Alex Ovechkin

Around the rink – February 21; Pens-Caps renew hostilities

1:00 p.m.

Florida @ NY Islanders

Who’s that lurking just seven points behind Carolina in the Eastern Conference? It’s the Florida Panthers. They’re in the curious spot of just being on the fringe of discussion of being a threat for the postseason (along with Toronto) and while you can’t quite take them serious, all it takes is one run of hot play to vault yourself into the discussion. After a shootout win against Tampa Bay on Saturday, perhaps it’s time for a run of their own. Getting to play an Islanders team that’s had their own problems this year would seem like the kind of thing that could help out in that area but the Isles have been playing tough hockey of their own lately. The Isles are winners of five of their last six games and they’re doing it by filling the net with goals in a big way. Over that six game stretch the Isles have averaged 4.3 goals per game. If you’re stunned by that, don’t be as the Isles have three players with 20+ goals this year. If the good Tomas Vokoun shows up this afternoon, however, goals are going to be at a premium.

2:00 p.m.

Chicago @ St. Louis

After a shootout win over Pittsburgh yesterday, the Blackhawks are hoping it fires up a run for them to get into the mix for the playoffs. They’re lurking just on the outside of the massive pack of teams vying for the postseason. A win today would throw them into a five-way tie for seventh place in the Western Conference. Meanwhile, the Blues are just three points behind Chicago and after their massive trade early on Saturday morning, the culture in the locker room has been altered just enough to possibly reinvigorate the team even with Jaroslav Halak out of the lineup. The Blues are winners of three in a row while the Blackhawks have won two of their last three. Someone’s going to have to go home disappointed today and for both of these teams a win today is virtually mandatory.

7:30 p.m.

Washington @ Pittsburgh

Yes, yes these two get together once again to renew their hate for each other and after yesterday’s results they’re both figuring to be in a feisty mood again. Providing the side show in this game is a name we’ve gotten used to sharing as payback could be on the minds of the Capitals after Matt Cooke hit Alexander Ovechkin with a dirty knee-on-knee hit late in their last meeting a couple weeks ago. Ovechkin wasn’t hurt on the play but the intent was there and we know that everyone’s got a long memory for these sorts of things. Shenanigans aside, the Capitals will be looking to build off of a tough win against Buffalo in their hopes of getting back to the top of the division. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh just wants to get back to stringing together wins as they’ve dropped three of their last four and five of their last seven.

Kris Letang may face suspension for hit on Marcus Johansson

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As thrilling as this Pittsburgh Penguins – Washington Capitals series has been, it seems like every game presents another controversial hit.

Game 3’s most noteworthy entry (so far?) came when Kris Letang was whistled for interference on Marcus Johansson.

Penguins fans griped that Brooks Orpik didn’t get a major penalty for his hit on Olli Maatta … now Capitals fans likely feel the same about the check Letang delivered.

Video is coming soon. In the meantime, Stefanie “My Regular Face” has it in GIF form:

Things could get ugly in Game 3:

One factor in a suspension happening – or at least the duration of the suspension – would be what the point of contact was:

Also, lateness of the check:

The Penguins ended the first period up 2-0 against the Capitals, even though Washington played one of its best 20 minutes of the series. Expect more drama.

Fleury suits up (but won’t start) and other Caps – Pens Game 3 notes

Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who has been out of action with concussion symptoms, participates in a practice session for the NHL hockey playoffs against the New York Rangers, Monday, April 11, 2016, at their practice facility in Cranberry, Pa. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
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The Brooks Orpik hit on Olli Maatta isn’t the only factor in lineup changes for Game 3 between the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins.

Maybe the most interesting change starts on the Penguins’ bench … where they likely hope that tweak will stay for at least one night.

Marc-Andre Fleury is apparently healthy enough to suit up for the Penguins, although it appears as though Matt Murray will start:

That’s a clear sign that “The Flower” is healthy enough to play, as Murray would be an injury or a coach’s pull away from giving up the net to Fleury. (One would assume.)

Murray has been fantastic for the most part since taking over for Jeff Zatkoff during this postseason, yet you know how the playoffs can be; people may clamor for Fleury after a loss even if it’s not really Murray’s fault.

Circling back to that Orpik hit, the dominoes seem to fall this way:

Penguins: Derrick Pouliot replaces injured Maatta.

Capitals: Dmitry Orlov in for suspended Orpik.

PHT will make note if there are any swerves.

2016 Calder Trophy finalists: Gostisbehere, McDavid and Panarin

Edmonton Oilers' Connor McDavid lines up for a faceoff against the Vancouver Canucks during the first period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, April 9, 2016, in Vancouver, British Columbia. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)
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Ever since the NHL kept obstruction in check and thus placed a greater emphasis on speed and skill, we’ve seen some fascinating Calder Trophy debates. This 2015-16 season may present the toughest call in recent memory.

The league named the three finalists on Monday, and even that couldn’t have been easy. They are Edmonton Oilers wunderkind Connor McDavid, breakout Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere and high-scoring Chicago Blackhawks forward Artemi Panarin.

(The NHL made it official here.)

All three make for fantastic debates.

Do you go with McDavid, easily the youngest of the bunch, who produced gaudy per-game numbers but missed almost half of the season?

Perhaps you lean toward Gostisbehere, who also scored at an impressive clip per-game for a defenseman while playing a huge role in the Flyers’ surprising run to a playoff spot?

Or, do you go with Panarin, the guy who easily leads rookies in total points (77, 21 more than Jack Eichel‘s second-place finish) and was so effective that his bonuses will really put the Blackhawks in a bad way? Or do you penalize Panarin for being a little older and for the undeniable benefits he received from riding shotgun with Patrick Kane?

Then again, plenty will merely spend their time griping about “snubs,” as the likes of Jack Eichel and John Gibson were not in the final three despite outstanding work.

Yep, this should be fun … just be nice during your debates.

WATCH LIVE: Washington Capitals at Pittsburgh Penguins – Game 3

Washington Capitals left wing Andre Burakovsky (65) fires a shot past Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin (8) during the second period of Game 2 in an NHL hockey Stanley Cup Eastern Conference semifinals Saturday, April 30, 2016, in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
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There’s only one game on the docket tonight, but it’s a marquee matchup.

The Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals split their games in DC and now switch to Pittsburgh for Game 3. We’ve seen great work from the likes of Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Nicklas Backstrom and maybe especially Braden Holtby so far … not to mention a considerable cast of supporting characters.

Which team will take a 2-1 lead in this captivating series?

We’ll find out on NBCSN. You can stream the game live via the link below as well:

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE