Ducks forward Bobby Ryan to get tried out at center during training camp

bobbyryan4.jpgDucks forward Bobby Ryan’s summer was one that was a bit distracted by contract negotiations and discussion over whether or not he might be traded because of said negotiations. Now that he’s signed on for the next five years and ready to go, the Ducks and GM Bob Murray have a new challenge in store for him: They’re going to try him out at center during training camp.

Murray said the rationale for the Ryan experiment at center is to have three strong lines. “Bobby played a few games at center at the end of last year, and Randy (Carlyle, Ducks coach) and I both liked what we saw,” Murray said Friday at Honda Center, while players were undergoing their annual pre-camp physicals and fitness tests. “It gives us more options.”

Murray didn’t say which players would fill out the lines if Getzlaf, Ryan and Koivu center the top three lines, respectively, but he and Carlyle  obviously want to look at different combinations.

“Like in baseball, you have to be strong up the middle,”  Murray said.

Ryan is a 30-goal scorer with potential to do more as he gets older and moving him to a playmaking position at this point in his early career is a fascinating decision. Whether or not this means the Ducks may have concerns with their depth at center or if they’re worried about the workload on Saku Koivu is really unknown here but something you have to wonder about.

The team does have enough at center to fill out four lines, but after that, the depth gets a bit scary. Getzlaf, Koivu, Todd Marchant and Kyle Chipchura make up the current center roster and adding Ryan into the mix relieves one of Marchant or Chipchura from their duties and likely to the wing.

Then again, maybe this is just a comfort move for Teemu Selanne. After all, with Paul Kariya sitting out this season due to concussion issues, maybe Teemu just wanted to have anyone wearing #9 riding shotgun with him this season. If Bobby Ryan keeps getting called “Paul” I hope he’ll understand why.

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    More good times in Washington, as Backstrom named first star of the week

    Nicklas Backstrom
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    The Caps have won nine in a row and catapulted to top spot in the NHL with 63 points, one ahead of second-place Columbus.

    Suffice to say, folks are feelin’ fine in D.C.

    Those good vibes continued on Monday, as center Nicklas Backstrom was named the NHL’s first star of the week.

    More:

    Backstrom led the League in assists and points with 3-7—10 in four contests as the Capitals won all four games to extend their overall winning streak to nine contests and propel Washington to the top of the NHL standings (29-9-5, 63 points).

    Backstrom registered multiple points in all four games starting with one goal and one assist in a 4-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Jan. 9. On Jan. 11, he recorded one goal and three assists in a 5-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, followed by one goal and one assist in a 6-0 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Jan. 13. Backstrom finished the week by notching two assists in a 5-0 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Jan. 15.

    In his 10th season, all with the Capitals, the 29-year-old Galve, Sweden native leads the Capitals and is tied for 10th in League scoring with 42 points (12-30—42 in 43 GP).

    Backstrom, of course, wasn’t the only big story in Washington last week. Captain Alex Ovechkin scored his 1,000th career point on Wednesday, becoming the first player in franchise history to hit that mark.

    The only negative thing coming out of D.C. is that John Carlson, who leads all Caps d-men in scoring, is out for today’s game versus Pittsburgh. Carlson’s absence will be brief, though, as head coach Barry Trotz expects him back in the lineup later this week.

    Panthers recall McIlrath from AHL — but will they play him?

    NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 03:  Ryan Reaves #75 of the St. Louis Blues and Dylan McIlrath #42 of the New York Rangers fight during the first period at Madison Square Garden on November 3, 2014 in New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    The Florida Panthers have recalled defenseman Dylan McIlrath from a conditioning stint in the AHL.

    The question now is whether they’ll play him.

    McIlrath has only appeared in four games for the Panthers since getting traded by the Rangers in November — and in three of those games, he logged less than 10 minutes of ice time.

    On his conditioning assignment, the 24-year-old played six games for the Springfield Thunderbirds, scoring once with an assist and 13 PIM.

    It seems unlikely that the Panthers would make any changes to their lineup after knocking off Columbus, 4-3, on Saturday. They start a four-game road trip tomorrow in Calgary.

    McIlrath’s chances of playing may be limited due to the fact he’s a right shot and the Panthers’ back end already has three healthy right shots in Aaron Ekblad, Jason Demers, and Mark Pysyk.

    Ekblad, Demers, and Pysyk have each played all 45 games this season. The leading candidate to be scratched is probably Jakub Kindl, a left shot.

