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Washington’s Hendricks is “a prick on the ice”

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There have been a few unlikely Capitals heroes this postseason: Braden Holtby, Jay Beagle and Joel Ward come to mind.

The next on that list? Could be Matt Hendricks.

We say “unlikely” because it’s a surprise Hendricks is even at this level. Nashville’s fifth-round pick in 2000, he was 28 when he became a NHL regular, the product of over 300 games at the ECHL/AHL levels.

But now he’s making the playoffs his coming out party. Hendricks leads the Caps in hits (57), faceoff percentage (57.4) and has two points…not bad, considering he had nine in 78 regular season games.

So, how has Hendricks become so successful? Teammate Brooks Laich has the answer.

“Cause he’s a — I don’t know if I can say it — he’s a prick on the ice,” Laich told the Washington Post. “You don’t want to play against a guy like that. You have to go through a lot to get the best of Matt Hendricks.

“He’s gonna compete, and he’s gonna do everything in his power to not let you do it. And he’s physical, and he’s strong, he plays hard minutes.”

Hendricks’ biggest asset might be his versatility. He’ll fight, he’ll hit, he’ll grind…but he’s also got some offensive flair, evident by his shootout prowess:

(Hendricks went 5-for-6 in the shootout this year and had three game-deciding goals.)

As Laich points out, Hendricks also likes to talk a lot.

“Gosh, my first impression was that this guy doesn’t shut up,” Laich said. “They very first [preseason] game I played with him was in Columbus and he ended up scoring a hat trick. I had never known the guy, we had been in training camp together for two days and before we went on the ice for this exhibition game — the first exhibition game of the year — this guy was just non-stop talking and I’m like, ‘I don’t know if I can take this.’”

That said, Laich has grown to appreciate what Hendricks brings to the table.

“To his credit, [Hendricks] has earned everything,” Laich said. “Nothing has been given to that guy, he’s earned it all.”

Video: Chris Kreider doesn’t just fight Cody Eakin, he hits him with his helmet

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Tuesday’s Dallas Stars – New York Rangers almost seemed destined to be a wild affair, and so far, the two teams aren’t disappointing.

For one thing, Chris Kreider and the Rangers were open about “not forgetting” Cody Eakin‘s hit on Henrik Lundqvist, something Eakin realized heading in. The Stars had their own irritations coming into this game, as they clearly weren’t happy with their loss to the Buffalo Sabres and their shaky play overall.

So, yeah, plenty of reason for this to be a rowdy affair.

Kreider is delivering in particular, with the most memorable moment being his strange fight with Eakin, which you can see above. SBNation’s Pat Iversen points out that Kreider probably should have been ejected for hitting Eakin with a piece of his equipment, a violation of Rule 53.

As many know, Kreider has even more of a reputation for “interacting” with goalies, as he did once again with Antti Niemi:

The Stars currently lead the game 5-3, so it’s been a busy one on the scoreboard, too.

Video: Maple Leafs lose Morgan Rielly after fall into boards

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Down 2-0 to the Buffalo Sabres, the Toronto Maple Leafs are off to a shaky start on Tuesday. Still, their concerns likely revolve the most around the health of defenseman Morgan Rielly.

As you can see from the video above, the young Buds blueliner was shaken up by an awkward spill into the boards.

It’s too early to know if he avoided injury or might miss some time, but there’s at least some concern that he might have aggravated an issue from before his NHL days:

We’ll need to wait and see, but with his offensive skills and overall importance in mind (average just under 23 minutes a game this season, more or less in line with his breakthrough year in 2015-16), the Maple Leafs are crossing their fingers that this isn’t anything major.

WATCH LIVE: Chicago Blackhawks at Colorado Avalanche

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 23:  Patrick Kane #88 of the Chicago Blackhawks controls the puck as he turns against Tyson Barrie #4 of the Colorado Avalanche at the United Center on December 23, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The Avalanche defeated the Blackhawks 2-1 in overtime.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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The Chicago Blackhawks need to put a tough weekend behind them; maybe the Colorado Avalanche are just what the doctor ordered.

Colorado is clearly ranked last in the league, whether they believe they have some assets in the likes of Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog or not. Perhaps there will be a few scouts on hand to see how such potential Avs trade targets perform against a contending team?

It’s rarely a dull night when the Blackhawks roll out talented players like Patrick Kane, Artemi Panarin and Jonathan Toews – among others – so it should be a good time on NBCSN on Tuesday.

You can watch online or via the NBC Sports App. Click here for the livestream link.

Short-lived return? No Tyler Ennis for Sabres tonight

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 25:  Tyler Ennis #63 of the Buffalo Sabres takes a shot on goal against the Philadelphia Flyers during the first period at Wells Fargo Center on October 25, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
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Tyler Ennis‘ return to the Buffalo Sabres lineup on Monday after a 30-game absence seemed like a breath of fresh air. Tuesday, then, represents letting the air out of the balloon.

The Sabres announced that Ennis wasn’t out for warm-ups heading into tonight’s Sabres – Toronto Maple Leafs game. It certainly gives the impression that his groin injury isn’t fully healed.

Ennis contributed a goal to Buffalo’s 4-1 win against the Dallas Stars on Monday and nearly scored another in “lacrosse” style:

When healthy, he’s been a 20-goal, 40+ point player for Buffalo lately, so he was missed. The team tweeted out Ryan O'Reilly‘s comments about Ennis’ return mere hours ago, so you get the impression that it was a surprise for many:

Maybe it’s just a minor setback?

Update: The Sabres deem it a “precautionary scratch,” according to John Vogl of the Buffalo News. So maybe file this under minor setback. We’ll see.