Alexander Steen, Nate Schmidt

East update: Caps stay alive as Detroit, Columbus also win


The Washington Capitals need to win out and enjoy a staggering array of breaks to make the playoffs, but they at least did their part on Tuesday, handling the St. Louis Blues to a tune of a 4-1 win.

It was the kind of victory that left many Capitals fans and writers wondering, “Where has this team been all this time?”

… And left St. Louis fans booing a team that is now on its first three-game losing streak of the season:

Oh yeah, if that’s not enough for Blues fans, it appears that David Backes might have a foot injury. Updates were scarce on Tuesday, so that might be something we learn more about it later on.

Circling back to the Capitals’ desperate playoff run, the good news is that they won; the bad news is that the teams ahead of them also almost uniformly improved their leads (most notably the wild card teams). The Detroit Red Wings handled the Buffalo Sabres while the Columbus Blue Jackets managed a spirited overtime win against the even-more-desperate Phoenix Coyotes. Washington basically needs to win out and have at least one of these teams more or less collapse to make it to the playoffs.

See for yourself:


There are now only four teams who can mathematically end up with the two final East spots: Detroit, Columbus, Washington and the New Jersey Devils (who are hanging on by even less of a thread).

The Capitals can top out at 91 standings points, 39 wins and 29 regulation/overtime wins. Want an idea of how likely that may be? Here are the four teams’ closing schedules:

Detroit: Wednesday – at Pittsburgh, Friday – vs. Carolina and Sunday – at St. Louis
Columbus: Wednesday – at Dallas, Friday – at Tampa Bay, Saturday – at Florida
Washington: Thursday – at Carolina, Friday – vs. Chicago, Sunday – vs. Tampa Bay
New Jersey: Thursday – at Ottawa, Friday – vs. NY Islanders, Sunday – vs. Boston

Could Washington finish ahead of at least two of those teams when it’s all over? It’s not impossible, it’s just improbable. They at least kept that door open on Tuesday night, though.

Related: Flyers clinch spot; Maple Leafs, Senators and Hurricanes bow out

Raffl coverts PTO into one-year, $575K deal with Jets

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There’s another Raffl in the NHL.

On Tuesday, the Jets announced that Thomas Raffl — the older brother of Flyers forward Michael Raffl — has signed a one-year, one-way deal worth $575,000.

Raffl, 29, was in Winnipeg’s camp on a PTO after a lengthy career in Europe. He spent time playing in Sweden and his native Austria, most recently with powerhouse EC Red Bull Salzburg — last year, Raffl scored 53 points in 52 games for Salzburg and three in seven games for Austria while serving as team captain at the World Hockey Championships.

“We would like to recognize and express our appreciation to the EC Red Bull Salzburg organization for allowing Thomas and the Winnipeg Jets this opportunity,” Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said in a statement.

With the Jets, Raffl projects to play in the bottom-six forward group, where he can utilize his 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame in a checking-slash-energy role.

For now, though, he’ll start out with the club’s AHL affiliate in Manitoba.

Flyers to start season with seven d-men; MacDonald sent to AHL

Andrew MacDonald, Matt Calvert
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Seven defensemen will comprise the Philadelphia Flyers’ opening-day roster, which the club finalized today.

Those seven are Radko Gudas, Michael Del Zotto, Luke Schenn, Nick Schultz, Brandon Manning, Mark Streit, and Evgeny Medvedev.

Not on the list? Andrew MacDonald, who has cleared waivers and been assigned to AHL Lehigh Valley. (That move allowed the Flyers to keep both Manning and youngster Scott Laughton.)

Also not on the list were prospects Shayne Gostisbehere, Robert Hagg, Sam Morin, Ivan Provorov and Travis Sanheim. The first three will start the season in the AHL. The last two have been sent back to junior.

But the opening-day roster is not where this story ends. How the Flyers’ defensive mix changes as the season progresses will be worth watching.

They’d no doubt love to move Schenn, a pending unrestricted free agent with a $3.6 million cap hit. He could also end up in the AHL, a la MacDonald.

Medvedev, the 33-year-old who came over from the KHL and put up five points in five preseason games, is another pending UFA. The club could either look to re-sign or flip him.

Might 37-year-old Streit be a chip worth cashing in at the deadline, especially if the Flyers aren’t in a playoff position on Feb. 29? He’s only got two years left on his contract.

Meanwhile, GM Ron Hextall will be watching pending restricted free agents Manning and Gudas closely. Are they part of the future?

So, lots of decisions to make in Philly as the blue line continues its much-needed transition.