Darryl Sutter, Willie Mitchell

Kings’ Mitchell (knee) medically cleared, but hesitant to return — is Sutter annoyed?

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On Wednesday, LA Kings head coach Darryl Sutter delivered a message to defenseman Willie Mitchell, who’s been cleared to play after lockout knee surgery.

“You know what, he’s got doctor’s clearance,” Sutter told the LA Times. “He’s got trainers’ clearance. Coaches want him to clear himself.

“So do it.”

Is that terseness or bluntness from the bench boss?

Hard to say.

It’s clear Sutter’s none too pleased about his team’s start. The Kings looked flat in a 5-2 loss to Chicago in their home opener, then blew a third period lead in Colorado — prior to that, the Kings went 86-0-9 in 95 games when leading after 40 minutes — to start the season 0-2.

Along the way, he lost the services of defenseman Matt Greene (back) and was forced to give Jake Muzzin (15:23) and Davis Drewiske (10:23) serious minutes against the Avs.

That said, Sutter is a veteran coach and knows it’s far too early to panic.

He’s also been a straight-shooter throughout his career, and this may have been an instance of him simply telling it like it is.

As for Mitchell — well, this isn’t the first time he’s been overly cautious about returning from injury. He suffered a concussion while playing in Vancouver and, after recovering, reflected on the pressure and stress he felt about returning to the ice.

“Everywhere I’d walk: ‘How’s your head? How’s your head?” Mitchell told the Times back in January 2012. “That’s the last thing I wanted to talk about. I just wanted to disconnect from that.

“So that’s what I did. I went to my place in the middle of nowhere in the forest and just chilled.”

While he’s not living in wooded isolation this time around, Mitchell says he’ll still be coming back on his terms.

“I don’t want to get out there and be a liability to my defense partner, to my teammates, to my coach,” he said. “When I come back I don’t want to come back, play the next couple of games and then [the knee] swells up and be out.”

Penguins push Capitals to brink of elimination with OT win

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The Pittsburgh Penguins ended a long run of playoff overtime struggles on Wednesday … and are now one win away from ending the Washington Capitals’ season.

Many expected the Penguins to crater on defense without Kris Letang (they were 2-8-1 in the regular season without him). While there were shaky moments, Pittsburgh emphasized its speed and other strengths in taking a 3-2 overtime thriller against Washington.

With that, the Penguins’ series lead grows to 3-1.

It was a thrilling, sometimes nasty contest, from Sidney Crosby shaking off an Alex Ovechkin slash, to Evgeni Malkin delivering a hit some thought was over the line and plenty of typical playoff skirmishes.

Ultimately, Matt Murray played another strong game and Patric Hornqvist scored the overtime-winner to put the Capitals in a tough spot.

The Penguins lost their previous eight playoff overtime games, so maybe it was just a matter of time before such a game went their way?

Then again, the history between the two teams is a little different:

If the Capitals want to advance beyond the second round for the first time in the Ovechkin era, they’ll need to accomplish quite the feat against arguably the hottest team in the NHL.

Sidney Crosby looks hurt (and furious) after Alex Ovechkin slash

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NBCSN screen
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Sidney Crosby is known to get fiery, but even for his feisty standards, he was furious during the third period of Game 4.

An Alex Ovechkin slash caught Crosby on the hand, leaving the Pittsburgh Penguins star shaking his mitt and pleading for a call.

After that, Crosby left to get his hand looked at … but not before flipping out and destroying his stick.

You can watch it happen in the GIF and the videos above.

Crosby was able to return not that long after that moment, although we can only speculate regarding how his overall game will be affected if his hand isn’t 100 percent.

Dirty or not? Evgeni Malkin’s hit on Daniel Winnik

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Tensions seem to rise with every passing game in the playoffs, particularly in a series with bad blood like the one between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals.

Kris Letang was suspended for his hit in Game 3, and some wonder if Evgeni Malkin should suffer a similar fate for his check on Daniel Winnik on Wednesday.

Winnik left the contest and has not yet returned during the third period.

Take a look at the hit in the video above and decide for yourself.

Blues aim to raise money for victims of Fort McMurray fires

An evacuee puts gas in his car on his way out of Fort McMurray, Alberta, as a wildfire burns in the background Wednesday, May 4, 2016. The raging wildfire emptied Canada's main oil sands city, destroying entire neighborhoods of Fort McMurray, where officials warned Wednesday that all efforts to suppress the fire have failed.  (Jason Franson /The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
AP
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Fires devastated the Canadian city of Fort McMurray, and the St. Louis Blues are doing their part to help those who were affected.

Here’s what the team is doing to raise money during Game 4 against the Dallas Stars:

Proceeds raised through the team’s 50/50 raffle and the Blues for Kids silent auction will benefit families who have been misplaced by the fires.

Blues forward Scottie Upshall shared his thoughts with the Associated Press regarding several family members being among those evacuated from the area.

“It’s been a great city, a city that’s survived for many years through some tough times and for me, growing up there doesn’t seem too long ago,” Upshall said. “Places that probably aren’t standing anymore will be really, really tough to take. But as long as everyone’s OK, that’s the main thing.”

Other people from around the hockey world weighed in on the scary scene, including Ottawa Senators defenseman Chris Phillips, who told the Ottawa Citizen that “it hurts a lot.”

People shared some scary sights from the evacuation.