Brent Sutter doesn’t sound super enthused about playing Matt Stajan tonight

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To give you an idea how far Matt Stajan’s stock has plummeted in Calgary, consider what Flames coach Brent Sutter said earlier this afternoon.

“Well, we are going to dress 12 forwards tonight so Matt’s going in to play center ice for us,” Sutter told NHL.com prior to tonight’s game against Vancouver. “We need Matt to come in and he’s got to bring us some juice and he’s got to be a real solid, competitive player for us. I’m not putting any expectations on him or anything like that.”

Is now a good time to mention Calgary signed Stajan to a four-year, $14-million extension in March of 2010? Because I feel like it is.

Stajan’s been a healthy scratch for the last two games, the low point in what’s already been a forgettable year. He’s recorded just a single point in seven contests and seen his ice time dwindle from a high of 13:56 (back on Oct. 13 vs. Montreal) to a low of 8:15 (the last game he played, Oct. 22 vs. Nashville)

What’s worse, he didn’t even get replaced by another center. Rather than roll four guys down the middle, Sutter has opted to dress an extra defenseman and play just three centers lately. Those three centers? Brendan Morrison (who Calgary signed after Vancouver cut him), Roman Horak (who hadn’t played in the NHL prior to this season) and Olli Jokinen (who is Olli Jokinen).

“I’d be lying if I said I’m not frustrated,” Stajan said about his current situation. “Obviously I’m not happy with the situation because I want to play — every player does. I get my chance tonight and go in there and do a job.”

Stajan is drawing in tonight mostly out of necessity. The Canucks are deep down the middle and one of the NHL’s top faceoff teams, so Calgary needs to counter that. Stajan will likely center the fourth line between Tom Kostopoulos and Tim Jackman.

Regardless of how tonight turns out, Stajan can take solace in the fact he’s not the only high-priced guy routinely parked in press row. Anton Babchuk, PHT’s 2nd Dud of the week last week, looks like he’ll be a healthy scratch again tonight for the sixth time in eight games — this after signing a $2.5-million deal with Calgary back in July.

Capitals defeat Blue Jackets in clash of Metropolitan Division powers

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WASHINGTON (AP) T.J. Oshie scored the shootout winner as the Washington Capitals overcame a stellar performance from Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky to beat the Blue Jackets 2-1 Thursday night.

Despite 44 saves from Bobrovsky, the Capitals reached 104 points and extended their lead atop the Metropolitan Division and NHL standings. Oshie engendered memories of his Sochi Olympic shootout performance by again beating Bobrovsky, the goalie he scored on four times in six chances that day.

Dmitry Orlov finally cracked Bobrovsky early in the third period on Washington’s 35th shot of the game. Orlov’s goal tied the score after Seth Jones beat Braden Holtby on a wild scramble early in the third for his first goal since Feb. 7.

Holtby had 29 saves in regulation and overtime and three more in the shootout to pick up his 38th victory of the season, one shy of Bobrovsky for the league lead.

A showdown between two of the top three teams in the league jockeying for position atop the Metropolitan Division lacked a playoff feel. But the matchup of two likely Vezina Trophy finalists lived up to that billing as Bobrovsky and Holtby went back and forth with big saves.

Bobrovsky entered the night first in wins, goals-against average and save percentage with Holtby second, second and third in those categories. The 2013 Vezina winner could also be an MVP contender this season given his value to Columbus’ third playoff berth in franchise history.

“When he’s in his game it’s very hard to score on him,” said Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, who had eight shots stopped by one of his Russian national teammates. “He likes the big moments, he likes pressure. His worth ethic is unbelievable. … In my opinion he’s one of the best goalies in the league right now.”

Methot ‘out for weeks’ after suffering a shattered finger from Crosby clash

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The Ottawa Senators lost defenseman Marc Methot for the bulk of Thursday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and it seems he’ll be out for quite a while longer, too.

Methot was injured on a Sidney Crosby slash across the hand in the first period. He didn’t return to the game and there was no penalty called on the Penguins captain.

Footage showed the gruesome aftermath of the slash — Methot’s finger on his left hand bloodied and injured as he skated back to the bench.

“His finger is shattered and he’s out for weeks,” said Senators head coach Guy Boucher, per the Ottawa Sun.

Methot immediately confronted Crosby after the slash, which occurred as the Sens blue liner went to dump the puck into the Pittsburgh zone late in the first period.

The Senators got revenge, scoring a 2-1 shootout victory to move within a point of Montreal for the Atlantic Division lead. Crosby was also denied in the shootout.

NHL to make ‘special announcement’ in China next week

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The National Hockey League has announced it will make a “special announcement” at the LeSports Center in Beijing, China next Thursday.

In January, the league’s deputy commissioner Bill Daly made it clear the NHL has interest in playing games in China — likely starting out with pre-season games before potentially adding in some regular season contests in the future, as well.

Just after the league made its announcement on Thursday, the L.A. Kings tweeted out that they will participate in next week’s event, along with the Vancouver Canucks.

In January, hockey insider Darren Dreger reported that the Canucks and Kings were likely to play NHL pre-season games in China this upcoming September.

Last July, members of the Boston Bruins visited China, specifically Beijing and Shanghai, to host hockey clinics in those cities.

Beijing will also host the 2022 Winter Olympics.

Flyers survive early Mason mistake to upset Wild

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Insert the ‘It’s not how you start but how you finish’ cliche right here.

The Philadelphia Flyers fell behind the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, as Zach Parise was the beneficiary of a Steve Mason mistake just 2:07 into the first period.

Mason couldn’t control the deflection into the zone, coughing up a rebound in front. Eric Staal forced a loose puck to Parise and he buried it to open the scoring.

Yeah, not ideal for the Flyers, who are still clinging to the slimmest of playoff hopes.

But they responded with three unanswered goals, including this beauty from Sean Couturier.

Philadelphia took over for a 3-1 victory, with Mason making 24 saves on 25 shots, as Minnesota’s struggles continue. The Wild still sit second in the Central Division but have only two wins in their last 10 games and were unable to secure a playoff spot Thursday.