Jason Brough

Nicklas Backstrom

Backstrom feels ‘100 percent,’ will return for Caps tonight


Washington Capitals fans can breathe a sigh of relief today after learning Nicklas Backstrom is healthy enough to play tonight versus Pittsburgh.

Backstrom has missed the last three games with an upper-body injury.

“He’s one of the best centermen in the National Hockey League,” Caps coach Barry Trotz told reporters, per CSN Washington. “Getting him back gives us a little more depth, a few more options and a real good player back in.”

Backstrom is expected to center Alex Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie, with a second line of Evgeny Kuznetsov between Andre Burakovsky and Justin Williams.

The 1-2 combination of Backstrom and Kuznetsov is a big reason the Caps have been so successful during the regular season, so having a healthy Backstrom heading into arguably the most important postseason in franchise history is rather important.

“I feel like I’m 100 percent,” Backstrom said, per the Washington Post. “I think it’s important, too, that you feel good before you come back because we’ve clinched a playoff spot already, so there’s no need to rush back, I think. But at the same time, you want to play a couple games before.”

Kings to play two preseason games at new Vegas arena

In this March 28, 2016, photo, workers finish construction outside of the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The latest multi-million dollar development on the Las Vegas Strip features a leafy outdoor pedestrian area, 20,000 seat arena and small theater. The arena is scheduled to open April 6. (AP Photo/John Locher)

The Los Angeles Kings will play two preseason games in Las Vegas at the recently opened T-Mobile Arena. They’ll host the Stars on Friday, Oct. 7, and the Avalanche the next day.

The Kings have already played numerous preseason games in Las Vegas as part of their Frozen Fury series, but those games were held at the MGM Grand.

“We are excited to be featured in one of the very first sporting events at the new T-Mobile Arena and we look forward to creating new Frozen Fury memories there,” said the Kings’ president of business operations, Luc Robitaille, in a release.

T-Mobile Arena is, of course, the potential future home of a Las Vegas expansion team. Its construction was a joint venture between MGM Resorts International and AEG, the latter of which owns the Kings.

Related: Foley is ‘9.5’ out of 10 confident that NHL will expand to Vegas

Late-season injuries provide Bickell another shot with ‘Hawks

Chicago Blackhawks left wing Bryan Bickell, left, controls the puck against Minnesota Wild left wing Jason Zucker during the second period  of Game 2 in the second round of the NHL Stanley Cup hockey playoffs in Chicago, Sunday, May 3, 2015. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Bryan Bickell will return to the Chicago Blackhawks’ lineup tonight at United Center versus the Blues, marking his first appearance in an NHL game since January.

Bickell was recalled from AHL Rockford yesterday, in the wake of injuries to Marian Hossa, Artem Anisimov, and Andrew Shaw.

It remains to be seen how long Bickell will remain in the lineup. Hossa and Anisimov are expected back in time for the playoffs, if not sooner. But Shaw is doubtful for Saturday’s regular-season finale in Columbus, bringing his postseason availability into question.

At this morning’s skate, Bickell was on a line with Andrew Desjardins and Dale Weise.

Bickell, 30, had a respectable 15 goals in 44 games for Rockford, but has no goals in 23 games for the ‘Hawks this season.

Rangers’ Girardi is ‘day-to-day’ with upper-body injury

New York Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi shoots and scores to tie the game during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Florida Panthers, Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi will not play tonight versus the Islanders due to an upper-body injury. His status for Saturday’s regular-season finale versus Detroit is also in question.

“I would say day-to-day and we’ll see how he feels tomorrow,” New York head coach Alain Vigneault told reporters, per NorthJersey.com.

Girardi was hurt late in Tuesday’s game against the Lightning when his former teammate, Brian Boyle, knocked him into the end boards.

Girardi’s spot tonight will be filled by veteran Dan Boyle, who got the night off versus Tampa Bay.

Dylan McIlrath and Brady Skjei will both remain in the lineup, as Ryan McDonagh is out for at least the rest of the regular season — and quite likely into the playoffs — with a hand injury.

Bergeron: ‘We have to seize it, and go out there and do it’


Here’s the deal for the Boston Bruins:

They need to beat Detroit tonight at TD Garden.

They won’t be mathematically eliminated if they don’t, but they’ll be pretty close. A Detroit victory of any kind would clinch a playoff berth for the Red Wings, leaving only the Flyers for the B’s to catch for the final wild-card spot in the East.

The Flyers host Toronto tonight — a winnable game for Philly, to say the least. The Bruins and Flyers are currently tied with 91 points, but the Flyers have a game in hand.

Even if the Bruins only lose to Detroit in overtime or a shootout, and even if the Leafs somehow manage to beat Philly in regulation, the Bruins still wouldn’t control their destiny.

Look, we’re not going to run down all the potential scenarios here. The Bruins’ website has already done that.

The bottom line is the B’s could really use a win.

“The biggest thing is you have to be confident, and you have to believe,” said forward Patrice Bergeron, per CSN New England. “But at the same time there are no more chances here. We have to seize it, and go out there and do it.”

What happens if the B’s fail to “seize it” remains to be seen.

Certainly, GM Don Sweeney won’t look too good after giving up assets to acquire Lee Stempniak and John-Michael Liles at the trade deadline, not to mention keeping Loui Eriksson.

And, of course, there will be questions about the future of head coach Claude Julien.

We’re not there yet.

The Bruins finish the season Saturday afternoon at home to Ottawa. No matter what happens tonight, they’ll still be alive when the puck drops in their 82nd game.

A loss tonight, though, and they’ll be hanging by the thinnest of threads.