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.

Therrien refutes report that Price is likely done for the season

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Contrary to a report by La Presse newspaper, Montreal head coach Michel Therrien says that Canadiens goalie Carey Price could still play again this season.

“We know what’s going on with Carey,” Therrien told reporters today. “It takes more time, obviously, than we were expecting. Like I said, he’s working extremely hard and he’s put in a lot of hours to make sure that he’s going to make that comeback. The fact that he’s working extremely hard is not to make sure that he’s going to look good this summer on the beach; he wants to come back and play for the Montreal Canadiens.”

That being said, Price does not appear close to a return. He’s yet to practice with teammates. He’s yet to even skate in goalie gear.

The Habs have 27 games left to get back into a playoff spot. They close out the regular season on April 9, less than two months from today.

Related: With Price possibly done for the season, Scrivens has Dubnyk-like opportunity

With trade deadline approaching, Canucks announce Edler out 6 weeks, Sutter 6-8 weeks

Washington Capitals v Vancouver Canucks
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The Vancouver Canucks announced today that they’ll be without defenseman Alex Edler (fractured fibula) for six weeks and center Brandon Sutter (broken jaw that required surgery) for six to eight weeks.

So basically those two are gone for the remainder of regular season, save for possibly a few games at the tail end of the schedule.

For a bubble team that doesn’t boast a ton of depth, the injuries are significant. Edler leads the Canucks in ice time, averaging almost 25 minutes per game. Sutter, arguably their best defensive center, already missed a big chunk of games earlier in the season following sports-hernia surgery.

But GM Jim Benning still isn’t giving up on the playoffs. Yesterday, he went on Vancouver radio and suggested the Canucks could actually be buyers at the trade deadline.

Benning only has a couple of weeks to decide what to do with pending unrestricted free agents defenseman Dan Hamhuis and winger Radim Vrbata. The trade deadline is Feb. 29.

The Canucks, currently just two points back of Nashville for the final wild-card spot, have a pair of winnable games coming up. They host Toronto Saturday and Minnesota Monday.

Related: Preds entering key (and tough) stretch before trade deadline

Jets activate Pavelec from IR, send Hellebuyck back to minors

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Winnipeg’s goalie of the future is off to continue his development in the AHL.

On Friday, the Jets activated veteran netminder Ondrej Pavelec from injured reserve and, in a subsequent move, sent rookie netminder Connor Hellebuyck back to their affiliate in Manitoba.

Hellebuyck, 22, arrived in Winnipeg with great fanfare, having starred for Team USA at the 2015 Worlds while being named an AHL All-Star as well.

This was his first-ever stint with the Jets, and it went OK — Hellebuyck posted an 13-11-1 record, .918 save percentage and 2.34 GAA — but he did struggle of late, getting hooked in two of his last three outings.

Now, it’ll be interesting to see what happens with Pavelec.

His numbers prior to getting hurt weren’t any better than Hellebuyck’s — .906 save percentage, 2.82 GAA — and there will be considerable rust to knock off, given he’s been out since late November with a knee issue.

There’s also the long-term implication.

Pavelec, a lightning rod for criticism over the last few seasons, has one year left on his five-year, $19.5 million extension, meaning he’ll be an unrestricted free agent in July of ’17.

It could be his last season in Winnipeg (assuming he’s not bought out of the final year of his deal), which makes one wonder what GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has in store.

It’s also worth noting there’s a third goalie in this equation: Michael Hutchinson, who’s a pending RFA.

Kuznetsov passed concussion test, expected to play Saturday

Washington Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov, from Russia, celebrates his goal during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Winnipeg Jets, Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2015, in Washington. The Capitals won 5-3. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
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Feel free to breath a sigh of relief, Capitals fans — Evgeny Kuznetsov is okay.

“During the end of the third period, Evgeny underwent and passed all tests pertaining to the league’s concussion protocol evaluation,” the Caps said today in a statement. “We expect him to take the morning skate tomorrow and play against the Stars later that night.”

Kuznetsov left last night’s game versus the Wild in the third period after appearing to take the butt-end of Mikael Granlund’s stick to the face.

Kuznetsov leads the Caps with 54 points.