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Capitals and Penguins officially announce Winter Classic alumni game rosters

We’ve been getting little hints as of late over who will be  playing in the 2011 Winter Classic alumni game set to take place at Heinz Field on December 31. The Penguins let us know that Super Mario will suit up for them and the Capitals sending Peter Bondra and a cast of mostly unknown Caps from the past.

Today, the rosters were made official and, if you’re the type to gamble on such fun events we first ask you to seek help and then we also say that even money is on the Penguins to run away with a win considering who they’re trotting out for the game. The Penguins will be sending these former players and coaches out to take out the Capitals. Straight from the press release:

Hall of Famers Paul Coffey, Ron Francis, Bryan Trottier and Larry Murphy will join Mario Lemieux on the Penguins’ roster, while two alumni rookies – Gary Roberts and Billy Guerin – will add some much-needed “youth” to the team.

Other alums playing for the Penguins include Phil Bourque, Rob Brown, Rod Buskas, Jay Caufield, Bob Errey, Dave Hannan, Francois Leroux, Troy Loney, Greg Malone, Gilles Meloche, Craig Simpson, Frank Pietrangelo, Gary Rissling, Rick Tocchet, Kevin Stevens and Warren Young.

Eddie Johnston, Pierre Larouche and Randy Hillier will coach the Penguins, and Jack Riley – the team’s original general manager in 1967 – will serve as GM.

No Tom Barrasso, no problem since most of the big hitters from the Penguins 1990s Cup teams are there. Also there are a few of Mario Lemieux’s running mates who saw their best seasons playing along side 66. With Warren Young there, he’s our odds on favorite now to score 40 goals just in this game as long as he plays on the wing with Mario.

Seeing Guerin and Roberts join the likes of Kevin Stevens and Rick Tocchet is an incredible mashup of “old” and new. I don’t dare call Stevens and Tocchet old because, well, I grew up watching them and I’m not about to call myself old.

As for the Capitals, their squad is still a bit underwhelming but still fun to check out.

Bondra, a 500-goal scorer in his NHL career, leads the Caps’ roster, which also includes Michal Pivonka, Scott Walker, Sylvain Cote, Greg Adams, Don Beaupre, Alan Hanglesben, Nick Kypreos, Yvon Labre, Gord Lane, Craig Laughlin, Mark Lofthouse, Denis Maruk, Alan May, Paul Mulvey, Robert Picard, Errol Rausse, Pat Ribble, Ken Sabourin and Blair Stewart.  Others may be added in the coming days.

All right, so it’s a bit of a letdown after seeing all the legendary names the Penguins are bringing. It’s disappointing to not see names like Mike Gartner, Olaf Kolzig, Dale Hunter,  and Calle Johanssen but it’s great to see 90s nostalgic names like Pivonka, Cote, Kypreos, and Beaupre though. Adding this game to the schedule of events surrounding the Winter Classic is a great idea and works beautifully to take advantage of having the rink on Heinz Field. We can only hope they continue to do this each year.

Allen’s mental reset continues, as Blues will start Hutton in Pittsburgh

St. Louis Blues goalie Jake Allen is slow to get up after giving up a goal to Washington Capitals' T.J. Oshie during the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
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St. Louis is giving Jake Allen more time to sort out his struggles.

Today, the club announced backup Carter Hutton will start tomorrow in Pittsburgh, while Pheonix Copley — the AHL call-up that allowed five goals in Saturdays’ loss in Winnipeg — will serve as the No. 2.

Allen, who didn’t even travel to Winnipeg so he could ‘reset’ mentally, will start on Thursday in Minnesota, which will be St. Louis’ last game prior to the All-Star break. Copley will again serve as the backup.

The decision to go back to Allen comes after a horrific stretch in which he was yanked from three straight games, and four of his past six.

It is noteworthy, though, that Allen isn’t getting the Pittsburgh game. Part of that could be the opponent — the Pens are a force offensively, and lead the NHL in goals per game — but it could also be that Allen needs additional time to sort out his issues.

Whatever the case, the plan may have changed. In explaining why he left Allen behind while the team went to Winnipeg, Blues GM Doug Armstrong suggested Allen could get right back in.

“I think taking a day way, getting a total reset — he could reset traveling with the team, but I wanted a complete reset — and then we come back on Sunday, he’s back in the net and he’s ready to go,” Armstrong said, per the Post-Dispatch. “To me, it’s not a huge story; he’s going to take a day to get a reset with his family — he just had a young baby — but the play needs to improve and I want to give him a fresh start.”

