via NBC Sports Washington

Holtby won’t return to Capitals game after high stick to eye

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Plenty of eyes are on the Columbus Blue Jackets’ net on Saturday, yet it’s the Washington Capitals who are suddenly dealing with bigger goalie concerns.

The team announced that Braden Holtby will not return to that game after Cam Atkinson‘s high stick caught Holtby in his eye despite his goalie mask. The Capitals didn’t provide any other information regarding Holtby’s status, beyond that he continues to be evaluated.

NBC Sports Washington has footage of that unlucky moment:

Holtby is a crucial workhorse for the Capitals, so this is obviously worrisome. To state the obvious, vision is crucial for a goalie. (Holtby’s also been borderline meme-worthy when it comes to preparing for games by getting on the ice and running through rapid-eye movements.)

This wasn’t the only injury scare for Washington, as Alex Ovechkin missed some time earlier in the contest. He appears to be OK, which isn’t surprising because Ovechkin sometimes seems borderline-indestructible. It’s something to monitor, at least, because there are moments where a player will ride the adrenaline of a game to its conclusion, only to realize that an injury was more serious than expected.

On the bright side, Pheonix Copley has played pretty well for Washington this season, so maybe he can hold down the fort.

The Blue Jackets decided to start Joonas Korpisalo instead of Sergei Bobrovsky in this game, drawing jeers about possibly not moving on. Then again, Korpi won his last start, so maybe John Tortorella is merely riding the hot hand?

Also of note: Markus Nutivaara made an outstanding breakout pass to set up this Cam Atkinson goal:

Evgeny Kuznetsov scored a late 1-1 goal to send the game into overtime, but Artemi Panarin ripped a power-play one-timer by Copley to give Columbus a 2-1 OT win. So a small winning streak for Korpisalo, but one would think that Bob will close off the Blue Jackets’ back-to-back against the Rangers on Sunday.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Blues’ Binnington taking full advantage of his opportunity

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You’d be forgiven if you had no idea who Jordan Binnington was before last week.

You’d still be forgiven if you have no idea who he is while you’re reading this, too.

The 25-year-old had just one NHL appearance under his belt prior to this season, coming in for 13 minutes of relief, giving up one goal on four shots back in 2015-16 with the St. Louis Blues, who drafted the 6-foot-1 netminder in the third round in 2011.

From there, it’s been time spent with three American Hockey League teams, where a steady improvement in his numbers (and the inconsistent play of Jake Allen and his .896 save percentage, and loss of Carter Hutton to free agency) have offered him another chance in the Show.

And while it’s not exactly the largest sample size, it’s offered Blues fans some semblance of hope, a respite in a season that wasn’t supposed to go this way after a summer of retooling.

Binnington turned his first NHL start into a 25-save shutout. That effort will often earn a goalie another outing, which Binnington again took advantage of, stopping 28-of-29 to give him his second win in his second kick at the can.

“He’s played well,” Blues coach Craig Berube said Saturday. “He looks confident. He looks aggressive in net, which is good.

This leads us into Saturday, where Binnington has been granted a third round with a .937 save percentage now in four appearances this season. It’s hardly a surprise, of course. One goal allowed across two NHL games — regardless of the opponent (which in this case was the Philadelphia Flyers and Montreal Canadiens) — isn’t going to get you sent down.

Binnington, arguably, is in for his biggest test as the hot hand in St. Louis against the Dallas Stars. The latter have worked themselves into third place in the Central Division after two of its best players — Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn — were compared to the excrement of a ranch animal.

Binnington is not expected to save the world, at least not yet.

But what this could be is the start of an AHL journeyman finally making it to the next level and sticking there.

Mackenzie Blackwood in New Jersey is starting to carve out a role for himself. Pheonix Copley has shown some good signs with the Washington Capitals. Jack Campbell has been exceptional when called upon (and healthy) on a lowly Los Angeles Kings team.

Binnington has a long way to go, but there are some signs of life in his game. A couple of big outings when given the chance has spawned confidence.

“I’m just going to try and worry about what’s in my control,” Binnington said. “Just hopefully try and be part of the solution.”

In St. Louis, that means solid goaltending.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Capitals cruise by flailing Flyers

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At this rate, the Philadelphia Flyers might need to go through more than seven starting goalies. By the end of this week.

Mike McKenna presents a great story, but he’s still just one (journey)man, and the Capitals made it a tough first night for the 35-year-old. Actually, at times, you could just as easily say that the Flyers made things difficult for their new goalie.

Ultimately, Washington ended up winning 5-3, strengthening their Metropolitan Division lead while handing the Flyers their eighth consecutive loss.

While Tom Wilson stayed hot, Jakub Vrana was the standout Capital on Tuesday. He set the table for Wilson’s goal with a great assist, then added two goals of his own for a three-point night, showing fantastic speed. This shorthanded goal joined that nice pass as the standout moments of Vrana’s strong output.

