Canucks forward Bill Sweatt explains his side in the non-signing debacle with Toronto

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billsweatt1-andersson-getty.jpgWhen you’re a prospect of a high-profile team, life can be hard if expectations aren’t met. If you’re a guy like Bill Sweatt who gets traded from the high-profile team that drafted you in Chicago to one in a pressure-cooker city like Toronto, life can be even tougher if you’ve got just a short time to get signed there. It can also be made tougher when Toronto declines to sign you in a high-profile manner.

For Bill Sweatt, signing with the Canucks was a quick way to escape the glare of spurning the Maple Leafs, but for now, he’s happy to explain his side of the story directly as well as the fun he’s having on Twitter getting berated by Leafs fans for “spurning” their team.

It’s not that Sweatt didn’t want to be a Maple Leaf. It’s that he never had a chance. Not a real one, he explained. Toronto offered him a max three-year, entry level deal but pulled it off the table just a few days later.

“We told them we wanted to see what was going to happen with the team,” Sweatt said. “They had an overload of defencemen. We didn’t know what they were going to do with [Tomas] Kaberle. They still don’t know what they’re going to do.

“We didn’t want to rush into it and then see that all of a sudden they end up trading one of their defencemen for four left wingers.

“Maybe they thought I was sending a message that I didn’t want to be a part of their team which I wasn’t. It was more or less looking out for my future. I didn’t want to sign and get screwed over.

“It didn’t go smoothly, but that’s life.”

If you’re looking for a guy that’s got a good head on his shoulders, Bill Sweatt seems to make for a pretty good example. Sweatt didn’t really have to be hamstrung by being Leafs property and his concerns were more than valid. After all, if you’re traded into a potentially bad situation and you still have a contract to work out that makes everyone’s life more difficult.

Turning down the Leafs may have caused Sweatt problems on Twitter for a while, but in the end he’s made a move that he feels is best for his career. It’s amazing to see how Tomas Kaberle’s seemingly always in flux status with the Leafs managed to play a role in Sweatt’s dealing with Toronto.

It’s not to say that Toronto has bungled the affair with Kaberle, but it seems that Kaberle has been a road block to making progress in other areas as well. Sweatt isn’t a major prospect (he was a second round pick of Chicago) but he’s still a guy with useful potential NHL upside. All things will hash themselves out, of course, but if Sweatt finds a way to emerge in a great way for Vancouver, fans in Toronto will turn their anger away from Sweatt and towards Leafs management and Brian Burke.

(Photo: Claus Andersson – Getty Images)

Kuznetsov, bad breaks baffle Flyers in loss to Capitals

PHILADELPHIA, PA - FEBRUARY 22: Evgeny Kuznetsov #92 of the Washington Capitals celebrates his first period goal against Michal Neuvirth #30 of the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center on February 22, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Here’s what went right for the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday: the Florida Panthers lost. Yep, that’s about it.

Otherwise, it was a pretty lousy time, as the Washington Capitals beat them at home 4-1 tonight.

Washington’s big names came to play here, highlighted by Evgeny Kuznetsov scoring two goals. T.J. Oshie and Nicklas Backstrom enjoyed one-goal, one-assist nights while Justin Williams and Alex Ovechkin both grabbed two assists.

The Capitals won their first game after a bye week (following two losses), improving their Metropolitan Division lead to five points and Presidents’ Trophy edge over Minnesota to three.

The Flyers fail to make up some ground in the Eastern Conference wild card race, staying at 63 standings points in 60 games played. The Panthers are tied with the Islanders and Bruins at 66 points, though Boston can change the picture ever so slightly against Anaheim (still in action) tonight.

The bottom line, again, is that the Flyers failed in a chance to get a little closer to that logjam for the last East spot.

Of course, plenty of Flyers fans will grumble about missed opportunities and iffy calls. Mike Milbury broke down the early setbacks that made life that much tougher for Philly:

Philly couldn’t overcome the Capitals and that bad luck, making their playoff hopes a little dimmer as the trade deadline approaches.

Oilers win on rare Russell goal, Panthers fall out of second wild card spot

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The Edmonton Oilers’ 4-3 win against the Florida Panthers might end up being costly if Andrej Sekera misses significant time.

But, hey, at least it was a win.

The two rising squads engaged in a back-and-forth game, with the Oilers winning in regulation. Maybe fittingly with Edmonton leaking defensemen lately: Kris Russell was the guy to score the game-winner, set up by Connor McDavid‘s blazing speed and a nice pass by Leon Draisaitl.

It was Russell’s first goal in more than a year.

The Oilers will remain in the second spot in the Pacific at the end of the night whether the Anaheim Ducks beat the Boston Bruins or not. Interestingly, this puts them in a reasonable position to catch the Sharks for first place in the division, too.

1. Sharks – 77 points in 60 games
2. Oilers – 74 points in 61 games
3. Ducks – 72 points in 61 games (in progress vs. Boston)

The Oilers likely had some fans out East tonight, as this loss pushes Florida down the wild card rankings. They’re actually out of the second spot thanks to tiebreakers.

Second wild card spot: Bruins – 66 points in 59 games, 30 wins and 28 ROW (in progress)

Islanders – 66 points in 59 games, 28 wins and 27 ROW
Panthers – 66 points in 59 games, 28 wins and 25 ROW

The Isles would move into the second spot if Boston loses in regulation, underscoring just how congested this situation is. But either way, the Panthers won’t be in the East’s top eight at the end of the night.

With Gibson out, Ducks recall interesting goalie: Enroth

TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 11: Jhonas Enroth #35 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Air Canada Centre on November 11, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. The Maple Leafs defeated the Flyers 6-3.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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One player’s injury is another player’s opportunity.

Considering how much the Anaheim Ducks lean on John Gibson, it’s troubling that he’s day-to-day with a lower-body injury.

Even so, it’s interesting to note that such a situation prompted the team to recall Jhonas Enroth, who will back up Jonathan Bernier during Wednesday’s game against the Boston Bruins.

With the way Bernier’s been playing at times, it’s not impossible that Enroth could play as soon as tonight. But if he doesn’t you have to wonder if the Ducks might feel compelled to throw a start his way in the next week.

The trade deadline is coming, and while the goalie market is really cold, some of that slow movement likely comes from how cap-unfriendly netminders like Ben Bishop might be.

But what about Enroth? His cap hit is $750K this season, and while he thoroughly unimpressed Mike Babcock with rapid speed in Toronto, he was fantastic as a backup in Los Angeles last season and has been outstanding lately for the AHL’s San Diego Gulls.

All things considered, it’s almost a little surprising the Ducks aren’t throwing him right into the deep end tonight. If you’re a team with poor backup goaltending like the Edmonton Oilers or any number of other teams,* why wouldn’t you give the Ducks a call?

Maybe they need to see him in action in the NHL before doing so, making this an intriguing scenario to follow.

And, hey, maybe the Ducks themselves might decide that he’s a better option behind Gibson than Bernier. Stranger things have happened.

* – The Leafs might qualify, honestly … but again, Babs doesn’t seem to be an Enroth fan.

Another defenseman down: Niskanen won’t return for Caps tonight (Video)

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Uh oh.

There are only three games on the docket for Wednesday, but injuries are a factor in all of them. The Washington Capitals must now worry about underrated defenseman Matt Niskanen after he left tonight’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers with a lower-body injury.

Niskanen took a shift to end the second period, only not to return, much like Andrej Sekera did in tonight’s Edmonton Oilers game.

The Capitals blueliner got hurt after falling awkwardly following a collision with Radko Gudas, as you can see from the video above.