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Why tonight’s Penguins-Capitals showdown is huge for Washington

With the Winter Classic on its way next week in Pittsburgh, tonight’s Capitals-Penguins game in Washington takes on a bit more of the spotlight. It’s the first meeting of the year between the teams and while each team has been playing well so far this season, the Caps come into the game on a short, two-game win streak but still unsure of where they’re at as a team. The Penguins showed a lot lately rattling off a 12-game win streak before losing two in a row. They too enter this game on a two game win streak but if there’s a team that has something to prove tonight it’s Washington.

The Capitals losing streak caused a bit of a panic amongst fans and media alike and the worry that it caused the Capitals coaches and players showed on their faces during both episodes of HBOs 24/7 series (our review of each episode are here and here). While winning over Ottawa seemed to take the monkey off the Caps backs, beating the Senators and Devils (who fired their coach today following that loss) in back to back games doesn’t look very impressive.

Tonight, the Capitals have a chance to show that their losing streak and bad habits are, indeed, all behind them. Playing against the Penguins gives them their first opportunity in a while to show that they’re capable of playing a great game against a great team. They played a tough game against Boston that saw them get down 3-0 in the first period and after Mike Knuble read the riot act to his teammates between periods, the Caps snapped out of their haze and stormed back to get within a goal of Boston before losing. They lost but went down fighting. A similar kind of start against Pittsburgh tonight will take a rabid Verizon Center crowd out of the game and once again test the mental mettle of what, thanks to 24/7, seems to be a very hot and cold psychological team in Washington.

We understand that it’s just one game, but for the Capitals this one game offers them an opportunity. An opportunity to rally around each other and to rally around coach Bruce Boudreau. A poor showing tonight would reflect badly upon Boudreau and would really drive up the talk about whether or not Boudreau should be the guy in charge of things in D.C. Tonight’s game gives Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin the opportunity to snap out of their offensive funk and take the spotlight away from Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin for a night.

The Penguins are the media darlings right now but if the Capitals want to grab the spotlight for themselves and show that they too are serious contenders this season, taking care of business in any way against Pittsburgh would send the appropriate message. The residual effect it would have on the Winter Classic and every other meeting between the teams this year would turn each game into its own version of must-see TV and that’s just the way the NHL would like it to be. Now it’s up to the Capitals to figure out if they want it as bad as they say they do.

Stars’ Oduya re-injures ankle, out 2-4 weeks

CALGARY, AB - NOVEMBER 10: Johnny Oduya #47 of the Dallas Stars in action against the Calgary Flames during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on November 10, 2016 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
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It’s been a rough year for Johnny Oduya and, in particular, a rough year for Johnny Oduya’s ankle.

On Thursday, the Stars announced that Oduya would miss the next 2-4 weeks after aggravating an ankle injury that saw him miss 10 games already this season.

The latest setback occurred in Tuesday’s wild 7-6 win over the Rangers at MSG. Oduya exited midway through the contest and didn’t return.

Oduya, 35, has only appeared in 36 of Dallas’ 47 games this season, but has been reasonably effective when in. He has a goal and seven points while averaging just over 18 minutes per night.

Looking ahead, it’ll be interesting to see if Oduya actually finishes the year as a Star. If he’s able to get healthy and Dallas misses the playoffs — the Stars went into Friday’s action three points out of the wild card — he could be flipped at the deadline.

Oduya is a pending UFA, in the last of a two-year deal that pays $3.75 million annually. He would likely garner some interest on the open market, given his veteran experience and the fact he won a pair of Stanley Cups with Chicago.

Per CapFriendly, Oduya does have a limited no-trade clause. He can provide a list of 17 teams that he’d like to be dealt to.

Ducks nip Avalanche 2-1 after ‘weird delay’ to fix glass

Anaheim Ducks goalie John Gibson watches as workers remove a cracked plexiglass piece during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Colorado Avalanche Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
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ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) Broken glass is a regular occurrence in the heavy-hitting, hard-shooting NHL, and shattered panes usually get replaced swiftly.

Although an uncommon 45-minute delay at Honda Center led to an unusual early intermission, the break also interrupted the Anaheim Ducks’ second-period struggles. They warmed back up in plenty of time to snag another win.

Nick Ritchie scored the tiebreaking goal with 2:02 to play, and the Ducks beat the Colorado Avalanche 2-1 on Thursday night.

John Gibson made 21 saves and Hampus Lindholm scored the tying power-play goal early in the third period of the Pacific Division-leading Ducks’ eighth victory in 10 games — but the first featuring an intermission in the middle of a period.

“I don’t think the delay did that much to us,” Lindholm said. “It was quite a weird delay, but we stuck in there. … I’ve never had one that long. I don’t think they shoot that hard in Sweden.”

