Around the rink – March 10; Sabres visit Bruins, Canucks face Sharks in Western showdown

All times Eastern

7:00 p.m.

Buffalo @ Boston

Buffalo looks to improve their standing in the East race and put a little distance between themselves and Carolina. Boston will be playing their first game since getting beaten by Montreal. With the Zdeno Chara side show going on around them, how the Bruins respond tonight will be interesting to see. If they’re distracted, Buffalo will be happy to take advantage. It would also open the door for Montreal to get that much closer to the Bruins in the race for the Northeast Division.

Philadelphia @ Toronto

The Leafs are clinging to playoff hopes and they’ll get to face a Flyers team playing without Chris Pronger as he’s out with a hand injury. Toronto was able to beat the Flyers when they faced off just last week and recreating that success would be huge for them. For Philly, the pressure is on to keep the Capitals and Penguins off their heels in the race for the top spot  in the conference.

7:30 p.m.

Ottawa @ Florida

Ottawa goalie Craig Anderson gets to face off against one of his former teams in this one. It wasn’t that long ago that Anderson was stealing games with the Panthers while Tomas Vokoun battled injuries. I’d say that those were the glory days for the Panthers but that was just a few seasons ago. The Sens will continue to try and submarine their efforts to land the #1 pick in the 2011 Draft while helping Florida get a little bit closer to the bottom of the ledger.

8:00 p.m.

Montreal @ St. Louis

If it weren’t for the mess that erupted on Tuesday night in Montreal against Boston, the attention today would be focused on seeing Montreal’s Carey Price squaring off with St. Louis’ Jaroslav Halak. The fortunes of both goalies have gone in different directions since Halak was dealt to the Blues. St. Louis has struggled and Halak has dealt with some injury woes of late while Price has grown up and played incredible hockey all season long and have the Habs well in hand of a playoff spot in the East. Expect the Blues and Halak to be on top of their game in this one to try and win one for him.

Minnesota @ Nashville

Nashville needs a positive turnaround in the worst way. They’ve fallen back to three points out of the eighth spot and they’re playing unmotivated of late. Minnesota sits just ahead of them in the standings and they’ve got a chance to get even with Los Angeles and Phoenix who are tied for seventh in the West standings. With the Wild being healthier now with Guillaume Latendresse back in the lineup and Mikko Koivu back soon, they’re looking a bit more dangerous.

9:00 p.m.

Calgary @ Phoenix

Phoenix could use a lift. With all the distracting news about their franchise being thrown around and the team now falling behind San Jose for the top spot in the Pacific Division and locked into a tie for seventh in the Western Conference with the Kings, they’d like to get some good news on the ice. Facing Calgary won’t make it easy as the Flames have won three in a row. With Jarome Iginla, Rene Bourque, and Alex Tanguay all playing great right now, the Coyotes will have their hands full.

10:30 p.m.

Vancouver @ San Jose

Easily the marquee match-up of the night comes out west with the Western Conference leading Canucks against the surging, Pacific Division leading Sharks. Making this game a bit more fun is it has Sharks forward Kyle Wellwood going up against his former team. Oddly enough, Vancouver is throwing Cory Schneider out tonight in goal rather than Roberto Luongo. The Sharks have won nine of their last ten games and look to open up their lead in the Pacific more with a win tonight. Despite how well they’ve been doing, the Sharks are still 11 points behind Vancouver for the top spot in the West.

Hossa undergoes ‘independent medical evaluation’ to determine if he’s eligible for LTIR

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Marian Hossa and the Chicago Blackhawks announced in June that the 38-year-old forward will miss the entire 2017-18 season with a skin disorder.

However, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, the National Hockey League has yet to determine if Hossa will be eligible for long-term injured reserve.

“Marian Hossa underwent an independent medical evaluation several days ago,’’ NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told the Chicago Sun-Times. ‘‘We are waiting for the report. Once we have that, we should be in a position to determine his proper status.’’

Hossa’s total salary is only $1 million for this year. His cap hit remains at $5.275 million.

From CSN Chicago:

Here are two basics about the cap: a team can be 10 percent over it during the summer, and a team must be at or below it the day the regular season begins. If the Blackhawks place Hossa on LTIR, it wouldn’t take effect until the second day of the regular season. So on Day 1 of the season, the Blackhawks would still be carrying Hossa’s $5.275 cap hit.

Once the LTIR would take effect, though, the Blackhawks would have wiggle room. If they spent to the $75 million cap, they could utilize Hossa’s entire $5.275 million cap hit on other players.

