Alex Ovechkin

With Washington resting Alex Ovechkin, should other top teams offer stars breaks too?

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Although this year was the exception, the Indianapolis Colts typically created annual debates when they would rest starters once their playoff spot was confirmed. For many sports writers, there would be a basic reaction if the Colts faltered. They would blame the accumulated rust for the loss rather than the more likely (but less stimulating) explanation that the Colts just lost to a better team.

You would think that an 82-game season would create more instances in which NHL teams give their best players unofficial “bye weeks,” but that isn’t often the case. Of course, the reasoning is usually simple: the gap between playoff teams and playoff hopefuls is often quite small.

Yet after a few years of pushing the pedal to the metal all season long and then possibly being unable to find another gear once the playoffs began, the Washington Capitals have taken an interestingly measured approach this season. While they clearly are facing some growing pains as they transition from a run-and-gun offense to a more balanced approach, there’s also a sense that the team is learning how to save its best for last.

As you may already know, Alex Ovechkin will miss about a week with an undisclosed injury. When asked what exactly is bothering him, Ovechkin had an amusing response: “Guess.” He didn’t provide any more information other than that the mystery ailment has been troubling him for months.

Well, here’s my guess, then: maybe the Capitals are just being smart by allowing their biggest star to get a rare break.

It’s true that Bruce Boudreau allowed certain Washington players to grab a mini-rest last season, but that was just for a game or two at the very end. Getting a more extensive break could be a subtle boost for Ovechkin, a player who tends to go 100 mph in every game. The fact that he could then shake off whatever imaginary rust he builds up by playing a handful of other contests before the playoffs makes the idea seem that much brighter.

It also makes me wonder: why aren’t other contenders following their lead?

The Vancouver Canucks are showing great moxie in beating desperate teams in games they don’t need to win, but with Manny Malhotra gone for the rest of the season and playoffs, shouldn’t they start to rest the Sedins, Ryan Kesler and other players who will deal with greater burdens? The Philadelphia Flyers are already playing without Chris Pronger, but with the Atlantic Division more or less wrapped up, maybe they should give Mike Richards and other forwards a little siesta? A health-oriented approach might be especially wise for the Detroit Red Wings, being that they have an ample Central Division lead and next to no chance of passing the Canucks for the top seed after losing to them in regulation tonight.

Yes, home ice advantage is important, but going into the playoffs as close to full-strength as possible might be just as vital.

This is not to say that every high-end player should receive a 7-10 mini-vacation, but with a lengthy playoff grind ahead, every little bit of rest could be huge – even if the benefits might not be obvious to the naked eye.

Report: The chances of Carey Price returning this season are ‘slim’

Montreal Canadiens' goaltender Carey Price looks on during a scrimmage game alongside goaltending coach Stephane Waite during NHL hockey training camp in Brossard, Quebec, Friday, Sept. 18, 2015. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
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Details surrounding Carey Price‘s injury have been scarce, but according to La Presse newspaper, the chances of him returning to the lineup this season are “slim” at best.

The 28-year-old has been out with a lower-body injury since Nov. 25.

His return date has been pushed back several times, and La Presse suggests that’ll happen again.

Originally, the Canadiens said Price would be out six weeks. Then, on January 21, General Manager Marc Bergevin said he expected his goalie to be out another three to four weeks, which means that he would be coming back sometime next week.

Price has been skating for a while, but he’s been doing so without his goalie equipment.

Basically, don’t hold your breath.

Here’s an excerpt from the story (quotes have been translated):

The possibility of Carey Price returning this season are so slim that people in the organization don’t even believe it’ll happen.

According to information obtained by La Presse, the Canadiens aren’t optimistic about their star goaltender’s chances of returning this season. He’s been out since November and the club refuses to confirm the fact that he suffered a right knee injury. 

The report goes on to say that Price is dealing with a Lateral Collateral Ligament (LCL) injury. The only good news is that he won’t have to undergo surgery.

“People in the Canadiens organization don’t believe he’ll  be back during the regular season,” a source told La Presse’s Richard Labbé. “They’re wondering if it’s even worth pushing him to come back, but they don’t want to admit anything publicly.

“They don’t want the fans to give up hope this season. There’s a marketing aspect to all of this.”

The story also mentions that Price is telling people that he’ll be healthy enough to represent Canada at the World Cup of Hockey next September.