Allen’s struggles this year are well-documented (see here, here, here and here). Per the Post-Dispatch, his .897 save percentage ranks 43rd among 47 goalies who have appeared in 14 or more games this season.

Oshie’s contract status underscores urgency in Washington

Washington Capitals' Matt Niskanen (2) and T.J. Oshie (77) celebrate with Alex Ovechkin (8) after Ovechkin scored against the Dallas Stars during the third period an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017, in Dallas. Stars' Jamie Benn (14) skates back to the bench. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
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The way he keeps scoring, T.J. Oshie‘s next contract isn’t getting any smaller.

The 30-year-old winger was today named the NHL’s third star of the week, after racking up six points (3G, 3A) in three games for the red-hot Washington Capitals.

Oshie now has 31 points (17G, 14A) in 38 games. A pending unrestricted free agent, he’ll no doubt be looking for a raise beyond his current cap hit of $4.175 million.

One comparable contract is Andrew Ladd‘s seven-year, $38.5 million deal with the Islanders.

Loui Eriksson‘s six-year, $36 million deal with the Canucks is another.

And one more for good measure: David Backes‘ five-year, $30 million deal with the Bruins.

All three of those contracts have a cap hit of around, or exactly, $6 million. Ladd and Eriksson are a year older than Oshie, while Backes is two years older. They’re all reliable veteran wingers, just like Oshie.

Now, the Caps could always try and convince Oshie to take a home-town discount. They may even be able to keep him without a discount.

That being said, their No. 1 priority has to be getting Evgeny Kuznetsov, a pending restricted free agent, locked up. And they also need to keep in mind John Carlson, their No. 1 defenseman who can become unrestricted in the summer of 2018.

“We’re going to have some decisions to make as far as veteran players, and our young guys are going to be due for some pay raises,” Caps GM Brian MacLellan said last season.

When he said it, MacLellan saw his team in a “two-year window.”

Alas, only one year of that window remains. Hence, the urgency to finally win the Stanley Cup this spring.

Like Oshie, Justin Williams and Karl Alzner are pending UFAs.

And like Kuznetsov, Andre Burakovsky, Brett ConnollyDmitry Orlov, Nate Schmidt, and Philipp Grubauer are pending RFAs.

The Caps host Carolina tonight.

Related: Kuznetsov sets table for Jakub Vrana’s first NHL goal

Galchenyuk re-injures knee, but not believed to be serious

MONTREAL, QC - NOVEMBER 08:  Alex Galchenyuk #27 of the Montreal Canadiens looks on during the warmup prior to the NHL game against the Boston Bruins at the Bell Centre on November 8, 2016 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  The Montreal Canadiens defeated the Boston Bruins 3-2.  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
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Given that Montreal center Alex Galchenyuk‘s already missed 18 games this season to a knee injury, there was some consternation on Monday as head coach Michel Therrien said Galchenyuk had aggravated the ailment, and would miss Tuesday’s game against Calgary.

Thankfully for the Habs, it doesn’t sound like a serious issue.

Therrien said Galchenyuk “slightly injured” his knee, and is listed as day-to-day. This falls in line with what occurred during Saturday’s OT loss to Buffalo — even though Galchenyuk suffered the ailment during the game, he was able to play through it and finish with 16:36 TOI.

It’s unfortunate this knee issue has lingered, as the fifth-year pro is having a great season. Galchenyuk has 11 goals and 27 points through 30 games and, had he been healthy, probably would’ve eclipsed last year’s production, when he scored 30 goals and 56 points.

Looking ahead, it’ll be interesting to see when the Habs opt to get Galchenyuk back in the lineup. After tomorrow’s game against Calgary, they have just one game left until the All-Star break, on Thursday in Brooklyn.

After that, they don’t play again until Jan. 31.

Rangers’ Hayes out 2-3 weeks with lower-body injury

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Kevin Hayes, who sits third on the Rangers with 35 points, will miss the next couple of weeks with a lower-body ailment, the club announced on Monday.

The news comes one day after Hayes exited New York’s 1-0 OT win over Detroit after playing just 8:41. Per Newsday, it’s a left leg ailment.

It’s a tough blow for a guy that had been playing well lately. Hayes had been a point-per-game producer in January, with two goals and five assists through seven games, developing chemistry on a line with Michael Grabner and J.T. Miller.

If there’s a silver lining here, it’s the schedule. Hayes’ absence will coincide with the All-Star break, so he won’t miss as many games as he would’ve under usual circumstances.

Still, if he’s shelved for the full three weeks, that puts his return around Feb. 13 — meaning he could miss up to eight contests.

In related news, the Blueshirts activated Matt Puempel off IR today. He’d been out since December with a concussion.