RALEIGH, NC - DECEMBER 27: Eric Staal #12 of the Carolina Hurricanes skates with the puck against the Pittsburgh Penguins at PNC Arena on December 27, 2013 in Raleigh, North Carolina. The Penguins defeated the Hurricanes 4-3. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)

Streaking ‘Canes return captain Staal, Tlusty and Nash vs. Calgary

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Winners in five of their last six, the Carolina Hurricanes kick off a three-game homestand tonight against the Flames — and they’ll do it in style.

Captain Eric Staal, out since Jan. 4 with an injury, will return to the lineup, as will forwards Jiri Tlusty (appendectomy) and Riley Nash (lower body), according to ‘Canes web producer Michael Smith.

Staal, tied with Jeff Skinner for the club’s scoring lead with 35 points, has recovered sufficiently enough from his lower-body ailment to help the ‘Canes in their playoff push. Despite a setback in Columbus on Saturday (3-0 loss), the ‘Canes — who were 14-16-9 on Dec. 29 — have pushed to within two points of Detroit for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, and three back of the Rangers for third in the Metropolitan Division.

Tlusty, who scored a career-high 23 goals last year, has just 10 points through 37 games this year but will add depth to a forward group that’s been banged up as of late. Nash, a former first-round pick, seems to have found his niche in Carolina as a two-way checking forward — he’s notched a career-high 10 points this season and was averaging nearly 12 minutes per game prior to getting hurt.

Wild must overcome Alex Ovechkin’s 14th career hat trick

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Death, taxes and Alex Ovechkin winning the Maurice Richard Trophy.

OK, the third thing on that list isn’t technically inevitable. It just feels that way lately in the NHL.

It’s unclear if the Washington Capitals can hold on against the Minnesota Wild, but we know for certain that Ovechkin already has a hat trick, the 14th of his high-scoring career.

This propels Ovechkin to the goals lead as of this writing, as he already has 34. As impressive as Patrick Kane has been, No. 8 is heating up, and may just edge No. 88 if Ovechkin can remain healthy.

One has to feel a little sympathy for the struggling Wild. They played well but lost against the Dallas Stars earlier this week and now must deal with Ovechkin and the just-as-hot Capitals.

Bylsma believes league will look at Gudas’ hit on Catenacci

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Rugged Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas may get in trouble with the league once again.

At least, it will be that way if Buffalo Sabres head coach Dan Bylsma has his way regarding Gudas’ five-minute charging major hit on Daniel Catenacci.

“I think there’s no question it’s head hit,” Bylsma said, according to the Buffalo News’ John Vogl. ” … I know the league will look at that hit and deal with it.”

As far as the injury portion of possible suspension considerations go:

Marcus Foligno‘s analysis of Gudas was … well just check it out.

The Flyers ended up winning 5-1. Gudas was a busy man overall, racking up 17 penalty minutes.

Fight video: Patrice Bergeron vs. Blake Wheeler (seriously)

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Regular Selke winner Patrice Bergeron can do it all on the ice, it seems. Apparently that means he’ll even drop the gloves.

That was the unlikely scene during Thursday’s Boston Bruins – Winnipeg Jets skirmish, as Bergeron fought fellow finesse forward Blake Wheeler.

Perhaps unusual feisty behavior was just in the air, as Tyler Myers squared off with Matt Beleskey.

(Not as unlikely, but still.)

Video: Dion Phaneuf’s assist is his first point with Senators

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Dion Phaneuf‘s first home game as a member of the Ottawa Senators is going more smoothly than his debut did on Wednesday.

Ottawa fell 3-1 to the Detroit Red Wings last night, and they need another goal to tie up the Colorado Avalanche. Still, Phaneuf’s making a bigger impact on Thursday, collecting two assists … his first two points in a Sens’ sweater.

You can see his crowd-pleasing first helper above.

Here’s his second assist for good measure:

Update: The Avalanche held on, taking a 4-3 edge. Even so, Phaneuf’s getting a warm welcome in his new hockey city.