Tonight's games: Playoff battles heating up

A couple of big games tonight with playoff spots on the line.

Calgary Flames (32-24-9, 73 PTS) @ Detroit Red Wings
(31-22-12, 74 PTS); 7:00 p.m. EST
— Jarome Iginla hasn’t scored
against the Red Wings in 19 regular season games. They’ll need him to
make a difference tonight, as the Wings have rediscovered their scoring
touch and the Flames are the 3rd-worst offense in the NHL.

Vancouver Canucks (40-23-2, 82 PTS) @ Colorado Avalanche
(37-22-6, 80 PTS); 9:00 p.m. EST —
It’s a battle for the top spot
in the Northwest division, although a Colorado win would still leave
them in second place based on tie breakers. The Canucks have had trouble
away from home, but at least they don’t have to worry so much about
keeping Kyle Wellwood away from the hotel breakfast bar. He
plays better fat

The rest after the jump…

Boston Bruins (29-24-11, 69 PTS)@ Toronto Maple Leafs (20-33-12,
52 PTS); 7:00 p.m. EST–
I’m predicting an actual negative score in
this one, especially with Savard and Chara out.

Nashville Predators (35-25-5, 75 PTS) @ Atlanta Thrashers
(28-26-10, 66 PTS); 7:00 p.m. EST —
If the Thrashers are able to
make the playoffs after the trades they made, then we all owe Don
Waddell a big apology.

NY Islanders (26-31-8, 60 PTS) @ Philadelphia Flyers (34-26-4, 72
PTS); 7:30 p.m. EST —
Still no Rick DiPietro on Long Island. Does
that surprise anyone?

Tampa Bay Lightning (27-26-11, 65 PTS)@ Montréal Canadiens
(32-29-6, 70 PTS); 7:30 p.m. EST —
The Canadiens need to continue
winning to hang onto their playoff spot, but a quick aside; is it
amazing to anyone else how there are three teams in the East with a
negative goal differential that could make the playoffs? Two in the

Ottawa Senators (36-25-5, 77 PTS)@ Edmonton Oilers (21-38-6, 48
PTS; 9:30p.m. EST —
The Oilers have won twice in a row since the
trade deadline, while the Senators are reeling. It’s a struggling
offensive team against the worst defensive squad in the NHL. Something
has to break.

Columbus Blue Jackets (25-30-11, 61 PTS)@ Anaheim Ducks (30-27-8,
68 PTS); 10:00 p.m. EST —
The Ducks still have an outside shot at a
playoff spot. Good thing they’re facing a Columbus team that was just
destroyed last night by Los Angeles.

Report: Kings, Richards nearing settlement

Mike Richards
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The Los Angeles Kings and Mike Richards may be nearing a settlement in their dispute over Richards’ terminated contract, TSN’s Bob McKenzie is reporting.

You can read the report for all the details, but we’re sure curious about this part:

If a settlement is reached, there’s no word yet on what salary cap penalties the Kings would still face. There’s bound to be something, but not likely as onerous as the full value of Richards’ contract, which carries with it a cap hit of $5.75 million. If there’s a settlement, Richards would undoubtedly become a free agent though there’s no telling at this point what monies he would be entitled to from the Kings in a settlement.

The issue here is precedent, and what this case could set. The NHL and NHLPA can’t allow teams to escape onerous contracts through a back door, and many are adamant that that’s what the Kings were attempting to do in Richards’ case.

Bettman to players: Don’t screw up ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’ with drugs

Gary Bettman
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The NHL wants to take an educational approach — not a punitive one — to deter its players from using illicit drugs like cocaine.

“My interest is not to go around punishing people,” Bettman told Sportsnet today.

“My interest is getting players to understand the consequences of doing something that could jeopardize this great, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that they’ve been given, to play in the NHL.”

While some players have expressed surprise at hearing that cocaine use is growing, the anecdotal evidence of substance abuse has been very much in the news, from Jarret Stoll‘s arrest to Mike Richards’ arrest to, more recently, Zack Kassian‘s placement in the NHL/NHLPA’s treatment program.

“We don’t have the unilateral right to do things here. We need the consent of the Players’ Association,” Bettman said. “It’s not about punishment. It’s about making sure we get it to stop.”

Related: Cocaine in the NHL: A concern, but not a crisis?