Mike Halford

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 19: Mika Zibanejad #93 of the New York Rangers celebrates his first period goal against the Detroit Red Wings and is joined by Chris Kreider #20 at Madison Square Garden on October 19, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Rangers lose Raanta, but get Zibanejad back from broken leg

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Busy little Monday for the Rangers.

First, the club announced forward Marek Hrivik cleared waivers and was sent to AHL Hartford — paving the way for Mika Zibanejad to return from his broken leg — then announced goalie Antti Raanta would miss the next 7-10 days with the lower-body injury suffered against Montreal over the weekend.

Plenty to unpack here.

Let’s begin with Zibanejad, acquired this offseason in the Derick Brassard trade. The 23-year-old suffered his broken leg back on Nov. 20 and has missed the last 26 games as a result — so, needless to say, New York is glad to have him back. He’d been producing very well at the time of his injury, with five goals and 15 points in his first 19 games as a Blueshirt.

But for all the excitement about his return, enthusiasm has to be dampened a bit by the Raanta injury.

Arguably the best backup in the NHL this season, Raanta’s gone 10-4-0 with a 2.23 GAA and .923 save percentage. He’s done a terrific job of spelling Henrik Lundqvist when called upon, and even had a brief stint of starts in late December before King Henrik resumed No. 1 duties.

With Raanta sidelined until the All-Star break, the Rangers have recalled Magnus Hellberg from the AHL.

Staal-Lindholm-McGinn line doing the business in Carolina

DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 21:  Brock McGinn #23 of the Carolina Hurricanes awaits a face off against the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center on October 21, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Hurricanes defeated the Avalanche 1-0 in overtime.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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Bill Peters has found something in the Jordan Staal, Elias Lindholm and Brock McGinn trio.

The line, formed just a short while ago, erupted for 10 points in Saturday’s 7-4 win over the Isles. McGinn went on to capture third star of the week honors and, together, the unit has been a major reason Carolina’s knocking on the door of a playoff spot.

“They’re doing it playing against everybody’s best at home,” Peters said of the Staal-Lindholm-McGinn line, per the New York Daily News. “They’re taking on tough matchups each and every shift and more often than not, they win it.”

Given that Staal, the club’s top defensive center, anchors the line, Peters often uses it against the opposition’s top group. So full credit has to go to Lindholm and McGinn, especially given their relative inexperience — both are just 22 years old and, coming into this season, McGinn had all of 21 games of NHL experience.

He’s a pretty good story, to say the least. The youngest of the McGinn brothers — Jamie currently plays for Arizona, Tye is with the Lightning organization — Brock was the 47th overall pick in 2012, and has steadily progressed from a good scorer in junior, to a good scorer at the AHL level, to a good scorer at the NHL level.

McGinn now has 12 points in 27 games with the ‘Canes this season.

“Our scouts stepped up and took [McGinn] in the second round. He’s a little under-sized and he’s maybe not the fastest guy, but he’s got a lot of hockey player in him,” Peters explained, per the ‘Canes website. “He’s a very courageous kid, a very intelligent player, a lot of old school in him. He’s starting to play with way more pace now, which is a huge credit to him.”

As mentioned above, the ‘Canes are in a great spot right now. They head into today’s action just one point back of Philly for the final wild card spot in the East, but with three games in hand.

Carolina could vault the Flyers with a result against Columbus on Tuesday. It would be another big step in trying to get back to the postseason for the first time since 2009.

More good times in Washington, as Backstrom named first star of the week

Nicklas Backstrom
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The Caps have won nine in a row and catapulted to top spot in the NHL with 63 points, one ahead of second-place Columbus.

Suffice to say, folks are feelin’ fine in D.C.

Those good vibes continued on Monday, as center Nicklas Backstrom was named the NHL’s first star of the week.

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Backstrom led the League in assists and points with 3-7—10 in four contests as the Capitals won all four games to extend their overall winning streak to nine contests and propel Washington to the top of the NHL standings (29-9-5, 63 points).

Backstrom registered multiple points in all four games starting with one goal and one assist in a 4-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Jan. 9. On Jan. 11, he recorded one goal and three assists in a 5-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, followed by one goal and one assist in a 6-0 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Jan. 13. Backstrom finished the week by notching two assists in a 5-0 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Jan. 15.

