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Ward embracing chance to play on Capitals' top line

Wednesday, 04.08.2015 / 9:24 AM / NHL Insider

Ben Raby - NHL.com Correspondent

ARLINGTON, Va. -- To say the odds were stacked against Joel Ward would be putting it mildly. Three months shy of his 28th birthday, with 11 games on his NHL resume, Ward sought fulltime work with the Nashville Predators in September 2008.

"I really thought it was a do-or-die kind of moment in my career," Ward said of his first training camp in Nashville.

It was there, after three years spent primarily with the Houston Aeros of the American Hockey League, that Ward met then-Predators coach Barry Trotz.

"I remember Joel came to camp," Trotz said, "and all the amateur scouts were telling me how good the young prospects were. But maybe this is where amateur scouts and coaches differ because I saw the detail and maturity of Joel's game -- he could handle a lot more than most of the kids."

Around the League notebook for Tuesday, April 7

Wednesday, 04.08.2015 / 9:00 AM / News

NHL Public Relations

ROOKIES RALLY SENATORS AS PLAYOFF PUSH CONTINUES

Mike Hoffman scored the tying goal with 1:48 left in regulation and Mark Stone scored at 2:43 of overtime to rally the Ottawa Senators from an early three-goal deficit to a 4-3 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins, their fourth victory in their past five games (4-0-1).

* The Senators (41-26-13, 95 points) moved into a tie with the idle Boston Bruins (41-25-13, 95 points) in terms of points for the final wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference. They also kept pace with the Detroit Red Wings (42-25-13, 97 points), who won in regulation to move into third place in the Atlantic Division. Boston has one game in hand on both Detroit and Ottawa, while the Red Wings lead in the ROW tiebreaker (DET: 38, BOS: 37, OTT: 35).

* Elias Sports Bureau says the Senators overcame a 3-0 deficit to win for the second time this season, following a 4-3 overtime win on Dec. 7 vs. VAN.

* Also via Elias, different rookies scored the tying goal in the third period and the overtime winner for the first time in franchise history. The last time different rookies did that for any team was Feb. 8, 2011 (Nick Palmieri and Mattias Tedenby w/ NJD vs. CAR).

Five reasons Canucks clinched playoff berth

Wednesday, 04.08.2015 / 3:00 AM / Expert Picks

Evan Sporer - NHL.com Staff Writer

The Vancouver Canucks made the Stanley Cup Playoffs for five consecutive seasons before missing in 2013-14.

But the remodeled Canucks, under first-year coach Willie Desjardins, are back in the playoffs after clinching a berth on Tuesday. The Canucks got off to a fast start and held a share of first place in the Pacific Division at the end of November. Although they cooled off, the cushion they built allowed them to overcome some key injuries and give them the inside track to a second-place finish and the home-ice advantage in the Western Conference First Round.

Here are five reasons the Canucks are back in the playoffs:

Five things to watch in Rivalry Night doubleheader

Wednesday, 04.08.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

The Boston Bruins have won five consecutive games and are in a heated race to secure a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Washington Capitals have clinched a playoff berth, but they are battling for home-ice advantage in the opening round.

Boston (41-25-13) has earned points in six straight games (5-0-1) and won for the fifth consecutive time in a 2-1 shootout victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday.

Washington (44-25-11), which has a five-game point streak (4-0-1), is coming off a 2-1 win against the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday. The Capitals are in second place in the Metropolitan Division, one point ahead of the New York Islanders with two games remaining.

The Capitals will try to inch closer towards finishing second in the Metropolitan when they host the Bruins in the first game of a Wednesday Night Rivalry doubleheader at Verizon Center (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVA Sports).

In the nightcap, the Dallas Stars will face the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center (NBCSN, SN, 10:30 p.m. ET). Anaheim (50-23-7) is trying to finish atop the Western Conference standings; the Ducks are two points ahead of the St. Louis Blues with two games remaining.

Here are five things to watch in the two Wednesday Night Rivalry games:

Five reasons Wild clinched playoff berth

Wednesday, 04.08.2015 / 3:00 AM / Expert Picks

Dan Myers - NHL.com Correspondent

The Minnesota Wild are heading to the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the third consecutive season after clinching a berth Tuesday in a 2-1 win against the Chicago Blackhawks.

It's the first time the Wild have qualified for the playoffs in three straight seasons, the sixth time overall in their 14 seasons. Minnesota is 25-7-2 since Jan. 27.

Here are five reasons the Wild clinched a playoff berth:

Boudreau knows Ducks playoff expectations are high

Wednesday, 04.08.2015 / 3:00 AM / Expert Picks

Curtis Zupke - NHL.com Correspondent

ANAHEIM -- Bruce Boudreau's chats with reporters are a little different than those of other coaches at this time of the season.

Instead of talking about jockeying for position for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, scoreboard watching and desperation, the Anaheim Ducks coach is asked about winning the Presidents' Trophy and resting his top players down the stretch.

It's a familiar scenario for Boudreau, who for the second straight season will follow a successful regular season with high expectations for the playoffs.

Anaheim entered its game Wednesday against the Dallas Stars (10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN) leading the Western Conference with 50 wins and 107 points, slightly behind last season’s conference-best and Ducks-record 54 wins and 116 points.

The expectations might be bigger this time around.

"I think they always get higher, but I don't want to put the cart before the horse here," Boudreau said. "Let's win the first round and then we'll talk about winning the second round. I don't think there's anyone in the room that doesn't sit at home and dream about what they would do with the [Stanley] Cup, you know? I mean, that's your boyhood dream.

"But it just so happens there's, right now, probably 20 teams dreaming the same thing every night. It's not like just because we want to win, it's going to happen. We have to go out there and beat other teams."

Jagr interested in Panthers return, may play at Worlds

Tuesday, 04.07.2015 / 4:28 PM / News

Michael Langr - NHL.com Correspondent

Jaromir Jagr won't be hanging up his skates for the summer following the Florida Panthers' final two regular-season games against the Boston Bruins and New Jersey Devils.

The 43-year-old forward has decided to join the Czech National Team at training camp for the IIHF World Championship in Prague this May, and if he sees his performance on the larger ice surface as sufficient, he will represent the Czech Republic.

Jagr told Czech Daily Sport he agreed with Czech coach Vladimir Ruzicka to join practices and play in exhibition games to see if he feels comfortable before making a final decision on playing in the World Championship.

"When the NHL season is over, I'll pack up as soon as possible and come back to the Czech Republic," Jagr told Daily Sport. "I'm gonna join the national team. But it doesn't automatically mean I'll play at the Worlds. I'll work at practices and see how it turns out."

Blackhawks' Kane takes slap shots, progressing well

Tuesday, 04.07.2015 / 3:52 PM / News

Brian Hedger - NHL.com Correspondent

CHICAGO -- Anybody who thinks right wing Patrick Kane might return early from surgery to repair his fractured left clavicle only needs to glance at the Chicago Blackhawks' opponent at United Center on Tuesday.

There's a strong chance Minnesota Wild left wing Jason Zucker will play against the Blackhawks (8:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CSN-CH) about eight weeks after having surgery Feb. 12 to repair his right clavicle. Even if Zucker doesn't play Tuesday, his return is close.

Kane, who was injured Feb. 24 and had surgery the next day, started participating in practices and morning skates April 1. The only limitations were no contact and no slap shots, but Tuesday morning he took multiple one-timer slap shots.

"He's progressing real well," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "Every day he seems like he's getting a little stronger. His skating has always been fine and he's handling the puck extremely well, so it's good signs every day, seeing the progress."

Playoff Countdown: Rangers after Presidents' Trophy

Tuesday, 04.07.2015 / 2:02 PM / Expert Picks

NHL.com

Saturday, April 11, marks the conclusion to the 2014-15 regular season. Yet, much remains to be decided in the frantic run to the finish line, including playoff positioning and numerous individual accomplishments and milestones. To celebrate the countdown to the end of the season and the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs on April 15, NHL.com will provide a piece of playoff-related content each day.

There are few certainties when it comes to the Stanley Cup Playoffs; however, a regulation win by the New York Rangers on Tuesday will guarantee them home-ice advantage in each series for the entirety of their postseason run.

The Rangers (51-21-7), who have already clinched the Metropolitan Division title, can win the Presidents' Trophy with a road victory against the New Jersey Devils (32-34-13), a team they defeated 6-1 on home ice Saturday. New York then ended the nine-game winning streak of the Columbus Blue Jackets with a 4-3 overtime win Monday. The Rangers need one point to secure the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.

Playoff clinching scenarios for Tuesday, April 7

Tuesday, 04.07.2015 / 1:26 PM / Expert Picks

NHL Public Relations

With five days remaining in the regular season, there are eight berths up for grabs in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

These are the clinching scenarios for games Tuesday:

* The New York Rangers would clinch the Presidents' Trophy if they defeat the New Jersey Devils in any fashion.

* The Rangers would clinch the top seed in the Eastern Conference if they get at least one point against the Devils.

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I would definitely love to play with him. He's a skilled player and over the years he definitely has shown that he can score a lot of goals. I think it would work out well.

— Montreal Canadiens forward Alex Galchenyuk on Alexander Semin