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Progress: P.K. Subban skates with Predators for first time since IR stint

The Nashville Predators will host the Boston Bruins down quite a few players because of injuries, but this morning’s optional skate points to the light at the end of the tunnel.

The headliner is that P.K. Subban skated with his team for the first time since his injury on Dec. 15 and was placed on IR a couple weeks ago, but there’s other good news.

Injured forwards James Neal and Viktor Arvidsson also got in a skate, a sign that they might be on the verge of a return (although it doesn’t sound like either scorer will play tonight).

Predators GM David Poile did throw a little cold water on the situation with a dash of reality that Subban has a ways to go. On Jan. 1, it was estimated that he would be re-evaluated in two-to-three weeks, and Poile told The Tennessean that it will probably come “closer to three.”

Nashville faces a five-game road trip starting on Saturday, so while Subban’s absence is expected, the Predators have to hope for the return of one or both of Neal and/or Arvidsson.

Update: Hey, good news for Nashville; Arvidsson returned tonight. How about that.

Capitals pass Penguins in clash of hot teams on Ovechkin’s milestone night

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On a night where we gaped in awe at Alex Ovechkin‘s stats – he’s now at 1,001 points – a lot of other numbers look very impressive for the Washington Capitals.

Consider this: in their last two meetings with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington’s won both games by a combined score of 12-3.

That includes tonight’s 5-2 victory, extending Washington’s winning streak to seven straight games while ending the Penguins’ run at six. To some, the most important numbers might come in the standings: the Capitals moved to second place in the ridiculous Metropolitan Division (59 points in 41 games) ahead of now-third-place Pittsburgh (57 points in 40 games).

Ovechkin wasn’t the only big Capitals name who piled up nice numbers, by the way.

Nicklas Backstrom enjoyed quite the night in his own right, collecting a goal and three assists. Braden Holtby‘s now only allowed three goals in his last four games, all wins. The high-level netminder left Phil Kessel muttering to himself frequently on Wednesday:

As fitting with the theme of “Wednesday Night Rivalry,” there were plenty of chippy moments in this high-profile game. It should add that extra little zip to their next meeting, which happens on Monday, Jan. 16 in Pittsburgh on NBCSN.

Paul Maurice: Not in a happy place after Canadiens blow out Jets

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Why say the Winnipeg Jets “struggled” in a 7-4 loss to the Montreal Canadiens when you could instead say that they were “horse [blank] from the drop of the first puck to the end.”

That was Jets head coach Paul Maurice’s take on the defeat, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.

While they scored their fair share of goals, the Jets obviously allowed buckets of chances, including two-goal nights by Phillip Danault and Artturi Lehkonen. (If you haven’t seen Danault’s end-to-end masterpiece, do yourself a favor and give it a look.)

You can see Maurice let his team have it during the second period of Wednesday’s game in a video above. Here’s more from Maurice:

If nothing else, his tough night did inspire a funny meme or two.

One can understand Maurice’s frustration, especially since it leaves them firmly outside of the West’s wild card rankings. They’re not hopeless by any stretch, yet with losses like these and Patrik Laine‘s concussion situation, you can understand Maurice losing his patience.

Maybe this is just the spark this team needed … or maybe we’ll look back at this as a breaking point for Maurice as Jets head coach.

Either way, it was a rough night for the Jets. And it showed.

McKenzie’s trade talk: Penguins shop Fleury, Coyotes have pieces to sell

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Hockey insider Bob McKenzie appeared on NBCSN on Wednesday, dishing on some very interesting subjects. Fans will probably be most interested to hear his takes on the trade market.

In the first video (see above), some fascinating stuff on the Pittsburgh Penguins, Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray.

To start, the not-so-surprising: McKenzie reports that the Penguins are “wide open” to the idea of moving “MAF,” though maybe not as desperate as some might think. Why? He believes that the Penguins won’t get into a situation where they’d lose Murray, even if it means buying out Fleury.

Here’s how a Fleury buyout would shake out, according to Cap Friendly’s buyout calculator:

buyoutmaf

A lot to consider there.

Final point on that: McKenzie emphasizes that the Penguins’ top focus is a run at the Stanley Cup; if that means keeping Fleury and then figuring something out this summer, then so be it.

The other especially intriguing video revolves around McKenzie’s breakdown of a “grim situation” for the Arizona Coyotes, which leads him to believe that it’s not a matter of if “but when” the team decides to trade players on expiring contracts. Specifically, McKenzie points to hulking center Martin Hanzal and injured scoring defenseman Michael Stone.

Hanzal, in particular, could conceivably net something nice on the open market.

If you want more from McKenzie, check out his take on the Colorado Avalanche shopping Gabriel Landeskog and Matt Duchene.

Video: Phillip Danault’s tremendous coast-to-coast goal

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As debilitating as injuries can be, sometimes they open the door for a lesser-known player to break through. Could that be happening with Phillip Danault?

That remains to be seen, but if nothing else, he’s been on a hot streak lately.

His second goal from Wednesday’s Montreal Canadiens – Winnipeg Jets thing is a thing of pure beauty.

With that, Danault now has five points (two goals, three assists) in his past four games, and he still has time to add to his totals against Winnipeg tonight.