Jason Brough

FILE - In this May 13, 2013 file photo, Russia's Ilya Kovalchuk celebrates his goal during the 2013 Ice Hockey World Championships match against Austria in Helsinki. Kovalchuk left the New Jersey Devils and retired from the NHL, leaving $77 million on the table last summer to go back home and play in Russia. In a telephone interview with The Associated Press on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014, Kovalchuk said he has no regrets and looks forward to helping the host country win gold next month at the Sochi Games.  (AP Photo/Lehtikuva, Jussi Nukari)  FINLAND OUT
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Kovalchuk makes surprise return to KHL playoffs

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Ilya Kovalchuk is back in SKA Saint Petersburg’s lineup today, and is reportedly “trying very hard” against Dynamo Moscow.

The 32-year-old former NHL star was benched for all but the opening game of SKA’s first-round series defeat of Lokomotiv. He missed four games total.

Though Kovalchuk has one year remaining on his contract with SKA, there has been speculation through all this that he may attempt to return to North America for next season.

Of course, even if he wanted to, returning to the NHL for next season may not be possible, so a reconciliation with SKA may be his best bet.

Related: Kovalchuk reportedly stripped of captaincy

Ehlers out indefinitely with eye injury

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There’s concern in Winnipeg, where 20-year-old Nikolaj Ehlers is out indefinitely with an eye injury.

“Ehlers took a puck on the visor and the visor broke, which caused an injury,” Jets coach Paul Maurice said today, per the Winnipeg Free Press. “He has some blood in the eye chamber. We don’t know the extent of it. We’ll know in the next 24 hours once he sees specialists and he’s tested.”

Ehlers, the ninth overall pick in the 2014 draft, suffered the injury last night in overtime against the Islanders.

“We have no expectation of anything long-term,” Maurice said. “But the longer we think it takes to dissipate, that’s going to extend that injury because he won’t get on a bike or go for a brisk walk until it’s completely gone.”

Maurice said a further update could come tomorrow.

Ehlers, a rookie, has 13 goals and 18 assists in 63 games for the Jets this season.

Bylsma admits Reinhart may fit best on the wing

BUFFALO, NY - DECEMBER 19: Sam Reinhart #23 of the Buffalo Sabres skates with the puck during the game against the Chicago Blackhawks at the First Niagara Center on December 19, 2015 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Tom Brenner/ Getty Images)
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All the goals Sam Reinhart has been scoring as a winger are making the Buffalo Sabres wonder if Reinhart should, you know… be a winger.

“It does maybe change a little bit with the success that he’s had at wing and the comfort that he has in kind of seamlessly starting there and playing there this year,” head coach Dan Bylsma told the Buffalo News.

“I still think his intelligence of how he plays the game lends itself to being a puck distributor in the middle of the ice, but when you look at a top-six group of forwards or you’re putting lines together, with the success he’s had at wing you kind of feel like being on the wing in a top-six is something maybe he’s been better at for us.”

Reinhart, 20, was drafted second overall in 2014 — as a center. But with Jack Eichel and Ryan O’Reilly in the mix now, the best way to get the most out of Reinhart may be as a top-six winger.

Don’t forget the Sabres also have 22-year-old Zemgus Girgensons; it’s possible he could be the third-line center of the future.

For now, the Sabres are keeping their options open. O’Reilly is expected to be out a bit longer with an injury, so Bylsma wants Reinhart to “play a few more games at center” before the season is over.

Too many talented, young centers.

It’s not the worst problem to have.

sabres

Report: Tryamkin reaches agreement with Canucks, ‘en route’ to Vancouver

Yekaterinburg's Nikita Tryamkin, left, vies for the puck with Lugano's Gregory Hofmann during the game between Switzerland's HC Lugano and Russia's Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg at the 89th Spengler Cup ice hockey tournament in Davos, Switzerland, Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015. (Pascal Muller/Keystone via AP)
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The Vancouver Canucks — in desperate need of some good publicity these days — have reportedly struck a deal to bring hulking Russian defenseman Nikita Tryamkin to North America.

And it sounds like he could make his NHL debut this season.

Tryamkin was the 66th overall pick in the 2014 draft. The 21-year-old’s KHL season recently ended, as his Yekaterinburg Automobilis club was eliminated in the first round of the Gagarin Cup playoffs.

It was reported about a month ago that the Canucks were working on bringing Tryamkin over. The difference between then and now is that he’s expected now to report to the Canucks, not their AHL affiliate in Utica.

GM Jim Benning providing a scouting report on Tryamkin to Metro Vancouver.

“He’s unique because of his size,” Benning said. “He’s coordinated and he’s a very good skater. Because at (six-foot-eight-inches), you have that long reach, he can defend. He’s got a big wing span to defend and when he gets the puck, he can make a good first pass and get it going the other way.”

The Canucks badly need to upgrade their blue line, so Tryamkin’s debut will be closely watched, whenever that may be.

Goalie nods: Stars turn to Lehtonen, with netminding worries on the rise

Kari Lehtonen
AP
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Some facts:

There have been 36 goalies that have started at least 25 games this season in the NHL.

Of those 36, Kari Lehtonen ranks 33rd with a save percentage of .906.

Antti Niemi ranks 35th at .903.

Both those goalies play for the Dallas Stars.

Both combine for a cap hit of $10.4 million.

No other team has committed that much cap space to goaltending.

The playoffs are just over a month away.

Yes, the high-scoring Stars have still managed to go 38-20-7, good for third overall in the NHL. But they’re 1-5-2 in their last eight, and the goaltending is getting much of the blame.

From Tim Cowlishaw of the Dallas Morning News:

Your Stars have sprung a sizable leak and, yes, I fully realize that Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen are merely the last line of defense in these equations that add up to too many goals. They play behind an undersized and occasionally mistake-prone defense in a system in which coach Lindy Ruff stands out as the rarity in today’s NHL, thinking “attack” more than “defend.”

But you know what?

They are the goalies, and they’re both fully salaried, and in this final stretch of 17 games that starts here Friday night against New Jersey, and then on into the playoffs, they understand their role in the accountability of these things.

Lehtonen is expected to be between the pipes tonight against the Devils. He’s been the better of the tandem lately, but that’s not saying much. His save percentage was a mere .898 in February. Niemi’s was .870.

For the Devils, it’ll be Cory Schneider. He’s had his own struggles lately, but his save percentage remains impressive at .924.

Elsewhere…

Antti Raanta for the Rangers in Washington, versus Braden Holtby for the Capitals. (Henrik Lundqvist is not expected to dress for New York due to neck spasms. Magnus Hellberg has been recalled on an emergency basis. )

— Laurent Brossoit for the Oilers in Columbus, versus Joonas Korpisalo for the Blue Jackets.

Related: The Dallas Stars might have a goaltending problem