Things started well enough for the Flyers, as Jakub Voracek responded to Wilson’s opening goal to send the game into the first intermission tied 1-1. The Capitals really only needed a hot second period on the strength of their Jakub, along with T.J. Oshie‘s goal, as Washington scored three times in the middle frame.

The Capitals remained up 4-1 for much of the third, until some late goals warped the score a bit. Wayne Simmonds and Claude Giroux scored to save some face for Philly, while Oshie’s second goal of the game (and 200th of his career) came on an empty-netter. (Tom Wilson appeared to get an ENG of his own, but it was ruled offside.)

Pheonix Copley‘s hot streak is no typo, as he looked strong in making 37 saves. He’s now 10-2-2 on the season and hasn’t been dinged for a loss since Nov. 14. Copley’s quickly alleviating any concerns about Washington having a dependable backup behind Braden Holtby after Philipp Grubauer left for Colorado heading into 2018-19.

McKenna ended his Flyers debut making 20 out of 24 stops.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

WATCH LIVE: Flyers visit Capitals on NBCSN

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Tuesday night’s matchup between the Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals with coverage beginning at 6:30 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The defending Stanley Cup champions are off to another great start to their season – with 54 points through the first half of the regular season, the Capitals sit first in the Metropolitan Division. The Flyers, meanwhile, are the bottom-dwellers of the division and the in-season coaching change has not helped as Philadelphia has dropped seven straight after losing to St. Louis last night, 3-0. Blues’ goalie Jordan Binnington pitched a shutout in his first NHL start as the Flyers were booed off the ice after the game.

Washington is coming off a 3-2 win at Detroit on Sunday in which Michal Kempny scored the game-winning goal with 3:52 remaining in regulation. The victory snapped a three-game losing streak, which was the Capitals’ longest winless stretch of the season. Dating back to Dec. 6, Washington has won 10 of its last 14 games (10-3-1). The Caps will now return to D.C. after a three-game road trip and boast a 12-6-2 home record this season.

Since firing head coach Dave Hakstol last month, Philadelphia is 3-6-2 under interim coach Scott Gordon. The Flyers won their first two games under Gordon but are now in the midst of their worst slump this season, having not won a game since before Christmas (last win: Dec. 23 at New York Rangers). Scoring has especially been a struggle of late, with Philadelphia putting up no more than two goals in five of their last six games (seven goals total in span).

The Flyers have used an NHL-high sx goalies this season, and that does not include recently claimed Mike McKenna. Philly claimed the 35-year-old off waivers from Vancouver last week as he backed up 20-year-old Carter Hart last night, who stopped 34 of 36 shots against the Blues. McKenna could lucky No. 7 on Tuesday night.

[WATCH LIVE – COVERAGE BEGINS AT 6:30 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

What: Philadelphia Flyers at Washington Capitals
Where: Capital One Center
When: Tuesday, Jan. 8, 6:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
Live stream: You can watch the Flyers-Capitals stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

FLYERS
Claude GirouxSean CouturierTravis Konecny
Oskar LindblomNolan PatrickJakub Voracek
James van RiemsdykJordan WealWayne Simmonds
Michael RafflScott LaughtonDale Weise

Ivan ProvorovTravis Sanheim
Shayne GostisbehereRadko Gudas
Robert HaggChristian Folin

Starting goalie: Mike McKenna

CAPITALS
Alex OvechkinEvgeny KuznetsovTom Wilson
Jakub VranaLars EllerT.J. Oshie
Andre BurakovskyTravis BoydBrett Connolly
Chandler StephensonNic DowdDevante Smith-Pelly
(*Nicklas Backstrom is a game-time decision)

Michal Kempny – John Carlson
Dmitry OrlovMatt Niskanen
Brooks OrpikJonas Siegenthaler

Starting goalie: Pheonix Copley

Chris Cuthbert (play-by-play) and Brian Boucher (‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst) will call Flyers-Capitals from Capital One Arena. Paul Burmeister, Keith Jones and Anson Carter will handle studio coverage.

MORE: Should Chuck Fletcher blow up or retool Flyers?

The Buzzer: Kucherov’s five point night; Bergeron, Kovalchuk with big returns

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Three Stars

1. Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning. The Tampa Bay Lightning look unstoppable right now. After their 6-3 win over the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday night they are still averaging more than four goals per game on the season and are 11-0-1 in their past 12 games (and also 16-2-1 in their past 19 games). Leading the way on Saturday night was Nikita Kucherov with a five-point night to give him 57 points in 37 games this season. That is a 126-point pace over 82 games. The five points is a new season-high for him and already the eighth time this season he has recorded at least three points in a game. He is now just two points back of Colorado Avalanche forward Mikko Rantanen (59 points) for the league lead in the scoring race.

2. Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins. What a difference he makes when he is on the ice. Patrice Bergeron returned to the Boston Bruins’ lineup on Saturday afternoon for the first time since November 14 and it was like he never left. He finished with a four-point performance (two goals, two assists) in a 5-2 win over the Nashville Predators and was his usual dominant self in all phases of the game. He is now up to 31 points in 20 games this season for a Bruins team that has been trying to stay afloat despite some brutal injury luck this season. Getting a healthy Bergeron back will obviously be a huge boost to that lineup.

3. Phillip Danault, Montreal Canadiens. Entering play on Saturday Montreal Canadiens forward Phillip Danault had not scored a goal in 11 consecutive games, had just one in his past 30, and just two for the entire season. He topped that season total with three goals in a 4-3 win over the Vegas Golden Knights. Given that he had scored just 10 goals since the start of the 2017-18 season, and only 27 in 223 career games, he is probably one of the most unlikely players to net a hat trick this season.

More big performances from Saturday

Jeff Skinner scored his 26th goal of the season for the Buffalo Sabres. That total is good enough for second place in the NHL behind only Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin. He continues to play his way toward a huge contract in the coming months.

Roberto Luongo turned aside 33 shots for the Florida Panthers in a 2-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings.

Cam Atkinson scored two more goals for the Columbus Blue Jackets to help lift his team to a 4-3 win over the Philadelphia Flyers, handing rookie goalie Carter Hart his first NHL defeat.

Pheonix Copley, Laurent Brossoit, Matt Murray, and Linus Ullmark all recorded shutouts on Saturday.

David Perron had two points for the St. Louis Blues in a 3-1 win over the Calgary Flames.

Alexander Radulov had two points, including the game-winning goal with just 10 seconds to play in overtime, to help lift the Dallas Stars to a 2-1 win over the Minnesota Wild.

Mark Scheifele‘s 22nd goal of the season, which came with just under 1:30 to play in regulation, helped lift the Winnipeg Jets to a 1-0 win in Vancouver. It is his fifth game-winning goal of the season.

— Mitch Marner thought he had a hat trick for the Toronto Maple Leafs until one of the goals was awarded to Andreas Johnsson. He instead had to settle for two goals and an assist in a 5-3 win over the New York Rangers. Johnsson also had three points in the win.

— The Arizona Coyotes allowed a three-goal third period lead to slip away against the Colorado Avalanche but were able to rebound for a 6-4 win thanks to a pair of late goals from Brad Richardson — the game-winner with less than four minutes to play, and then an empty net goal to secure the win.

Steven Stamkos scored two goals for the Tampa Lightning and hit the 20 goal mark for the 10th time in his career. He is one of the best players in the league and is only the third leading scorer on the Lightning, a testament to how good and deep the Lightning roster currently is.

Highlights of the Night

This is what the Los Angeles Kings had in mind when they signed Ilya Kovalchuk over the summer. It has not worked out as planned so far, but he had his bet game of the season on Saturday afternoon in a 3-2 win over the San Jose Sharks by scoring two goals, including the game-winning goal in overtime.

The Sidney Crosby to Jake Guentzel connection is rolling in Pittsburgh. Guentzel scored two more goals on Saturday night in a 3-0 win over the Carolina Hurricanes, while Crosby picked up an assist on all three Penguins goals. The passing on Guentzel’s second goal was crisp.

Speaking of crisp passing, this John Tavares to Mitch Marner play is pretty great, too.

Factoids

Rasmus Dahlin scored a goal in the Buffalo Sabres’ 3-0 win over the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday night and is off to an incredible start to his career.

More on Ilya Kovalchuk’s big game for the Los Angeles Kings.

A perfect time for Pheonix Copley to record his first NHL shutout.

The Tampa Bay Lightning head to the holiday break as the best team in the NHL at the moment.

His team did not get the win, but Connor McDavid is still having yet another incredible season.

Scores

Boston Bruins 5, Nashville Predators 2

Columbus Blue Jackets 4, Philadelphia 3

Florida Panthers 2, Detroit Red Wings 1

Montreal Canadiens 4, Vegas Golden Knights 3

Los Angeles Kings 3, San Jose Sharks 2 (OT)

St. Louis Blues 3, Calgary Flames 1

Arizona Coyotes 6, Colorado Avalanche 4

Buffalo Sabres 3, Anaheim Ducks 0

Toronto Maple Leafs 5, New York Rangers 3

Washington Capitals 4, Ottawa Senators 0

Pittsburgh Penguins 3, Carolina Hurricanes 0

Dallas Stars 2, Minnesota Wild 1 (OT)

Winnipeg Jets 1, Vancouver Canucks 0

Tampa Bay Lightning 6, Edmonton Oilers 3

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.