By Allan Muir
An annotated guide to this morning’s must-read hockey stories:
• The surging Capitals rode a wave of emotion to their eighth straight win after Alex Ovechkin responded to Jay McClement’s late hit on Nicklas Backstrom with a nasty play of his own. MVP anyone?
• After eight years on the sidelines, the Maple Leafs will have to wait another day to clinch a playoff berth after losing to the Caps. Meanwhile, questions about a lack of playoff experience swirl in Toronto. Apparently, the thought of looking across the ice at goalie Braden Holtby, who did pretty well in his postseason debut last year, didn’t occur to the worrywarts in Hogtown.
• With games tonight against Montreal and Friday in Boston, the Penguins control their own fate as they bid for an Eastern Conference title.
• Jared Cowen’s return to the NHL after a season on the sidelines might be cut short after his nasty hit knocked Jeff Skinner out of a fight-filled game between the Senators and Hurricanes.
• Calgary fans may be down to their last chance to watch local legend Miikka Kiprusoff in action tonight. Eric Francis says Kipper will leave like he arrived: under the radar.
• Here’s a look back at Kipper’s five best games with the Flames.
• With Winnipeg’s season on the line, Andrew Ladd has responded with his best play of the season, totalling eight points over his last four games. Let’s start talking about him for Sochi, shall we?
• Playing in Dallas dampens his national profile, but defenseman Brendan Dillon is slowly emerging as one of the year’s top rookie performers. The Stars have rewarded his strong play with extra playing time as the season winds down.
• The Blues earned a big win, the 600th of Ken Hitchcock’s coaching career, but learned they’d lost spark plug forward T.J. Oshie for the season after he underwent ankle surgery. Tough to replace his speed and grit up front.
• Raffi Torres doesn’t play in overtime for the Sharks, but he came up big in the shootout on Tuesday night. San Jose’s 3-2 win over the Kings moved them into a virtual tie with Los Angeles for fourth place in a Western Conference playoff preview.
• If a change in management was supposed to light a fire under the Oilers down the stretch, it’s not working. Edmonton showed little compete in its latest loss to the Wild.
• New Oilers GM Craig MacTavish has promised a bold move, but it won’t involve Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or Justin Schultz, according to Jim Matheson. That means Jordan Eberle or Nail Yakupov are his most viable trading chips. John MacKinnon disagrees, saying Sam Gagner and Magnus Paajarvi are the most likely to go.
• The Bruins, who return to action at home tonight against the Sabres, hope to help the Boston area heal after Monday’s marathon bombing.
• Would you pay a dollar to watch an NHL game in person? Adrian Dater says they’re practically giving tickets away to Avalanche games in Denver.
• Here’s a look back at the career of Adam Foote, the rugged defender whose number will be raised to the rafters in Colorado.
• The final four games of the season are being viewed as a mini-training camp in Nashville. Several youngsters, including promising forward Filip Forsberg, will get a long look.
• Igor Larionov has made a nice second career for himself as a player agent, representing top Russian talent such as Nail Yakupov and Alex Galchenyuk (he’s sorta Russian). He’s readying the next wave to make an impact with the Junior A Waterloo Siskins.
• “I don’t like touching things,” says Anaheim defender Ben Lovejoy, basically setting himself up for a lifetime of misery from teammates inspired to take advantage of his germophobia.