Capitals can increase pressure on Sabres by beating Lightning Monday

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The Washington Capitals can’t clinch the playoffs Monday night, but they can put themselves firmly in the driver’s seat with a win against the Tampa Bay Lightning. With three games left in Washington and the ninth place Buffalo Sabres’ schedules, Washington has a two-point lead and control over the tiebreaker. That means if Washington wins two of their remaining contests, they will get into the postseason regardless of what Buffalo does. If the Capitals beat Tampa Bay on Monday, then Buffalo will need to come away with five points in their final three games just to stand a chance of making the playoffs.

Beyond that, a win today would keep the pressure on the Florida Panthers in the Southeast Division race. Although it’s a long shot at this point, if Washington can keep winning and get some help, it is possible for them to end up with the third seed over the Panthers. It helps that Washington will get a chance to gain some ground on Thursday in a matchup against Florida.

Aside from the playoff implications, this will also be the second match in Nicklas Backstrom’s comeback attempt. He returned on Saturday after missing almost three months due to a concussion and ended up logging 19:40 minutes.

“I can’t be worried about getting hit again, and that’s what I did from the start and it felt all right, but I can be a little bit better,” Backstrom said. “My lungs were a little tired there after a while.”

These next three contests should prove invaluable to Backstrom as he shakes off the rust and gets ready to compete in the playoffs, should the Capitals make it.

On the Lightning side of things, the focus won’t be on them so much as it will be on Steven Stamkos. Tampa Bay can’t make the playoffs, but Stamkos is four goals away from 60 with four games left in their schedule. Given how hot Stamkos has been lately, it’s certainly possible that he’ll be the first player since Alex Ovechkin in 2007-08 to reach that mark.

Canucks name new head coach of AHL affiliate

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The Vancouver Canucks have finally settled on a head coach for their AHL affiliate.

Today, Trent Cull was named new bench boss of the Utica Comets.

Cull replaces Travis Green, the new head coach of the Canucks.

“Trent is a passionate head coach with significant AHL experience,” Canucks GM Jim Benning said in a release. “He understands the development path of a young player, including the challenges they face, and has been a part of many successful organizations. Trent is a teacher with a positive, energetic work ethic. We’re excited to welcome him and his family to our organization.”

The past four seasons, Cull has been an assistant coach for AHL Syracuse. The Crunch made it all the way to the 2017 Calder Cup Final, where they lost to Grand Rapids.

Cull, 43, has never been a head coach in the AHL, though he did hold that role for three years with the OHL’s Sudbury Wolves from 2010-13.

It’s believed the Canucks’ first choice for the Utica job was Rocky Thompson. However, Thompson chose instead to become head coach of Vegas’ AHL affiliate in Chicago.

Construction worker dies after fall at Detroit arena

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DETROIT (AP) A worker has died after falling 75 feet at the Little Caesars Arena worksite north of downtown Detroit.

Deputy Detroit Fire Commissioner David Fornell says the 46-year-old man was in cardiac arrest when paramedics arrived about 8 a.m. Wednesday.

Other workers had started cardiopulmonary resuscitation which first responders continued. The man was taken to a Detroit hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Fornell says officials were told the man was an electrical worker and may have fallen from a catwalk. He says the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration likely will investigate.

The arena will be home to the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings and the NBA’s Pistons. It is scheduled to open this fall.

More on the story from the Detroit Free Press

Habs extend De La Rose — one year, $725,000

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Montreal secured some forward depth on Wednesday, agreeing to terms with Jacob De La Rose.

De La Rose, 22, was taken 34th overall at the 2013 draft and has appeared in 64 games for Montreal over the last three seasons. He had a nice debut for the club in ’14-15 — appearing in 33 regular-season contests, and 12 playoff games — but has since spent the majority of his time in AHL St. John’s.

That might not be the case moving forward, however.

De La Rose’s deal is worth $725,000 (per TSN) and, importantly, is of the one-way variety. There could be more opportunities at forward next season. Montreal has already said it’ll pass on bringing back UFAs Brian Flynn and Dwight King, and it’s unclear if the club will get a deal done with Alexander Radulov.

It’s also unclear what GM Marc Bergevin plans to do with Alex Galchenyuk, who’s been the subject of numerous trade rumors.

Even after bad season in Buffalo, Kulikov generating strong interest as UFA

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Dmitry Kulikov had a bad season in Buffalo. There’s no debating that.

Not only did the defenseman struggle statistically, finishing minus-26 with just two goals and three assists, he also had trouble staying healthy, appearing in just 47 games for the Sabres.

But despite all that, Kulikov seems to be generating plenty of interest as an unrestricted free agent. Presumably, the hope among his many suitors is that he can bounce back, so long as he’s put in a better situation.

Kulikov is still just 26. And before he was traded to Buffalo a year ago, he’d had a number of respectable seasons with the Florida Panthers.

It’s why the Sabres were so happy to get him.

“He’s a good player,” then-GM Tim Murray said last June, per NHL.com. “I like guys that are honest, I like guys that are hard to play against, I certainly like guys that can make a tape-to-tape pass, and with our forwards, I think if he can make a tape-to-tape pass, good things are going to happen in transition with the skill and speed we already have here, so he’s just a great fit.”

Of course, it wasn’t a great fit, and Murray is no longer the GM.

As for Kulikov, there’s “about a dozen” interested teams, according to his agent. Ottawa and Winnipeg are believed to be among them.