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.

Eichel’s sweet snipe helps Sabres snap six-game skid

Jack Eichel
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The Buffalo Sabres probably deserved better during at least some chunks of their six-game skid, yet Jack Eichel swooped in on Friday to remind fans that there’s a light shining at the end of the tunnel.

You can watch his goal from tonight’s eventual 4-1 win against the Carolina Hurricanes in the video above.

That’s not necessarily the absolute height of his on-ice magic, yet it clearly gave his team a lift:

Call this a healthy reminder that Eichel has the ability to change games, something Buffalo fans hope to get used to.

Report: Likely no suspension for Matt Beleskey’s hit on Derek Stepan

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Alain Vigneault went there in comparing Matt Beleskey‘s hit on Derek Stepan to the notorious check Aaron Rome delivered on Nathan Horton many moons ago, but the league seems to disagree.

While Rome sat through that memorable Stanley Cup Final between Boston and Vancouver, it sounds like Beleskey won’t face any further discipline, according to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun.

In the unlikely event that anything changes, PHT will make note.

The next game between the Rangers and Bruins takes place at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 11. Will these bad feelings linger?

Hellebuyck debuts with victory as Jets best Wild

Connor Hellebuyck
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ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) Dustin Byfuglien had a goal and assist, Connor Hellebuyck made 14 saves to win his NHL debut and the Winnipeg Jets spoiled left winger Zach Parise‘s return from a knee injury by beating the Minnesota Wild 3-1 on Friday.

Mathieu Perreault added his second goal in two games and Nikolaj Ehlers‘ goal late in the third put the game away.

The Jets won on the road for the first time in their last seven tries and for just the third time in their last 11 games.

Ryan Carter scored for Minnesota, finally getting a shot past Hellebuyck that made it 2-1 midway through the third period.

Hellebuyck was college hockey’s top goalie in 2013-14 and the goaltender on the U.S. team that won a bronze medal in the 2015 world championships.

Minnesota finished with a season-low 15 shots, which was also a season low in shots allowed for the Jets.

Wild fans at the Xcel Energy Center let out a roar when it was announced before the game that Parise would start, but not even his return could spark Minnesota.

After Jason Zucker was whistled for an elbowing penalty behind the net, Perreault took a pass from Byfuglien and zipped it past Devan Dubnyk to give Winnipeg a 1-0 lead with 3:34 left in the second period.

Byfuglien made it 2-0 early in the third when his odd-angle shot hit Dubnyk in the back of the skate and went in for his seventh goal.

Carter’s goal bounced off of Winnipeg defenseman Mark Stuart and past Hellebuyck to give Minnesota some momentum.

The rookie didn’t get rattled, however, stopping a big shot from Jason Pominville with 3:11 to play.

Just 11 seconds later, Ehlers got loose on a breakaway and put the game away.

Winnipeg’s defense came into the game ranked 29th in goals allowed, but had little problem preventing Minnesota from generating quality scoring chances.

The Wild have just one win in their last six games. Parise was Minnesota’s leading scorer when he sprained a knee ligament on Nov. 5.

NOTES: Wild F Justin Fontaine missed his 11th game with a sprained MCL, but has a chance to return for Saturday’s game against Dallas according to coach Mike Yeo. … The Wild went 4-3-1 without Parise. … Jets RW Blake Wheeler had an assist and now has points in 18 of 24 games.

Blackhawks baffle Ducks with late magic; Kane’s streak at 18 games


The Chicago Blackhawks may not be at peak-level right now, but they’re still a tough team to finish off.

For most of Friday’s game, it seemed like the story would be about John Gibson possibly elbowing into the Anaheim Ducks’ No. 1 role, continuing that franchise carousel.

Instead, it was about yet another tremendous comeback for Chicago, as the Blackhawks scored two goals in the final two minutes of the third period to erase a 2-0 deficit. Artem Anisimov than scored the OT GWG.

Stunning stuff … though definitely not unprecedented.

With less than 30 seconds remaining, Patrick Kane grabbed an assist on Duncan Keith‘s 2-2 goal. Kane extended his point streak to 18 games, tying a record for America-born players.

For the Ducks, it’s yet another gut punch, one that makes you wonder how they’d fare in another playoff series against Chicago (if they can even get there … a big if).

Bruce Boudreau is bummed: