Marco Sturm

Does Marco Sturm have anything left in the tank? Vancouver hopes so

Last season, Marco Sturm battled back from injury to find his way back to the ice after missing most of the season recovering from knee surgery. The Bruins sent him to Los Angeles and while there he scored four goals in just 17 games before being sent to Washington. With the Capitals, things didn’t get much better for the 32 year-old German scoring just one goal in 18 regular season games and one more goal in the playoffs.

For a guy who was a consistent 25-goal a year player, scoring just five goals in what was essentially a rehab season was a huge let down. With a new season ahead of him and a new contract to play in Vancouver, Sturm wants to show that he’s still got the offensive ability that helped make him a useful second line player with the Sharks and Bruins in the past.

Sturm is hoping to show Canucks GM Mike Gillis and coach Alain Vigneault that their $2.25 million investment in him for this season won’t go for naught.

“I still think I’m young,” he said. “It should be a good time.

“I worked hard enough in the summer. I want to stay healthy. Last year I probably came back a little bit too early. I could never catch up. Now I feel good. I had all summer to get stronger again.”

Vancouver general manager Mike Gillis thinks Sturm is eager to prove he has more gas left in the tank.

“I think he’s overcome the injuries,” said Gillis. “I think we got him at a point in his career when he was very excited to be playing on a team he knows is a good hockey team.

“He’s very excited to start the season here and get established. We’ve got high expectations of him and he’s got high expectations for himself.”

Sturm will have hard work ahead of him to prove himself. Playing in a new system and not having Ryan Kesler there alongside him to start the year as he recovers from offseason surgery will make the start of the season a bit more difficult. Luckily for him he’ll have plenty of veteran help with him. Mikael Samuelsson will be back from injury and guys like Manny Malhotra, Maxim Lapierre, and Chris Higgins could find their way on to the second line while Kesler is out.

That said, Sturm will need to show he’s still got something because the Canucks will need his production. Kesler’s absence coupled with Mason Raymond still recovering from his injury in the Stanley Cup finals means their depth at forward will be tested greatly. While it was defensive injuries that hurt the Canucks last year, it’s forward issues that will hurt them to start the season. The Canucks’ top line of the Sedin twins and Alex Burrows remains in tact, but everyone else will need to step up to make sure that line doesn’t get buried nightly. A healthy and scoring Marco Sturm can make those woes dissipate to get Vancouver off on the right foot.

Sharks scratch Flames’ big lead, Calgary wins anyway

Calgary Flames' Mikael Backlund (11) chases down the puck against San Jose Sharks' Tomas Hertl (48) during the second period of an NHL hockey game in San Jose, Calif., Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
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If you turned off Thursday’s Calgary Flames – San Jose Sharks game early, you’ll probably be stunned to see that Calgary won 6-5 via a shootout.

For instance:

  • A Sharks fan may have bitterly called it a night when Calgary went up 4-1.
  • Conversely, a Flames devotee might have retired after San Jose took a 5-4 lead, possibly with a broken remote.

The Flames only trailed for about two minutes before scoring the last “real” goal of the game, eventually taking their third straight win thanks to a shootout triumph.

It’s been a strange ride for Calgary, with its most recent win happening after Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Lance Bouma were punished with a healthy scratch. As strange as this game was, the “charity point” can leave both teams looking through a lot of film, yet with something gained as well.

Ultimately, the message may very well be: don’t sleep on these teams.

(In less positive news, Karri Ramo is injured, and it doesn’t look good.

Jonas Hiller closing out the game on a hot streak could be pretty important if Ramo’s out for some time.)

By winning fifth straight, Caps extend Wild’s slump to seven losses

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ST. PAUL, Minn. — Alex Ovechkin scored three times in the second period for his 14th career hat trick, and the Washington Capitals beat the Minnesota Wild 4-3 on Thursday night.

