Ryan McDonagh

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Rangers sign KHL d-man Bereglazov

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New York added some defensive depth on Friday, agreeing to terms with Russian blueliner Alexei Bereglazov.

Bereglazov, 23, has spent the last few seasons with KHL club Metallurg Magnitogorsk, including a ’16-17 campaign in which he scored 19 points in 60 games. He led all d-men aged 24 or younger in assists, with 18.

Despite being passed over at the draft, Bereglazov had a good junior career, highlighted by capturing bronze for Russia at the 2014 World Juniors. He finished with two points in seven games in the tourney, playing alongside the likes of Andrei Vasilevskiy, Nikita Zadorov, Mikhail Grigorenko, Ivan Barbashev and his new Rangers teammate, Pavel Buchnevich.

It’ll be interesting to see where he fits in New York next season. The club has seven blueliners under contract — Marc Staal, Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh, Kevin Klein, Nick Holden, Brady Skjei and Steve Kampfer — with Brendan Smith a pending UFA, and Adam Clendening a pending RFA.

 

Bulletin-board material: Why your team won’t win the Stanley Cup

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This is the fifth edition of this column, and if you look back (2013, 20142015, 2016), we’ve rarely been wrong. Cry all you want in the comments section, but there’s no way your team is winning it all.

Ottawa Senators: The worst team to make the playoffs. Which makes it even funnier that their owner chose this year to “bet” on the Sens to win the Cup. Good ol’ Eugene Melnyk, the master of unreasonable expectations. Fact: the Sens were the only team to make the playoffs with a negative goal differential. They play a gimmicky system that severely limits their offense, and they play it because they’re not good enough to take on legitimately good teams straight up.

St. Louis Blues: According to the odds makers, the longest shots of the bunch. Bovada has the Blues at 33/1, and frankly, that might be generous. Even GM Doug Armstrong doesn’t think his players can win. Why else would he have traded Kevin Shattenkirk to Washington at the deadline? That’s not a move contenders make. Sure, the Blues won a few games down the stretch, but only because Jake Allen went on an unsustainable run. The Blues had their chance last year. Their window has closed.

Toronto Maple Leafs: A.k.a. last year’s Dallas Stars. The Leafs may have a dynamic offense, but they’re still terrible defensively. Only two teams, Buffalo and Arizona, surrendered more shots this season, and that’s no formula for success in the postseason. Don’t worry, Leafs fans, you’ll still have fun just being there in the playoffs. But until management finds a way to add another top-4 defenseman – preferably one that can help protect a freakin’ lead — there’s no hope of winning it all.

Nashville Predators: The definition of mediocre. The Preds are 11th in goals for, 15th in goals against, 16th on the power play, and 15th on the PK. Despite all the preseason hype, this team just never got rolling. It would play well for a week, then awful for a week, then well, then awful, and you get the point. Oh, and by the way, is it fair to question whether Ryan Johansen is truly a No.1 center, the kind the Preds thought they were getting when they traded Seth Jones to Columbus? After just 14 goals in 82 games, we think it’s more than fair. Bottom line: Johansen better start showing a little heart. Otherwise, those “soft” and “lazy” labels won’t be going anywhere.

New York Rangers: Granted, they had a better-than-expected regular season. But the Blueshirts still have the same Achilles’ heel: there’s just no way they can make a deep run with that defense. Other than Ryan McDonagh and maybe Brady Skjei, who is trustworthy back there? Who can make a positive contribution on a consistent basis? Who doesn’t need to be sheltered? Who still has gas left in the tank? You’re struggling to answer, and for good reason. The Rangers finished the season in an 8-9-4 tailspin. Even if Henrik Lundqvist is good, they’re gonna find it tough to make a run. And Lundqvist has not been good.

San Jose Sharks: Pete DeBoer would have you believe that this year’s Sharks are even better than last year’s group that went to the Stanley Cup Final. Of course, he said that at the All-Star break, before the Sharks’ season-ending slide that cost them first place in the Pacific Division. Add injuries to Joe Thornton and Logan Couture to the equation and the Sharks look like a team that peaked too early this season, one with an aging roster that’s going to have trouble matching the pace and intensity of the playoffs. In other words, what they looked like against the Penguins.

Edmonton Oilers: All it took was four first overall picks and the Oilers are back, baby! Way to go, guys. We thought you’d never make it. It’s funny to hear all the great things Peter Chiarelli’s done as GM in Edmonton, when in reality winning the draft lottery and getting Connor McDavid is the sole reason the playoff drought is over. (OK fine, maybe a bit of Cam Talbot too.) The problem is, a team needs strength everywhere to win the Cup, and the Oilers still have a blue line with no hint of a true No. 1 defenseman. Imagine a team winning it all with a top four of Oscar Klefbom, Adam Larsson, Andrej Sekera, and Kris Russell. You can’t imagine it, because it’s too ridiculous to even try.

Calgary Flames: The other team from Alberta that won’t be winning the Cup. To be fair, the Flames do have a good collection of skaters, both up front and on the back end. They’re probably a better overall team than the Oilers. Except they’ve got one, big problem: Brian Elliott cannot be trusted, and everyone knows it. One day he’s unbeatable, full of swagger and confidence, the next he’s in the depths of a horrendous slump, questioning everything. It’s way beyond the typical highs and lows that come with being a goalie. When Elliott loses his rhythm, he really loses his rhythm. And that’s not the kind of goalie who’s going to win you 16 stressful games.

Boston Bruins: The big problem with the B’s is their depth. Their third and fourth lines don’t produce enough – or anything, really — and whoever ends up on the bottom pairing, you know they’re going to be a liability. On top of all that, Zdeno Chara is 40 damn years old, and he’s still being tasked with No. 1 d-man responsibilities. That’s too much to ask of the NHL’s oldest defenseman, especially in a league that’s never been faster. The Atlantic Division is terrible, so the Bruins can probably win a round or two. But they won’t get any further than that.

Montreal Canadiens: You don’t win the Stanley Cup without a great center. Sidney Crosby. Jonathan Toews. Anze Kopitar. Patrice Bergeron. That’s the bar you have to reach. And the Habs aren’t even close. Their centers are Phillip Danault, Tomas Plekanec, Andrew Shaw, and Steve Ott. They also have Alex Galchenyuk, though he’s not trustworthy enough to play the middle, apparently. Even with Carey Price in goal, it won’t be enough to overcome Montreal’s lack of talent at center. The playoffs are all about matchups, and the Habs can’t match up.

Minnesota Wild: One of the best teams to start the season, but one of the worst to end it. And there’s a simple explanation for that – the Wild’s luck was bound to run out, and that’s exactly what happened. Devan Dubnyk was never going to maintain the .936 save percentage he took into the All-Star break, and his teammates were never going to maintain whatever ridiculous shooting percentage they had. At the end of the day, the Wild are a good but not great team. The same thing they’ve been since Zach Parise and Ryan Suter signed on. Haven’t been past the second round yet.

Anaheim Ducks: Cam Fowler is out at least two weeks, and it could be six. For a Ducks team that was starting to roll at just the right time, make no mistake, this is a devastating injury. Fowler led the Ducks in ice time (24:51), and with 39 points, he was their highest-scoring d-man. Now it’s up to the young guys to step up. Hampus Lindholm and Brandon Montour are only 23, and Shea Theodore is just 21. Also, watch for opponents to pick on the Sami VatanenKevin Bieksa pairing. If Randy Carlyle decides to put those two together, that’s a defensive disaster waiting to happen.

Columbus Blue Jackets: A nice story early on, when the power play was unstoppable and Torts looked like a motivational genius. But after a 27-5-4 start, the Jackets went 23-19-4 in their final 46 games, and their power play absolutely stunk (11.4%). If not for Sergei Bobrovsky, their record would’ve been even worse in the second half. Columbus still has a bright future, but a team doesn’t go from terrible to Stanley Cup champion in one year. These playoffs will be a good experience, but nothing more.

Pittsburgh Penguins: The Pens had a legitimate shot to become the first repeat champs of the salary-cap era. We say “had,” because Kris Letang’s injury is too much to overcome, even by a team with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. To say otherwise would be to discount how well Letang played in last year’s playoffs. It was bar none the best hockey of his career. He was as important to the Pens as Duncan Keith to the Blackhawks and Drew Doughty to the Kings when those teams won it all. The defending champs will still be a tough out, but they’ll be an out all the same.

Chicago Blackhawks: The ‘Hawks may have gotten the band back together on defense, but that doesn’t mean it was a good idea. Brian Campbell is 37 years old. Johnny Oduya is 35. These guys are not in their primes anymore. As the playoffs wear on, assuming the ‘Hawks can win a series or two, this roster is going to show its age.  And that includes 38-year-old forward Marian Hossa, who’s always been such an underrated part of Chicago’s dynasty. Hossa is still pretty good, but he’s not the player he once was. In the end, age catches up to everyone, and all those Blackhawks rookies that have been forced into the lineup aren’t good enough to make up for it.

Washington Capitals: All the stars have aligned for the first championship in franchise history. A cinch of a first-round opponent in the Leafs. The Penguins without their best defenseman. Whoever comes out of the Atlantic bracket should be no threat whatsoever, and let’s face it, the Western Conference isn’t so daunting anymore. It must be equal parts exciting and terrifying for the Caps and their fans, because it all looks so darn easy. The team has stayed remarkably healthy all season. It added Shattenkirk at the deadline. So… you know why the Caps won’t win? Because it’s never, ever easy. There’s always a Black Swan lurking, and doesn’t this tortured franchise know it. Blow it this year, Caps, and there will be no coming back from the devastation.

