Author: James O'Brien

Washington Capitals v New York Islanders

For Caps and Ovechkin, 2015 Winter Classic is another sign ‘everything has changed’


In a sprawling feature for regarding the 2015 Winter Classic, Alex Ovechkin discusses how far the Washington Capitals franchise has come since his rookie season. He states that “everything has changed.”

Really, though, the same could be said for his game and his team on the ice.

“Our group of guys here now are more mature,” Ovechkin said. “We’re ready to take a big step. It’s something when you’re growing up you can see how it’s changed. It’s a great thing when you’re a part of it. Me and Brooks and Greenie are the only three guys that have been here after the [2004-05] lockout.

“I’ve been growing up. I get mature. I get older. I look at the game in a different way right now. It’s hard to explain. When I’m on the ice I want to do something different than I did the first couple years.”

Ovechkin, 29, was speaking about Brooks Laich and Mike Green in that quote. Laich had some interesting insight on the Capitals star’s goals, noting that Ovechkin’s trophy case is full of individual awards, so his sights are absolutely set on accolades regarding team play.

While Laich has seen that metamorphosis first hand, head coach Barry Trotz is in his first season guiding Ovechkin, yet he’s had glowing reviews about the winger’s willingness to adapt.

” … I don’t know that there’s been a physical superstar like Alex in the league since, I don’ know, [Eric] Lindros when he was young?” Trotz said.

“[Mark] Messier, maybe? Those guys are few and far between. Usually, the high-end guys aren’t as physical as Alex. He doesn’t get intimidated. It’s funny. The harder you are on him the more revved up he gets, which is sort of cool with a star. There are times he reverts to some of his old habits, but a lot of those things have been ironed out.”

The Capitals stand face-to-face with a team that’s enjoyed the high-level successes they’re striving for when they host the Chicago Blackhawks at Nationals Park on NBC tomorrow.

For more, check out that great story on Ovechkin and the Capitals.

Sign things have been rough for Pens’ Bennett: He ‘kind of enjoyed’ mumps

New York Rangers v Pittsburgh Penguins

You know things have been rough for Pittsburgh Penguins forward Beau Bennett when his basic reaction to the mumps is, “I’ve had worse.”

That’s essentially what he told’s Wes Crosby, really.

It’s not yet clear if Bennett, 23, will play for Pittsburgh as the Penguins ready for tonight’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes, but it’s plausible that he’s getting close to returning.

In other, less sad-yet-amusing Penguins injury notes, Steve Downie no longer has his own mumps concerns but isn’t quite ready to suit up.

The last positive bit is that Paul Martin may return on either Friday or Saturday, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Hurricanes recalled Murphy, placed Liles on IR

Carolina Hurricanes v Vancouver Canucks

It’s tough to spin any injury situation, especially for a team as ravaged by ailments as the Carolina Hurricanes have been.

Still, the bright side of John-Michael Liles being placed on injured reserve is that it opens up room for Ryan Murphy to be called up on Tuesday.

The Canes get a chance to see how much Murphy, 21, has progressed. The AHL results are promising so far: his 17 assists lead his teammates on the Charlotte Checkers, which also ties him for the team’s points lead. As the 12th pick of the 2011 NHL Draft, Carolina has to hope that Murphy’s top-level impact isn’t that far away.

Canes Country believes that Murphy has his game back together after struggling during his first look with Carolina earlier in 2014-15:

Murphy endured a difficult start to the season with the Canes, only scoring one point in six games while serving as a healthy scratch twice. With the Checkers, though, Murphy rediscovered his offensive ability, leading the Checkers with 17 assists. While he is still looking for his first goal of the season, his 17 points are tied for the Checkers’ team lead despite playing eight fewer games than co-leader Chad LaRose.

With Carolina located at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, some may already be looking to the 2015-16 season. Murphy stands as one of the reasons to be more optimistic about such thoughts, but he’d make a stronger argument in that regard if he shows progress with the Hurricanes.

Carolina faces the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night.

Lightning insist they haven’t lost confidence in Nabokov

Tampa Bay Lightning v New Jersey Devils

Even though they’ve been leaning toward Andrei Vasilevskiy when Ben Bishop hasn’t been starting lately, the Tampa Bay Lightning say they haven’t lost confidence in veteran backup Evgeni Nabokov, as the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Head coach Jon Cooper said that Vasilevskiy, 20, isn’t going to swipe Nabokov’s gig just yet.

“These aren’t circumstances where Vasilevskiy is coming in to take a job,” Cooper said. “I guess if his play goes above and beyond, we’d have to re-evaluate. But our goal with Vasy is coming and learning the North American league game and you’re learning in the exact league you should be doing it. Three-fourths of our team learned it in that league, as well as their coach, so it’s proven to work.”

Nabokov (pictured) said all the right things about the situation, mentioning that Tampa Bay has handled the situation “the right way.” Naturally, that doesn’t mean that the 39-year-old is enamored with the situation, especially considering his long run of carrying significant NHL workloads each season.

Really, it’s a matter of time, as Nabokov is almost twice as old as his counterpart. The Lightning indicate that the time isn’t now, though.

Report: Devils players skated during mandated holiday break

Adam Oates

Ryan Getzlaf and other Anaheim Ducks players drew some attention from the NHL for an “informal practice” that ran the risk of violating the CBA’s mandated holiday break on Dec. 26. Did members of the New Jersey Devils do something similar?

The Bergen Record’s Tom Gulitti reports that some Devils players gathered at the Prudential Center’s practice rink that day, which happened to be the day that head coach Peter DeBoer was fired. Players told Gulitti that coaches “obviously” weren’t involved, while the report indicates that the league isn’t looking into the situation.

Here’s a little more from that report:

So far, it doesn’t appear the Devils did anything illegal or are in any trouble with the NHL. A league spokesperson confirmed that the NHL is looking into “a few” teams that held informal Dec. 26 practices, but said it is “unclear if any were more than captain’s skates, which wouldn’t be prohibited.”

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said via email there was “nothing I know of on the Devils.”

A source said the Rangers were among the teams already questioned about their Dec. 26 activities and were not found to have done anything illegal.

Devils GM Lou Lamoriello simply said “that would be their prerogative if they wanted to do that.”

Ultimately, it sounds like this won’t cause any issues, yet it’s interesting to note. Naturally, if anything changes, PHT will share details.

These guys just can’t stay away from the rink, eh?

Update: It looks like all is clear.