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Windy conditions will have ‘an impact’ on Stadium Series game between Leafs and Caps


ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) Shortly before he walked outside Friday at Navy’s Memorial Stadium, Mike Babcock said: “Hang on to your hat.”

Babcock’s Toronto Maple Leafs and the Washington Capitals might want to hang on to everything with high wind in the forecast for Saturday night’s outdoors Stadium Series game at the U.S. Naval Academy. The storm knocking out power and disrupting travel up and down the East Coast forced both teams to practice indoors Friday, where they were left to contemplate what sustained winds of 15-20 mph and gusts as high as 32 mph might have on their game.

“I have no idea,” Maple Leafs center Tyler Bozak said. “Hopefully we’re skating with the wind more than we are against it.”

The wind is enough of a factor that the game could be postponed to Sunday. The glass had to be removed from the on-field rink because of safety concerns.

The NHL has played 24 previous regular-season outdoor games and this one could easily see the worst conditions when it comes to wind. Temperatures just above freezing would not rank it among the coldest, but there are concerns how the wind could make a real difference.

“I haven’t played in anywhere it’s been super windy,” said Maple Leafs winger James van Riemsdyk, who will be taking part in his fifth outdoor game. “It’ll definitely make a unique dynamic, I know. It seems like in today’s game there’s lots of high flips and stuff like that, so it’ll be interesting to see how the puck reacts getting flipped in the air and a gust of wind comes up.”

Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby thinks strong wind would only possibly affect dump-ins or high flips of the puck and that it could make it difficult for players to keep their eyes open when it’s head on. Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen is more concerned for the skaters – and that’s a shared concern.

“If you have a turnover and you’ve got to backcheck, that’s probably when it’s going to be a little tough,” Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom said.

NHL players are more accustomed to climate-controlled arenas – a long way from their younger days when playing on frozen ponds or lakes meant dealing with the conditions.

“It won’t feel good on your body, that’s for sure,” Toronto forward Mitch Marner said. “It probably won’t help with the puck or anything like that.”

Capitals coach Barry Trotz was more worried when the wind rumbled around trees outside his house Thursday night and joked about a coin toss to pick directions like a football game.

Previous outdoor games have included teams changing ends at the 10-minute mark of the third period to negate an unfair wind advantage. At the least, that’s likely, and players are prepared for the wind even though they don’t know exactly what it’ll do.

“The wind wouldn’t be ideal, but part of playing these games is you have to deal with the weather,” Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly said. “She was a little windy out there (Friday), but hopefully she clears up a little bit for us.”

Rielly, who played outdoors on New Year’s Day in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 2014 and again in Toronto in 2017, figures wind would be more difficult to deal with than snow. But the 23-year-old has a sunny disposition about wacky weather.

“It definitely has an impact on the game,” Rielly said. “But that’s all part of the experience. Players, two teams have to deal with it. It’s not going to change the game plan or anything. It’s just going to make it a little bit more difficult and it might be kind of fun.”

*PHT update: 

The NHL has issued a statement regarding the high winds that will be swirling this weekend:

Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno

For more NHL coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey

The Buzzer: Kopitar scores four, McDavid’s four-point night and Olczyk cancer-free

Associated Press
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Players of the Night:

Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings: Two words: career night. Kopitar scored four goals, becoming the first Kings player in 25 years to do so, and thus, setting his own career-high in the process. The Kings decimated the Colorado Avalanche 7-1 in the process.

Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets: Bobrovsky made 33 saves en route to a shutout victory, the Blue Jackets’ 10th in a row in a 4-0 win against the Florida Panthers, who have been red-hot themselves.

Philipp Grubauer, Washington Capitals: Grubauer has been solid in relief of Braden Holtby down the stretch as the Capitals’ No. 1 gets some rest before a playoff push. He won his fourth start out of his past five since March 10, stopping all 39 shots that came his way in the shutout.

Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers: He’s not playing for a playoff spot, and he shouldn’t get too many votes for the Hart Trophy. But McDavid still has his eyes set on Mr. Art Ross. McDavid had two goals and two assists in a 6-2 win for the Oilers over the Ottawa Senators on Thursday. McDavid’s 94 points  (36 goals, 58 assists) are now just one shy of Nikita Kucherov for the NHL lead.

