Ice conditions for Capitals-Predators game in Baltimore look awfully dangerous

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The Washington Capitals and Nashville Predators are due to square off tonight in Baltimore, Maryland at the 1st Mariner Arena to give fans there a taste of NHL action. With Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Ryan Suter, and Shea Weber all scheduled to play tonight to give the hockey fans in Baltimore a look at what goes on down the road in D.C. and elsewhere around the NHL, the event is a big deal for the Capitals to spread the game further out around the mid-Atlantic region.

As will happen when you’re playing outside the confines of your home arena, sometimes there will be problems. In the case of 1st Mariner Arena, their problems appear to be major ones that could bring the safety of the players into question. Stephen Whyno of The Washington Times tells us about how cracks in the ice visible as far away as the press box are causing concern for tonight’s scheduled game.

But quietly, players were less than complimentary of the rink, calling it “a little rough” or worse. From a few rows up in the stands, it looked sloppy.

But Boudreau pointed out that players understand the situation.

“They’re aware. They skate on it. They know it better than me. But what can you do? Both teams are there; it’s an ice surface,” he said. “They’ve played on, in their lives, some ice surfaces that weren’t really up to snuff – and I’m not saying this won’t be, but they’re going to be working on it today.”

Update: As of 4 p.m., there were big cracks in the ice visible as high up as the press box.

The NHL likes to do preseason games outside of the home arenas to help expand the visibility of the game and for the Capitals, going into Baltimore for a game more than makes sense. Asking the players to deal with ice that at least looks as bad as this does puts everyone on the ice in jeopardy. Soft ice is one thing, but ice that appears to be damaged with cracks in it comes about as close to possible as being unplayable.

Let’s hope that either the ice is repaired enough to be playable (poorly so, but still) or that they’ll make the right move and postpone the game if the conditions are indeed that terrible.

Update (5:01 p.m.): According to Whyno, a Caps spokesman insists that the cracks that are visible are below the surface of the ice and will not affect play on the ice.

(Photo courtesy of Sky Kerstein on Twitter)

Video: Drew Doughty (mostly) avoids massive Matthew Tkachuk hit

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Hockey is such a fast sport that it’s probably not so easy to make someone your “target.” Instead, a big hit often comes down to the right combination of circumstance and timing.

Still, there’s no denying that Matthew Tkachuk is gunning for Drew Doughty (and the Kings are gunning for Tkachuk) on Wednesday.

Doughty isn’t oblivious to that notion, either, as you can see him avoid what looked like a pretty terrifying hit above.

We’ve already covered the early violence in this game, and it’s quite possible that there will be more carnage going forward. Stay tuned.

Blackhawks bolster Central lead, shine harsh light on Penguins’ struggles

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Blame it on injuries if you want, or emphasize the Chicago Blackhawks’ overall hot finish to the season. Either way, Chicago scorched the Pittsburgh Penguins by a score of 5-1, a contest that felt more or less over by the time the first period ended 4-0 in the Blackhawks’ favor.

The Blackhawks scored by committee on Wednesday, with Artemi Panarin (goal, assist) and Patrick Kane (two assists) being the headliners. Meanwhile, former Penguin Marian Hossa has quietly climbed to 25 goals on the season.

Meanwhile, the Penguins limped through this one and have now lost four consecutive games.

With this result, the Blackhawks look like close to a lock to win the Central Division title. Meanwhile, the Metro crown is virtually unthinkable for Pittsburgh, and the Penguins might also need to accept the likelihood that they may not enjoy home-ice advantage in the first round.

They’d probably accept that more easily if they can get healthier and get back on track. Wednesday was a little worrisome in those regards.

Video: An early taste of the Tkachuk-inspired violence in Kings vs. Flames

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BREAKING: the Los Angeles Kings really don’t appreciate Calgary Flames rookie-pest-forward Matthew Tkachuk thanks to that elbow on Drew Doughty (and the fallout from all … that).

Tkachuk responded by critiquing Doughty for “complaining to the media,” so there was testiness from the start.

There was jawing before the game. Then Jake Muzzin rebuked Tkachuk’s kind offer for a fight. Finally, Keith’s son dropped the gloves with Brayden McNabb:

It wasn’t the only bout of the opening frame, and there could be more blood to come beyond this Jarome IginlaDeryk Engelland feud:

Players from both teams better keep their heads up (and on a swivel) tonight. The Flames have to hope that this doesn’t result in injuries, judging from what happened to Johnny Gaudreau.

Avalanche sign Toews-like first-rounder Tyson Jost

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Things have been pretty bleak for the Colorado Avalanche this season, but at least they can look to a high pick in the next draft … and maybe dream about how their top pick from 2016 may pan out.

The Avs signed Tyson Jost, the 10th pick of the 2016 NHL Draft, to an entry-level contract on Wednesday. Colorado notes that he’ll jump right into some NHL action to close out this season.

It’s a nice sneak preview, as NHL insider Bob McKenzie noted on an NBCSN appearance (see above) that doing so will not burn the first year of Jost’s entry-level contract. Nice.

Even nicer? McKenzie also compares Jost favorably to … (drum-roll, though the headline spoiled it) Jonathan Toews.

Most obviously, the two both starred at the University of North Dakota. For the sake of fun, here are their numbers in their final years in the NCAA:

Jost: 16 goals, 35 points in 33 games, +17 rating (2016-17)
Toews: 18 goals, 46 points in 34 games (2006-07)

Naturally, Toews enthusiasts in particular will tell you that points aren’t everything … but maybe there are some shades of the two-way Blackhawks center there?

The Hockey News’ Ryan Kennedy raved that Jost has “man-strength already” back around the 2016 NHL Draft, as you can see in this profile.

“Jost oozes confidence and already looks like NHL captain material for the future.”

Hey, that does sound at least somewhat Toews-like, doesn’t it?

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In other signing news, the Buffalo News’ Mike Harrington reports that the Buffalo Sabres signed UMass-Lowell’s CJ Smith. More on that below.