James O'Brien

Ovechkin, Caps carve out close win vs. Isles

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When you ponder level of play, the gap between the New York Islanders and Washington Capitals seems modest.

The standings tell a different story, as the Capitals difference-makers returned and … well, they made the difference.

Alex Ovechkin couldn’t convert on a key chance or two, but he came through when it mattered, scoring a late game-winner in Washington’s 3-2 victory. Braden Holtby also made his return to Washington’s lineup, holding strong to keep the Islanders from sending the contest into overtime.

To some, Ovechkin and Holtby may very well be the difference between the Capitals and everyone else in the East (if not the NHL).

Andre Burakovsky presents a counter-argument: the Caps also boast enviable support, maybe the best Ovechkin’s seen. While Evgeny Kuznetsov rightfully grabs a lot of attention as Washington’s rising young player, Burakovsky’s starting to show why he came into this season with hype of his own.

The margins can be pretty small in an age of parity, yet the Capitals find themselves with 10 more wins than the Islanders after this game.

Why? The quick, boring answer is that they’re just that much better.

WATCH LIVE: Anaheim Ducks at Los Angeles Kings

The New York Islanders and Washington Capitals are near the end of their competitive game, but that won’t end a strong night of hockey on NBCSN.

Nope, you’re getting a doubleheader on Thursday, and it ends with a battle of California as the Los Angeles Kings host the Anaheim Ducks.

You can watch these bitter neighbors on TV and also via the link below.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

After blowing lead, Suter admits Wild are a ‘fragile team’

Winnipeg Jets right wing Chris Thorburn (22) keeps the puck from Minnesota Wild defenseman Ryan Suter (20) during the first period of an NHL hockey game Friday, Jan. 15, 2016, in St. Paul, Minn. (AP Photo/Hannah Foslien)
AP
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Is blowing a 2-0 lead a “new way” for the Minnesota Wild to lose?

Probably not, but that feeling of frustration lingers, as the New York Rangers stormed back from that deficit to grab a 4-2 win on Thursday.

Minnesota generated that 2-0 lead in the first period, a quick start that possibly angered Rangers head coach Alain Vingeault. The Rangers responded in the middle frame in particular, producing a 14-7 shot advantage and tying things up. As you can see, New York managed four unanswered goals to flip the script.

To little surprise, things are glum for the Wild.

… And you can’t help but wonder if their captain will absorb some of the heat.

In an eyebrow-raising comment, Ryan Suter admits that the Wild are “a fragile team.”

Yikes. Those are the kind of quotes that make you wonder about job security and panic trades.

The West wild card race is unforgiving, to say the least, and Minnesota really can’t afford many more nights like these.

More on Minnesota’s malaise

Mike Yeo said they’re finding different ways to lose

Why this slump could be worse than previous lulls

Another Jaromir Jagr milestone: His 1,100th assist

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Jaromir Jagr keeps climbing his way up the all-time scoring ranks, recording milestone after milestone.

The latest one is impressive, too. By setting up Brandon Pirri‘s tip-in goal, Jagr now has 1,100 assists. He’s just the sixth player to cross that barrier in NHL history.

Jagr still has another big step possibly in reach this season, depending upon how well he plays. This was the 1,837th point of Jagr’s career, leaving him just 13 points behind Gordie Howe for third all-time.

1. Wayne Gretzky – 2,857 points
2. Mark Messier – 1,887 points
3. Howe – 1,850 points
4. Jagr – 1,837 points (and counting).

 

Justin Schultz returns to Oilers’ lineup

Justin Schultz
AP
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It may be too late for a playoff run, but the Edmonton Oilers could at least be in a position to finish the season on a strong note.

The reason is simple enough: they’re getting injured players back in February. Connor McDavid is the obvious headliner, but another noteworthy Oiler is back on Thursday, as defenseman Justin Schultz returns to the lineup.

Again, it’s not an addition on the same level. Despite coming in to Edmonton with hype of his own, Schultz has produced mixed results … maybe at best.

Still, it gives you a better idea of a full-strength version of the 2015-16 Edmonton Oilers, even if noteworthy omissions remain.

Here are the full lineup tweaks for Edmonton’s game against the Ottawa Senators: