When Mikko Koivu was initially sidelined due to a shoulder injury in mid-January, the Wild were still very much in the fight for a roster spot. They had been struggling, but they still had hope. Koivu only played in four games over the course of two months before he returned on March 22. The Wild won that game, but it’s too late for them. Hope is a thing of the past for this club and now all that’s left is for them to play for their paycheck, pride, and the chance to be a spoiler. That last one is huge on Sunday because while their upcoming matchup can’t save the Wild’s season, it will be vital to their opponents, the Washington Capitals (5:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN).
Washington is still in the thick of the race for one of the final spots in the Eastern Conference, but they’ve certainly made life hard on themselves by losing four of their last five contests. Most recently, they had a chance to all-but crush the rival Winnipeg Jets’ playoff hopes, but ended up allowing four unanswered goals in a 4-3 overtime victory for the Jets.
The Capitals have been struggling lately despite the fact that Alex Ovechkin has been playing like his old self. He has scored eight times in his last six contests and is currently on a four-game goal scoring streak. This season will be seen as another disappointment by the high standards we all hold Ovechkin to. However, he did reach the 35-goal mark on Friday and is the big reason the Capitals even ended up with a point in that contest.
Although he isn’t expected to play in Sunday’s contest, Nicklas Backstrom (concussion) has been given the green light to fully participate in practices. That should provide Washington with a bit of extra inspiration. If the Capitals can bounce back and stay in the playoff race, then Backstrom’s potential return might ultimately mean far more for his team than Koivu’s did for his already sunk club.
Corey Perry will spearhead the leadership group looking to guide Canada to its second straight gold medal at the World Hockey Championships.
On Thursday, the Canadian contingent announced that Perry would captain the squad at this year’s tournament, to be held in Moscow and Saint Petersburg. Joining him in the leadership group will be Colorado’s Matt Duchene, and Buffalo’s Ryan O'Reilly.
“This is an energetic young team, and these three players bring a mixture of youth and experience in their leadership role on the ice and in the dressing room,” Canadian head coach Bill Peters said, per the Toronto Sun. “Their resumes speak for themselves — they know what it takes to compete at the highest level, and have all been part of pulling together Team Canada successes during these short-term events.”
Unlike Duchene and O’Reilly, Perry wasn’t a part of last year’s championship team, but does have extensive international experience. He was part of the Canadian teams that captured gold at the ’10 Olympics in Vancouver at the ’14 games in Sochi.
He’s also played in a pair of World Championships, but failed to medal both times.
In just a few short months, Trevor Daley has gone from not being a fit in Chicago to being an indispensable part of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The veteran defenseman played almost 30 minutes last night, by far the most of any Penguin. Despite the absence of Kris Letang and Olli Maatta, Pittsburgh was able to beat the Capitals in overtime and take a 3-1 series lead back to Washington.
“It’s funny how this game works,” Daley said, per the Penguins’ website. “You stick with it and good things happen. I’m just grateful for the opportunity. I’m in a good place here. I’m enjoying it with a great group of guys. We just play. That’s been our motto since I got here, since (Mike Sullivan) got here – just play.”
Traded to Pittsburgh in December, with Rob Scuderi going to the Blackhawks, Daley’s strengths were immediately utilized by Sullivan. The Penguins’ new head coach came in emphasizing the importance of breakouts, and that suited Daley just fine.
“Over the years my game has been getting in the play, moving the puck,” Daley said after he was traded. “I’m not the biggest guy so I won’t push guys over. I get into areas quickly and try to be a good team guy.”
It was simply a good match. And for that, GM Jim Rutherford should be applauded. The Penguins are one game away from the Eastern Conference Final, and Daley is a big reason why.
Related: Penguins provided ‘fresh start’ for Daley
After not playing anywhere this year, longtime NHL blueliner Anton Volchenkov is back in action, having signed a deal with KHL club Admiral Vladivostok.
The deal, announced by Admiral on Thursday, puts Volchenkov back on a team for the first time since suiting up with Nashville during the ’14-15 campaign. He appeared in 46 games for the Preds, recording seven assists.
Prior to his time in Nashville, Volchenkov in over 600 games with the Senators and Devils. He’d established a reputation as a physical, hard-hitting d-man, but struggled with injury and mobility in the later stages of his time in New Jersey, and was ultimately bought out of his contract.
The Stanley Cup playoffs continue with two games on Thursday night. You can catch tonight’s action via the NBC Sports Group’s television and digital platforms.
Dallas at St. Louis (8:00 p.m. ET)
The TV broadcast of Game 4 will be on NBCSN. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here. The Blues lead the series 2-1.
San Jose at Nashville (9:00 p.m. ET)
The TV broadcast of Game 4 will be on CNBC. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here. The Sharks lead the series 2-1.
Here’s some relevant reading material to get you ready for tonight’s games:
—Fights, hits and a blown kiss: Stars and Blues get nasty
—Blues aim to raise money for victims of Fort McMurray fires
—Preds smash Sharks in Game 3 to get back in series
—Video: Black cat hits the ice before Sharks-Predators Game 1