After missing 18 games with a broken hand, Vincent Lecavalier returns for final six

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When Vincent Lecavalier was last in the lineup (Feb. 18), the Lightning were just six points out of a playoff spot with 24 games to go.

Now that he’s ready to return, the Lightning are nine points out with just six to play.

Which begs the question: Why is Lecavalier coming back?

It’s simple, says the Tampa Bay captain — he wants to play hockey.

“The guys have been working so hard, as soon as I’m ready I want to play,” Lecavalier told TampaBay.com. “Even if there’s seven, five, three games.”

There are two ways of looking at this. One is that, as the team’s captain and highest-paid player, Lecavalier has a responsibility to play so long as he’s healthy. He’s a huge part of the team — prior to getting hurt he was having a solid year (21G-25A-46PTS in 58 games) and averaging over 19 minutes per game.

Then, throw in the fact head coach Guy Boucher all but demanded a return (“Our mentality is every game we want to put our best team on the ice,” he said) and you can see why Lecavalier’s set to play Thursday against the Devils.

But there’s another way of looking at this, and it has to do with “so long as he’s healthy.” The broken bone in Lecavalier’s hand is not a new issue. He had surgery on this same non-displaced fracture last season and admitted this latest injury took longer to heal than expected.

Outside of possibly helping Steve Stamkos get to 60 goals, one has to wonder what’s the upshot for Lecavalier’s return. Though he only turns 32 in April, he’s a veteran of 14 NHL seasons, played nearly 1,000 games and has nagging hand injury. Is the risk associated with his return greater than any potential reward?

Duck Down: Corey Perry ‘week-to-week’ with lower-body injury

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The Anaheim Ducks have started to get some of their injured bodies back lately, but they were dealt another significant blow on Tuesday, as they found out Corey Perry would be out ‘week-to-week’ with a lower-body injury.

He’ll be re-evaluated in a week, but he was working out at the Honda Center earlier today, according to beat reporter Eric Stephens.

Perry suffered the injury in the first period of Monday night’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes. Even though he isn’t as productive as he once was, the veteran is still a big part of team. He has six goals and 16 assists in 31 games this season.

Monday’s game marked the return of forwards Ryan Getlzaf and Jakob Silfverberg to Anaheim’s lineup, which probably had the Ducks feeling pretty good about themselves. Clearly, that didn’t last long.

It’s a tough blow for a team that’s already without Ryan Kesler (he hasn’t played at all this season), Nick Ritchie, Hampus Lindholm and Joseph Blandisi. On a positive note, it sounds like Kesler will be on the team’s upcoming six-game road trip that will see them travel to St. Louis, Washington, New Jersey, New York, Brooklyn and Pittsburgh.

The Ducks could certainly use some healthy bodies, as they’re in a fight for a playoff spot right now. They currently trail the Flames by one point (Calgary has a game in hand) for the final Wild Card spot in the West. They’re also two points behind the Sharks (San Jose has two games in hand) for third place in the Pacific Division.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

‘It’s just a formality’: Erik Karlsson talks about submitting 10-team no-trade list

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There has been plenty of speculation regarding the future of Erik Karlsson over the last few days.

On Tuesday, the speculation took an interesting twist as Karlsson spoke to the media for the first time since a report surfaced about him being asked to submit a 10-team no trade list to management.

“That’s one of the things that’s in my contract and it’s just a formality and it’s business. I don’t read too much into it,” said Karlsson, per the Ottawa Sun.

Karlsson might not read much into it, but the fact that the Senators have allowed this situation to get to this point is mind-boggling.

Sure, the Swedish blue liner might not want to take a discount to stay in Ottawa, but he’s arguably one of the top three players in the game. Are the Sens really willing to make a franchise-altering trade because the face of their organization isn’t willing to take a few million dollars less?

Of course, this might just be a negotiating tactic. Maybe they believe that the threat of trading him will scare him into taking less money, but that’s a pretty silly way of thinking. On the flip side, asking him to submit his no-trade list could theoretically turn him off, too.

“It varies from person-to-person and from personality-to-personality,” added Karlsson. “When you’re in the situation we’re in right now, I’ve been through it before, so I’ve seen multiple different scenarios. I’m probably better dealing with it than some of the other guys.”

 There’s no doubt that the Senators are struggling mightily right now. Although it’s still early, the Matt Duchene trade has been a complete flop. Not only is Duchene not producing, the Sens, as a team, have seemingly forgotten how to win.

Ottawa has dropped four games in a row, and since coming back from their sweep of the Avalanche in Stockholm, Sweden, they’ve won just one of their 12 last games.

