NHL on NBC: Capitals and Red Wings clash in Washington

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NBC continues its coverage of the 2013-14 campaign this afternoon when the Washington Capitals host the Detroit Red Wings at Verizon Center at 12:30 p.m. ET. In addition to NBC, you can also watch the game online.

The Detroit Red Wings and Washington Capitals meet yet again, this time in a Super Bowl Sunday matinee in D.C.

These two teams just met in Detroit on Friday night in a wild affair that saw Joel Ward score the game-tying goal in the closing seconds. The game rolled on to the shootout where Jimmy Howard stole the show stopping all seven Capitals as Patrick Eaves eventually beat Michal Neuvirth in the seventh round to get the win.

As it was, Neuvirth made 42 saves to keep the Caps in the game in the first place, but both teams have bigger problems to worry about. Both the Caps and Wings are sitting on the outside of the Eastern Conference playoff picture. The Wings are one point back of Philadelphia for the final Wild Card spot while the Caps are three back.

Detroit has been making do without Pavel Datsyuk (lower body) since Jan. 7 and Johan Franzen with a concussion since Dec. 15. Franzen did attempt to return on Jan. 26 against Florida, but wound up out of the lineup again after suffering a setback.

Going without two players picked to their countries’ Olympic teams makes life hard on Detroit’s offense which has been miserable lately, especially on the road. Detroit has been shut out three straight games away from Joe Louis Arena and have never been shut out in four straight.

The Caps have problems of their own, of course. They’re winless in nine of the past 11 games and are without Mikhail Grabovski (ankle) and could be without Mike Green (upper body) and Brooks Laich (groin) as well.

It’s not all negative for the Caps, however. Alex Ovechkin is two goals shy of having his sixth 40-goal season. Joel Ward has a goal in each of the past two games and has 15 this season, good for second on the team. One thing to watch is how the Caps do on the power play. They’ve been quiet lately going 4-for-its-last-44 but they’ve been one of the better teams on the man-advantage this season.

If you’re wondering if the Red Wings road scoring problems could come into play in Washington, know this: The last time the Capitals shut out the Red Wings at home was Dec. 9, 1984 and the Capitals don’t have a shutout at home yet this season.

With all that said, both teams need a win desperately to get in better shape for a playoff run following the Olympic break. Desperation sometimes makes for a great game.

Expansion draft will force Ducks to make some big decisions

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Bob Murray managed to keep the Anaheim Ducks together for a shot at the Stanley Cup.

But after losing to Nashville in the Western Conference Final, Anaheim’s general manager will now have to make some big decisions — especially with the expansion draft looming.

If the Ducks decide to protect seven forwards and three defensemen, the blue line will definitely be worth watching. Hampus Lindholm will be protected for sure, and Shea Theodore and Brandon Montour are each exempt. But that only leaves two spots for Sami Vatanen, Kevin Bieksa, Cam Fowler, and Josh Manson.

Bieksa, 35, has a no-movement clause, so unless the Ducks find a way to get around that, they’ll need to protect him. (Chances are, they’ll seek a way around it, either via trade or buyout or just convincing him to waive.)

Fowler, meanwhile, only has one year left on his contract before he can become an unrestricted free agent. And after the season he just had, with 39 points in 80 games, the 25-year-old won’t be cheap to re-sign. For that reason, it’s possible Murray may choose to shop Fowler instead. Or perhaps it’s Vatanen that goes on the block.

Yes, there is the option to protect four defensemen and four forwards. But Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Ryan Kesler all have NMCs, and the Ducks won’t want to expose Rickard Rakell or Jakob Silfverberg.

In goal, the Ducks have John Gibson under club control for years to come, but they’ll need to choose a backup. Jonathan Bernier is an unrestricted free agent, and even though he played well during the regular season, his performance against the Predators wasn’t great. Murray may want to at least consider his options there.

Related: Fowler surprised he wasn’t traded

Carlyle says Ducks were dealt ‘tough hand’ by schedule-makers

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Call it sour grapes if you wish, but Randy Carlyle thinks the Anaheim Ducks got screwed by the NHL’s schedule-maker.

The head coach launched his complaint last night after his Ducks fell to the Nashville Predators in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final.

“I don’t think we played poorly in the series,” said Carlyle. “I think that the toughest part I have about the whole thing is that this was our seventh game in 13 days.

“Now, there’s various reasons for that, but I think there’s got to be some consideration in the scheduling in the future between series. We finished on a Wednesday and had to open again on Friday, whereas other teams had to open on Saturday. An extra day would have given us a chance to recover. And we know how tough these games are. And that was a tough hand that was dealt to us.”

The “other” team to which Carlyle was referring is Pittsburgh. The Penguins beat Washington in Game 7 of the second round on May 10, then opened against Ottawa on May 13.

The Ducks, on the other hand, knocked out Edmonton in Game 7, also on May 10, then had to start against Nashville on May 12.

Fatigue may, indeed, have been a factor early in the series against Nashville. In Game 1, the Ducks were badly outshot, 46-29, and lost, 3-2, in overtime.

Carlyle said afterwards that the extra rest had made a difference for the Preds, who’d eliminated the Blues in six and gone four days without a game.

Ducks forward Sorensen signs in Swedish League

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Nick Sorensen, the forward taken 45th overall by Anaheim in 2013, has opted to return to Europe and sign a two-year pact with SHL club Linkoping, the team announced on Tuesday.

Sorensen, 22, returned to North America this season after spending ’14-15 and ’15-16 in Sweden (the latter with Linkoping, so this is a homecoming of sorts).

A former Quebec League standout, Sorensen impressed during training camp and made the Ducks’ opening-night roster, appearing in five games before being dispatched to AHL San Diego.

“Every game, every practice, every day for me, it’s a look to try to stay here,” Sorensen said back in October, per the Daily News. “Even if I play zero, one, five or 20 games, I’m not going to get comfortable up here. It’s the best league in the world.

“I’m just going to try to prove to them every day I want to be here.”

With the Gulls, Sorensen had 10 goals and 22 points in 48 games. He also chipped in with another four in eight playoff contests, but did suffer an injury during the postseason.

Sorensen was a pending RFA, having just wrapped the last year of his entry-level deal.

 

Sens owner: ‘very disturbing’ that tonight’s game may not sell out

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Entire rows in the upper deck of the Canadian Tire Centre still haven’t been sold for tonight’s Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final between the Ottawa Senators and Pittsburgh Penguins.

Not surprisingly, the specter of a non-sellout for one of the biggest home games in franchise history has the Senators’ owner rather concerned.

“It’s very disturbing,” Eugene Melnyk told Postmedia, “however, knowing the players and coaches they will be trying their hardest for Ottawa.”

The Senators’ attendance has been a big story throughout these playoffs. In the second round, a crowd of just 16,744 was announced for Game 1 against the New York Rangers.

It was thought the story would go away once the conference final started. And for Games 3 and 4, capacity crowds were, indeed, announced.

But with no opportunity for the Sens to advance to the Stanley Cup Final tonight, it’s possible the building may not be full.

Via Ticketmaster, the blue dots represent unsold seats, while the pink dots are tickets available for resale: