The Washington Capitals have been outright dominant this season, but there’s one opponent they haven’t faced very often: injuries.
They’ve been healthier than everyone else to an almost spooky extent in 2016-17, yet it seems like they’re dealing with a rash of ailments for the first time in a while.
We already knew that Burakovsky will miss some time and that Niskanen was injured after colliding knee-to-knee with Radko Gudas. Oshie and Orpik are bigger surprises as far as their lineup goes. It seemed like Oshie took some significant hits against the Flyers in that same game that injured Niskanen, so maybe that’s the issue there?
Here’s what the Capitals lineup will look like, via the team itself:
The team labels Oshie’s injury as upper-body related while Orpik and Niskanen have lower-body issues. On the bright side, those three are all considered day-to-day.
Riley Barber makes his debut with all of these injury absences.
The Nashville Predators have really earned the “wild card” moniker lately, even beyond holding the West’s first wild card spot.
Such a label could describe their up-and-down 2016-17 in general, and it might only intensify over the next few weeks.
Trade deadline players?
Nashville boasts Filip Forsberg, a guy with rare back-to-back hat tricks, not to mention other quality scorers such as James Neal, Ryan Johansen and diamond in the rough Viktor Arvidsson. (Their defensemen can produce points in buckets, too.)
But perhaps they can go from sporadically good to regular contender with that extra boost?
That schedule, though
Honestly, the way their schedule looks, the Predators might need a shot in the arm.
Check out what they’re dealing with during the next few weeks:
Saturday: vs. Capitals
Sunday: vs. Oilers
Tuesday, Feb. 28: at Sabres
Thursday, March 2: at Canadiens
Saturday, March 4: vs. Blackhawks
Tuesday, March 7: at Ducks
Thursday, March 9: at Kings
Saturday, March 11: at Sharks
Monday, March 13: vs. Jets
Thursday, March 16: at Capitals
Saturday, March 18: at Hurricanes
That’s a rough mixture of tough opponents and road games, with even games against non-playoff teams being less than layups (the Hurricanes can beat you when they’re on point, for instance).
The Predators are in the first wild card spot. They’re also not far behind for the third seed in the Central, as the Blues hold a tiebreaker advantage over Nashville right now with both teams at 67 standings points.
That schedule could be an issue, however, for a team that’s been vulnerable to hitting highs and lows.
On the other hand, we’ve also seen hints of the dominant squad many penciled in as a possible contender in 2016-17. In a weakened West, the Predators remain a fascinating team to watch. That could be especially true in the near future.
In return, the ‘Hawks sent the Wings a third-round draft pick in 2017.
Jurco has only appeared in 16 games this season. He has no goals and no assists.
The 24-year-old was forced to undergo back surgery this past offseason.
“I could still play with it but the worst for me was sitting on the bench all the time,” Jurco said in November, per NHL.com. “Sometimes I’d have to get up and walk. Sometimes I’d stretch it. It was bad and I’ve been sitting a lot for the last couple of years on the bench. It was really tough but I’m glad it’s gone and I’m excited for a fresh start.”
A pending restricted free agent, Jurco’s cap hit is just $900,000.
In a corresponding move, the ‘Hawks assigned rookie forward Vinnie Hinostroza to the AHL.
— Up top, Washington Capitals GM Brian MacLellan talks about the upcoming trade deadline. The way his team has been playing, it’s no surprise to hear he doesn’t expect to be very busy.
— The Caps are in the second year of a two-year window, and the urgency to finally win a Stanley Cup couldn’t be higher. Says MacLellan: “That doesn’t mean that going forward we’re not going to be good, but something’s got to give because of the roster we have. Something’s got to fall out, and I’m not sure what it’s going to be, but it’s not going to be the same.” (NHL.com)
— The Montreal Canadiens, no longer a sure bet to make the playoffs, are one of the teams eyeing Arizona center Martin Hanzal, reports Pierre LeBrun. Hanzal is a pending unrestricted free agent. The 30-year-old has 15 goals and 10 assists in 50 games this season. (TSN)
— Hockey history buffs will enjoy this story on Billy Coutu, a.k.a “Wild Beaver,” who was banned by the NHL for life after attacking a couple of referees in 1927. Coutu tried to resurrect his career in the minors, but with little success. (Sports Illustrated)
— Blackhawks rookie Nick Schmaltz stayed hot last night with a goal and an assist against the Coyotes. “I’m making more plays off the rush, in the zone,” he says. “I’m definitely more accustomed to playing this style and hopefully we can keep it going because I know that’s how the Blackhawks have played in the past. And it only helps our team game when every line is playing well.” (CSN Chicago)
— Tomorrow’s outdoor game in Pittsburgh is a big one for the Flyers — but not because of the spectacle of the event. To stay in the playoff race, Philadelphia badly needs the two points. “Honestly, it’s business first,” says head coach Dave Hakstol. “There is something to the event and certainly something important with family and the type of event it is. But, let’s be honest. Right now, it’s business first. That’s what our focus will be.” (CSN Philly)
Enjoy the games!