News: Nicklas Backstrom will not play for Team Sweden at the 2014 IIHF World Championships in Belarus, according to a report in Svenska Dagbladet. Analysis: Team Sweden benchboss Par Marts said Nicklas Backstrom declined the invitation due to family reasons. Backstrom has had an impressive but emotional season of hockey this year. He led the NHL with 44 power-play points, and tied with Alexander Ovechkin for the team lead with 79 points in all 82 games for the Capitals this year. Those accomplishments bookended an Olympic campaign that ended when Backstrom was held out of the Gold Medal game against Canada for failing a drug test due to allergy medication, and would have to wait weeks to ultimately be awarded the Silver Medal. After such an emotional roller coaster ride ended with the Capitals missing the playoffs, one could hardly blame the Gavle native for wanting to spend a little time away from the game. Although the Capitals likely face a turbulent offseason, Backstrom remains one of the safest options at his position in all of fantasy hockey. His minus-20 performance should be viewed as an anomaly, and as long as he is getting consistent playing time with the likes of Alex Ovechkin, there's no reason to believe he won't produce solid totals next season. Look for Backstrom to be one of the first centers taken in all formats during next season's fantasy drafts.
News: Dmitry Orlov will play for Team Russia in the 2014 IIHF World Championship in Belarus, Dmitry Chesnokov of Yahoo Sports reports. Analysis: Dmitry Orlov will suit up for Team Russia after taking a significant step with the Capitals during the 2013-2014 season. After requesting a trade early in the season due to displeasure with lack of playing time and constant movement to and from the NHL and AHL ranks, the Capitals started playing Orlov more consistently, and the promising young Russian took great strides. Though he finished with only three goals and eight assists in 54 games, the 22-year-old Novokuznetsk native has emerged as a top-4 defenseman for the Capitals, logging a career-high 19:36 per game this season. Orlov will get a chance to hone is offensive skills in Belarus after posting point-per-game totals with Russia's Under-20 World Junior Championship teams. With Mike Green's future in Washington uncertain, there may be an opportunity for Orlov to claim an even larger role heading into next season as the team looks for another blue liner to share the load with workhorse John Carlson. Orlov will be worth keeping an eye on in the later rounds of next season's fantasy drafts.
News: Coach Jon Cooper indicated Thursday that he does not to expect to see Ben Bishop (elbow) play "any time soon," Damian Cristodero of the Tampa Bay Times reports. Analysis: Cooper suggested that Ben Bishop could return to action if the Lightning's current playoff series is extended, but it looks like Anders Lindback will remain in net Friday against the Canadiens, at a minimum.
News: Ondrej Palat (upper body) is considered a game-time decision for Friday's game against the Canadiens, Damian Cristodero of the Tampa Bay Times reports. Analysis: Cristodero adds that Ondrej Palat missed practice Thursday, with the report classifying the injury that the forward is dealing with as an upper body issue.
News: The Wild will go with John Curry as the backup to Ilya Bryzgalov for Game 1 against the Avalanche, meaning Darcy Kuemper (upper body) will be in the press box Thursday, Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. "Kuemper is feeling a lot better, just not at a place yet where we feel comfortable playing him." Analysis: Darcy Kuemper practiced Tuesday for the first time in two weeks, so he could still need a few more workouts to round back into form. He enjoyed top billing on the Wild's depth chart before the injury, but it seems likely Yeo will roll with Bryzgalov as his No. 1 goalie throughout the playoffs.
News: Antti Niemi was named the starter for Thursday's Game 1 against the Kings, Kevin Kurz of CSNBayArea.com reports. Analysis: Coach Todd McLellan declined to name his starting goalie at Wednesday's practice, but as expected, Antti Niemi was the first off the ice at Thursday's morning skate and will get the nod. Despite the emergence of Alex Stalock as one of the NHL's better backups this season, Niemi has put together another nice season for the Sharks. He carries a 39-17-7 record, 2.39 GAA and .913 save percentage into Thursday's contest.
News: Raffi Torres (knee soreness) will play in Thursday's Game 1 against the Kings, Kevin Kurz of CSNBayArea.com reports. Analysis: After missing the first five months of the regular season following knee surgery, Raffi Torres only played in five games out of the Olympic break before soreness in the knee resurfaced. After taking the rest of the regular season to rest up, he increased his activity this week and looks set to play on the fourth line Thursday.
News: Ryan Getzlaf (face) is expected to play in Game 2 of the Ducks' series with the Stars, Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register reports. Analysis: Ryan Getzlaf was struck in the face with just 16 seconds remaining in Wednesday's Game 1 victory, suffering a deep facial laceration. Getzlaf was stitched up to repair the cosmetic damage, and after X-rays came back negative, it looks like he'll be in good shape for the rest of the postseason. He had a goal and assist before leaving Wednesday.
News: Coach Todd Richards said Nick Foligno (knee) would miss Saturday's Game 2 against the Penguins, Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch reports. Analysis: Nick Foligno is still expected to play at some point in the series, but the Blue Jackets may need to steal a win or two in order to buy enough time for his return.
News: Patrice Bergeron (lower body) practiced in full Thursday, CSNNE.com's Joe Haggerty reports. Analysis: At this point, it looks like Patrice Bergeron will be a safe play for the postseason now that he's practiced for two consecutive days on his usual second line. Bergeron enjoyed another productive regular season for the Bruins, scoring 62 points while showing his typical toughness on defense. He'll have a good chance at claiming the Selke Trophy for the second time in his career.