The Washington Capitals have had things go in unfortunate directions for them this season. When the Caps face off against the Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh tonight (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN) they’ll be looking to get back on the winning side of things in a more regular fashion.
If the Caps can get things turned around, the Southeast Division is there for the taking. The Caps are two points behind first place Florida and with two more wins to their credit they have the tie-breaker on the Panthers. The problem Washington is facing, however, is consistency. Continuing to be without Nicklas Backstrom is a problem for their offense, but with Mike Green back in the lineup and feeling good about things, the hope is that the wins will start coming.
While Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin aren’t pumping in goals the way they used to, and some are curious if Ovechkin is too caught up being a “rock star” of late, they’re still the best on the team and virtually all the Caps have going for them offensively this season. Inconsistent or not, that kind of talent can’t be held back all the time. Staying focused against the last place Hurricanes might be a problem.
Carolina’s rough season rolls on with them firmly in the place as the team to play the spoiler. Eric Staal has had his own issues staying consistent this season and Jeff Skinner has had a bit of a sophomore slump when not scrapping with teammates in practice. Meanwhile Cam Ward is looking exhausted trying to keep up with all the rubber he faces night in and night out.
The ‘Canes taking two points tonight could wind up being a crucial blow to the Caps’ playoff chances, however, as they need every point they can muster to get in the postseason.
Measure of revenge: Kings delay clinching efforts for Flames, Blues
Deep down, the Los Angeles Kings probably realize that their season will end on game 82. Still, they kept their slim playoff hopes alive on Wednesday night … and managed to spite a team they’re growing to hate.
OK, maybe the hate is almost totally focused upon Matthew Tkachuk, yet the disdain for that talented-but-tormenting rookie was palpable.
It didn’t feel like the Kings exacted physical revenge on Tkachuk, but beating his team 4-1 ranked as classic scoreboard vengeance. With that, the Calgary Flames (and by extension the St. Louis Blues) will need to wait to clinch a playoff berth.
Now, as much as tonight was about Tkachuk, the focus was also on a pugnacious player who once dazzled for the Flames: Jarome Iginla.
In what might be Iginla’s final visit to Calgary – at least as an active NHL player – he was one of the best players on the ice. His fitting curtain call included a “Gordie Howe hat trick” with a spirited fight, an assist and a goal.
It’s official: the NHL will hold preseason games in China before next season.
The league made the announcement on Wednesday night: the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks will play two exhibitions: one on Sept. 21 (Shanghai) and Sept. 23 (Beijing). How cool is that?
“It is a privilege and an honor for the L.A. Kings to represent the National Hockey League in China as part of these two games against the Vancouver Canucks,” Kings president Luc Robitaille said. “Growing the game of hockey is something we take great pride in and it is a big priority for our hockey club and AEG as a whole. This will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our players and our staff, and we are looking forward to the games taking place in two tremendous facilities in two remarkable cities.”
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.