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PHT’s top 13 of ’13: Ovi catches fire, wins third MVP

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Remember when it seemed like Alex Ovechkin lost his way? Such talk seems like a distant memory now, especially after he won the third Hart and Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophies of his career in 2013.

Lofty status

Ovechkin, still just 28, joined select company with his hardware. Howie Morenz, Eddie Shore, Gordie Howe, Bobby Orr, Bobby Clarke, Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux are the only other players who’ve won at least three MVP trophies. The Richard Trophy has only existed since 1998-99 but, even with that caveat, it’s still impressive that Ovechkin became the first three-time recipient.

In 2013, Ovechkin returned to level where teams likely felt relieved if he scored just once per night.

The Russian star generated six multiple-goal outings last season, including a stretch in which he scored eight goals in five games. Despite struggling right after the lockout (two goals in seven January games), Ovechkin still impressed with that league-best 32 goals in 48 contests.

Overall, he had 56 points on the season, leaving him third behind Tampa Bay Lightning teammates Martin St. Louis (60) and Steven Stamkos (57).

The switch

Capitals head coach Adam Oates drew some heat for moving Ovechkin to right wing last season, but the move paid off when Ovi finished the season with 24 goals in 23 contests. (In fact, that move was so dramatic it confounded many hockey writers, who voted him a first-team All-Star at right wing and a second-teamer left wing.)

Following his hardware-heavy season, Ovechkin thanked Oates for his guidance after feeling “trapped” by Dale Hunter. Impressively, Ovechkin’s 32 goals from 2012-13 matched his output over 79 games in 2009-10 and weren’t far behind 2011-12’s production (38 goals in 78 contests), adding credence to the notion that Oates helped him return to form.

“I told him, ‘Thank you very much,’” Ovechkin said. “I’m just happy because, again, it’s history. It means a lot for me. It’s history.”

Oddly enough, the hockey world saw “old” Ovi again after the winger embraced change and allowed himself to trust Oates.

Keeping the momentum going

It’s not as if Ovechkin is showing any signs of stopping, either. He carried over his brilliant work from last season into this one and has 30 goals in 35 contests thus far. Some wonder if he might accomplish the rare feat of scoring 50 goals in as many games:

Incredibly, Ovechkin has generated 62 goals in 83 games between last season and this season. To give you an idea of that special pace, consider this: Stamkos (60 in 2011-12) and Ovechkin (65 in 2007-08) are the only snipers to cross the 60-goal barrier since Mario Lemieux (69) and Jaromir Jagr (62) did it in 1995-96.

Fight video: Someone other than Evander Kane beats up Alex Petrovic

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Bummed out on this holiday? Look on the bright side: at least you’re not as sore as Florida Panthers defenseman Alex Petrovic likely is right now.

Not long after suffering three defeats at the hands/fists of Evander Kane, Petrovic likely lost another bout to Nashville Predators tough guy Anthony Bitetto.

(Note: some might consider this more of a draw, for what it’s worth. You can watch that latest fight in the video above.)

Hey, at least Bitetto didn’t taunt Petrovic after their fight …

It was a rough night for the Panthers overall, as they suffered a gruesome injury or two and fell to the Predators by a score of 5-0.

Outdoor game rumors: Jets host Oilers, Red Wings at Maple Leafs

The Toronto Maple Leafs and the Detroit Red Wings face off during the first period of the Winter Classic outdoor NHL hockey game at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Mich., Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
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Love is in the air on Valentine’s Day, and so are rumors about hockey fans bundling up for outdoor games next season.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman went over two possible outdoor matchups coming for 2016-17 during Saturday’s Headlines segment.

A smart move for a potential game in Winnipeg: Imagine the Jets hosting a game in Winnipeg in February? Ilya Bryzgalov almost turned off his TV in protest.

Instead, Sportsnet’s John Shannon reports that the Jets are likely to host the Edmonton Oilers in October. That would be a smart logistical move, as long as it isn’t too hot.

(Also, playing it then would hopefully increase the odds of the mainstream sporting public seeing Connor McDavid in an outdoor game.)

Toronto’s turn: Friedman reports that the Toronto Maple Leafs are likely to host the Detroit Red Wings in the 2017 Winter Classic (or at least an outdoor game), almost certainly on New Year’s Day 2017.

The two teams combined for a great Winter Classic at Ann Arbor in 2014, so that could be a fun time.

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Keep in mind these are reports (and well-placed ones at that) rather than official announcements for the NHL. These things could always change.

Related: Could the Penguins host the Flyers outdoors next season, too?

Ducks likely to recall Khudobin after Gibson injury

Chicago Blackhawks' Richard Panik (14), of Slovakia, collides with Anaheim Ducks goalie John Gibson (36) during the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Chicago. Anaheim won 3-2 in overtime. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)
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“Costly victories” may have been one of the themes of Saturday night, as some teams paired impressive wins with worrisome injuries.

The good news is that, in each case, it appears that the early word is optimistic about those players (Tyler Seguin got stitched up in the Stars’ win, for example).

The Anaheim Ducks are reportedly readying to recall Anton Khudobin on Sunday after John Gibson suffered an upper-body injury during a collision with Chicago Blackhawks forward Richard Panik.

Again, so far the hope/expectation is that this might not be a major issue:

The pessimistic take would be to wonder “Uh oh, is the Ducks goalie carousel starting again?”

Frederik Andersen has seen some runs as Anaheim’s No. 1 guy, so maybe this issue is a reminder that the Ducks may be better off keeping both Gibson and Andersen around … at least while they can.

Stars end Capitals’ winning streak, pass Blackhawks for West lead

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For two periods, the Dallas Stars seemed to say, “Are you sure the Washington Capitals are the best team in the NHL?”

They chased Braden Holtby and built a 4-0 lead through those first 40 minutes, and that was enough … but barely. The Stars beat the Capitals 4-3 on Saturday, which accomplished the following:

  • Dallas ended Washington’s winning streak at five games. The Stars have now won three straight.
  • This win slides the Stars ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks for first place in the highly competitive Central Division. While both teams sit at 77 standings points, Dallas holds three games in hand.
  • By passing Chicago, the Stars now lead the Western Conference as a whole.

Impressive stuff. Some might even call it a statement game, although others may hold that nail-biting ending against them (possibly arguing that the Stars’ flaws may come back to haunt them in the playoffs).

Dallas’ biggest concern likely has little to do with doubters. Instead, they must monitor the statuses of forwards Tyler Seguin and Cody Eakin.

Long story short, the Stars are red-hot, yet bigger challenges likely lie ahead.