Washington Capitals v Toronto Maple Leafs

Ovechkin and Backstrom explode for four points each as Capitals take out Tampa Bay 5-2 in Southeast clash

It’s a bit early in the season for calling any game a “must-win” brand of game, but for the Capitals tonight against Tampa Bay, they had a few things to prove. They had to prove they could beat Dwayne Roloson and they had to prove they could score goals against one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. Mission accomplished for the Capitals as they crashed the net early and got both Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin rolling offensively in a 5-2 win over the Lightning.

Backstrom and Ovechkin each had four points, Backstrom with two goals and two helpers while Ovechkin tallied a goal and three assists, to pace the once-slumping Caps offense. The Lightning got on the board first as Teddy Purcell scored his 11th of the year at 3:21 of the first. It wouldn’t be much long after that that the Caps showed they wouldn’t take another one lying down.

At 8:21 of the first period, Matt Hendricks crashed the Lightning net colliding with Roloson causing Roloson to get angry about it. The two picked up matching minors but the play set the tone for the night that the Caps weren’t going to sit idly by and let the Lightning dictate the pace of the game.

Just 38 seconds after the matching minors, Backstrom picked up his first of two goals on the night to tie the game at 1-1. The Caps then scored two straight in the second period from Broooks Laich and Ovechkin before Tampa’s Brett Clark scored a power play goal to cut the lead to 3-2. In the third, Backstrom added his second of the  night while Jason Chimera later added an empty net goal to provide the final score.

Semyon Varlamov was steady in what proved to be a quiet night for him as he had to make just 21 saves in the win. Roloson was a bit busier as he stopped 31 shots in the loss. The story here though was about the Caps showing up in a big way playing their most complete game of the year. This win sets things up for a knock-down drag-out affair with the Penguins on Sunday afternoon on NBC as the Pens won their fifth straight tonight in a 3-2 comeback win over Buffalo. If the Caps offense is indeed back and firing on all cylinders, it should create quite the atmosphere at Verizon Center in Washington on Sunday.

‘It was a scary incident’: Colaiacovo returns to Sabres practice after dented trachea

Carlo Colaiacovo
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Carlo Colaiacovo‘s remarkably quick recovery from what appeared to be a serious injury continued on Monday, as he returned to practice roughly 48 hours after suffering a dented trachea.

Colaicovo, who was hospitalized after taking a Viktor Arvidsson cross-check to the throat on Saturday, skated with his Buffalo teammates on Monday in advance of tomorrow’s game against Detroit.

“I feel good,” Colaiacovo said, per the Sabres’ website. “Obviously it was a scary incident and at the time it was pretty painful but it is what it is.

“Right now, it’s not really stopping me from doing much.”

Though he said he’s still feeling pain in and around his throat, Colaiacovo is eligible to return to the Sabres’ lineup tomorrow.

The 32-year-old, who has appeared in 15 games this season, would no doubt like to play tomorrow. It’d put him up against the same Detroit team that employed him during the lockout-shortened ’13 campaign, only to buy out his contract at the end of the year.

Couture (fractured fibula) continues skating with Sharks, says return is on schedule

Logan Couture
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Some good news at Sharks practice today — Logan Couture continued to skate with teammates, just one week after returning to the ice from a broken leg suffered on Oct. 17.

What’s more, Couture says he’s on schedule to meet the 4-6 week timetable for return.

“[I’m] where I thought I would be at this point in time,” Couture said, per CSN Bay Area.

While the 26-year-old wouldn’t put an exact date on his return, it’s clear both he and the Sharks are anxious for him to get back in the lineup — especially with the club surging, and Couture having only played in three regular-season contests this year.

Looking ahead, there are some dates worth circling on the ol’ calendar.

The Sharks have a relatively light week. After beating Calgary 5-2 on Saturday, they play just once in five days — Tuesday’s home tilt against the Penguins — before a weekend back-to-back set against the Ducks on Friday and Lightning on Saturday.

The Ducks game is in Anaheim, but the following night’s contest against the Bolts is at the friendly confines of SAP. So that could be a potential date to watch for — but it is worth noting Couture said he’s still hesitant about getting into game action until his first step is back.

“Until then, I’m not going to force my way out there and put myself in a bad spot,” he explained.

Kesler believes Ducks are ‘too good to not be in the playoffs’

Shane Doan, Ryan Kesler

It’s been 24 games for the Anaheim Ducks, more than a quarter of the season, and still they’re having trouble winning.

Friday against Chicago, they surrendered two goals in the last two minutes of regulation and lost in overtime.

Currently, the Ducks sit five points out of a playoff spot with a record of 8-11-5.

Still, forward Ryan Kesler is confident they’ll find a way into the postseason.

“If we keep playing like we are, we’re going to get into the playoffs — this team is too good to not be in the playoffs,” Kesler told The Province ahead of tonight’s home game versus Vancouver.

“We had a bad start and, to be honest, some guys weren’t ready to start the season. There’s a lot of hockey to be played and we’re ready for the challenge.”

To match the 45-30-7 record the Flames squeaked into the playoffs with last year, the Ducks would need to go 37-19-2 over their next 58 games.




Depends who you ask.

Anaheim’s playoff chances will depend a lot on how Pacific Division teams like San Jose, Arizona, and Vancouver finish. The Ducks may need to leapfrog two of those three to get in.

Yes, there’s always the chance four teams from the Pacific qualify, because it’s not like Colorado, Winnipeg, and Minnesota don’t have their problems. Even Nashville you have to wonder about lately. Heck, even Chicago isn’t assured of anything yet.

Bottom line, though, the Ducks have dug themselves a hole, and it’s starting to look a lot like the one the Kings dug last year.

In the NHL, even good teams don’t always climb out.

Related: Boudreau does the playoff math, and it’s no ‘easy task’ for Ducks

Video: Ryan Suter doesn’t seem very happy with his coach


As you can see in the video, apparently Ryan Suter doesn’t like being paired with fellow lefty Jonas Brodin.

The Wild defenseman rather openly questioned the coaching staff’s decision-making today after practice.

“Yeah, I don’t know what they’re thinking,” said Suter. “I need to play with a right-handed defenseman. To give me more options. Neutral zone. Offensively. And even coming out of the D zone, it’s not fair to put a guy on his off side.”

Suter didn’t know if the pairings were just for practice or not. The Wild play tomorrow in Chicago. Minnesota has just one win in its last seven games.

Suter also had something to say about that.

“It does no good to pout and get pissed off at each other,” said Suter. “You’ve got to come together and dig out of this. Now’s when you need leadership more than ever. It’s easy to be a coach and a leader when things are going good.”

Yeo, by the way, has not been very happy with the Wild lately.  In fact, one could go so far as to say he’s been acting pretty “pissed off.”

For example, at today’s practice:

The Star Tribune has more on what went down today.

Yeo, you may recall, went a little “nuts” during a Wild practice last season.