Tonight's games: Uphill battles

Although most of tonight’s games are pretty interesting, Pittsburgh-New Jersey is far and away the biggest one. Let’s took at that battle of the Atlantic as well as the five other matches on the schedule.

Pittsburgh Penguins (40-22-5, 85 pts) at New Jersey Devils (39-23-3, 81 pts) 7:00 PM ET

If you want to get technical about it, the Penguins have only won once more than the Devils in the last 10 games but they’ve taken advantage of the Devils’ slide with charity points anyway. New Jersey is struggling (in a Kovalfunk?) at the moment but they’ve manhandled Pittsburgh all season long. This game has big Atlantic division title implications.

Tampa Bay Lightning (27-27-12, 66 pts) at Washington Capitals (45-13-9, 99 pts) 7:00 PM ET

As Brandon pointed out, Steven Stamkos is turning the Crosby-Ovechkin Richard trophy duel into a three horse race. Meanwhile, the Capitals could be the first team in the NHL to hit 100 points tonight.

Minnesota Wild (31-29-6, 68 pts) at Buffalo Sabres (36-20-9, 81 pts) 7:30 PM ET

The Wild are a horrible mess and are weak on the road while the Sabres are on a three game winning streak and feature budding media darling Ryan Miller in net. Talk about two wildly different teams.

New York Rangers (29-29-9, 67 pts) at Atlanta Thrashers (28-28-10, 66 pts) 7:30 PM ET

Both teams are currently out of the playoffs in the East. Both are on four game losing streaks. Which team will get it together and which one will slip further into Boston’s rear view mirror?

Los Angeles Kings (39-22-5, 83 pts) at Dallas Stars (29-25-12, 70 pts) 8:30 PM ET

While Jon Quick experiences/recovers from/prepares for the horrifying sight of birth gore, the Kings travel to up-and-down Dallas in this one. Los Angeles has been slapping the Stars silly lately, but you never know with Turco (good or bad).

Nashville Predators (36-26-5, 77 pts) at Anaheim Ducks (30-28-8, 68 pts) 10:00 PM ET

Barry Trotz cannot bask in the glow of his 400th coaching win for very long with Calgary and Detroit breathing down his neck. Meanwhile, Anaheim is another member of the “four losses and fading out of the playoffs” club. In fact, could it already be late for the not-so-plucky Ducks?

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    Report: Yes, Claude Julien’s job is in some danger with Bruins

    MONTREAL, QC - DECEMBER 12:  Head coach of the Boston Bruins Claude Julien looks on as he walks across the ice during the NHL game against the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre on December 12, 2016 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  The Boston Bruins defeated the Montreal Canadiens 2-1 in overtime.  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
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    After the Boston Bruins squandered a 3-0 lead against the Detroit Red Wings and ultimately lost 6-5 via a shootout, plenty of fans and commenters had enough. Many called for Claude Julien’s head.

    They might not be alone.

    During the latest edition of TSN’s Insider Trading on Thursday, Bob McKenzie didn’t say that Julien was definitely going to be fired, but he said there’s a “credible threat” to the long-standing Bruins bench boss’ job security.

    The phrase “impending doom” came up, too.

    So … yeah, it sure sounds like Julien is on thin ice.

    McKenzie indicates that Julien should be behind the bench on Friday and could improve his situation if he reels off some wins. That’s where things get extra interesting.

    The Bruins play three of their next four games and seven of their next nine contests at home. Most of those games are against playoff-caliber teams, however, so it wouldn’t necessarily be “easy.” Still, the opportunities are there for the Bruins to solidify their spot in the East playoff picture.

    Still, it sure sounds like the margin of error is pretty small for Julien, just as it might be for Boston in this playoff race.

    Want more coaching hot seat talk from McKenzie? He also discussed Paul Maurice’s situation with the Winnipeg Jets on Wednesday:

    Video: There was no stopping John Tavares on this goal

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    New York Islanders fans probably needed a moment like this, even ones who are more than happy that Jack Capuano was let go.

    It’s no surprise that John Tavares provided such a moment.

    Watch in the video above as he makes an obscene move against Dallas Stars defenseman John Klingberg, and then finishes with some really nifty timing. Wow.

    Tavares now has 17 goals this season, reinforcing the thought that the team’s struggles aren’t on him.

    Now catch up on all of the drama surrounding the team:

    Bob McKenzie updates on the fuzzy future for the Isles

    Liam McHugh grills Garth Snow on a variety of burning questions

    Coyotes demote Duclair to AHL so he can ‘regain his scoring touch’

    NEWARK, NJ - OCTOBER 25: Anthony Duclair #10 of the Arizona Coyotes skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on October 25, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    It’s been a tough season for both Anthony Duclair and the Arizona Coyotes. Even so, it’s still startling to see that he was demoted to the AHL on Thursday.

    GM John Chayka explained the team’s logic for the demotion:

    “Anthony is a good young player,” said Chayka. “Unfortunately, he has struggled this season. We felt this was a good time to send him to Tucson to work on a few things and hopefully regain his scoring touch. We hope to have him rejoin our team soon.”

    Duclair’s been the subject of more than a few trade rumors, but this is probably the low point of a rough 2016-17 season for the 21-year-old.

    It’s worth taking a second to consider the very different luck Duclair’s experienced in his breakout season last year vs. this one.

    His shooting percentage was 19 in 2015-16, helping him score 20 goals on just 105 shots. By comparison, he’s only converted on 5.2 percent of his shots this year, nabbing three on 58.

    In other words, Duclair’s work is probably somewhere between those extremes … but he’s also at that age where a player can make big leaps forward. So, it’s understandable that the Coyotes want to try to repair their prospect’s confidence, and it’s also reasonable that other teams might believe that they can get more out of him.

    A trip to the AHL really might be good for his confidence but … still, wow.

    The good news and the bad news for Roman Josi

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    Roman Josi told Swiss Hockey News.ch that he suffered a concussion from that Anton Blidh hit you can see in the video above, according to a translation passed along by the Tennessean.

    So, that’s the bad news for the Nashville Predators. The good is that he also told that outlet that he might be able to return for the Preds sometime next week.

    Josi, 26, has dealt with concussion issues before, making this report a concern for the long-term. Still, the possibility of a return so soon is definitely a positive.

    Here’s what the next week and change looks like for Nashville:

    Tonight: at Flames
    Friday: at Oilers
    Sunday: at Wild
    Tuesday, Jan. 24: vs. Sabres
    Thursday: vs. Blue Jackets

    The Predators aren’t out of the West picture altogether, but they need to make the most of their opportunities. Much like the Bolts with Victor Hedman, Nashville’s hanging in there OK without one of their key guys, but every point counts. Getting Josi back would be huge.