Jaromir Jagr

Czechs open with Jagr, Plekanec on top line

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The Czech Republic skated on Monday in preparation of Wednesday’s Olympic opener against Sweden and, as several pundits expected, iced a top line featuring New Jersey’s Jaromir Jagr, Montreal’s Tomas Plekanec and former Calgary forward Roman Cervenka:

Jagr has a history with Cervenka dating back to their days in the KHL. In 2009-10, Cervenka teamed with Jagr to play for Avangard Omsk, and the pair emerged as one of the league’s most dynamic scoring duos. The following year, with Jagr in Philly, Cervenka shouldered the load solo and wound up leading the KHL in playoff scoring (22 points in 20 games.) Plekanec, who will serve as the Czech captain in Sochi, has been a linemate of Jagr’s at a number of international events.

According to Sport CT’s Robert Zaruba, the remaining Czech lines look like this:

Jakub Voracek-David Krejci-Ondrej Palat

Petr Nedved-Patrik Elias-Martin Erat

Michael Frolik-Jiri Novotny-Milan Michalek

Edmonton’s Ales Hemsky and Phoenix’s Martin Hanzal looked to be the extras, though that could be largely due to their health. Hemsky was dealing with an ankle injury prior to the Olympics, while Hanzal fell ill prior to the break and missed a game against Chicago.

On defense, Zaruba has it:

Marek Zidlicky-Zbynek Michalek

Michal Rozsival-Tomas Kaberle

Radko Gudas-Ladislav Smid

Lukas Krajicek-Michal Barinka

Not much to glean from this, other than acknowledging three of the blueliners (Kaberle, Krajicek, Barinka) currently play in the Czech Extraliga, and made the team over NHL blueliners like St. Louis’ Roman Polak (injured at the time of roster selection), Colorado’s Jan Hejda and Detroit’s Jakub Kindl.

Blues hopeful Stastny can return Monday

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 21: Paul Stastny #26 of the St. Louis Blues in action against the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center on December 21, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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With wins in seven of their past nine games the St. Louis Blues seem to be getting back on track after a mediocre start to the season that saw them fall to the Western Conference playoff bubble and make a mid-season coaching change.

They might be getting some additional good news on Monday night before their game against the suddenly surging Florida Panthers when forward Paul Stastny could be making his return to the lineup.

Stastny has been sidelined for the past four games due to a lower body injury.

The Blues were hopeful he could return on Saturday — the Blues ended up losing to Buffalo, snapping what had been a six-game winning streak — but he was not quite ready.

“He’s getting there,” Coach Mike Yeo said on Saturday, via the St. Louis Post Dispatch. “We were hopeful for today but that’s obviously not going to happen and Monday is a real possibility.”

In 54 games this season Stastny has 15 goals and 20 assists for the Blues while mostly playing alongside Alexander Steen.

He was injured against the Toronto Maple Leafs back on Feb. 9. The Blues said at the time it was not expected to be a long-term injury but it has still sidelined him for the past four games.

His injury happened around the same time that the Blues lost Robby Fabbri for the season due to an ACL injury, but they have still managed to turn things around in their absence.

Back with the Blues: St. Louis re-claims Rattie off waivers

ST PAUL, MN - JUNE 25:  Ty Rattie, drafted 32nd overall by the St. Louis Blues, greets members of the Blues, during day two of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft at Xcel Energy Center on June 25, 2011 in St Paul, Minnesota.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Ty Rattie is back in the St. Louis Blues organization.

As you’ll recall, the Blues waived Rattie in January. He was claimed by the Carolina Hurricanes, had two assists in five games with that club and was then put back on waivers Saturday.

According to reports on Sunday, the Blues re-claimed Rattie, the 24-year-old forward with 10 points in 35 career NHL games. He’s originally a second-round pick of St. Louis from the 2011 draft.

He has since been reassigned to the Chicago Wolves in the AHL.

The Blues sit third in the Central Division, eight points behind Chicago and five points ahead of Nashville. They host the Florida Panthers on Monday.

Meanwhile, Sabres defenseman Taylor Fedun has cleared waivers and has been reassigned to Rochester in the AHL.

