Sidney Crosby

Report: Sidney Crosby skated in another strong workout today

Now that the Pittsburgh Penguins clinched a playoff spot, the focus shifts to two subjects: 1) the team’s playoff seeding and 2) Sidney Crosby’s return.

The Penguins are most likely to end up with the fourth or fifth seed in the Eastern Conference. But as we discussed earlier today, it’s also possible that they could close the gap and actually steal the Atlantic Division title from the Philadelphia Flyers.

A division title (and thus, a high seed) doesn’t guarantee postseason success, something that was illustrated quite vividly during the Eastern Conference playoffs in 2010. Ultimately, the Penguins’ playoff pursuit might come down to whether or not Crosby can play.

The Penguins still are weary of setting a time table for his return, but NHL.com reports that Crosby looked strong enough in this morning’s workout that he might be able to practice with the team soon.

In fact, Crosby’s showing the kind of work ethic that made him such a force to begin with.

Asked how the rehabilitating Crosby did during an early morning, 45-minute session Sunday at Consol Energy Center, Bylsma said, “I was on the ice. I left before he got finished. So he tired me out.”

(snip)

“Sid’s been around a lot for three weeks, four weeks, being a part of it,” Bylsma said. “He’s in every day, talking to our players. He has been with our team for a while now. Again, there’s been no expectations talked about, there’s been no timetable talked about, when it’s possible for him to even return with the team.”

Pittsburgh has six games remaining after today’s in-progress game against the Florida Panthers. Surely they would rather play Crosby in a game or two before the playoffs so he can shake off the rust, but that might not be in the cards. In fact, he might not make it back until next season, period.

It’s still unclear whether we’ll see Crosby again before the 2011-12 campaign, but he’s making it tougher for the team to keep him off the ice. That’s a great sign for Penguins fans, as long as the team does everything it can to make sure he can avoid a Marc Savard-type fate.

BREAKING: Phaneuf traded to Senators

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 07:  Jordan Nolan #71 of the Los Angeles Kings is knocked off balance by Dion Phaneuf #3 of the Toronto Maple Leafs during the second period at Staples Center on January 7, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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And this is why we listen when Bob McKenzie says something.

The Ottawa Senators have acquired defenceman Dion Phaneuf, forwards Matt Frattin, Casey Bailey, and Ryan Rupert and defenseman Cody Donaghey from the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for defenseman Jared Cowen, forwards Colin Greening, Milan Michalek and Tobias Lindberg, plus Ottawa’s second-round pick in the 2017 draft.

No salary will be retained by either team.

More to come.

Report: ‘Lots of Dion Phaneuf trade chatter’

Dion Phaneuf
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This isn’t the first time Toronto captain Dion Phaneuf has come up in trade rumors — far from it — but since it’s TSN’s Bob McKenzie putting it out there, we should probably listen.

“Hearing lots of Dion Phaneuf trade chatter,” McKenzie tweeted this morning. “Starting to think he could actually be dealt before the deadline.”

Phaneuf has three goals and 21 assists in 51 games this season, while logging an average of 22:02 in ice time. The big factor in trading the 30-year-old is his contract — he’s signed through 2020-21 for a cap hit of $7 million. 

Responding to McKenzie on Twitter, TSN’s Darren Dreger seemed to suggest Ottawa as a potential landing spot. The Sens, as we’ve noted recently, have had all sorts of defensive issues this season.

In the past, Detroit has come up as a potential destination for Phaneuf, though the Wings reportedly withdrew their interest in June.

NHL on NBCSN: Slumping Wild look to get back on track against Stars

Dallas Stars left wing Antoine Roussel (21), from France, scores a goal past Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk (40) in the third period of an NHL hockey game, Monday, Dec. 21, 2015, in St. Paul, Minn. The Stars won 6-3. (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)
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NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2015-16 campaign tonight when the Minnesota Wild host the Dallas Stars at 8:00 p.m. ET. If you want to watch the game online, you can do so here.

If you’re a fan of the Minnesota Wild, the last few weeks probably haven’t been pleasant.

The team has been slumping badly since the beginning of the new year, and late January/early February has been no different.

The Wild come into tonight’s game having dropped five straight decisions to the Sharks, Coyotes, Islanders, Rangers and Blues.

Minnesota has just 10 goals during the losing streak, which means their top offensive players aren’t producing.

Head coach Mike Yeo tried to shake things up on Saturday night by scratching Thomas Vanek and Jason Zucker, but that didn’t work. The Wild were thumped, 4-1, by the St. Louis Blues.

After playing their last three games on the road, Minnesota hopes to get a boost from their home crowd.

“One thing for sure, [there are] mixed feelings about coming back home,” Yeo said on Monday, per the Star-Tribune. “Right now, obviously, a little home cooking would be nice for us. But I’d be lying if I wasn’t a little nervous for tomorrow. Certainly I think our fan base is a little restless — more than a little restless right now. And they expect more from us. And they deserve more of us.”

Things haven’t been as bad in Dallas, but the Stars are coming off an embarrassing 5-1 home loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.

“It was a huge game,” forward Vernon Fiddler said, per the Morning News. “We talked about it before the game, what it means, and then we lay an egg. It’s unacceptable. There’s a lot of disappointed guys in here.

“After a big loss like that, you want to respond. We all have to be better and take a look in the mirror and expect more of ourselves.”

Prior to Saturday’s loss, the Stars had won three straight games.

Could this be a trap game for Dallas?

They won’t have to wait long to get another crack at the Blackhawks, as they’ll be shipping out to the United Center on Thursday, but they have to take care of business in Minnesota first.

The Stars are five points behind Chicago for top spot in the Central Division. Dallas has three games in hand.

Habs lose Petry to lower-body injury

Montreal Canadiens v Tampa Bay Lightning - Game Three
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The Montreal Canadiens will be without a key piece of their defense on Tuesday when they take on the Lightning.

Jeff Petry, who sits tied with P.K. Subban for the lead in d-man goals this year (with five), has suffered a lower-body injury and won’t be in the lineup tonight.

Petry missed the last half of the third period of Montreal’s win over Carolina on Sunday, which could be related to the injury in question. He finished with just 16:03 TOI, well off the 21:21 he averages per game.

The loss could be a big one for the Habs, who’ve won two straight for the first time since November. Petry often played on a pairing with Alexei Emelin and was on the club’s second power-play unit.

With Petry out, it’s possible that Nathan Beaulieu could draw back into the lineup.