    So barring an injury, McIlrath may have to sit and wait some more. The Panthers have won four of their last six, and they’re not in a position to mess with success.

    Alex Petrovic (ankle) is Florida’s only injured defenseman. Also a right shot, he could be ready to return in early February.

    The Bruins are finally ‘starting to connect’ on offense

    Boston Bruins' David Krejci (46), of the Czech Republic, celebrates his goal beside Philadelphia Flyers' Wayne Simmonds (17) during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Boston, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
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    The floodgates have opened for the Boston Bruins.

    And it’s about time.

    With Saturday’s 6-3 win over the Flyers, the B’s have scored 22 goals in their last six games. The offense has been a relative juggernaut compared to the first few months of the season. Brad Marchand had five points against Philadelphia, and he likes the progress the team has made.

    “I think early on we had a lot of moving parts and guys in and out of the lineup. [We had] different guys that came in that we all had to get used to one another, and it doesn’t happen overnight,” said Marchand, per CSN New England. “It took half the year, but…I think we all realized that we have to be a desperate team. We’re starting to come together and learn each other and finally get some chemistry on the lines. All of that comes into play and again, I think we’re just starting to connect.”

    The statistics suggested the goals would come. The Bruins have the highest score-adjusted Corsi in the league, but through Christmas, for whatever reason, the pucks weren’t going in.

    To illustrate, Patrice Bergeron had just four goals in his first 31 games, and it wasn’t for a lack of shots. He now has five in his last 12, bringing his season total to a modest nine, as the bounces are finally starting to go his way:

    To be sure, the Bruins are still in a desperate fight for a playoff spot. They’re currently second in the Atlantic Division, but with five more games played than both third-place Toronto and fourth-place Ottawa, winnable games like this afternoon’s against the Islanders need to be won.

    “When you score a couple goals, I guess your confidence goes up a little bit,” said goalie Tuukka Rask. “I think that’s what happened [with us]. So we’ve just got to make sure that we keep it going and don’t take a step back.”

    NHL on NBCSN: Capitals visit Penguins, go for 10 in a row

    WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 16: Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals skates with the puck past Trevor Daley #6 of the Pittsburgh Penguins during the second period at Verizon Center on November 16, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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    NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2016-17 campaign tonight when the Pittsburgh Penguins host the Washington Capitals at 7:00 p.m. ET. If you want to watch the game online, you can do so here

    Streaks are colliding in Pittsburgh on Monday night when the Penguins host the Washington Capitals.

    From the Pittsburgh side, they are looking to break a three-game losing streak (their longest of the season) and will have to do so without the services Kris Letang, their top defensemen, after he was placed on injured reserve on Monday morning. Not exactly a great situation to be in when the team coming in for a visit is a Capitals team that has not only won nine games in a row, but has been absolutely crushing every team they have played during this stretch, including the Penguins less than one week ago.

    Even more than the current winning streak, the Capitals are now 16-2-2 in their past 20 games and have moved back into the top spot in the NHL standings and are making a run at a second consecutive Presidents’ Trophy.

    It has been a collective team effort during this latest run, especially during the current winning streak where five players have averaged more than a point per game, including Justin Williams who has a team-high six goals during the streak.

    “Everybody seems to be doing their job at a high level right now, and that’s why we’re being successful,” Williams said after their 5-0 win against the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday, via the Washington Post. “When there’s a breakdown, someone’s there to help you out, and when there’s a total breakdown, our goaltenders are there to shut the door. Not a great start but a great finish.”

    The Capitals were able to win Sunday’s game with backup goalie Phillip Grubauer in net — and for the first 40 minutes he had to be their best player — and will be turning back to Braden Holtby tonight. For as good as Holtby was a year ago when he won the Vezina Trophy as the league’s top goaltender, he has managed to be even better this season and carries a .933 save percentage into Monday’s game. In 18 starts since the start of December, he has been at an even higher level at .944.

    The Penguins meanwhile have hit their first tough stretch of the season, giving up 15 goals over the past three games. The Penguins have not lost four games in a row since a four-game losing streak in December of 2015, which were also the first four games of Mike Sullivan’s head coaching tenure with the the team. Going up against a team that just beat them 5-2 a week ago, and a team that has outscored Columbus, Ottawa, Montreal, Pittsburgh, Chicago and Philadelphia by a 26-3 margin they have a gigantic test in front of them.