NHL on NBC: Rangers, Caps look to bounce back

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When the Washington Capitals host the New York Rangers Sunday afternoon (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC), both teams will be looking to shrug off recent setbacks.

To an extent, the Capitals and Rangers are similar stories this season. Both got off to disappointing starts given the standards they’re held to and each team has been surging lately.

In the case of Washington, Alex Ovechkin’s recent contributions can’t be understated.

He’s taken a lot of heat over the last few years, but has seven goals and 17 points in his last 15 games. The Russian star has been particularly effective with the man advantage, which is part of the reason why the Capitals lead the Eastern Conference with a 26.6 power-play percentage.

“There’s predictability, but if we execute it I don’t think it can be stopped,” Capitals coach Adam Oates said of their power-play efforts in a CSN Washington report.

“It’s like Tom Brady. He gets the ball 50 times, right? He gets five reads and you trust Tom Brady can make the correct read out of the five.”

The Rangers have been one of the most disciplined teams in the league, so Washington might not get many opportunities in that regard. On top of that, Ovechkin will be countered by Rick Nash, who is riding a nine-game point streak.

This will also be defenseman Roman Hamrlik’s first game against the Washington Capitals since he was claimed by the New York Rangers. The 38-year-old veteran of 1,385 NHL games was listed as a healthy scratch in 16 out of 20 contests with the Capitals this season before finally being put on waivers.

Washington desperately needs every point they can get after digging a sizable hole for themselves earlier this season. However, this game is equally valuable for the Rangers, who have the most tenuous of holds on the eighth seed.

Probable goaltenders: NYR – Henrik Lundqvist (11-8-1, 2.24 GAA, .921 SV%) | WSH – Braden Holtby (9-7-0, 2.87 GAA, .911 SV%)

Top scorers: NYR – Nash (9-12-21, 19 GP) | WSH – Mike Ribeiro (9-19-28, 23 GP)

Notable Injuries:
New York – Forwards: Arron Asham (back) Defensemen: Marc Staal (eye), Michael Sauer (concussion)
Washington – Forwards: Marcus Johansson (upper body), Brooks Laich (groin) Defensemen: John Erskine (upper body), Mike Green (groin), Jack Hillen (shoulder) Goaltenders: Michal Neuvirth (illness)

Kariya and Selanne, one of NHL’s most dominant duos, enter Hall of Fame together

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Paul Kariya probably had to wait a couple of years longer than he should have to get his induction into the Hall of Fame, but it was at least fitting that the wait allowed him to enter alongside his long-time running mate, Teemu Selanne.

Both players were among the class of seven inducted into the Hall of Fame on Monday. They spent several years alongside one another in Anaheim (plus one year in Colorado) and were one of the most lethal offensive duos the NHL has ever seen.

The magic they were able to work on the ice together was simply incredible, and at times jaw-dropping.

For example…

Selanne said on Monday that he played some of his best years in the NHL alongside Kariya, while added that he would not be getting the call without his years alongside Selanne.

Their production together can not be understated.

Between the 1995-96 and 2000-01 seasons, the years they spent together in Anaheim, 35 percent of the Ducks goals were scored by one of those two players.

What is most incredible about that production is that Kariya only played in 395 out of 492 games due to injury, while Selanne only played in 382 after being acquired in a mid-season trade in 1995 and then traded during the 2001 season.

While Selanne had the ultimate combination of sustained dominance and longevity in his career to make him one of the NHL’s all-time leading goal scorers and point producers, Kariya’s career came to an unfortunate and premature end due to concussion issues. While his final stat line may not stack up among the NHL’s all-time greats, he was one of the league’s most dominant offensive players for more than a decade.

Kariya said on Monday that it took him a year after his retirement to feel normal again, but that he is now no longer having headaches.

He also mentioned that while the NHL seems to be heading in the right direction when it comes to player safety, but that targeted head shots have no place in the game and he would like to see them eliminated.

Yakupov becomes UFA after Blues don’t extend qualifying offer

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Nail Yakupov, the first overall draft pick only five years ago, has become an unrestricted free agent.

The 23-year-old winger was not extended a qualifying offer by the St. Louis Blues, thus providing him UFA status. He played 40 games for the Blues in 2016-17, battling a knee injury and scoring just three goals.

Yakupov wants to remain in the NHL, saying in May he has zero plans to return to Russia. It’s possible he could re-sign with the Blues at a lower salary than his qualifying offer would’ve been.

If not, there are 30 other teams he can speak with now.

Yakupov is currently in the conversation with Alexandre Daigle and Patrik Stefan in terms of biggest first overall busts in NHL history.

The Blues did extend qualifying offers to five players: defensemen Colton Parayko and Petteri Lindbohm, forwards Magnus Paajarvi and Oskar Sundqvist, and goalie Jordan Binnington.

‘Hawks sign Forsberg, who should be Crawford’s new backup

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Anton Forsberg, the former Columbus goalie Chicago acquired in the Brandon Saad-for-Artemi Panarin blockbuster, has signed a two-year extension with the ‘Hawks.

Forsberg, 24, came to North America in the ’13-14 campaign and has spent most of his time with Columbus’ AHL affiliate. He helped the club capture the Calder Cup in 2016, and that performance was part of the reason Chicago GM Stan Bowman went out and acquired him.

In the aftermath, Bowman said Forsberg would get the “first crack” at the No. 2 gig behind Corey Crawford. The ‘Hawks have been without a backup since sending Scott Darling to Carolina.

While Forsberg is the favorite for the gig, he’s not a lock. He only has 10 games of NHL experience — a pretty small sample size — and lost out on a similar opportunity with Columbus. Forsberg and Joonas Korpisalo were battling to be Sergei Bobrovsky‘s understudy, with Korpisalo eventually winning out.

In other Chicago news, the club gave depth forward Tomas Jurco a one-year extension today. Jurco was acquired from Detroit at last year’s trade deadline and appeared in 13 games for the ‘Hawks, scoring one goal. He didn’t dress for the club’s first-round playoff sweep at the hands of Nashville.

No word yet on financials for either guy.

Wild extend d-man Olofsson — two years, $1.45 million

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Gustav Olofsson, the Minnesota defenseman taken in the second round of the ’13 draft, has signed a two-year, $1.45 million extension, per the Star-Tribune.

Olofsson was a restricted free agent, having just wrapped his entry-level contract. This new deal will pay him $725,000 per season and, importantly, it’s of the one-way variety.

The Star-Tribune reports Olofsson is expected to play in the Wild’s top-six defense next season, especially since GM Chuck Fletcher appears primed to trade one of Jonas Brodin, Marco Scandella or Matt Dumba. Fletcher needs cap space to finalize new deals for RFA forwards Nino Niederreiter and Mikael Granlund.

Speaking of contracts, the Wild opted against making a qualifying offer for d-man Christian Folin. This means he’ll be able to test free agency, though it’s reported Minnesota might try to re-negotiate with him as a UFA.