WATCH LIVE: Washington Capitals at New York Rangers

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 04:  Braden Holtby #70  and Dmitry Orlov #9 of the Washington Capitals defend against Chris Kreider #20 of the New York Rangers during the first period at the Verizon Center on March 4, 2016 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Sunday is Hockey Day in America and it features a quadruple header of games on the NBC networks. All of the actions kicks off with a huge Metropolitan Division showdown in New York with the Rangers taking on the NHL leading Washington Capitals.

The Capitals, coming off of a 3-2 shootout loss in Detroit on Saturday afternoon, have earned at least a point in 21 of their past 23 games (19-2-2) to put themselves in a great position to win the Presidents’ Trophy for a second consecutive year. Saturday’s game was their first game back from their bye week and snapped what had been a six-game winning streak where they scored at least five goals in five of the games.

On Sunday they visit a Rangers team that has won six of its past seven games but can not seem to gain any ground in a division where everybody seems to keep winning and collecting points.

Game time is 12:30 p.m. ET. You can catch all of the action on NBC or on our Live Stream

Click here for the Live Stream

NBC And NBCSN have you covered for Hockey Day In America

The NHL’s bye week experiment is still a work in progress

MONTREAL, QC - FEBRUARY 18:  Bryan Little #18 of the Winnipeg Jets skates the puck against Jeff Petry #26 of the Montreal Canadiens during the NHL game at the Bell Centre on February 18, 2017 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
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One of the big changes in the NHL this season has been the introduction of the bye week, giving every team in the league one stretch of at least five consecutive days where it plays no games.

The theory behind it was simple: The NHL season, 82 games, plus two months of playoffs if your team is good enough to keep advancing, is a grueling grind and a five-day break in the middle of the season would be a welcome break.

One of the big problems has been the fact that nearly every team that has returned from its bye week has not only lost, but hasn’t even really been competitive in its first game back as they try to shake off the rust and get back to game speed.

After all five teams returning from their bye weeks on Saturday (Montreal, Washington, Chicago, Tampa Bay, Nashville) lost their games, NHL teams are only 3-12-4 this season coming off of their bye.

The 16 teams that have lost their first games back have been outscored by a 60-23 margin (that is a minus-37 goal differential!). Eleven of those losses have been by multiple goals, including seven that have been by three or more.

Even if you include the three teams that won their first game back, NHL teams have a minus-30 goal differential (outscored 37-67) in that first game back.

This has not gone unnoticed with the NHL.

The issue was discussed during Saturday’s Hockey Night in Canada broadcast with Kelly Hrudey talking about a couple of the options that have been proposed, including an extended holiday break (which NHL teams are not in favor of). One of the other ideas mentioned was a suggestion by Calgary Flames assistant general manager Craig Conroy where the each conference takes its bye week at the same time, and when they return from that bye week they only play teams from that conference so nobody has a competitive advantage over the other team.

But while the record of teams coming back from the bye week has been the key talking point, the other unintended consequence that seems to slip under the radar is what that bye week in the middle of the season does to the rest of the schedule.

If your 82-game season is going to cover the same amount of time on the calendar, and you are giving teams an entire week off in the middle of the season, it is going to condense everything else the rest of the way. It is going to force teams to play more back-to-backs, have more weeks where they play three games in four nights, and add to the wear and tear at other times during the season. Making matters worse this season was the World Cup of Hockey that preceded the season, pushing the start date back an additional week later than it normally is.

Several NHL coaches have expressed some frustration with this, not only with what it does to the schedule itself and for player safety, but also for the way it has cut into practice time. Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News wrote about the subject this week, quoting Bruce Boudreau of the Minnesota Wild at the All-Star game saying that he has never had fewer practices in the league as a head coach because, “you can’t kill the guys, especially your best players.”

Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock was even more direct.

“I think it’s 100 percent wrong for player safety,” Babcock said, via Harrington. “You’ve got so many games in such a short period of time and you’re jamming in more. To me, the more days rest you can have by not playing back-to-backs and jamming it in, the healthier you have a chance to be.”

Given the amount of attention this current set up has received, it seems like a strong bet that the NHL is going to at least look at the way the bye week is set up and how it is utilized next season and beyond.