PHT Morning Skate: Snoop Dogg wears OHL team’s jersey during a show

Snoop Dogg, aka Snoop Lion, arrives at Spike TV's Guys Choice Awards at Sony Pictures Studios on Saturday, June 8, 2013, in Culver City, Calif. (Photo by Frank Micelotta/Invision/AP)
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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

–Snoop Dog wore a Mitch Marner London Knights jersey at his concert in London. (Bardown)

Brent Burns‘ son got a gift from Jaromir Jagr:

–Here’s Pierre LeBrun’s latest edition of Team Canada’s World Cup roster. (ESPN)

–The NHL completely ruined the Toronto Maple Leafs’ centennial season. (Puck Daddy)

–The Chicago Blackhawks will be going to the White House on Feb. 18. (Blackhawks.nhl.com)

–Wings goalie Petr Mrazek talks to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman about “doing the right things” and “working hard”. (Sportsnet)

Sharks scratch Flames’ big lead, Calgary wins anyway

Calgary Flames' Mikael Backlund (11) chases down the puck against San Jose Sharks' Tomas Hertl (48) during the second period of an NHL hockey game in San Jose, Calif., Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
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If you turned off Thursday’s Calgary Flames – San Jose Sharks game early, you’ll probably be stunned to see that Calgary won 6-5 via a shootout.

For instance:

  • A Sharks fan may have bitterly called it a night when Calgary went up 4-1.
  • Conversely, a Flames devotee might have retired after San Jose took a 5-4 lead, possibly with a broken remote.

The Flames only trailed for about two minutes before scoring the last “real” goal of the game, eventually taking their third straight win thanks to a shootout triumph.

It’s been a strange ride for Calgary, with its most recent win happening after Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Lance Bouma were punished with a healthy scratch. As strange as this game was, the “charity point” can leave both teams looking through a lot of film, yet with something gained as well.

Ultimately, the message may very well be: don’t sleep on these teams.

(In less positive news, Karri Ramo is injured, and it doesn’t look good.

Jonas Hiller closing out the game on a hot streak could be pretty important if Ramo’s out for some time.)

By winning fifth straight, Caps extend Wild’s slump to seven losses

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ST. PAUL, Minn. — Alex Ovechkin scored three times in the second period for his 14th career hat trick, and the Washington Capitals beat the Minnesota Wild 4-3 on Thursday night.

Ovechkin, who leads the league with 34 goals, has 13 in his past 13 games. Nicklas Backstrom had three assists and Jason Chimera added an empty-netter for Washington, which improved to a league-best 20-5-2 on the road.

Braden Holtby made 33 saves for the Capitals, who won their fifth consecutive game and became the first team to reach 40 victories this season.

Charlie Coyle, Ryan Suter and Mikael Granlund scored for the Wild, but Minnesota lost for the 12th time in its past 13 games (1-10-2). Devan Dubnyk made 29 saves for the Wild, who have lost seven in a row at home (0-4-3).

Ovechkin’s third goal, which deflected off both the post and the back of Dubnyk into the net, was upheld following a coach’s challenge. Wild coach Mike Yeo challenged that the puck had left the zone for offsides, but the call stood after a review showed that Backstrom stopped the puck before it crossed the blue line.

The goal gave Ovechkin his first hat trick since he scored four goals against Tampa Bay on Dec. 10, 2013.

It wasn’t the only fortunate bounce for Ovechkin on the night, and the five-time 50-goal scorer capitalized on each opportunity.

A shot from T.J. Oshie deflected off of Minnesota forward Zach Parise across the ice right to Ovechkin in the left faceoff circle and Ovechkin quickly snapped off a shot to beat Dubnyk, who couldn’t get across the crease to get into position. Three minutes later, Ovechkin scored on the power play when a point shot bounced off the end boards right to Ovechkin in front of the net.

The tally provided some relief for the Capitals’ surprisingly ineffective power play. Washington had one power play in its previous six games, an empty-netter for the only goal in its previous 20 power-play chances. The Capitals were 1 of 5 on the power play on Thursday.

Coyle scored for the fifth time in eight games in the second, but second periods have doomed the Wild during their slump. Minnesota has been outscored 13-3 in the period in five straight losses.

Suter scored his sixth goal of the season on the power play in the third as Minnesota went 1 of 5 with the man advantage.

NOTES: Washington C Evgeny Kuznetsov left in the third period after he was hit in the face by the stick of Mikael Granlund off a faceoff. … Backstrom has 20 points in his last 17 games. … Minnesota D Jared Spurgeon missed his second straight game with an unspecified deep bruise. Spurgeon has returned to practice, but was held out again. … Holtby is 27-1-3 in his last 31 games with two shutouts, a 2.10 goals-against average and .927 save percentage.