Could we see the NHL return of … Alexei Yashin?

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If you want to be technical about it, Alexei Yashin will receive an NHL salary whether he plays another second of hockey in 2011-12. In fact, he’ll receive a bit more than $2.2 million per year for the next four years thanks to the New York Islanders’ decision to buy out his massive contract way back in June 2007.

Of course, there’s a big difference between getting paid to play hockey at (or near) its highest level and being paid simply to stay away from the rink. Yashin’s future is now in serious – but perhaps intriguing? – doubt after it was revealed that SKA St. Petersburg opted against giving him another contract.

Yashin’s obvious red flags

Naturally, it’s not a great sign when the KHL sours on a player, especially a prominent Russian ex-star such as Yashin. That being said, it’s not as if we haven’t been through this drill before. Evgeni Nabokov’s KHL run was a spectacular failure, but he still received NHL interest when he expressed the desire to return.

Now, a direct comparison isn’t totally valid because of Yashin’s star-crossed reputation. The Ottawa Senators probably rank at the top of the list of teams who are probably uninterested in bringing him in after he set out the 1999-2000 season thanks to a contract tiff. There were plenty of questions about his character and locker room influence when he played his last NHL season at 33 years old, let alone at 37.

The case for giving Yashin a chance

That being said, a team desperate for offense might want to at least consider taking a low-risk, medium-reward gamble on Yashin. For all the criticisms he (justifiably) receives, Yashin was still fairly productive – at least on the offensive end. He scored 50 goals in 58 games in 2006-07, helping the Islanders make their last postseason run. His final season with SKA was underwhelming (33 points in 52 games), but he was a steady scorer in most other situations. Yashin scored 187 points in 220 regular season games in Russia and 40 points in 43 playoff games.

It’s reasonable to expect that Yashin’s bad reputation (and perhaps an unreasonable asking price) will derail almost any chance he has at an NHL comeback. That being said, a smart GM should at least take a look at his team and wonder if a cheap Yashin could actually fit in. If the Chicago Blackhawks can talk themselves into thinking that Daniel Carcillo might improve their locker room chemistry, then a team can rationalize just about anything these days.

Yashin’s NHL return is highly unlikely, but let us ask: would any team actually be wise in giving him a shot? Let us know how you feel in the comments.

(H/T to On the Forecheck.)

Fleury, Penguins hang on for Game 1 win against Capitals

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The Pittsburgh Penguins pulled off a 3-2 Game 1 win against the Washington Capitals, but Thursday’s thriller probably prompted a sigh of relief.

(Washington, meanwhile, might have uttered a sigh at such unpleasantly familiar feelings.)

The first period ended 0-0 in part thanks to Jake Guentzel‘s sprawling “kick save.” Business really picked up in the second after Sidney Crosby raced off to two quick goals, only for Alex Ovechkin to give Washington a shot thanks to a booming goal and some physical play.

It sure felt like this one might head to overtime, especially after Evgeny Kuznetsov was tying things up and flapping his arms like wings. That was not to be, however, as Nick Bonino took advantage of a pretty area pass to beat Braden Holtby for the decisive tally.

Now, it was only decisive because Marc-Andre Fleury was at the top of his game. Oh, and also because the Penguins did a collective Guentzel impression in frantically denying a tying tally.

Makes you want to wipe some sweat from your brow, eh?

The Capitals dominated by just about every statistical measure … except, of course, goals on the scoreboard. Pittsburgh will gladly take that 1-0 series lead, then.

Expect a desperate Washington team in Game 2, which airs at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday. You can watch it online and via the NBC Sports App (click here for the livestream link).

Karlsson makes difference for Senators vs. Lundqvist, Rangers

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Swedish superstars Henrik Lundqvist and Erik Karlsson were both stupendous in Game 1 between the New York Rangers and Ottawa Senators.

Still, it was Karlsson’s game-winning goal (from a seemingly impossible angle) against Lundqvist that made the difference as the Senators beat the Rangers 2-1 on Thursday. With that, the Senators are up 1-0 in the series.

That Karlsson goal really deserves a special look.

Whether you blame that 2-1 tally on Lundqvist or not, the Rangers would be foolish to do anything but praise their red-hot franchise goalie. He stopped all 21 Senators shots in the first period and ultimately made 41 out of 43 stops in defeat.

Craig Anderson was strong in his own right, mind you. stopping 34 out of 35 shots (including all 28 at even-strength) to help Ottawa take that tight contest.

Anderson’s strong play highlights the fact that Rangers – Senators doesn’t merely come down to Lundqvist vs. Karlsson … but even so, both Swedish superstars really did stand out in this one.

Game 2 airs on NBC at 3 p.m. ET on Saturday. You can also watch online and via the NBC Sports App; click here for the livestream link.

Ovechkin vs. Crosby shifts into high gear, Carlson clobbers Malkin

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You have to love when sports deliver on – if not exceed – the hype.

The second period of Game 1 between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals has been brilliant and nasty, possibly more than many hockey fans dreamed.

It began with the Penguins getting the big edge; Sidney Crosby scored two goals in the span of 52 seconds and Braden Holtby needed to make some tough stops to keep it at 2-0.

MORE: Video of Crosby’s hot start

That put a damper on the great crowd at the Verizon Center for a bit, but the Capitals ended up responding.

Part of that was a physical response, with Dmitry Orlov delivering a big hit on Tom Kuhnhackl and John Carlson absolutely leveling Evgeni Malkin. The narrative got almost too obvious moments later, as Alex Ovechkin fired a shot past Marc-Andre Fleury to make it 2-1.

Fleury made a tough stop or two of his own once it was 2-1, so while the pace is picking up, the two goalies seem like they’re alert to the challenge as well.

There was plenty of nastiness with 18.9 seconds remaining in the second, setting the stage for what could be a thrilling third period … and maybe more?

Buckle up.

Video: Crosby scores two goals in 52 seconds vs. Capitals

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Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins came roaring out of the gate to start the second period after a 0-0 opening frame against the Washington Capitals in Game 1.

Crosby scored two goals in just 52 seconds to give the Penguins a sudden 2-0 lead. One feels some pity for any fans who didn’t get to their seats just to start the frame … though in the likely event that they are Capitals fans, they might have been spared.

To Braden Holtby‘s credit, he made a couple tough saves moments later to keep it 2-0. It’s been a hectic first few minutes of the second after that relatively mundane first 20 minutes, so hang on tight.

Check out video above; you can also watch the pair of goals in the GIF combo below: