Sidney Crosby

Sidney Crosby cleared to skate with team, will travel with team

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It’s time for the rest of the Eastern Conference and perhaps the NHL to get really worried about the Pittsburgh Penguins.

According to Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Penguins captain Sidney Crosby has been cleared to practice with the team and will travel with the Penguins on their upcoming road trip for two games in Florida.

UPDATE: Not so fast, Rossi. Pens GM Ray Shero clarifies that Crosby is cleared to skate with the team on game days and isn’t cleared for practice yet. They aren’t expecting him back during the regular season. Translation: Look out playoffs.

Crosby’s progress in recovering from a concussion of late has been more than noticeable as we’ve seen the flashes of brilliance we’ve grown accustomed to from Sid the Kid during workouts with the team. With Crosby inching ever closer to returning to the Penguins lineup and the Penguins getting healthier in general, the team could be poised to have a similar sort of playoff run that they had back in 2009 when they won the Stanley Cup from the fourth seed.

That’s getting a bit ahead of ourselves, but Crosby’s offensive production this season cannot be ignored. Despite missing 36 games this season, Crosby is still ninth in the league in goals scored with 32 and still in the top 20 in points scored with 66. Crosby was on pace for an easy Art Ross Trophy winning season and very likely the Hart Trophy before being sidelined by a concussion.

The Penguins biggest issue since both Crosby and Malkin went down with ailments is that their offense has been poor. Crosby’s return will alleviate that greatly and the guys that will benefit most from should be James Neal and Alex Kovalev. How soon Crosby gets back into the lineup now depends on how he handles the practices. Judging by what we’ve seen from Crosby during his recovery, we’ll probably see him back on the ice in a game by the time the playoffs start.

Uh oh.

B’s not planning to trade Carlo, but adding goalie is on radar

BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 25:  Boston Bruins General manager Don Sweeney speaks to the media during the 2016 NHL Draft on June 25, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Jen Fuller/Getty Images)
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The Bruins have seven wins in their last 10, are surging under new head coach Bruce Cassidy and could be buyers as they head into the March 1 trade deadline.

One guy that unlikely to be involved any potential deal? Talented young blueliner Brandon Carlo.

Bruins GM Don Sweeney told the Boston Globe the B’s “want to be a team that believes it has internal fixes, that you are growing those players.” To that end, he’s not planning to move Carlo, who has developed nicely and played a significant role this season.

Sweeney added this organizational approach means Carlo isn’t “worried [about] going somewhere.”

Carlo, who only turned 20 in November, has reportedly been one of the pieces teams have tried to pry out of Boston (the other being Charlie McAvoy, the 14th overall pick at last year’s draft that’s currently starring for Boston University).

At 6-foot-5 and 203 pounds, Carlo has terrific size and has shouldered a heavy workload, averaging over 21 minutes through 60 games this year.

There have been rumblings of a Carlo-for-Gabriel Landeskog swap with Colorado, though reports suggest Sweeney balked at the asking price.

What Sweeney could address, though, is the club’s unstable backup goalie position. The organization appears to have little trust in either Anton Khudobin or Zane McIntyre, a big reason why Tuukka Rask has started 48 games this season, tied for fourth-most in the NHL.

“Yep, we could,” Sweeney told the Globe, when asked about adding a backup. “It’s tough to find at this time, but they exist. But it’s just a matter of teams are like, ‘Well, what are you giving up for it?’ That’s a big part of it.”

There are a few candidates that might fit the bill. Anders Nilsson is a pending UFA and having a solid campaign in Buffalo, with a .922 save percentage in 20 appearances. What’s more, he carries a relatively low cap hit ($1 million). The Sabres, though only four points out of a playoff spot, would need to jump five teams to get there and could be sellers soon.

Will injuries at forward spark deadline move for Isles?

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 26: Casey Cizikas #53 of the New York Islanders waits for the second period faceoff against the Calgary Flames at the Barclays Center on October 26, 2015 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The Isles have come alive under interim head coach Doug Weight, and rallied to move into the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.

