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Capitals’ Nicklas Backstrom set for return

The Washington Capitals best center and one of the best set-up men in the NHL will make his debut in this season’s Eastern Conference Final on Thursday.

After taking the morning skate, getting rotated in on line rushes and working with the top power-play unit, Nicklas Backstrom will make his return to the Capitals lineup after a two-week layoff with a hand injury he sustained in Game 5 of second round against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Backstrom’s return comes at just the right time as the Capitals look to bounce back from a Game 3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning and earn a split at home. The Capitals lead the best-of-7 series 2-1.

It appears Alex Chiasson will make way for Backstrom’s return.

Backstrom’s usage will be front and center in the game.

He didn’t skate with his familiar second line during line rushes and could get someone else to take faceoffs as to not put his hand through any more stress than it needs to, per the Washington Post.

Even without Backstrom in the dot, his return is only slightly less of a boost than it already was.

Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin together again on the power play could spell disaster for the Lightning if they’re undisciplined in the game. And Backstrom’s overall vision and passing skills, even at less than 100 percent, are elite.

MORE:
• 
Conference Finals schedule, TV info
• 
NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub


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

It’s Ottawa Senators day at PHT

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Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team? The Ottawa Senators.

Ottawa’s 2014-15 campaign was one for the record books.

Thanks to a remarkable 23-4-4 run down the stretch, the Sens staged a furious comeback to make the playoffs, becoming the first team in NHL history to qualify for the postseason after sitting 14 points back.

“It was special,” said Kyle Turris, per Sportsnet. “So many things happened and so many guys stepped up. It was a real special run and we won’t forget and we’ll learn from ultimately going forward.”

It was a special run indeed, and one filled with emotion. The Sens dealt with adversity throughout the way; GM Bryan Murray was diagnosed with colon cancer, assistant coach Mark Reeds passed away just before the playoffs and owner Eugene Melnyk was gravely ill before a successful liver transplant.

From that adversity, some new stars came shining through.

Andrew “The Hamburglar” Hammond went from obscure backup goalie to one of the NHL’s best stories, posting a 20-1-2 record with a .929 save percentage. The rookie tandem of Mike Hoffman and Mark Stone carried the club offensively at times, with Stone finishing the runner-up for the Calder. Erik Karlsson won his second career Norris trophy, and Turris continued to emerge as a bonafide No. 1, playmaking center.

In light of all that, Ottawa’s season had to be considered a success, even with its disappointing opening-round playoff loss to Montreal.

Off-season recap

It was a quiet summer in Ottawa. All of the club’s young skaters — Hammond, Stone, Hoffman, Mika Zibanejad, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Alex Chiasson — were re-signed, and Murray did little in free agency.

At the draft, Murray sent goalie Robin Lehner to Buffalo (along with David Legwand), which gave him two first-round picks; the Sens then proceeded to select Quebec League d-man Thomas Chabot, and USNTDP product Colin White.

Arbitrator awards Sens’ Hoffman one-year, $2M contract

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The Ottawa Senators went two-for-two in arbitration cases this summer.

Senators forward Mike Hoffman requested a salary of $3.4 million from an arbitrator while the Senators countered at $1.75 million. The ruling came down this afternoon largely in favor of Ottawa as Hoffman will earn $2 million in 2015-16, per the team’s Twitter feed.

This comes after forward Alex Chiasson asked for $2.475 million against Ottawa’s $1 million and was ultimately awarded a $1.2 million deal. Chiasson had 11 goals and 26 points in 76 contests last season, down from 35 points in 79 games with Dallas in 2013-14.

Hoffman was coming off of a considerably stronger season offensively though as he scored 27 goals and 48 points in 79 contests. However, the 25-year-old had only participated in 29 NHL contests prior to the 2014-15 campaign, so he still needs to prove that he can maintain or build upon his recently established career-highs.

Ottawa has now settled with all of its restricted free agents, although the stage is set for the Senators to renegotiate with Chiasson and Hoffman again next summer as they’re scheduled to become restricted free agents again. If Hoffman has another strong season and Chiasson is able to bounce back, then Ottawa will be in a considerably more difficult negotiating position.

For now though, the Senators are getting both forwards at close to the price they wanted.

Report: Hoffman seeking $3.4 million, against Sens’ request of $1.75 million

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Assuming his arbitration hearing goes forward Thursday, Senators forward Mike Hoffman will be seeking almost double what his team will be requesting in salary.

According to CBC Sports’ Tim Wharnsby, Hoffman’s ask is $3.4 million against the Sens’ $1.75 million.

Hoffman had 27 goals and 21 assists in 2014-15. The 25-year-old winger finished sixth in the voting for the Calder Memorial Trophy.

The large majority of arbitration cases get settled before a hearing is even held. However, it’s worth noting that Hoffman’s teammate, Alex Chiasson, required a verdict to be handed down.

So far this offseason, Chiasson’s is the only case to actually be decided by an arbitrator.

Related: Hoffman unsure about long-term deal with Sens

Arbitrator hands Chiasson $1.2M contract

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Typically speaking, players and teams that file for arbitration are able to agree to terms on their own before the deadline, but that wasn’t the case with Alex Chiasson.

Sunday morning an arbitrator decided for both sides what Chiasson will make in 2015-16 and the new contract is valued at $1.2 million, per the team’s website. That’s a victory for Ottawa as it was requesting a salary of $1 million compared to Chiasson’s filing at $2.475 million.

The 24-year-old forward was coming off of his entry-level contract. He had 11 goals, 15 assists, and 67 penalty minutes in 76 contests last season. That’s down from his 35-point rookie campaign in 2013-14.

Chiasson was acquired along with Alexander Guptill, Ludwig Karlsson, Nicholas Paul, and a 2015 second rounder (Mackenzie Blackwood) in the Jason Spezza trade with the Dallas Stars last summer.