It looks like veteran forward Chris Neil will be back in the Ottawa Senators lineup Tuesday, after being a healthy scratch in four of the last five games, according to Bruce Garrioch of Postmedia.
Neil, who is now 37 years old, has played only once this month, with only one shot on goal in his last five games. Known more for fisticuffs and a rugged style of play, Neil has only one goal and three points in 47 games this season, while averaging well under eight minutes of ice time per game.
Last February, he signed a one-year, $1.5 million contract extension, adding yet another season with the Senators under his belt. Since coming into the league in 2001, Neil has since gone on to play in 1,020 NHL games — all with the same team, and it would certainly seem that sitting out of late has been a difficult experience for the veteran forward.
“Over the course of my career, there’s times when you’re banged up, but you suck it up and play. That’s because I want to be in there. Right now, I want to be in there. It hurts not playing. That’s not my decision,” Neil told the Ottawa Sun.
The reported decision to put him back in the lineup versus the Buffalo Sabres tonight comes with the Senators having won two straight games and eyeing an opportunity to jump within four points of the Canadiens — Did anything of interest happen in Montreal today? — for top spot in the Atlantic Division.
The Senators currently have five games in hand, too.
A win over Nashville on Sunday would’ve put the Dallas Stars within four points of the final wild card spot in the Western Conference.
They had a good start, opening up a two-goal lead on the Predators in the first period and extending that lead to three goals by the second period. And then it fell apart for Dallas, which conceded five unanswered goals and ended up losing 5-3 — a disheartening defeat as the Stars looked to move up in the playoff hunt.
Sports Club Stats is now giving Dallas only a 2.5 per cent chance of qualifying for the post-season.
“You go into a third period with a 3-1 lead with your lives on the line, and that’s the effort and the result that we get? It’s unacceptable,” said Jamie Benn, per the Dallas Morning News.
“We’re fighting for our lives, and that’s what we put out there for 20 minutes.”
The Stars’ power play converted on three of nine chances — their much maligned penalty kill gave up one goal on five Nashville power plays — but Dallas also gave up a short-handed goal to Filip Forsberg that turned out to be the winner. Within just six minutes and two seconds, Dallas went from a two-goal lead at the beginning of the third period to a one-goal deficit that it would never recover from.
“That one really stings. That’s a tough one where I thought our power play was going really well and did a lot of good things,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff.
The Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens will have the next week off — going in opposite directions as far as results are concerned.
After firing coach Claude Julien on Tuesday, the puck-possession beasts from Boston have gone on to win three straight, including Sunday’s convincing 4-0 victory over the rival Habs.
But even just before management’s decision to turf the coach, the Bruins had been able to win some games and convert more of their chances. They have won six of their last eight games, including a three-game winning streak prior to Julien losing his job, while scoring fewer than four goals in a game only once in this stretch.
On Sunday, they managed to pick apart a pretty good goalie in Carey Price, although the Habs netminder has been struggling for two months now.
Adam McQuaid opened the scoring in the first period and Zdeno Chara really got the rout going in the second with a pretty goal for his fifth of the season.
Thanks to this recent stretch of wins, the Bruins have moved six points back of the Habs for top spot in the Atlantic Division. Boston and Ottawa are now tied with 64 points, but the Senators have five games in hand and remain in the second spot.
For the Habs, this has been a brutal stretch of results in February. It’s not good when the highlight of their game versus Boston is Andrew Shaw dropping the gloves with Torey Krug 58 seconds after the opening faceoff. Montreal has now been shut out three times in the past week, with its only real strong offensive performance of late coming against the Arizona Coyotes. The Canadiens have now dropped six of their last seven games.
They have five days off before playing the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday.
Robin Lehner looked like he was ready to drop the glove and blocker Sunday.
The Buffalo Sabres goalie took issue with Vancouver Canucks forward Alex Burrows during the first period. The two exchanged some shoves and a few slashes before Justin Falk came to the scene and dropped Burrows to the ice, as a scrum ensued.
Lehner has been involved in the rough stuff before. Last February, he had to be restrained by officials when he tried fighting a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets after a dangerous Boone Jenner hit.
Burrows continued to bother Lehner and the Sabres. He tried digging at a loose puck in front of the net as Lehner tried to get a stoppage in play, and later scored Vancouver’s third goal of the game.
There is a history between Andrew Shaw and Torey Krug. The emotions of what occurred two months ago boiled over Sunday.
Refresher: Krug caught Shaw with a massive open-ice hit in December. There was no call on the play, and no further discipline for the Boston Bruins defenseman. (Krug did, briefly, fight Brendan Gallagher in that game.)
Just 58 seconds into Sunday’s game between the Bruins and Habs, Krug and Shaw dropped the gloves in a spirited scrap near the blue line, with both landing a few shots before falling to the ice.