ST. LOUIS -- St. Louis Blues captain David Backes is day-to-day after sustaining a lower-body injury midway through the second period of a 4-1 loss to the Washington Capitals at Scottrade Center on Tuesday night.
The inside of Backes' left skate appeared to be struck when teammate Alexander Steen fired a slap shot during a power play.
Backes, who has 27 goals and 57 points in 74 games, came back for one more shift but quickly departed to the Blues' dressing room and did not return.
When the sun rose on the morning of March 15, the Philadelphia Flyers found themselves on the fringe of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They were in the second Eastern Conference wild-card spot based on a tiebreaker. They were coming off back-to-back one-goal losses and had in front of them a weekend home-and-home set with their bitter rivals, the Pittsburgh Penguins.
It was a turning point of the season for the Flyers, as that weekend opened a stretch of 10 consecutive games against teams that, on March 15, all were in a playoff spot.
"We definitely, starting this weekend, have to play real good hockey and win hockey games," coach Craig Berube said heading into that March 15 game. "It's crunch time against real good teams. … Playing these games against good teams, with everything on the line, will prepare us for the playoffs."
Prepare them well it did. The Flyers swept the Penguins, starting a 6-2-2 run that solidified their hold on a playoff spot and allowed them to return to the postseason after a one-year absence.
Here are five more reasons the Flyers will have a chance to win the franchise's third Stanley Cup:
Los Angeles Kings forward Trevor Lewis signed a two-year contract extension Tuesday. Financial terms of the contract were not released. Lewis could have become an unrestricted free agent after the season.
Vancouver Canucks president and general manager Mike Gillis has been fired, the team announced Tuesday.
The Canucks were eliminated from Stanley Cup Playoff contention Monday night.
Gillis was hired by the Canucks as general manager in April 2008 and added the title of president in 2009.
"On behalf of my entire family, I would like to sincerely thank Mike Gillis for his hard work and the many contributions he made on and off the ice during his tenure," Francesco Aquilini, chairman of Canucks Sports & Entertainment, said in a statement. "The Vancouver Canucks had success under Mike's leadership, and we nearly reached our ultimate goal; but I believe we have reached a point where a change in leadership and new voice is needed.
"I also want to thank our fans for their support for the Vancouver Canucks through a difficult and frustrating season," Aquilini continued. "We haven't met their expectations or ours. We are committed to bringing the Stanley Cup to Vancouver for our fans and we will continue to do everything possible to reach that goal."
BROSSARD, Quebec -- The Montreal Canadiens left a lot of star power behind when they left for Chicago on Tuesday.
Goaltender Carey Price and defensemen Andrei Markov and Alexei Emelin will not face the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET, TSN, RDS) after coach Michel Therrien decided to leave them behind to rest a week before the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Canadiens remain in a battle with the Tampa Bay Lightning to stay in second place in the Atlantic Division and have home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Entering play Tuesday the Canadiens have a four-point lead; the Lightning play the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday.
"Nothing has changed for us," Therrien said. "We're going to Chicago to win. We want to play good hockey; inspired, solid hockey. We want to continue preparing for the playoffs and win the most games possible."
We are nearly at the finish line, and yet again it's been an incredible fantasy hockey season. Although NHL teams still are fighting to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs or battling for position, we fantasy owners are at the end of the road. Standard head-to-head leagues are now complete and though some rotisserie leagues might come down to the final game, most of those are likely locked up as well.
Hopefully our NHL.com fantasy hockey staff has helped you earn some bragging rights this season. Sadly, my advice to you comes to a close today. Now it's time to reflect and start looking ahead.
From Sidney Crosby staying healthy all season long to Steven Stamkos, John Tavares and Evgeni Malkin missing lengthy periods of time, we've seen plenty of surprises from the forward position. Patrick Sharp currently is the No. 3 forward in Yahoo leagues; who saw that coming? Jamie Benn, Joe Pavelski and Tyler Seguin are all top 10 overall players in Yahoo leagues, while both Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin are outside the top 100. Jaromir Jagr found the fountain of youth and has been a top-40 forward pretty much all season long, while 18-year-old Nathan MacKinnon has had one of the most prolific rookie seasons in recent memory.
It has been a season that overflowed with storylines, excitement and heroics, and while many things may change between now and the first fantasy hockey draft for the 2014-15 season, below is where I believe the forward position stands at this very moment.
A LOOK AT THE TOP
Who gets the honor of holding down the No. 1 ranking throughout the offseason? How about who's second and third? Let's have a look ...
The Flyers would clinch a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs if they defeat the Florida Panthers in any fashion.
The Wild would clinch a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs if they get at least one point against the Boston Bruins OR if Phoenix Coyotes lose to the Columbus Blue Jackets in any fashion or defeat the Blue Jackets in a shootout OR if the Dallas Stars lose to the Nashville Predators in any fashion.
In the Eastern Conference, the Boston Bruins, Pittsburgh Penguins, Montreal Canadiens, Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Rangers have already qualified for the playoffs. The St. Louis Blues, Anaheim Ducks, Colorado Avalanche, San Jose Sharks, Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings have locked down a spot in the postseason from the Western Conference.
When it comes to ranking the top goalies eligible for the 2014 NHL Draft, the overwhelming majority consider Boston College freshman Thatcher Demko in a class by himself.
As expected, Demko remained No. 1 on NHL Central Scouting's final rankings of the top draft-eligible North American goalies, which was released Tuesday.
"He was so far ahead of the under-aged players last year that if he was draft-eligible in 2013 he would have probably been drafted high; that's how far ahead he was then and is now," NHL Central Scouting's Al Jensen, who specializes in viewing goaltenders, told NHL.com.
In a year when projecting the best player eligible for the 2014 NHL Draft might be as stern a challenge as it's ever been, Kingston Frontenacs center Samuel Bennett was the desired choice from start to finish in the minds of the gurus at NHL Central Scouting.
Bennett, considered the top player by Central Scouting in its midterm ranking in January, again is No. 1 on the final list of the top draft-eligible skaters in North America. Central Scouting on Tuesday released its final rankings of the top North American and European skaters and goalies.
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