There’s no question they want to keep the momentum going. Which is why today’s news might be met with action.

Casey Cizikas, on pace for a career year with seven goals and 23 points through 53 games, is expected to miss the next month with a hand injury suffered in Tuesday’s win over Detroit.

Cal Clutterbuck, hampered by an “annoying” soft-tissue injury, also left Tuesday’s contest. Another forward, Shane Price, is on IR with an upper-body ailment, and has missed the last five games.

The end result? New York finished with just 10 forwards against the Red Wings, and appear ready to insert 35-year-old AHL recall Bracken Kearns into the lineup.

It all makes for a pretty dicey situation, especially since the club has eight dates remaining on a whopping nine-game road trip.

More, from Newsday:

Perhaps it’s good that next Wednesday’s trade deadline is fast approaching.

General manager Garth Snow was already believed to be on the hunt for another forward, preferably a top-nine player. Cizikas’ injury may accelerate Snow’s talks, which have not had much traction in a market where sellers’ demands have been sky high so far.

If Cizikas misses the four full weeks, that puts him on target for a Mar. 23 return — meaning he’d miss the next 13 games. And it’s hard to say what the club can get out of Clutterbuck, who has missed 13 of the last 17 contests and is clearly playing through pain.

The Isles have made the playoffs in each of the last two years, and both times Snow’s made minor upgrades at the deadline. Last year, he acquired Prince from Ottawa, which turned out nicely — he had three goals and four points in 11 playoff games, averaging just under 14 minutes per night.

In 2015, Snow acquired both Michal Neuvirth and Tyler Kennedy, but neither had a major impact.

The Wild have options in search for forward depth

2012 NHL Entry Draft - Rounds 2-7
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Chuck Fletcher does not disagree with the notion that his Minnesota Wild could stand to improve their forward depth ahead of next week’s trade deadline.

“I think that’s fair,” the GM told the Star-Tribune. “I think we’ve got more unproven depth up front than we do on defense. … That’s why you’re always talking to see if somebody you can get can fit in and contribute and upgrade your depth. If you can do that, I think you need to do that.”

It is no surprise, then, to hear that the Wild have interest in Vancouver winger Jannik Hansen. It is not known if Minnesota is on Hansen’s eight-team trade list, but adding the speedy and versatile forward would allow Charlie Coyle to move from right wing to center, which in turn would push Erik Haula down to center the fourth line, while pushing the struggling Tyler Graovac out of the lineup entirely.

If not Hansen, the Wild could look at adding Patrick Eaves from Dallas or Radim Vrbata from Arizona. Both Eaves and Vrbata are pending UFAs. Hansen is signed through next season for a cap hit of $2.5 million.

Trade deadline: Caps only need to ‘upgrade on the fringes’

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 07:  Caps senior vice president and general manager Brian MacLellan of the Washington Capitals speaks with the media prior to the game against the New York Islanders at the Barclays Center on January 7, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The way the Washington Capitals have been steamrolling their opponents in 2017, it was no surprise to hear GM Brian MacLellan say he doesn’t expect to make major changes ahead of Wednesday’s trade deadline.

“This year, I don’t feel that pressure or that need to do anything,” MacLellan said, per CSN Mid-Atlantic’s Tarik El-Bashir. “We’re not going to mess with lines or defensive pairs. If we can upgrade on the fringes, we might do it.”

The Caps have already added some defensive depth, acquiring Tom Gilbert last week in a trade with the Kings.

Gilbert is currently with AHL Hershey but could be called upon soon after Matt Niskanen was forced to leave last night’s win over the Flyers.

(Update: Gilbert is unlikely to be called up. The Caps want him to get going in the AHL first.)

MacLellan said today that Niskanen is day-to-day with a lower-body injury, adding that it wasn’t anything “serious.”

“We’ll make sure he’s 100 percent before he comes back,” the GM said, per CSN Mid-Atlantic.

The Caps’ next game is Friday at home to the Oilers. On Saturday, they’re in Nashville to take on the Predators.