plan is for him to clear, then spend extended time in Charlotte.
“I’ll tell you what: he’s done everything he possibly can to get himself ready and get back at it, so we’ll see where it leads,” head coach Bill Peters said, per the ‘Canes website. “It’s an unreal source of inspiration, and his attitude has been fantastic through this whole thing.
“I give him nothing but credit there.”
Per NHL.com, Bickell originally aimed to return to the ‘Canes following their bye week, targeting a home date against the Avalanche on Feb. 17.
“It all depends too on what other guys are doing if they’re going on a huge streak,” Bickell explained. “I like to see them win. If they need me, I’m sure an extra week of me skating is not going to hurt me.
“We’re just going to wait until after the next treatment and after the bye week and go from there.”
Bickell’s treatment is a monthly intravenous of Tysabri, a drug which helps limit the effects of MS. The 30-year-old said he began feeling better upon taking the medication, and has steadily his skating workload to get up to NHL speed.