NHL on NBCSN: Capitals can clinch Presidents’ Trophy against Rangers

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NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2016-17 campaign tonight when the Washington Capitals host the New York Rangers at 8:00 p.m. ET. If you want to watch the game online, you can do so here.

The Washington Capitals have had a terrific regular season, but there’s only one thing left for them to do before the playoffs begin.

A Caps win or loss in overtime would clinch their second consecutive Presidents’ Trophy title. Last year, they did it by collecting 120 points. They could equal that mark this season if they win their final three games.

Finishing at the top of the Metropolitan Division could be huge in 2016-17, as it means you’d avoid the Penguins and Blue Jackets, who will be forced to battle each other in the opening round. If the playoffs started today, Washington would take on Toronto, who they beat 4-1 last night.

Because they have a five-point cushion on the second-place Penguins, the Capitals can afford to rest some players. Defenseman John Carlson was a late scratch in yesterday’s contest. He’s dealing with a lower-body injury and he’ll sit out tonight too.

“It’s nothing serious at all,” Coach Barry Trotz said, per the Washington Post. “Where we are right now, we just felt, let’s not put anything at risk and let everybody heal.”

Nate Schmidt, who take Carlson’s spot in the lineup against Toronto, managed to find the back of the net in the victory.

The Rangers are locked into the first Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference, which means they’ll head to Montreal when the playoffs begin next week.

In the meantime, they won’t worry about finishing off the season on a high-note, they’re just interested in getting healthy.

Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault has already said that he’ll be resting Rick Nash, Jesper Fast, Mats Zuccarello and Ryan McDonagh tonight.

“Right now, the four guys that weren’t on the ice are all day to day,” Vigneault said, per the New York Post. “They’ve all been playing through certain bumps and bruises. So we can at this time give them a couple days here. Not exactly sure how things are going to unfold, but they are day to day.”

At least none of these injuries seems to be serious.

The Rangers come into this game on a bit of a slide. They’re coming off a 4-3 win over the Flyers on Sunday night, but they’ve collected just three victories in their last 10 contests.

Rangers to sit McDonagh, Nash, Zuccarello and Fast against Caps

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The Rangers have little to play for down the stretch — they’ve clinched the first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, and know they’re playing Montreal in Round 1 — so head coach Alain Vigneault has decided to rest some veterans.

Starting tomorrow.

On Tuesday, Vigneault announced that captain Ryan McDonagh and forwards Rick Nash, Mats Zuccarello and Jesper Fast would all sit out Wednesday’s game against the Capitals.

“They’ve all been playing through certain bumps and bruises,” Vigneault explained, per the club website. “So we can at this time give them a couple days here but I’m not exactly sure how things are going to unfold here.”

Vigneault went on to say none of the injuries were significant, and all four will play when the Rangers open up the posteason next week.

That said, it does create some confusion for tomorrow. Here’s what the makeshift lines will look like:

Pavel Buchnevich into Zuccarello’s spot with Derek Stepan and Chris Kreider.

Brandon Pirri will skate with Mika Zibanejad and Jimmy Vesey.

The Kevin Hayes unit with J.T. Miller and Michael Grabner was reunited, while Oscar Lindberg will skate between Matt Puempel and Tanner Glass.

New York didn’t unveil what the defensive pairings will be without McDonagh in the mix.

This will be Zuccarello’s first missed game of the year, as he was one of just four Rangers to play in all 79 contests (Miller, Stepan and d-man Nick Holden are the others).

McDonagh, who leads all Rangers by averaging 24:24 TOI per night, has appeared in 76 games, having missed a few recently with an undisclosed ailment.

McDonagh out with ‘nothing serious’; Vesey likely a healthy scratch

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The New York Rangers won’t have their best defenseman for tonight’s home game against Pittsburgh.

Ryan McDonagh will sit out with an undisclosed ailment.

It’s “nothing serious,” according to head coach Alain Vigneault, but the Rangers might as well be cautious given they’re all but officially locked into the first wild-card spot in the East.

McDonagh logged 25:34 of ice time during Tuesday’s 5-4 loss in San Jose. He didn’t practice yesterday, with Vigneault calling it a “maintenance” day.

In other Rangers news, Jimmy Vesey is expected to be a healthy scratch against the Penguins after having “a real off night” in San Jose, per Vigneault.

Pavel Buchnevich is likely to replace Vesey.

Related: Lundqvist to start four of five remaining games