Jason Brough


Oduya could be healthy scratch in Game 4


The Chicago Blackhawks got Johnny Oduya back at the trade deadline, with the hope he could rekindle his successful partnership with Niklas Hjalmarsson.

But it hasn’t worked out that way, and tomorrow in Nashville, Oduya could be a healthy scratch as the ‘Hawks try to avoid getting swept by the Predators.

Today at practice, Hjalmarsson was paired with Duncan Keith, Michal Kempny was with Brent Seabrook, and Brian Campbell was with Trevor van Riemsdyk.

Blackhawks vs. Predators: Watch Game 4 on Thursday (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN)

Kempy was a healthy scratch for the first three games of the playoffs. He hasn’t played since Apr. 6 in a 4-0 loss at Anaheim.

Oduya, meanwhile, is a minus-3 in the playoffs. Since the trade from Dallas, he’s actually spent most of his time paired with Seabrook, not Hjalmarsson.

Suffice to say, you can expect the Blackhawks’ blue line to go under the microscope this offseason. Oduya, 35, and Campbell, 37, are pending unrestricted free agents, and there’s a real need for an injection of youth.

The question is, who’s ready to make the leap? Prospects like Ville Pokka, Viktor Svedberg, and Erik Gustafsson have been in the system for a while now, and so far they’ve been unable to crack the NHL roster on a full-time basis. Gustav Forsling has potential, but he’s only 20 and may need more time in the AHL.

So much at stake for the Caps, who need to ‘change the narrative,’ and fast


Three games into the postseason and the Washington Capitals are already fighting for their playoff lives.

And who among us expected that?

Not many, but that’s the deal for the Presidents’ Trophy-winners, against the team that finished dead last only a year ago.

Lose tonight at Air Canada Centre and the Caps will trail the Toronto Maple Leafs, 3-1.

Lose tonight and the Caps will be one loss away from one of the most stunning letdowns in NHL playoff history.

Watch Capitals vs. Maple Leafs: Game 4 on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET on NBCSN, NBC Sports app)

And the way things have gone so far, nobody should be surprised if they do lose. Because this is not another Jaroslav Halak situation. The young, dynamic Leafs have gone blow-for-blow with the mighty Caps. They’ve used their speed and their skill. They’ve proven they belong.

“It’s a lot closer match than people let on,” Washington head coach Barry Trotz told reporters. “It’s not David versus Goliath. They’re a good team. They wouldn’t be here if they weren’t.”

Trotz himself is under considerable pressure after failing to get Alex Ovechkin enough ice time in Game 3. The reigning Jack Adams Award winner is 2-2 in playoff series with the Caps. And in spite of all the success he’s enjoyed in the regular season, if he goes 2-3, it would be fair to debate his future behind the bench.

The Leafs, meanwhile, can’t get too comfortable. They saw what happened to the Edmonton Oilers last night in San Jose. It was a good warning.

“There’s two parts to that equation,” said head coach Mike Babcock. “One team relaxes and feels pretty good about themselves, talks to everybody and they all tell you how great they’re doing and the other team gets prepared. We talked about that after Game 1, after Game 2 and we’ll continue to talk about it. It’s so important that you get off to a good start here tonight and prepare to compete. They’re going to compete. We have to compete.”

The real pressure, though, is on the Capitals. In the second year of what their general manager has called a “two-year window,” 2017 was shaping up to be their time. A first-round matchup with the inexperienced Leafs. No Kris Letang for the Pittsburgh Penguins. A beatable opponent whoever comes out of the Atlantic bracket. Ditto for whoever comes out of the West.

The Caps, of course, already have a reputation for flopping in the playoffs. But losing to the Leafs would take it to a whole new level.

Are they really going to flop again?

“Until we change the narrative, that’s going to be the question,” defenseman Matt Niskanen said. “It’s up to us to change it. You can’t talk about it. You just have to go and do it.”

Lazar, Hamilton to make series debuts for Flames


The Calgary Flames are hoping an injection of youth can help get them back in their series with the Anaheim Ducks.

The Flames, who trail the Ducks 3-0, are expected to have forwards Curtis Lazar and Freddie Hamilton in the lineup tonight in Calgary. Those two will replace Matt Stajan and Lance Bouma, who will be healthy scratches.

Lazar, 22, played four games for Calgary after getting traded from Ottawa at the deadline. The Flames saw “significant upside” in the former first-round draft pick, and he responded with one goal and two assists in those four games.

Stream Ducks vs. Flames: Game 4 on Wednesday (10 p.m. ET, USA)

Lazar and Hamilton are expected to skate on a fourth line with veteran winger Troy Brouwer.

Some pressure now on the defending champs


The Columbus Blue Jackets may be trailing the series 3-1, but they’ve owned the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first period.

Last night, for the second straight game, the Jackets jumped out to a two-goal lead in the opening 20 minutes. They went on to win, 5-4.

In Game 3 on Sunday, they held a 3-1 advantage after the first. The difference then was they couldn’t protect it, and the Penguins fought back to take it, 5-4, in overtime.

Stream Penguins vs. Blue Jackets on NBC Sports

Now the series returns to Pittsburgh, where the Pens took Games 1 and 2 despite getting outshot by a combined 28-10 in the first period. If not for Marc-Andre Fleury, the visitors easily could’ve come away with a win or two.

Pittsburgh forward Matt Cullen knows the Pens need a better start in Game 5.

“This is a team, Columbus, that comes out pretty hard,” Cullen said, per the Post-Gazette. “That’s sort of their hallmark. I don’t think we’ve done a good enough job handling that and attempting to dictate that ourselves.”

Granted, the Jackets are still the ones facing elimination, with no margin for error.

But there’s some pressure on the defending champs now. Lose tomorrow at PPG Paints Arena and it’s back to Columbus for Game 6, and wouldn’t that make things interesting.

Colin Miller is ready to go, and the Bruins need a win


Three are still injured, but the Boston Bruins will get one defenseman back tonight, and that’s better than none.

Colin Miller says he’s ready to go for Game 4 against the Ottawa Senators at TD Garden. Miller suffered a lower-body injury in Game 1 on a hit by Mark Borowiecki, who’s since been hurt himself.

The B’s will still be without a trio of regular d-men — Torey Krug, Adam McQuaid and Brandon Carlo — tonight. Miller will replace Tommy Cross in the lineup.

Watch Bruins vs. Senators: Game 5 on Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET on USA)

It’s a massive game for the Bruins, who don’t want to go back to Ottawa trailing 3-1. A much better start than Monday’s would help. Boston was down 3-0 less than halfway through Game 3, and went on to lose, 4-3, in overtime.

“They really took it to us early on, and it’s tough when you get down,” forward Brad Marchand told reporters. “We were lucky to come back the way we did. But, we gave ourselves a chance, and again, we need to be much better next game.”

Marchand has one goal and no assists in the first three games of the series, with just five shots combined.

“I haven’t been at my best so far,” he admitted, per CSN New England.

The 28-year-old had a career-high 39 goals in the regular season, averaging almost three shots per game.