Washington Capitals Introduce General Manager Brian MacLellan And Coach Barry Trotz

Leonsis: Capitals have deepest defense since he became owner

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Ted Leonsis has been a part of the Washington Capitals’ ownership group since 1999, and if you ask him, this is the deepest defense he’s ever seen since taking over the franchise.

He pumped up that group and also the sense of unity in the newly revamped front office in a press conference on Saturday, as the Washington Post reports.

“Right now, I think this is the deepest defensive corps that we’ve had since I’ve owned the team,” Leonsis said. “We have a lot of depth and we needed that just to settle things down in the back. We certainly needed help on our penalty kill. And I think the better, more experienced the defense is, the better the goaltending is. I think they go hand in hand. Free agency, the upside on free agency is that you get to add players to the team without giving up an asset.”

From a payroll standpoint, it’s easy to see where Leonsis is coming from. As of this writing, the Capitals employ four defensemen who carry higher combined cap hits than Braden Holtby and Justin Peters along with one (Karl Alzner) who equals their combined $2.8 million cap hit.

It’s plausible that one or more blueliner might be moved at some point, but Cap Geek estimates that a whopping $28.73 million of cap space is allocated to the Capitals’ blue line in 2014-15.

(Despite taking up a greater number of roster spots, their forward group makes less than $7 million more … and that’s with Alex Ovechkin’s hefty $9.54 million mark.)

For all the talk about new head coach Barry Trotz’s open-mindedness toward offense, this team seems to be shaping up in his defense-first image. Actually, that segues nicely to the other element Leonsis seems to crow about: a unified vision.

” … You need to be totally in sync. With the players that we signed, the players that we draft, you have to be in total sync,” Leonsis said. “So far, so good on that. I think that’s a good move in a positive direction to have the organization all signing from the same songbook.”

For a team that seems to change its tune with dizzying frequency (Trotz is Washington’s fourth head coaching hire since 2011-12), some stability could go a long way.

Video: Canucks escape Arizona with another win for the moms

at Pepsi Center on February 9, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.
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With their mothers traveling on the road trip — Matt Bartkowski‘s mom, Beth, has become a cult hero in Vancouver after another priceless media interview — the Canucks took back-to-back wins, moving them right back into the thick of the playoff fight in the Western Conference.

After beating the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday, the Canucks held on for the 2-1 victory in Arizona on Wednesday, despite being without Brandon Sutter (broken jaw), Alex Edler (broken fibula) and Derek Dorsett, who was scratched from the lineup due to illness, as per Sportsnet’s Dan Murphy.

It was only a few days ago, following a home loss to the Calgary Flames, that it felt like the Canucks’ playoff hopes were essentially dashed. They fielded their healthiest lineup in months and couldn’t score and couldn’t win.

Two quick wins later, they’re two points out of a Wild Card spot in the West, despite getting outshot in Arizona.

Up by a goal in the third period, defenseman Alex Biega played the hero, pulling the puck out of the crease after it got by Ryan Miller on a backhand shot from Kyle Chipchura, maintaining Vancouver’s lead.

Phaneuf burned on Zetterberg game-winner in Sens debut

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A day after getting traded out of Toronto, Dion Phaneuf made his Ottawa Senators debut.

It ended with a 3-1 road loss for the Senators, and Phaneuf getting burned by Henrik Zetterberg on the eventual game winner early in the third period.

Zetterberg picked up the puck near the Ottawa blue line, beat Phaneuf to the outside, slipped the puck under the stick of the Sens’ newest blue liner and quickly roofed his shot on Craig Anderson.

“He made a real good play and you’ve got to give credit when credit is due,” Phaneuf told the Ottawa Sun.

“I put my stick there, he put (the puck) under and he made a good shot. I’ve got to have a better stick in that situation, but you’ve got to give him credit for that play.”

Phaneuf finished the night with a minus-one rating and two hits in almost 22 minutes of ice time, putting him second among Sens defensemen in that category behind Erik Karlsson, who played a whopping 33:30.

Phaneuf drilled Red Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser with a hard slap shot early in the third period.

DeKeyser played one more shift — all of 10 seconds — before exiting the game.

Video: Rangers shut out red-hot Sidney Crosby and the Penguins

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The New York Rangers are likely too far behind the Washington Capitals to take any legitimate run at the Atlantic Division down the stretch.

But winners now of four straight, the Rangers have opened up a bit of a gap between them and other Eastern Conference teams in the playoff race. New York scored a 3-0 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, winners in six of their last seven games, on Wednesday.

In the process, they held a red-hot Sidney Crosby off the score sheet, which has been a difficult, sometimes impossible task for opposing teams since about the middle of December. He entered this game with a seven-game scoring streak.

(In fact, New York held No. 87 to without a shot on goal in the entire game.)

Henrik Lundqvist stopped all 34 shots he faced for the shutout.

Kevin Hayes gave the Rangers the lead in the first period, before Dominic Moore and Jesper Fast put the game away in the third.

Pittsburgh remains in the second Wild Card spot in the East. The Rangers now move three points clear of the rival Islanders for second in the Metropolitan.

Video: Wideman hearing ‘a tricky case’ as NHLPA hopes to get 20-game suspension reduced

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There is no certain timeline for when NHL commissioner Gary Bettman might rule on Dennis Wideman‘s appeal, according to a report from hockey insider Darren Dreger on NBCSN, as the Calgary Flames defenseman hopes to get his 20-game ban for hitting linesman Don Henderson reduced.

“Now, ultimately what they’re hoping from a Wideman perspective and the Players’ Association is that commissioner Gary Bettman will rule and he will reduce the number of games suspended down from 20,” said Dreger during a segment on NBCSN.

“Is he going to reduce it by three games? Five games seems a bit of a stretch. And when might he do that? There’s no timeline on this.”