NHL Buzz: Backstrom in, Eller out for Capitals against Islanders

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Washington Capitals

Nicklas Backstrom will be in the lineup against the New York Islanders at Capital One Arena on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSWA, MSG+2, NHL.TV).

The center left in the third period of a 3-2 win against the Islanders on Tuesday when he was hit in the arm with a shot by Capitals forward Jakub Vrana with 4:31 remaining. Backstrom also missed time in the second period after being struck in the face with the puck and has a bruise under his left eye.

“I had some tough breaks last game,” Backstrom said. “But I’m feeling good today, so back to normal.”

Center Lars Eller won’t play and is day to day with an upper-body injury after he was injured on a hit by Islanders forward Leo Komarov with 9:01 remaining in the third period Tuesday. Forward Tom Wilson will be a game-time decision after he missed the past two games with a lower-body injury, coach Peter Laviolette said.

The Capitals will play without left wing Alex Ovechkin, center Evgeny Kuznetsov, defenseman Dmitry Orlov and goalie Ilya Samsonov for the fourth straight game in accordance with NHL COVID-19 protocols.

“Right now, they’re still day to day for us, so we’re moving day to day,” Laviolette said. “I don’t have anything to report on them.” –Tom Gulitti 

 

New Jersey Devils

Jesper Bratt will make his season debut against the Philadelphia Flyers at Prudential Center (7 p.m. ET; MSG-Plus, NBCSP, NHL.TV).

The forward was removed from COVID-19 protocol on Wednesday and took part in the morning skate, although the team did not skate lines in practice.

“He feels comfortable where he’s at,” Devils coach Lindy Ruff said. “Might be a little bit of an ease-in, but he’s such a great skater that a player like that can easily step in and plays. He’s a real smooth efficient skater who gets the most out of his stride and he’s going to be a great addition to our group up front.”

Bratt, who signed a two-year contract as a restricted free agent on Jan. 10, had been in quarantine since arriving to the United States from Sweden. He scored an NHL-career high 16 goals and 32 points in 60 games with the Devils last season.

“It’s always a little hard within the system (in your first game), but I’m going to try to go on my instincts,” Bratt said. “It might take a few games but I’m going to try to go on my instincts as much as I can and keep my speed and try to be a threat every time I’m out there and try to play with the speed I know I can play with. Try to be a good two-way player who can create a lot of offense. I’ll go on my instincts and it’ll be good. “

Goalie Mackenzie Blackwood, who has missed the past three games, remains in COVID-19 protocol. — Mike G. Morreale

 

Boston Bruins

Tuukka Rask will not dress for the Bruins against the Pittsburgh Penguins at TD Garden (7 p.m. ET; SNE, SNO, SNP, NESN, ATTSN-PT, ESPN+, NHL.TV).

The goalie made 28 saves in a 3-2 overtime win against Pittsburgh on Tuesday and did not practice Wednesday. Jaroslav Halak will start Thursday and Dan Vladar will be the backup.

“We are going to use Vladar, only because we’re going to give [Rask] a full day off,” coach Bruce Cassidy said. “We kind of went through this — the decision was made that [Rask] wasn’t going to start, then let’s keep him out of any worries about having to put him in if something should happen to Jaro. That’s the thinking. He’ll go back in Saturday (against the Washington Capitals). That’s the plan right now.”

Defenseman Matt Grzelcyk, who has missed the past two games, could play. Forward Jake DeBrusk will not play after he sustained a lower-body injury on Tuesday. — Amalie Benjamin

 

Chicago Blackhawks

Madison Bowey signed a two-year, two-way contract on Thursday. It will pay $725,000 at the NHL level this season and $750,000 next season.

The 25-year-old defenseman scored NHL career highs in goals (three), assists (14) and points (17) in 53 games with the Detroit Red Wings last season.

Selected by the Washington Capitals in the second round (No. 53) of the 2013 NHL Draft, Bowey has scored 39 points (five goals, 34 assists) in 154 regular-season games and won the Stanley Cup with the Capitals in 2018.

 

Colorado Avalanche

Matt Calvert is out indefinitely for with an upper-body injury, and it is unknown when goalie Pavel Francouz will return from a lower-body injury, coach Jared Bednar said Wednesday.

“I don’t really have a timeline on him,” Bednar said of Calvert, a forward who didn’t play Tuesday in a 7-3 win against the San Jose Sharks. “It’s very similar to [Francouz] with his injury. I don’t know when he’s going to be back.”

Calvert last played Sunday in a 3-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks. He has one assist in six games and leads Colorado forwards in shorthanded time on ice (3:02 per game).

The 31-year-old sustained a head injury in November of last season and had a concussion playing for the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2014-15.

Goalie Philipp Grubauer is expected to start Thursday against San Jose, his seventh in eight games this season. Backup Hunter Miska made his first NHL start Jan. 21, a 4-2 loss to the Los Angeles Kings. Adam Werner is on the taxi squad.

“[Grubauer] is obviously carrying the bulk of the load, and that’s fine,” Bednar said. “We have the ability with three goalies that we can use for days off from practices to make sure that he’s rested and feeling good. We’ll give Miska some games and see how it goes, play it by ear and take it probably not day to day but week to week and see how this all plays out. We don’t have the final answer on that just yet.” — Rick Sadowski

 

Pittsburgh Penguins

Yannick Weber signed a one-year, two-way contract on Wednesday. It has an average annual value of $700,000 at the NHL level.

The 32-year-old defenseman, who was an unrestricted free agent, scored three points (one goal, two assists) in 41 games with the Nashville Predators last season. He signed a professional tryout contract with Nashville on Jan. 2 but was released on Jan. 13.

The move was the first for the Penguins after general manager Jim Rutherford resigned on Wednesday.

The signing comes one day after defenseman Brian Dumoulin sustained a lower-body injury in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Boston Bruins on Tuesday.

The Penguins are also without defensemen Mike Matheson (upper body), Juuso Riikola (upper body), Marcus Pettersson (upper body) and Zach Trotman (knee).

Selected by the Montreal Canadiens in the third round (No. 73) of the 2007 NHL Draft, Weber has scored 94 points (28 goals, 66 assists) in 497 regular-season games with the Predators, Canadiens and Vancouver Canucks and six points (four goals, two assists) in 42 Stanley Cup Playoff games.

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