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Senators might be stuck with their logjam on defense

When you look at some of the trades that happened during this off-season, it’s pretty hard to fault any NHL general manager for throwing out some questionable players with even more questionable contracts in trade conversations. Sure, the Brian Campbell trade was a special situation since Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon is the guy who signed Soupy to that mind-blowing deal in the first place, but it gave hope to any GM whose brain hurts when they look at the paychecks they’re handing to players who might not be earning them.

The Ottawa Senators could be looking at a considerable logjam on defense next season. The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch indicates that nine defensemen might jostle for seven available spots after the team was unable to unload either of two pricey veteran blueliners (Sergei Gonchar and Filip Kuba) during the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.

Garrioch thinks that the team still hopes to move one of those two offensive-minded defensemen before training camp, with Gonchar’s awful 2010-11 season and heftier cap hit making him far more difficult to trade. Kuba’s $3.7 million cap hit will expire after this season, so he might be a little easier to get rid of, but there’s one other problem Garrioch points out: doing so would likely move Ottawa below the salary cap floor. Here’s a little more on the team’s head-scratching situation on defense.

That leaves Kuba as the top candidate to be moved. If the Senators do find any takers for the 34-year-old, they’ll have to take back salary to avoid going below the $48.3-million floor.

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The Senators could help solve their blue-line dilemma by dealing Brian Lee and his $900,000 contract. But he’s shown that he can be a capable replacement if somebody goes down, and the 24-year-old still has potential.

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Anybody who thinks Carkner is going to be the odd man out is out of touch. He’s the Senators’ only element of toughness on the back end. Erik Karlsson, Chris Phillips, Kuba Gonchar, Rundblad and Lee all play the same game. Cowen and Wiercioch are both big, but need to get stronger.

Perhaps Kuba could fetch some trade value if the Senators are willing to take on a solid player who is receiving an excessive paycheck. Either way, it seems like Ottawa has plenty of options when it comes to defense but far fewer ones when it comes to narrowing them down.

Reading through all of this, the Senators might just have to struggle with their situation for a while. The fact that they’re not so far above the salary cap floor would mean that their troubles might not be over even if they found a taker for Kuba. (Cap Geek lists them at approximately $51.55 million, although Garrioch notes that Stephane De Costa’s $1.33 million might not register since he need to fight to earn a spot on the team.)

When you consider the randomness and sometimes wide swath of injuries that can hit any NHL team, maybe this abundance of options will come in handy. Ottawa may opt to go with veterans to begin the season since they’ll make the same amount of money in the NHL or AHL anyway while slowly integrating prospects into the mix.

The real bummer is that with all of these players, it’s unclear if the Senators are even going to be all that formidable on defense in 2011-12. If nothing else, they could enjoy a rare amount of flexibility, though.

Penguins push Capitals to brink of elimination with OT win

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The Pittsburgh Penguins ended a long run of playoff overtime struggles on Wednesday … and are now one win away from ending the Washington Capitals’ season.

Many expected the Penguins to crater on defense without Kris Letang (they were 2-8-1 in the regular season without him). While there were shaky moments, Pittsburgh emphasized its speed and other strengths in taking a 3-2 overtime thriller against Washington.

With that, the Penguins’ series lead grows to 3-1.

It was a thrilling, sometimes nasty contest, from Sidney Crosby shaking off an Alex Ovechkin slash, to Evgeni Malkin delivering a hit some thought was over the line and plenty of typical playoff skirmishes.

Ultimately, Matt Murray played another strong game and Patric Hornqvist scored the overtime-winner to put the Capitals in a tough spot.

The Penguins lost their previous eight playoff overtime games, so maybe it was just a matter of time before such a game went their way?

Then again, the history between the two teams is a little different:

If the Capitals want to advance beyond the second round for the first time in the Ovechkin era, they’ll need to accomplish quite the feat against arguably the hottest team in the NHL.

Sidney Crosby looks hurt (and furious) after Alex Ovechkin slash

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NBCSN screen
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Sidney Crosby is known to get fiery, but even for his feisty standards, he was furious during the third period of Game 4.

An Alex Ovechkin slash caught Crosby on the hand, leaving the Pittsburgh Penguins star shaking his mitt and pleading for a call.

After that, Crosby left to get his hand looked at … but not before flipping out and destroying his stick.

You can watch it happen in the GIF and the videos above.

Crosby was able to return not that long after that moment, although we can only speculate regarding how his overall game will be affected if his hand isn’t 100 percent.

Dirty or not? Evgeni Malkin’s hit on Daniel Winnik

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Tensions seem to rise with every passing game in the playoffs, particularly in a series with bad blood like the one between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals.

Kris Letang was suspended for his hit in Game 3, and some wonder if Evgeni Malkin should suffer a similar fate for his check on Daniel Winnik on Wednesday.

Winnik left the contest and has not yet returned during the third period.

Take a look at the hit in the video above and decide for yourself.

Blues aim to raise money for victims of Fort McMurray fires

An evacuee puts gas in his car on his way out of Fort McMurray, Alberta, as a wildfire burns in the background Wednesday, May 4, 2016. The raging wildfire emptied Canada's main oil sands city, destroying entire neighborhoods of Fort McMurray, where officials warned Wednesday that all efforts to suppress the fire have failed.  (Jason Franson /The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
AP
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Fires devastated the Canadian city of Fort McMurray, and the St. Louis Blues are doing their part to help those who were affected.

Here’s what the team is doing to raise money during Game 4 against the Dallas Stars:

Proceeds raised through the team’s 50/50 raffle and the Blues for Kids silent auction will benefit families who have been misplaced by the fires.

Blues forward Scottie Upshall shared his thoughts with the Associated Press regarding several family members being among those evacuated from the area.

“It’s been a great city, a city that’s survived for many years through some tough times and for me, growing up there doesn’t seem too long ago,” Upshall said. “Places that probably aren’t standing anymore will be really, really tough to take. But as long as everyone’s OK, that’s the main thing.”

Other people from around the hockey world weighed in on the scary scene, including Ottawa Senators defenseman Chris Phillips, who told the Ottawa Citizen that “it hurts a lot.”

People shared some scary sights from the evacuation.