They need to shake things up, but trying to rattle Karlsson’s cage is not the way to get it done.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Inconsistency is the only consistent thing about the Canadiens

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The 2017-18 edition of the Montreal Canadiens has been underwhelming at best. The only thing that’s been consistent about them is their lack of consistency.

On some nights, they look like a team that should have no problem making the playoffs. Other times, they look like a squad that should be picking in the top five of next summer’s NHL Entry Draft.

Through 31 games, they own a 13-14-4 record, but how they got there is the most interesting part.

Let’s forget the fact that five of those wins have come against the Sabres (three times) and Red Wings (twice). Hey, in the NHL, a win is a win. But the Canadiens have rarely not been on some kind of positive or negative streak this season.

After opening the season with an overtime win in Buffalo, Montreal went on to lose seven games in a row. They ended that skid at home against Florida, followed that up with a loss to the Los Angeles Kings and then went on to win five of their next contests.

That hot run came to an end with a 3-0 loss at home to the Minnesota Wild. In fairness to the Canadiens, they didn’t have Carey Price, Shea Weber and Jonathan Drouin in that game. But after beating Buffalo in their next game, they went on to lose five in a row to Columbus, Arizona, Toronto (they were obliterated 6-0 in that one), Dallas, and Nashville before snapping the skid against (you guessed it) the Sabres.

The game against Buffalo was the night Carey Price returned to the lineup. Price’s return sparked the Canadiens and they went on to win their next four games over Columbus, Ottawa and they beat Detroit twice, including a 10-1 drubbing at the Bell Centre.

After the blowout win over the Wings, a lot of people thought they had turned the corner. Instead, they followed up the win over Detroit with home losses to St. Louis, Calgary and Edmonton. Saturday’s loss to the Oilers was beyond embarrassing, as they were totally dominated in front of their fans.

“Well, if I knew, I certainly would’ve done something about (the Canadiens’ streaky play),” head coach Claude Julien said after the loss to the Oilers. “It is frustrating. We had a good stretch there, but this week has been a tough week for us. At the end of the day, you have to be better than you were tonight.”

There’s a number of reasons for Montreal’s lack of consistency. They’ve dealt with injuries to key players like Drouin, Price, Weber, David Schlemko and Artturi Lehkonen, but every team goes through that.

Their goaltending was brutal early on, and that certainly didn’t help during their tough start to the year. Also, the fact that 5-on-5 scoring doesn’t come easy to them is another reason why they don’t produce with any regularity. They’re also lacking some mobility on defense, which isn’t exactly ideal for today’s NHL.

And, of course, the fact that their two streakiest scorers have been “off” more than they’ve been “on” has really hurt them. Both Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk haven’t scored nearly enough. Pacioretty has eight goals in 31 games, while Galchenyuk has seven goals in 31 contests. Both have scored 30-plus goals in recent reasons.

The one thing going for the Canadiens is that the third spot in the Atlantic Division is up for grabs. Yes, the Bruins currently have four games in hand on Montreal and a two-point lead in the standings, but those old rivals will be going head-to-head three times in just over a week during the month of January.

As ugly as the season has been at times, the Habs still in it.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

NHL ON NBCSN: Lightning, Blues square off in battle of NHL’s best

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2017-18 NHL season continues on Tuesday night, as the St. Louis Blues host the Tampa Bay Lightning at 8 p.m. ET. You can stream the game by clicking here.

The Lightning and Blue have consistently been two of the best teams in the NHL since opening night.

A healthy Tampa side has scored at will with a league-best 110 goals through 29 games and the Blues have been powered by Vladimir Tarasenko, Brayden Schenn and the now-injured Jordan Schwartz. Both teams have the fire power, but they also have played some very stingy defense, thanks to goaltenders Andrei Vasilevskiy and Jake Allen.

The Blues enter Tuesday night’s game banged up and missing Schwartz and Alex Pietrangelo, who was placed on injured reserve with a lower-body injury, so depth will be tested. Schenn’s production may also be affected as Schwartz has assisted on half of his 16 goals. And as Jeremy Rutherford of The Athletic pointed out this morning, St. Louis averaged 3 goals per game with Schwartz and 2.36 goals when he wasn’t in the lineup.

[WATCH LIGHTNING-BLUES LIVE ON NBCSN]

Tampa hits the road following an undefeated four-game homestand. Their last road trip away from Amalie Arena ended with a 1-3-0 record and only seven total goals scored. Lightning head coach Jon Cooper won’t have last change to get his preferred matchups on the ice, so will he find himself splitting up Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos at times to spread out the offensive threat?

“We’ve done what we had to at home,” Cooper said via the Tampa Bay Times. “Now we have to do it on the road, and it’s much tougher with all the travel we have to do, especially where we are here. So, we have to learn from what we did on the road before, what we have to do to prepare, but this is a good way to jump-start that.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.