The game was scoreless when Colorado defenseman Eric Gelinas‘ shot put a large starburst in a pane of glass behind Anaheim’s net with 9:48 left in the second period. The Honda Center crew tried to put up a replacement pane quickly, but soon discovered it needed to be cut to fit next to the camera that sits on a stanchion next to the pane.

Ducks defenseman Sami Vatanen joked that he should have helped out the arena crew.

“I used to be good at school with my hands,” Vatanen said. “I wanted to go out there, but I had to focus on the game.”

Referees eventually told the teams to take their second intermission while the crew finished their work, apparently cutting one pane too short to use. After play finally resumed and the second period ended, they paused only for a dry scrape of the ice before playing the final 20 minutes of regulation.

“It helped us,” Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said of the delay. “We weren’t playing very good in the second period. They were coming at us, and it broke up the period. It gave us an opportunity to reset ourselves. It did us a favor.”

Ritchie dramatically rewarded the Ducks for a strong performance when Nikita Zadorov turned over the puck in the slot. Ondrej Kase tipped it to Anaheim’s power forward, and he fired a shot through traffic for his 11th goal.

“The final (goal) is just a bad bounce, that’s all it is,” Colorado coach Jared Bednar said. “That one just took a bad bounce off Zadorov and ended up in the back of our net.”

Calvin Pickard stopped 34 shots for the NHL-worst Avalanche, who have lost four straight and 21 of 25.

Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog scored a power-play goal in the second period to break a scoreless tie shortly after the delay, but the Ducks replied with two third-period goals and incredible defensive plays in the final minute by Gibson and Vatanen, who stopped Jarome Iginla from hitting an open net.

“It was a long break and a different third period,” Landeskog said. “Other than that, I thought it was pretty funny. Most of us did. We didn’t take it too seriously.”

Pickard followed up a 35-save performance in his previous start with another gem, and Landeskog scored his ninth goal shortly after the delay.

But Anaheim finally cashed in on its 2-to-1 shots advantage when Lindholm beat Pickard from the blue line with an exceptional slap shot, which was still rising when it sailed past Ritchie’s screen.

Colorado’s Tyson Barrie missed his first game of the season with a lower-body injury, leaving the Avalanche to face the Ducks without arguably their top two defensemen. Erik Johnson, who missed his 20th straight game with a broken leg, is likely out until mid-February.

 

Latest concussion will sideline MacArthur for the rest of the season

MONTREAL, QC - APRIL 15:  Clarke MacArthur #16 of the Ottawa Senators skates during Game One of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during of the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Bell Centre on April 15, 2015 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  The Canadiens defeated the Senators 4-3.  (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)
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It sounded like Clarke MacArthur was making significant progress from the concussion he suffered during training camp, but on Friday morning, Senators GM Pierre Dorion announced that MacArthur’s season was over.

The news isn’t surprising given the Sens forward’s history with concussions (it’s believed he suffered four different concussions during an 18-month span), but the fact that he had been cleared for contact in December led people to believe there was a chance he could come back.

According to the Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch, Dorion said MacArthur is “devastated” by today’s news.

It certainly seems like the Senators are doing the right thing by shutting him down. The 31-year-old also missed all but four games in 2015-16 because of a head injury.

As of last September, MacArthur said he didn’t plan on hanging up his skates.

Dorion said he’s trying to acquire another forward via trade to replace him, but with limited teams willing to be sellers, the prices are extremely high.

In other Sens news…

Dorion told members of the media that goalie Craig Anderson will return to Ottawa’s crease in late January or early February.

Anderson has been with his wife, Nicholle, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2016.

Video: Jonathan Drouin turns on the jets, scores ‘big time’ goal vs. Sharks

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Earlier this week, Jonathan Drouin turned in an assist of the year candidate on Tyler Johnson‘s goal against the Kings.

Last night, he used his speed to score one of his own, and you’ll want to watch it over and over again.

With the Bolts trailing 1-0 in the second period, Drouin skated through the neutral zone before re-entering the Sharks’ territory and going around Marc-Edouard Vlasic like he wasn’t even there. As he got around Vlasic, he cut to the net and beat San Jose backup goalie Aaron Dell (top).

The 21-year-old has carried a lot of the offensive burden with Steven Stamkos out of the lineup. He’s collected seven points in his last seven games, and he’s up to 14 goals and 30 points in 39 games this season.

Unfortunately for the Bolts, that was the only offense they could muster in this one, as they ended up losing the game 2-1.

“That’s just a big time skill play by a big time skill player,” Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said of the goal, per the Tampa Bay Times.