Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, Jason Arnott

Alex Ovechkin and Jason Arnott could be back in Capitals lineup against Hurricanes tonight


The Carolina Hurricanes are in dire straits going into tonight’s game against the Washington Capitals, but this news won’t make things anything easier. Ben Raby of CSN Washington reports that Alex Ovechkin is likely to return to action for the Caps tonight after taking some time off with an undisclosed injury.

(Some thought the undisclosed injury was really a covert mini-vacation for Ovechkin, by the way.)

In fact, Raby also writes that there is reason to believe that Jason Arnott will be back in the fold, too. Considering the fact that Semyon Varlamov is likely to be the starting goalie for today’s game after he was the first goalie off the ice, one might even be inclined to call Tuesday’s rendition of the team an “old look” Caps bunch.

Now, it’s important to note that Raby did not get official word from the Arnott, Ovechkin or coach Bruce Boudreau.

Boudreau said last week that he had hoped to have both Arnott and Ovechkin back in the lineup by the end of this coming week. Ovechkin said yesterday that he was “ready to go.”
When Chimera and Beagle returned to the locker room about 40 minutes after the majority of their teammates, both players confirmed that they expect to be scratched tonight.

“I’d rather not talk about it,” Chimera said. “If your boss came to you and said you were sitting out today, would you be happy?”

One player who won’t return tonight is Mike Green, who did skate today but did not practice with the team.

What’s at stake for Carolina

The Hurricanes are five points behind the Buffalo Sabres for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference, with only seven games remaining for each team. In other words, their chances of making the playoffs are slim, although the Canes do have one more meeting left against Buffalo on Sunday.

If they win that game in regulation, then it would morph that gap into three points in six games, which would be a more digestible clip. Ultimately, Carolina should probably treat every game like a must-win and worry about the math later.

What this means for Washington

With a win, the Capitals could push their standings points to 100 with 77 games played. That could have some interesting implications on their bid to earn the top seed in the East (more on that in a future post), but if nothing else, it would give them a borderline bullet-proof lead for the Southeast Division crown.


Both teams have something to gain, even if Washington’s worries are about seeding while Carolina must scratch and claw to keep their playoff dreams alive. The probable returns of Arnott and Ovechkin certainly won’t make things any easier for the Hurricanes.

DiMaio named Blues’ director of player personnel

via St. Louis Blues
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The St. Louis Blues named Rob DiMaio their director of player personnel on Tuesday.

He’s been with the organization for some time. He joined as a pro scout in 2008 and was the pro scouting director starting in August 2012.

He was also a scout for the Dallas Stars before landing with the Blues (one would assume his biggest connection is GM Doug Armstrong, then).

In case his nose didn’t give it away, he also enjoyed a lengthy hockey career over 19 seasons.

No doubt about it, this is a pivotal season for the Blues after multiple campaigns in which strong regular seasons dissolved into playoff disappointments. Perhaps DiMaio can make a difference in a heightened role?

Hitchcock going to more aggressive attack for Blues

Ken Hitchcock

ST. LOUIS (AP) After three straight first-round playoff exits, the St. Louis Blues have learned to temper expectations.

They have been consistently among the NHL’s best in the regular season and realize it is past time to build something for the long haul. The sting still lingers from the latest failure, against the Minnesota Wild last spring.

“We’re all disappointed, everybody can agree on that,” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “It’s never easy to kind of think about your failures, but we grow every time it happens.”

Management isn’t ready to tear it all down yet.

“We play, in my opinion, one of the toughest if not the toughest division in the NHL, and we’ve finished first or second in the last four years,” forward Alexander Steen said. “So we have an extremely powerful team.”

Maybe a change in strategy will be enough: Coach Ken Hitchcock is back with a mandate for a more aggressive, even reckless, style of play from a roster that hasn’t changed appreciably.

“We’re coming hard from the back and we’re coming hard to see how close we can get to the attack,” Hitchcock said. “I think it’s where the game’s at; I think it’s where the game’s going to go.”

The 63-year-old Hitchcock is pushing forward, too, unwilling to dwell on the flameouts. Coach and players agree that would be “wasted energy.”

“My opinion is when you sit and think about the past, you do yourself no good,” Hitchcock said. “If you learn from the past, that’s when you do yourself a whole bunch of good.”

There were only two major roster casualties. Forward Troy Brouwer came from Washington in a trade for fan favorite T.J. Oshie. Defenseman Barret Jackman, the franchise career leader in games, wasn’t re-signed.

“If you were expecting 23 new faces to be on the roster this year, I don’t think that was realistic,” captain David Backes said. “We’re going to miss those guys in the room and on the ice, but there has been some changeover and I think it’s pretty significant.”

Things to watch for with the Blues:

GOALIE SHUFFLE: Just like last year, there’s no true No. 1 with Brian Elliott and Jake Allen sharing duties. The 25-year-old Allen missed a chance to seize the job last spring when he failed to raise his level in the playoffs.

TOP THREAT: Vladimir Tarasenko had a breakout season with 37 goals and was rewarded with an eight-year, $60 million contract. The 23-year-old winger is by far the Blues’ most dangerous scoring option and said he won’t let the money affect his play. “I never worry about it,” Tarasenko said. “If you play good, you play good.”

NEW FACES: Brouwer and center Kyle Brodziak add a physical element that was perhaps lacking a bit last season. Brouwer has three 20-plus goal seasons and Brodziak, acquired from Minnesota, fills a checking role. Veteran forward Scottie Upshall got a one-year, two-way deal after being coming to camp as a tryout. Rookie forward Robby Fabbri, a first-round pick last year, will get an early look. Another promising youngster, forward Ty Rattie, begins the year at Chicago of the AHL.

RECOVERY WARD: Forward Jori Lehteri bounced back quickly from ankle surgery and opens the season without restrictions. Another forward, Patrik Berglund, could miss half of the season following shoulder surgery.

TRACK RECORD: The Blues won the Central Division last season and Hitchcock, fourth on the career list with 708 regular-season wins, has consistently had the team near the top of the standings. “He is our coach, tough cookies if you don’t like it,” Backes said. “From my experience, he puts together one heck of a game plan.”