Highlights of the Night:

Above all else, this:

Hard work pays off:

Kopitar’s fourth:

Not everything is pretty when it comes to the Canucks. This is though:

Factoids of the Night:

Things you don’t see very often:

Poor Cam Ward:


Blue Jackets 4, Panthers 0

Hurricanes 6, Coyotes 5

Flyers 4, Rangers 3

Lightning 7, Islanders 6

Capitals 1, Red Wings 0

Maple Leafs 5, Predators 2

Oilers 6, Senators 2

Canucks 5, Blackhawks 2

Kings 7, Avalanche 1

Sharks 2, Golden Knights 1 (OT)

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Sharks drop Golden Knights 2-1 in overtime

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If the San Jose Sharks and the Vegas Golden Knights meet in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it’s fixing to be one hell of a series,

Thursday’s meeting cemented that. The game had all the ingredients that make up that playoff feel — tight play, tight checking, great goaltending and low scoring. There was urgency from both teams, despite both being near locks to make the postseason.

And it came right down to the last shot of the game.

Logan Couture scored 39 seconds (ironically, Couture’s jersey number) into overtime to clinch a 2-1 win for the Sharks on Thursday night.

The Sharks gained a single point on the Golden Knights and are seven points back of Vegas for first in the Pacific Division with eight games remaining. Perhaps most important, they remained four points clear of the Los Angeles Kings, who leapfrogged the Anaheim Ducks with a 7-1 win against Colorado. San Jose owns a game in hand on L.A.

Catching up to Vegas seems unlikely, but stranger things have happened. The two teams play each other for the last time next week.

The loss was bittersweet for the Golden Knights, who set record No. 2321778 for a club in their inaugural season.

Malcolm Subban made 42 saves, a career-high after being thrust into action following an injury to Marc-Andre Fleury.

Tomas Tartar got the ball rolling in the game 3:47 into the first period to give the Golden Knights an early lead.

That lead lasted for roughly a period.

Brent Burns tied the game 1-1 at 3:27 of the second period with the slickest of wrist shots from the point.

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Eddie Olczyk declares he’s cancer-free


It’s the news every hockey fan wanted to hear.

On Thursday night’s Chicago Blackhawks broadcast on NBC Sports Chicago, Eddie Olczyk, who was diagnosed last summer with colon cancer, told the hockey world some great news.

“I got the call on March 14 at 5:07 p.m. letting me know my scans were clear,” an emotional Olczyk said as he stood next to long-time broadcast partner Pat Foley. “I’ve never heard a better phrase in my life. I’m now 10 days on with the rest of my life.”

Olczyk, 51, had surgery after his diagnosis and had his last chemotherapy treatment on Feb. 21.

“All the cancer is gone – we beat this thing,” Olczyk said, thanking a handful of people, from colleagues at NBC to the Chicago Blackhawks and the NHL to his family members, wife and four kids. “And I say ‘we’ because it has been a team effort. We all beat this and I’m so thankful for all the support and prayers. They worked. I’m proud to stand here before everybody and say we beat this thing.”

Foley called Olczyk’s battle with cancer, “heroic.”

Olczyk was scheduled to have a scan in April to see how his chemo treatments had gone, but that scan was moved up due to emergency hernia surgery, according to Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times.

“I’ve had enough crying to last me a lifetime,” Olczyk said. “I can’t emphasize enough just the support out there… just the texts, the email, the letters. I’ve received thousands and thousands of mail. I won’t be able to thank everybody, but I just want everybody to know on behalf of Eddie Olczyk and his family, we’re forever grateful for the support and the prayers and well wishes we received over the past seven months.”

Olczyk said one thing he realized through his battle is that he found out he was way tougher than he thought he ever was.

“If I can inspire one person to stay away from this, then I guess it was well worth it going through it,” he said.

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Grubauer, Capitals shut out Red Wings

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If you were looking for a barn-burner, this game wasn’t that.

While the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Islanders combined for 13 goals, and the Carolina Hurricanes and Arizona Coyotes scored 11 in total, the Washington Capitals and their hosts, the Detroit Red Wings, played 60 minutes with just one goal between them.

It wasn’t nearly as exciting in the goal-scoring department, but the win for the Washington Capitals put a bit of separation between themselves and the Pittsburgh Penguins and Columbus Blue Jackets, who the Caps (93 points) lead by four points now.

Brett Conolly’s third-period marker at 6:41 was all the Capitals needed for their

Andreas Athanasiou appeared to make it 1-0 in the first period on a nice wrister, but a goaltender interference challenge by Washington was successful after Tyler Bertuzzi was judged to have made contact with Grubauer. This one was pretty cut and dry, as far as GI calls go.

The loss for the Red Wings meant they were officially eliminated from playoff contention, something that had been known for a while but hadn’t happened in the mathematical department.

Grubauer was solid, making 39 saves for his third shutout of the season. At the other end of the rink, Jimmy Howard wasn’t too shabby either, stopping 25-of-26. All he needed was a bit of run support.

Prior to puck drop, the Red Wings announced that defenseman Mike Green, who was hampered by a neck injury back in February, will go under the knife, ending his season.

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck