Mike Halford

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Kuznetsov fined for diving

Washington forward Evgeni Kuznetsov has been fined $2,000 for diving/embellishment, the NHL announced on Thursday.

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Kuznetsov was issued a Warning following an incident flagged by NHL Hockey Operations during NHL Game No. 56 at Florida on Oct. 20.

His second Citation, which triggered the $2,000 fine, was issued for an incident at 18:32 of the second period during NHL Game No. 533 against New Jersey on Dec. 29.

Kuznetsov is just the second player this year to be fined for diving/embellishment, joining Coyotes d-man Oliver Ekman-Larsson. He’s also the second Capital to be dinged since the NHL went public with its monetary punishments for such acts — in ’14-15, Washington forward Tom Wilson was also fined for diving/embellishment.

 

Blues ready to face ex-mate Rattie, ‘a pretty angry guy with something to prove’

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In a weird twist, Ty Rattie won’t have to wait long for a shot at revenge.

Rattie, who was waived by the Blues on Tuesday and claimed by Carolina on Wednesday, will be in a unique spot tonight — the ‘Canes are in St. Louis, meaning his first game with his new team is also his first game against his old team.

“We’re going to be dealing with a pretty angry guy with something to prove,” Blues d-man Kevin Shattenkirk said, per NHL.com’s Lou Korac. “Good for him for hopefully getting a chance now to move on and make a name for himself.”

Rattie was cut loose by the Blues after failing to establish a regular spot in what was, to be fair, a pretty competitive lineup. He hadn’t played since Nov. 29 and, all told, appeared in just four games this year for the Blues, registering no points.

He also played three more on a conditioning stint in the AHL, registering one assist.

The 32nd overall pick in the 2011 draft, Rattie was once a highly touted prospect. He put up huge numbers in the WHL with the Portland Winterhawks, and he continued to produce after he graduated to the AHL.

And that pedigree could be why he’s getting such a big shot in Carolina.

The ‘Canes wasted little time showcasing their new asset on Thursday, giving him morning skate rushes on the top line with Jeff Skinner and Victor Rask.

That’s the kind of chance Rattie simply didn’t get in St. Louis — while Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock said Rattie was a “good player” and “good solider” during his tenure, Rattie needed this kind of opportunity, one he wasn’t going to get wearing a note on his chest.

‘Going to be a fun moment’ ending Columbus’ streak, says Burakovsky

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Tonight in Washington, the Columbus Blue Jackets will look to match the longest winning streak in NHL history — 17 games, set by Pittsburgh in ’92-93.

The Caps, meanwhile, will try to keep it from happening.

Heck, forward Andre Burakovsky is already predicting how good it will feel to put an end to it all.

“Obviously they’re on a huge winning streak right here,” Burakovsky said, per the Washington Times. “It’s going to be a fun moment for us to end.”

Burakovsky’s remarks aren’t much, but it is interesting he’s doing this kind of talking. The former first-round pick’s had a disappointing year, with just four goals through 34 games, and has been parked as a healthy scratch this season.

His remarks also stand out given what teammate T.J. Oshie said on Thursday.

“I think a lot of teams have wanted to break [Columbus’ streak] along the way,” Oshie explained, per the Washington Post. “So, we’re not going to be too focused about that. If the guys need that to motivate them, that’s fine.

“But I think right now, we’re getting our game going in a pretty positive direction, and we’re going to focus on that and hopefully that’ll be enough to break it.”

One thing aiding the Capitals’ cause? Verizon has been a difficult place to get results lately.

Washington is 6-1-1 in its last eight at home, with its lone regulation loss coming against Montreal on Dec. 17. The team also seemed to get a serious shot in the arm from Tuesday’s wild 6-5 OT win over the Leafs, in which the Caps came back from being down 2-1, 4-2 and 5-4.

Know what else the Caps did on Tuesday? They snapped Toronto’s winning streak. Sure, it only sat at five games, but it was a streak broken nonetheless.

Mikael Backlund can’t stop scoring

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CALGARY, Alberta (AP) Mikael Backlund scored for the fifth consecutive game, leading the Calgary Flames to a 4-1 victory over the Colorado Avalanche 4-1 on Wednesday night.

Alex Chiasson had a goal and an assist and Kris Versteeg and Johnny Gaudreau also scored for Calgary. Mark Giordano, TJ Brodie and Sean Monahan had two assists each.

Brian Elliott‘s bid for his first shutout of the season ended when Patrick Wiercioch scored with 1:25 left in the third period. Elliott finished with 17 saves to win his fifth straight start and improve to 8-9-1.

Calvin Pickard stopped 33 shots for the Avalanche, who have lost five straight and 10 of 11.

Backlund made it seven goals in his last five games with 2:40 left in the second period for a 2-0 lead. Giordano’s shot was stopped by Pickard but the rebound popped into the slot where Backlund buried his team-leading 12th of the season.

It is the longest goal streak for the Flames since Curtis Glencross scored in seven consecutive games from Feb. 27 to March 11, 2012.

Versteeg got the Flames on the scoreboard with 4:35 left in the first as his shot from the slot caromed in off Fedor Tyutin‘s skate 9 seconds into Calgary’s first power play.

Just 43 seconds after Chiasson made it 3-0 with 6:35 left in the third, Calgary made it three power play goals when Gaudreau faked out Pickard and stuffed the puck inside the goal post.

Calgary’s power play has been on a real roll the last five weeks. Ranked 30th in the NHL at the end of November at 10.1 percent (8 for 79), it has been the best in the NHL since that point, operating at 35.7 percent (20 for 56).

Colorado’s best spurt came midway through the second period while down 1-0 when they had a pair of 2-on-1s just minutes apart. But neither resulted in a shot. Mikael Grigorenko fired Joe Colborne‘s set-up wide on the first. Then, Mikko Rantanen fired a shot off the post after a nice pass from Nathan MacKinnon.

NOTES: Backlund’s goal was his 200th NHL point. … Backlund ties Dallas’ Patrick Eaves and Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby for the second-longest goal-scoring streak this season. Nashville’s James Neal had a six-game run in November. … Freddie Hamilton drew into the Flames’ lineup for the first time since Dec. 2. … Since his opening-game hat trick, Avs forward Joe Colborne has gone 29 games without a goal.

UP NEXT

Avalanche: Host the New York Islanders on Friday night to start a four-game homestand.

Flames: At Vancouver on Friday night to start a home-and-home set on consecutive nights.

Ducks re-sign Tokarski: one year, $650,000

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Anaheim has re-upped with third string netminder Dustin Tokarski on a one-year, two-way deal worth $650,000 at the NHL level, per the O.C. Register and TVA.

Tokarski, 27, has played in one game for the Ducks this year, coming on in relief of John Gibson in a game against Columbus in late October.

He’s primarily suited up for Anaheim’s AHL affiliate in San Diego, where he’s gone 9-6-1 with a 3.29 GAA and .889 save percentage.

Best remembered for coming on in relief of an injured Carey Price for Montreal during the 2014 Eastern Conference Final, Tokarski gives the Ducks some flexibility heading into next season.

Current backup Jonathan Bernier is in the final year of a deal with a $4.15 million cap hit — fairly rich for a No. 2 — and Tokarski would give the Ducks a goalie to expose in June’s expansion draft.