Antti Niemi, Nicklas Backstrom

Playoff bubble watch — Capitals edition


When the “bubble watch” last checked in on the Washington Capitals, more than two weeks ago, Sports Club Stats had their playoff chances at just 14.3 percent.

Today, after four wins in their last five — including a 2-0-1 record on a tough three-game trip to California, and combined with slides by Toronto and Columbus — those chances are up to 31.8 percent.

“We knew these were going to be some of the toughest games of the season coming out there with the way these guys were playing,” forward Eric Fehr said, per the Washington Post. “We did our job here (in California), but we can’t let ourselves down at home now. Got to play well at home and continue to play a playoff-style game. I think we’ve had a lot less turnovers and played a greasier style of hockey that has worked for us.”

The Caps’ remaining schedule isn’t an easy one. Upon returning home, they’ll be greeted with games against the Kings Tuesday and Bruins Saturday. Drop those and they’ll be right back to serious long shots to make the playoffs.

There’s also this, from the Post:

The Capitals’ top two lines are still struggling to score at even strength. Ovechkin has gone 12 games without a five-on-five goal. Of the team’s 22 even-strength tallies since the Olympic break, only five were scored by players on the first or second line, and that includes two by Brooks Laich, who is out four to six weeks after undergoing groin surgery March 17.

The team still goes through extended lulls with little to no offensive traction. They have relied heavily on Holtby and Jaroslav Halak to hold steady in goal, such as when they were outshot 16-6 by San Jose in the second period Saturday night.

In fact, the Caps were outshot in all three California games, by a combined total of 109-77. That very much mirrors Toronto’s trip a couple of weeks ago; since then, the Leafs have dropped five straight.

Of course, that doesn’t mean Washington will fall into a similar funk. Solid goaltending and special teams have a way of masking five-on-five deficiencies, and those two factors may well keep the Caps playing past the regular season.

Bolland back in, Bjugstad out with injury for Panthers

Evgeny Medvedev, Nick Bjugstad
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Message sent or not via healthy scratches or not, Dave Bolland returns to the Florida Panthers mix on Tuesday.

Unfortunately for the Panthers, it’s maybe not under the most ideal circumstances, as part of the explanation for his return is Nick Bjugstad‘s absence.

The Miami Herald’s George Richards reports that Bjugstad is out tonight against the St. Louis Blues with an upper-body injury that he suffered during a Monday practice.

In fact, as you can see in the tweet above, the young forward was sent home because of the injury.

This forces some shuffling, with Vincent Trocheck moving up to the second line while Bolland centers the third combo as usual.

The Panthers are currently on a two-game winning streak and visit St. Louis as the second date in a five-game road trip.

This is also the early part of a span in which they play nine of 10 games on the road (counting Sunday’s away win), so a prolonged absence from Bjugstad could sting that much more.


Royal pain: Kings’ Greene to have shoulder surgery, out indefinitely

Jiri Hudler, Matt Greene
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The Los Angeles Kings lost one of their most veteran defensemen on Tuesday, as the club announced Matt Greene would be out indefinitely following shoulder surgery.

Greene, 32, had only appeared in three games this season, missing extensive time with the ailment. He had recently resumed skating with teammates and looked to be on the way back to a return, but never got to the point where he was participating in drills, or taking contact.

With Greene out of the lineup, the Kings have primarily gone with a six-man defensive unit of Drew Doughty, Jake Muzzin, Alec Martinez, Christian Ehrhoff, Jamie McBain and Brayden McNabb. Derek Forbort and Jeff Schultz have also been in the mix, but sparingly.

If Greene misses extensive time, L.A. could be in the market for a defenseman come trade deadline day, like they were last year before acquiring Andrej Sekera from Carolina. Greene is one of the most playoff-tested players on the L.A. roster, with 79 games and two Stanley Cups on his resume (and another Stanley Cup Final, with Edmonton in 2006).

Looks like the Canucks will have an interesting lineup tonight

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The Vancouver Canucks got banged up last night in Anaheim. As a result, it looks like they’ll have an interesting lineup tonight in Los Angeles.

Coach Willie Desjardins confirmed this morning that wingers Chris Higgins and Jake Virtanen were hurt and wouldn’t dress against the Kings.

In game-day line rushes, AHL callup Andrey Pedan, a defenseman, was skating on the wing with Jared McCann and Radim Vrbata.

But hold on, that doesn’t necessarily mean Pedan will make his NHL debut tonight. This morning, the Canucks announced they’d called up d-man Alex Biega from AHL Utica. Theoretically, inserting Biega could allow the offensively inclined Yannick Weber to move up to forward. Biega and Weber both shoot right. Pedan shoots left.

But wait, there exists another possibility — that both Pedan and Biega could play. That will depend on Chris Tanev‘s status. He got banged up yesterday as well, though he was able to skate this morning.

Confused? It’s OK. So is everyone.

As an aside, the Canucks not only got banged up last night, they also got pushed around and embarrassed in a 4-0 loss to the Ducks.

On that note, here’s what Pedan did to Jarred Tinordi in a Utica-Hamilton game last season:

Francis, Kurri, McKenzie named to Hockey Hall of Fame committee

Ron Francis
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The Hockey Hall of Fame selection committee added some big names on Tuesday — most notably, a pair of Hockey Hall of Famers.

Ron Francis (inducted in 2007) and Jarri Kurri (2001) have been appointed to the committee, the Hall announced. Longtime hockey scribe and hockey insider Bob McKenzie was also named; together, he and Francis and Kurri will replace an outgoing trio of Lanny McDonald, Mike Emrick and Peter Stastny.

Francis currently serves as the GM in Carolina while Kurri holds the same title with Jokerit of the KHL.

More, from

McDonald resigned his spot on the committee to become chairman, while the terms of Stastny and Emrick expired.

The Hall also announced Eric Duhatschek, Michael Farber and Bill Torrey were reappointed to the selection committee for a further three-year term.

The next big meeting for the new members of the selection committee comes in late June, when everyone gathers to consider candidates for the 2016 Hockey Hall of Fame.

The announcement for new inductees will be made on June 27. As we’ve written about in the past, the list of first-time eligible entrants isn’t exactly overwhelming, so this could be the year some “passed over” candidates get in.

Among those in that category? Eric Lindros, Dave Andreychuk, Mark Recchi and Jeremy Roenick, to name a few.

Related: Poll: Who should be in the 2016 Hockey Hall of Fame?