James O'Brien

Chicago Blackhawks defenseman David Rundblad (5) advances past Carolina Hurricanes left wing Nathan Gerbe (14) during the first period of an NHL hockey game Monday, March 2, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Andrew A. Nelles)
AP

Blackhawks recall Rundblad, send Bickell and Rasmussen to AHL

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The playoffs are approaching, and the Chicago Blackhawks recalled a familiar postseason face in defenseman David Rundblad.

He’s up from the AHL while the team sent forwards Bryan Bickell and Dennis Rasmussen to the AHL.

(Taking a peek at fan reactions, many weren’t um, too pleased about Rasmussen being sent down. The feedback on Rundblad was mixed.)

Again, some Blackhawks fans are grumbling about Rasmussen, yet seeing two forwards sent down might be a good sign regarding the overall health of the team.

Key forwards such as Marian Hossa managed to practice:

While Andrew Ladd is expected to get up to speed:

So, even if there are some quibbles about these depth decisions, the overall outlook could be quite rosy for the Blackhawks as they prepare for a potentially bruising series against the Blues.

Flyers’ Neuvirth is the latest to play the ‘pressure’ card on Capitals

Philadelphia Flyers goalie Michal Neuvirth (30), of the Czech Republic, stops the puck against Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom (19), of Sweden, during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016, in Washington. The Flyers won 4-3 in overtime. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
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The Philadelphia Flyers defied expectations by making an honestly pretty astounding push to the playoffs. If they want to advance beyond the first round, they’ll need to beat really big odds once more.

Even if some bring up ghosts of previous playoff disappointments, the Washington Capitals still stand as one of the league’s favorites going into the postseason after cruising to a Presidents’ Trophy win.

Of course, big regular season achievements bring big pressure, and opponents continue to key on that narrative.

First, the subject was broached by Cal Clutterbuck of the New York Islanders to the New York Post back in late March:

“I don’t think it’s a positive thing when you turn on the TV every single time and you have everybody in the world telling you you’re supposed to win the Stanley Cup,” Clutterbuck said. “I’d hate to be the Washington Capitals right now. A lot of pressure.”

Again, that’s some bulletin board material that maybe can be filed away later (along with Washington’s response), as the Capitals drew the Flyers instead of the Islanders in round one.

Former Capitals goalie Michal Neuvirth didn’t do as much of a hard sell as Clutterbuck did, yet he did seem to gently nudge things in his former teammates’ direction, as NHL.com reports.

“It’s playoffs,” Neuvirth said. “You’re motivated as much as you want, but obviously we’ve got a great team. It’s going to be a lot of pressure on them and it’s going to be a good series.”

Celebrity sightings: Bashful Leonardo DiCaprio, Khaleesi from Game of Thrones

leodnhl
via NHL

Every now and then, celebrities show up at NHL games.

It’s usually not that big of a deal, aside from bemusing moments when Larry David turns up, or when a celebrity acknowledges a weird phenomenon like Kevin Spacey did with the Florida Panthers.

Saturday’s New York Islanders – Buffalo Sabres game presented an unusual situation, however, as Leonardo DiCaprio was there … but he really didn’t want people to be fully aware of that fact.

Puck Daddy has a little more on that, along with some hypotheses:

We can only assume why DiCaprio felt the need for anonymity. Perhaps the bear from “The Revenant” was seated a few rows over. Perhaps he was concerned about potential future ‘Kiss-Cam’ awkwardness. Perhaps he was convinced some townie from Flatbush was going to corner him for 20 minutes to talk about how he was “the bomb, yo” in “Gangs Of New York.”

Either way, Hockey Twitter sure had fun with it.

As with many of these cases, the situation is kind of sad (Leo seeking a modicum of privacy, or at least a break) and kind of funny (how far he went to not be seen … although he didn’t wear a full-on disguise).

On the other hand, plenty of celebrities seem undeterred, like Emilia Clarke at Thursday’s Kings games. Surely many people made jokes about Khaleesi’s dragons and /insert “Game of Thrones” reference for the sake of rustiness:

Actress Emilia Clarke attends an NHL hockey game between the Los Angeles Kings and the Anaheim Ducks, Thursday, April 7, 2016, in Los Angeles. The Kings won 2-1. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
via AP

Cause for concern? Amid goalie injuries, Pens recall Tristan Jarry

Pittsburgh Penquins goalie Tristan Jarry stops Ottawa Senators' Ryan Dzingel on a wrap-around during the second period of an NHL hockey rookie tournament game Saturday, Sept. 12, 2015, in London, Ontario. (Dave Chidley/The Canadian Press via AP)
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Sometimes a call-up is made just in case. Sometimes one is a sign of a bigger problem.

The Pittsburgh Penguins are leaving people to make their own conclusions, at least for the time being, about recalling goalie Tristan Jarry on Sunday.

Does it mean that Matt Murray‘s injury, suffered against the Philadelphia Flyers in a game that was more or less meaningless* for the Penguins, is a concern?

Could it also mean that the rumbles of optimism about Marc-Andre Fleury were ill-founded?

At least two media reactions seem to capture the split impressions:

There’s at least the outside chance that the Penguins may enter the playoffs with Jeff Zatkoff and Jarry as their two goalies.

In case you’re wondering, Jarry’s a second-round pick (44th overall in 2013) whose AHL numbers seem to say “Not quite ready yet.”

If this worst-case scenario happens, it will be yet another chapter in the sad story of the Penguins getting hit with injuries heading into the playoffs (they’re already playing without Evgeni Malkin, after all). We’ll find out, sooner or later, if these worries are for naught.

The Penguins also recalled Tom Sestito, by the way.

* – You know, if you don’t see the meaning in trying to spurn your bitter rivals …

‘The stink is still there’ – From McDavid to Hall, Oilers discuss grim season

Edmonton Oilers coach Todd McLellan, back, stands on the bench behind Connor McDavid, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall, from left, during the second period of the team's NHL hockey game against the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday, April 9, 2016, in Vancouver, British Columbia. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)
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It makes sense that a “postmortem” would be grim, but even by those standards, it seems like a dark cloud was hanging over the Edmonton Oilers on Sunday.

Key players, including Connor McDavid and Taylor Hall, trotted out some pretty glum quotes about the 2015-16 season.

McDavid might be “new” to this, yet it doesn’t exactly sound like he’s really comfortable with the whole cellar-dwelling spiel.

Hall was once a regular source of silver-lining type quotes, or at least “we think this season will be different” proclamations during the summer.

He still might this time around, although it didn’t sound that way with this past season fresh (and smelly, apparently) in his mind.

Yikes.

(You can see Hall’s full comments in the video above this post’s headline.)

Ultimately, all the Oilers can do is try to improve and get healthier, including regularly injured center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (who may skip the World Championships).

For some players, this probably feels like the same old song and dance. Of course, quite a few of those guys might not be around next time.