In his 10th season, all with the Capitals, the 29-year-old Galve, Sweden native leads the Capitals and is tied for 10th in League scoring with 42 points (12-30—42 in 43 GP).

Backstrom, of course, wasn’t the only big story in Washington last week. Captain Alex Ovechkin scored his 1,000th career point on Wednesday, becoming the first player in franchise history to hit that mark.

The only negative thing coming out of D.C. is that John Carlson, who leads all Caps d-men in scoring, is out for today’s game versus Pittsburgh. Carlson’s absence will be brief, though, as head coach Barry Trotz expects him back in the lineup later this week.

Goalie nods: Bolts go back to struggling Vasilevskiy

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 16:  Andrei Vasilevskiy #88 of the Tampa Bay Lightning stretches against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Consol Energy Center on May 16, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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Ben Bishop‘s return from a nine-game absence last night went pretty well — he made 24 saves in a win over the Sabres — but the schedule isn’t doing him or the Lightning any favors.

Tonight, the Bolts play the second of a back-to-back as they host the Blue Jackets at Amalie. Even though Bishop looked good last night and the temptation to go back to him must be there, head coach Jon Cooper will instead play it safe, and start struggling youngster Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Vasilevskiy had a rough go filling in for Bishop as the club’s No. 1. He admitted as much to the Tampa Bay Times prior to Thursday’s game against Buffalo.

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“I think even the best goalies in the world, they need some days off from games for sure,” Vasilevskiy said Thursday. “Because it’s tough to handle many games in a row.”

Vasilevskiy admits his numbers were “rough” in his first stint as a No. 1, going 3-5 1 with a 3.78 goals against average and an .876 save percentage. But a lot of that had to do with how the team was playing in front of him, so it didn’t zap his confidence. And Vasilevskiy believes this experience will benefit him the next time he’s in the starting role.

Vasilevskiy thinks his biggest lessons were learning how to take more rest between games – doing treatment instead of extra workouts – and turning the page mentally.

For the Jackets, Sergei Bobrovsky‘s in goal.

Elsewhere…

— Good matchup at MSG, where Frederik Andersen and the Leafs visit Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers.

— Team Canada World Cup teammates clash in Washington, as Braden Holtby and the Caps host Corey Crawford and the Blackhawks.

— No surprises in Carolina, where Cam Ward will make yet another start, his 18th in a row. No word yet on a Buffalo starter, but Anders Nilsson did play in the aforementioned loss to Tampa Bay last night.

Thomas Greiss will make his fifth straight start for the Isles, who are in Florida. Roberto Luongo, coming off a 29-save win over the Isles on Wednesday, is in for the Panthers.

Chad Johnson, fresh off a 27-save win over the Sharks on Wednesday, goes back in for the Flames. No word yet on who starts for the visiting Devils, though Cory Schneider did play in Thursday’s OT loss in Edmonton.

— After getting last game off, Mike Smith returns to the starting role for Arizona. The Jets have yet to announce a starter. Both Michael Hutchinson and Connor Hellebuyck saw action in Wednesday’s 7-4 loss to Montreal, with the former coming on in relief of the latter.

Potential No. 1 pick Patrick returns from 35-game absence

KELOWNA, CANADA - OCTOBER 25: Rourke Chartier #14 of Kelowna Rockets faces off against Nolan Patrick #19 of Brandon Wheat Kings during the first period on October 25, 2014 at Prospera Place in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)
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Big development for the 2017 NHL Entry Draft on Friday — Nolan Patrick, the ballyhooed prospect out of WHL Brandon, will make his return to game action after missing 35 contests with an upper-body ailment.

Patrick, 18, is considered to be a strong candidate for the top pick in this year’s draft. The son of former NHLer Steve Patrick, he’s got good bloodlines and impressive size, currently listed at 6-foot-3, 198 pounds.

Patrick’s draft stock skyrocketed following a banner ’15-16 campaign, in which he captured WHL playoff MVP honors after racking up 30 points in 21 games. And that came after a regular season in which he scored 102 points in 72 games, becoming the first 17-year old Wheat King to score over 100 points since 1976-77.

That stock hasn’t exactly slipped because of this latest injury scare, but others have seen theirs rise, and challenge Patrick the No. 1 spot. Chief among them is Swiss forward Nico Hischier, who wowed onlookers with his efforts at the World Juniors.

Patrick’s injury kept him from representing Team Canada at said tournament.