Ovechkin, who leads the league with 34 goals, has 13 in his past 13 games. Nicklas Backstrom had three assists and Jason Chimera added an empty-netter for Washington, which improved to a league-best 20-5-2 on the road.

Braden Holtby made 33 saves for the Capitals, who won their fifth consecutive game and became the first team to reach 40 victories this season.

Charlie Coyle, Ryan Suter and Mikael Granlund scored for the Wild, but Minnesota lost for the 12th time in its past 13 games (1-10-2). Devan Dubnyk made 29 saves for the Wild, who have lost seven in a row at home (0-4-3).

Ovechkin’s third goal, which deflected off both the post and the back of Dubnyk into the net, was upheld following a coach’s challenge. Wild coach Mike Yeo challenged that the puck had left the zone for offsides, but the call stood after a review showed that Backstrom stopped the puck before it crossed the blue line.

The goal gave Ovechkin his first hat trick since he scored four goals against Tampa Bay on Dec. 10, 2013.

It wasn’t the only fortunate bounce for Ovechkin on the night, and the five-time 50-goal scorer capitalized on each opportunity.

A shot from T.J. Oshie deflected off of Minnesota forward Zach Parise across the ice right to Ovechkin in the left faceoff circle and Ovechkin quickly snapped off a shot to beat Dubnyk, who couldn’t get across the crease to get into position. Three minutes later, Ovechkin scored on the power play when a point shot bounced off the end boards right to Ovechkin in front of the net.

The tally provided some relief for the Capitals’ surprisingly ineffective power play. Washington had one power play in its previous six games, an empty-netter for the only goal in its previous 20 power-play chances. The Capitals were 1 of 5 on the power play on Thursday.

Coyle scored for the fifth time in eight games in the second, but second periods have doomed the Wild during their slump. Minnesota has been outscored 13-3 in the period in five straight losses.

Suter scored his sixth goal of the season on the power play in the third as Minnesota went 1 of 5 with the man advantage.

NOTES: Washington C Evgeny Kuznetsov left in the third period after he was hit in the face by the stick of Mikael Granlund off a faceoff. … Backstrom has 20 points in his last 17 games. … Minnesota D Jared Spurgeon missed his second straight game with an unspecified deep bruise. Spurgeon has returned to practice, but was held out again. … Holtby is 27-1-3 in his last 31 games with two shutouts, a 2.10 goals-against average and .927 save percentage.

Watch the Blackhawks’ Patrick Sharp tribute video

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Over the years, the Chicago Blackhawks have been forced to let some important players leave to keep their core together, which ultimately meant parting ways with Patrick Sharp.

The talented winger now wears a Dallas Stars jersey, so Blackhawks fans must face the reality of watching Sharp ply his trade for a formidable Central Division opponent.

Even if that might feel awkward, Blackhawks fans gave Sharp (and Johnny Oduya) a warm reception in Chicago on Thursday.

CSNChicago.com provides video of that ovation, which you can see in the clip above.

The Stars currently lead the Blackhawks 4-2, thanks in large part to Patrick … Eaves.

Ovechkin’s 14th career hat trick helps him make more history

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Death, taxes and Alex Ovechkin winning the Maurice Richard Trophy.

OK, the third thing on that list isn’t technically inevitable. It just feels that way lately in the NHL.

It’s unclear if the Washington Capitals can hold on against the Minnesota Wild, but we know for certain that Ovechkin already has a hat trick, the 14th of his high-scoring career.

(He also passed Jean Beliveau for 39th all-time in goals with his 509th, as NHL.com notes.)

This propels Ovechkin to the goals lead as of this writing, as he already has 34. As impressive as Patrick Kane has been, No. 8 is heating up, and may just edge No. 88 if Ovechkin can remain healthy.

One has to feel a little sympathy for the struggling Wild. They played well but lost against the Dallas Stars earlier this week and now must deal with Ovechkin and the just-as-hot Capitals.

Update: Minnesota managed three goals, but it wasn’t enough, as Washington got the edge 4-3.