Michal Neuvirth

Caps goalie Neuvirth on handling criticism: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”

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It wasn’t long ago when Michal Neuvirth was mired Dale Hunter’s doghouse.

On Feb. 13, Hunter benched Neuvirth for an important game against San Jose in favor of Braden Holtby — who hadn’t played a game this season. When asked why, Hunter alluded to Neuvirth’s spotty play and said that if the 23-year-old “was standing on his head,” maybe the decision would’ve been different.

Say what you will about Hunter’s methods, but they worked.

Neuvirth has been on fire since the Sharks game — especially during Washington’s current three-game winning streak. He’s allowed just eight goals on 132 shots (.939 save percentage, 1.83 (GAA), a big reason why the Caps have stayed afloat in the Eastern Conference playoff chase.

“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” Neuvirth told the Washington Post. “Obviously there are some ups and downs, but I always bounce back. The last three games I’ve been feeling pretty good. I had a good practice today and I’m excited about [Friday].”

Friday, of course, is another huge game for the Caps — though they all are at this stage. It’s a home date against the New Jersey Devils, who sit seventh in the Eastern Conference, and Wshington knows with their two chief Southeast Division rivals having the night off (Florida and Winnipeg), this is a huge chance to make up points.

That said, Caps goalie coach Dave Prior warns Neuvirth against putting too much emphasis on a single game.

“For him it’s a bigger adjustment to not put so much emphasis on one game when you do get to play, because it’s just got to be another game,”Dave Prior said. “But for you, it might mean whether you get to play again in the next month. He’s learning to deal with that more.”

Neuvirth’s teammates are doing all they can to help in his mental approach. Caps blueliner Karl Alzner has been especially supportive — he and Neuvirth go way back to their AHL Hershey days.

“He’s got this personality where he can just brush off anything, a bad game, bad goal, criticism, he seems to be able to forget about it,” Alzner said. “He doesn’t come into the dressing room throwing stuff or yelling and screaming, no matter what happens.

“It’s just not his personality. He’s calm.”

Uh oh, Marian Hossa might be injured after awkward fall

Chicago Blackhawks right wing Marian Hossa, left, talks to center Jonathan Toews during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Dallas Stars Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
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The Chicago Blackhawks are on edge on Saturday, and it’s not because of what’s currently a close game against the Anaheim Ducks.

(Not that they’re indifferent toward a match against their opponents from last year’s conference final match, mind you.)

Instead, the Blackhawks are quite concerned about the health of Marian Hossa, who needed help off of the ice following an awkward, scary-looking crash into the boards. (Hampus Lindholm delivered the hip check that sent Hossa sprawling, in case you’re wondering.)

Video isn’t yet available, but My Regular Face’s GIF captures that troubling moment:

It’s too early to tell if Hossa will bounce back or miss some time from this. Stay tuned for potential updates.

Understatement: Saturday was a rough night for Panthers

Nashville Predators center Colin Wilson (33) checks Florida Panthers center Jonathan Huberdeau (11) during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
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If it weren’t for Mike Yeo and the Minnesota Wild, you could argue that the Florida Panthers suffered from the worst night so far.

You can see that Saturday was unpleasant merely from looking at the scoreboard: the Nashville Predators pummeled the Panthers by an unkind score of 5-0.

The pain goes beyond that … literally so.

For one thing, Quinton Howden suffered an upper-body injury and did not return. That’s no good, but if you want to feel sick to your stomach, footage of Brandon Pirri‘s likely lower-body injury (ankle maybe?) may do the trick.

(Seriously, you may be happier if you don’t look.)

The Panthers didn’t make an announcement about Pirri one way or another, so we’ll see if he somehow avoided anything significant.

Either way, it was a night this team would like to forget.

Fractured jaw from fight sidelines Chris Stewart for 4-8 weeks

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It’s unlikely that Chris Stewart will generate another 30-goal season in the NHL, but he still might be missed by the Anaheim Ducks.

The team announced that the ornery forward is expected to miss four-to-eight weeks with a fractured jaw. If that’s the recovery window, Stewart may go into the playoffs a little rusty (if he can get in any regular season games at all).

The Ducks didn’t elaborate, but the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline believes that the injury happened during a fight with Dalton Prout of the Columbus Blue Jackets. You can see that brawl in the video above.

One bright side for Anaheim: if they believe that they need to replace what Stewart brings to the table (rugged play with a dash of offense), then at least this injury happened before the the Feb. 29 trade deadline.

Report: Wild will tab John Torchetti as interim head coach

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via Iowa Wild
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As many expected, the Minnesota Wild will make John Torchetti their interim head coach, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Michael Russo.

(He’s not the only one to report as much, as TSN’s Bob McKenzie also stated that he’s likely to take the job.)

The team itself hasn’t made an official announcement about Torchetti, and the reasoning is probably simple enough: he’s coaching their AHL affiliate the Iowa Wild on Saturday night.

Torchetti is no stranger to the NHL, although he’ll probably be frustrated if this opportunity doesn’t turn into a full-time gig. He was also an interim head coach for the Los Angeles Kings and Florida Panthers.

As of this writing, the Wild are in a three-way tie for the first spot outside of the West’s wild card mix, although they could sink a bit depending upon how Arizona and Vancouver handle the one game they have in hand on the Wild.

More importantly, Minnesota’s currently three points behind Nashville for the final wild card spot.

That’s not an impossible goal for Torchetti. For whatever it’s worth, Sports Club Stats gives Minnesota a 34.7 percent chance to make the playoffs.

(Note: photo via the Iowa Wild.)