While there are salary cap implications for Chicago with Hossa’s absence, not having him in the Blackhawks lineup is a difficult loss. Yes, he’s approaching 40 years of age, with more than 1,300 NHL regular season games under his belt. But last season, he also posted 26 goals and 45 points — still very productive at his age.

It was reported, prior to the Blackhawks announcing that Hossa had this skin condition, that there was a “legitimate possibility” Hossa had played his last NHL game.

Karlsson is back skating, but ‘we don’t want him to get too excited,’ says Boucher

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The good news? Erik Karlsson hit the ice to skate with his Ottawa Senators teammates on Saturday.

“Back at it,” is what the star defenseman wrote in an Instagram post, which included a photo of him on the ice in a blue jersey.

It’s certainly an exciting development for the Senators and their fans. Karlsson was a dominant player for Ottawa during the Stanley Cup playoffs despite playing with a foot injury that later required surgery, with an expected recovery time of four months.

Head coach Guy Boucher, however, offered some cautionary words on Karlsson’s status. Basically, it’s exciting, but Boucher doesn’t want anyone — Karlsson included — to get too far ahead of themselves right now.

“It’s a positive thing, but we don’t want to get too excited. It’s a second step,” said Boucher, according to NHL.com.

“The first step was to let the therapists tell us when it was adequate to put him on the ice, because you need to get the flexibility and the strength off the ice before we could put [him] on the ice. Yesterday they apparently put the skates on to see how it felt and [went] very lightly on the ice, and they felt he was able this morning [to] get dressed and be with the boys.

“Basically, this is the second step, but there’s quite a few steps before we get to him playing. We don’t want him to get too excited.”

His status for the Senators’ season opener against the Washington Capitals on Oct. 5 has been up in the air since he underwent the operation. Karlsson admitted earlier this month that he wasn’t sure if he’d be ready for that game.

Ottawa is dealing with a few injury situations right now, with four preseason games remaining on their schedule. Karlsson is one of the best defensemen in the entire NHL and given how important he is to the Senators, there is absolutely no need to rush him back into the lineup if he’s not ready.

 

NHL suspends Tom Wilson two preseason games for interference

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Capitals forward Tom Wilson has been suspended for two preseason games for interference, after his late hit on St. Louis Blues forward Robert Thomas during Friday’s exhibition game.

The incident occurred early in the third period, as Wilson caught Thomas with a heavy and late hit along the boards at the Blues bench.

“Over a full second after Thomas loses control of the puck, well past the point where Thomas is eligible to be checked, Wilson comes in from the side and delivers a forceful body check, knocking Thomas to the ice,” stated a member of the NHL Department of Player Safety in a video explanation of the suspension.

“In addition to the lateness of the hit, what elevates this hit to the level of supplemental discipline is the predatory nature and force of the hit. Wilson tracks Thomas for some time and alters his course to ensure he is able to finish his hit. Then, with the puck long gone from Thomas’ control, Wilson finishes the check with force.”

The Capitals continue their preseason schedule Saturday against the Carolina Hurricanes. They also play the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday.

Letang set to return to Penguins lineup vs. Blues on Sunday

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For the first time since February, Kris Letang is expected to be in the Pittsburgh Penguins lineup when they face the St. Louis Blues on Sunday.

Letang hasn’t played since Feb. 21. He underwent neck surgery in April and missed the entire Stanley Cup playoffs as a result. Despite the absence of their best defenseman, which is a huge loss in Letang, the Penguins were able to overcome that and emerge as champions over Nashville.

According to Pens Inside Scoop on Saturday, head coach Mike Sullivan said Letang will play in Sunday’s Kraft Hockeyville game between the Penguins and St. Louis Blues.

That wasn’t the only Letang news Saturday:

Getting Letang back into the lineup will provide a huge boost to an already strong Penguins team, with his ability to log heavy minutes and act as a catalyst in Pittsburgh’s offensive attack.

“I want to be the same player I was before. I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t be able to do that,” said Letang. “Hopefully everything goes well and I go back to the old way, playing over 25 minutes and in all situations.”

But what is most critical is having Letang healthy, and Sullivan this offseason has stressed to the star defenseman to recognize situations when he should make a simple play rather than risk taking an unnecessary hit.

“When people try to dissect all of that, they make assumptions that they understand, but they don’t,” Letang told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

“Mike and I have a clear understanding of what he wants me to do. I think I’m tired of hearing people around it because I had a talk with Mike and Jim. It’s just a way of avoiding those unnecessary hits. It’s not going to be reducing ice time or anything like that. It’s taking a different approach on certain plays.”

Related: Letang isn’t interested in getting less ice time now that he’s healthy