Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, Jason Arnott

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

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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.

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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.

Hitch’s recipe for more goals is a pretty simple one

Ken Hitchcock, David Backes, Dmitrij Jaskin, Paul Stastny, Patrik Berglund
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Ken Hitchcock wants the Blues to spend more time attacking and less time defending.

Because hockey isn’t rocket science, that’s why.

“To score and win games in the National Hockey League…you have to spend as much time in the offensive zone as you can,” Hitchcock told the Post-Dispatch.

“When you’re occupying the offensive zone more, you’re forechecking more. When you’re occupying the offensive zone more, the goalie has to make saves. They’re having to defend more. And the opposing team takes penalties on you. So they’re all connected. … What I want to see from us is staying on the puck for longer stretches.”

According to the stats, the Blues have not been spending as much time in the offensive zone as we’re used to seeing from them. In fact, in their last 20 games, they rank in the bottom third of the league in score-adjusted Corsi. That compares to their first 20 games when they were in the top third.

The result is fewer shots, and more importantly, fewer goals. The Blues have fallen all the way to 25th in offense, averaging just 2.37 goals per game. Last year, they finished fifth (2.91).

Yes, some of that may be due to the absence of Jaden Schwartz, and he should be back soon. But there’s a reason people are watching GM Doug Armstrong as the Feb. 29 trade deadline approaches. This team could probably use another piece up front.

The Blues host Minnesota Saturday.

St. Louis has scored just five goals in its last five games.

Goalie nods: Lindback ‘really excited’ for first start in almost three weeks

Anders Lindback
AP
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Tonight in Anaheim, Anders Lindback will make his first start for the Arizona Coyotes since Jan. 16.

The Coyotes have been riding rookie Louis Domingue since just before Christmas, but Domingue has allowed five goals in each of his last three starts, including last night’s 5-4 loss to Chicago.

Lindback’s last appearance came Tuesday in relief, when he allowed one goal on 10 shots in a 6-2 loss to the Kings.

Lindback was in goal for one of Arizona’s three victories this season over Anaheim, stopping 33 of 36 shots in a 4-3 overtime win on Nov. 9. However, his .896 save percentage ranks among the lowest in the league.

Frederik Andersen is expected to start for the Ducks.

Elsewhere…

— No word yet on a Penguins starter in Tampa, but Ben Bishop will go for the Bolts.

Cam Ward will start for the Hurricanes in Winnipeg, where Connor Hellebuyck is expected for the increasingly desperate Jets.

— Joonas Korpisalo was solid last night in Vancouver, but the Blue Jackets have not announced their starter for tonight’s game in Calgary. Karri Ramo will be in goal for the Flames.

A ‘pretty solid two-way player,’ Sundqvist to make NHL debut for Penguins

Pittsburgh Penguins' Oskar Sundqvist (49) collides with Minnesota Wild's Jason Zucker (16) in the first period of a NHL preseason hockey game in Pittsburgh, Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
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The latest Penguins injuries, these ones to Evgeni Malkin and Eric Fehr, have led to an opportunity for Oskar Sundqvist.

Sundqvist will make his NHL debut for the Penguins tonight in Tampa. The 21-year-old center has five goals and 11 assists in 39 AHL games this season.

“Sunny’s a pretty solid two-way player,” coach Mike Sullivan said, per the Tribune-Review.

“I don’t think he’s going to dazzle you with flashy plays, but I think he’s a guy who plays the game the right way. He’s hard to play against because of his size. He’s got a long reach, and he’s got a good stick.”

Sundqvist was selected 81st overall by the Pens in 2012. He’ll become the fourth player out of that Pittsburgh draft class to make his NHL debut, after Olli Maatta, Derrick Pouliot, and Matt Murray.

Veteran Matt Cullen will replace Malkin on the second line, skating with wingers Carl Hagelin and Phil Kessel.

Related: Nick Bonino out ‘at least a month’ with hand injury

John Scott’s wife gives birth to twin girls

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As if John Scott wasn’t already having a great week, now he’s the proud father of twin girls.

The Montreal Canadiens shared the good news via their Twitter account today.

Scott, the unlikely 2016 All-Star Game MVP, is currently back home in Michigan; however, he’s expected to resume his career at some point with Montreal’s AHL affiliate in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

When, exactly, he suits up for the IceCaps remains to be seen, but it won’t be tonight or tomorrow.

Related: Therrien on Canadiens possibly recalling John Scott: ‘You never know’