NHL Notes: Slimmer Alex Ovechkin makes early debut at Capitals' workouts

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NHL Notes: Slimmer Alex Ovechkin makes early debut at Capitals' workouts

ARLINGTON, Va. -- A slimmer, trimmer-looking Alex Ovechkin is back on the ice for summer workouts more than two weeks before the start of training camp.

The Russian superstar skated in an informal practice with Washington Capitals teammates on Tuesday and looked lighter than his playing weight of 239 pounds last season. If that's indeed the case, Ovechkin took to heart the challenge from general manager Brian MacLellan to train differently and add more speed to his game as he's about to turn 32.

A team spokesman said Ovechkin would not speak to reporters until the first day of training camp in September. But his teammates certainly notice a change in Ovechkin's physique.

"You can see he lost some weight," center Evgeny Kuznetsov said. "Every year you're trying to be better. You change something in the summer. Ovi's like other guys, too -- he wants to change something, right? It's always nice to see when your teammates get better. They change. They try something new."

Ovechkin is already trying something new by getting to the D.C. area in late August, which is earlier than usual for captain and 13-year pro. Ovechkin, Kuznetsov and fellow Russian Dmitry Orlov all flew back together, joining goaltender Philipp Grubauer and others (see full story).

Devils: Butcher feels he is ready to play right now
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Will Butcher believes he is ready to play for the New Jersey Devils right now.

A day after signing a two-year, $1.85 million contract with the rebuilding Devils, the 22-year-old Butcher said he was ready to make the jump from being college hockey's top player to the NHL without a stop in the minor leagues.

Speaking on a conference call, the defenseman said he chose to sign with New Jersey because he felt good after meeting coach John Hynes and he thought the Devils' up-tempo system best fit his game.

Butcher was drafted in the fifth round by the Colorado Avalanche in 2013 at the Prudential Center -- the Devils' home rink. He became a free agent on Aug. 15 after failing to reach an agreement with Colorado, although the former University of Denver player said he knew by May he intended to test the free agent market.

After meeting with a number of teams, his decision came down to the Devils, Las Vegas, Buffalo and Los Angeles.

"It seemed like a great fit in how I wanted to play, and they saw me being in a better role with what they wanted to do there," Butcher said of choosing New Jersey. "It kind of reminded me a little bit of how we were going to play with my college hockey" (see full story).

NHL: Russian winger Zaripov cleared to pursue contract
Danis Zaripov will get the chance to take his talents to North America after the NHL approved the Russian winger's eligibility following a doping ban in the Kontinental Hockey League and international play.

The 36-year-old Zaripov is free to sign with any team and could be the latest established Russian player to make an immediate impact in the NHL. Agent Dan Milstein said Zaripov is looking for a one-year contract so he can prove himself.

"He's going to be a huge contributor to whatever team that he will choose," Milstein said.

Even that is only possible after the NHL ruled that the suspension by the KHL and International Ice Hockey Federation wouldn't have happened under its rules and found Zaripov eager to show he didn't intentionally use a banned substance.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said Monday that Zaripov was cleared in part because pseudoephedrine is not on the NHL/NHL Players' Association prohibited substances list and that he was not allowed to testify at his hearing for the initial suspension . He added that the league approved Zaripov's status after the veteran forward testified last week and it reviewed evidence related to the suspension.

"I look forward to continuing my professional hockey playing career in North America, and today I am very grateful to the senior management of the NHL for its decision, which provides me the opportunity to do so," Zaripov said in a statement (see full story).

Ducks help Flyers out by downing Devils

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Ducks help Flyers out by downing Devils

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Brandon Montour scored a power-play goal, helping lift the Anaheim Ducks into third place in the Pacific Division with a 4-2 win over the New Jersey Devils on Sunday night.

Ryan Getzlaf and Rickard Rakell each had a goal and an assist, and Jakob Silfverberg also scored for the Ducks, who lead Los Angeles by two points in the division. Anaheim won its third straight game and is 6-1-0 in its last seven at home.

John Gibson made 15 saves, improving to 9-2-0 in his last 11 starts.

Kyle Palmieri had a power-play goal and Patrick Maroon also scored for the Devils, who had won the first three games of their six-game road trip. Keith Kinkaid made 32 saves, ending a four-start winning streak.

New Jersey holds the second wild-card in the Eastern Conference, five points ahead of Florida (see full recap).

Karlsson's hat trick helps Vegas beat Flames
LAS VEGAS -- William Karlsson scored a natural hat trick to lead the Vegas Golden Knights to a 4-0 victory over the Calgary Flames on Sunday.

Colin Miller also scored as Vegas snapped a four-game home losing streak and improved to 25-9-2 at T Mobile Arena.

Marc-Andre Fleury, who made his 20th start in 21 games, made 42 saves. In getting his 48th career shutout and fourth of the season, Fleury moved into a tie with Chris Osgood for 12th all-time amongst goaltenders at 401.

Vegas improved to 3-0-0 against Calgary while outscoring the Flames 15-5. The teams meet once more, in the regular-season finale at Calgary on April 7 (see full recap).

Laine scores twice, matches Ovechkin for NHL goal lead
WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- Patrik Laine scored twice to extend his point streak to 15 games and tie Alex Ovechkin for the NHL goal lead, and the Winnipeg Jets beat the Dallas Stars 4-3 on Sunday night to match the franchise wins record at 43.

The second-year sniper has 43 goals, matching the total from Ovechkin, the Washington star and Laine's boyhood favorite. Laine's point streak is the longest active run in the NHL and adds to his league record for the longest point streak by a teenager. The streak includes 18 goals and eight assists.

Ben Chiarot also scored and Blake Wheeler added an empty-netter for Winnipeg.

Mattias Janmark and Jamie Benn each scored for Dallas (see full recap).

Oskar Lindblom quiets Flyers’ chirps in weekend of firsts

Oskar Lindblom quiets Flyers’ chirps in weekend of firsts

If there was an NHL handbook on how to score goals in the most competitive hockey league in the world, you would have thought Oskar Lindblom would have read it forward and backward, on the charter to the Flyers' next road game and at night before bedtime.

From effort to playing at both ends of the ice, Lindblom had done everything to score a goal, except actually score one.

Prior to Saturday’s game against Carolina, Lindblom had played his first 12 games without registering a single point and it was starting to become a source of playful dissing and mockery in the Flyers' locker room.

“Teammates keep him loose,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “I think Alex Lyon was giving him the gears. I think Alex should have had an assist last night (in Carolina). I don’t know if he was credited with one or not, but I think Alex was chirping (Oskar) about having more points per game than he did, and that’s what guys do.”

However, the official scoresheet from the 4-2 win in Carolina had Lindblom credited with his first NHL assist and Lyon still looking for one. Prior to that, the zeroes next to Lindblom’s game were starting to add up and Hakstol sensed the 21-year-old rookie was taking notice.  

“I don’t remember the game last week, but he had a great opportunity off a rebound at net front,” Hakstol said. “That was the first time I saw a little bit of frustration creep in where he let it show. Oskar is a good offensive player. He wants to help by doing his part offensively, but I think what he just continued to concentrate on is just playing good hockey.”

Sunday that first goal finally arrived in the form of a snapshot that beat Capitals goaltender Philipp Grubauer up high. It gave the Flyers a lead they never relinquished in a 6-3 win over Washington.

“I don’t want to think about it anymore,” Lindblom said. “Got the first one today and it was a huge one in the game so it was good.”

And with that, the Swede slipped on the Ric Flair victory robe for the first time, handed down from the Finnish Valtteri Filppula, who was presented the feather-laced garment the night before in Carolina. 

Prior to that, the only thing Lindblom had received was encouragement and support from his teammates who knew his time would eventually come. With an easy-going smile and a personality to match, Lindblom’s fellow Flyers couldn’t help but root for him. 

“We’re all happy for him," Travis Konecny said. “It’s been paying off for him. He deserves it. He works hard at both ends of the ice. I’m personally happy for him.

“He’s got that offensive skill that’s far and few between that a lot of guys don’t have. He just has a knack around the net, he’s always around the puck. We all knew it was coming sooner or later.”

Apparently, everyone seemed to know and especially Jake Voracek, who’s been assisting in every way possible.

“He talks to me a lot,” Lindblom said. “He tried to calm me down a little bit. It’s good for me.”