Considering the fact that eighth place in the Eastern Conference isn’t really much to brag about, I’d say that the two most interesting tug-o-wars going forward are for the Atlantic and Pacific divisions. Today’s best games feature bouts that will affect those intriguing races. Since the remaining eight games vary from bland to lighting candles and listening to Enya, I’ll just discuss the three best of the night.
Phoenix Coyotes (46-23-5, 97 pts) at Nashville Predators (42-27-5, 89 pts) 8:00 PM ET
If you went three months back in time and told me that the Coyotes would regularly be involved in the most intriguing games of any given night in March, I either would have directed you to the nearest AA meeting or wondered if something drastic happened with their tortured fan base. Thankfully, the answer to that imaginary multiple choice is “none of the above.” Can the Coyotes really out-last the Sharks and win the Pacific, though?
New York Rangers (32-32-9, 73 pts) at New Jersey Devils (43-25-4, 90 pts) 7:00 PM ET
The Rangers will need to get their voodoo dolls out for Montreal, Boston and Philadelphia, but they’re also going to have to win some games to sneak into the playoffs. Unfortunately for the Rangers, the Devils have every reason to win this one as they continue their neck-and-neck race with the Penguins for the Atlantic Division.
Dallas Stars (32-27-14, 78 pts) at San Jose Sharks (44-19-10, 98 pts) 10:30 PM ET
The Stars are in full-on wishful thinking mode. They will need a staggering winning streak and probably a minor miracle or two to make the playoffs. Don’t expect bitter rival San Jose to do them any favors, either, since they have those pesky Coyotes to deal with. You may find this game on NHL Network tonight, by the way.
These are pretty decent times for the Blue Jackets.
The team is 7-3-2 in its last 12, recently re-upped with Ryan Murray on a two-year deal and, on Friday, announced that blueliner David Savard has been activated from IR after missing the last 11 games to an oblique strain.
Savard, 25, was a pretty integral part of John Tortorella’s defense when healthy. He averaged over 24 minutes per night and had 15 points through 39 games prior to being sidelined by the ailment.
He’ll presumably draw back into the lineup when the Jackets take on Ottawa on Saturday. No word yet on a corresponding roster move.
Recently, the Washington Capitals went five whole games without scoring a power-play goal.
It was a real nightmare for those guys.
Despite the fact Washington went 3-1-1 over those five games, one headline called it a “troubling power-play drought” — which tells you how few “troubling” things the Caps have had to deal with this season.
Overall, special teams have been a boon for Washington, which ranks first on the power play and fifth on the penalty kill.
Compare that to, say, Calgary, which ranks 29th and 29th, respectively. Now that’s troubling.
Anyway, here’s how all 30 teams rank when their special teams are combined:
Not surprisingly, there’s a strong correlation between good special teams and winning hockey games.
In the left column, 12 of the 15 teams are currently in a playoff spot. New Jersey, Buffalo, and Montreal are the exceptions.
On the right, only four teams — Colorado, Detroit, Nashville and the Rangers — are in a playoff spot.
John Scott’s had enough time off following his All-Star Game MVP award.
Now, he wants to get back to work.
Scott, who made major headlines at the end of January thanks to his unforgettable All-Star performance in Nashville, will return to Montreal’s AHL affiliate in St. John’s this weekend, as the IceCaps play a pair of games against the Toronto Marlies.
“It’ll be nice to [be] back playing hockey and doing my thing. I’m actually really excited for it,” Scott said, per ESPN. “This has been the longest break I’ve had, ever. But I play like 7-8 minutes, I won’t be too out of shape, I’ll be able to keep up.”
Scott, 33, hasn’t played since his Pacific Division team won the annual ASG 3-on-3 tournament on Jan. 31. Following that whirlwind weekend, the Montreal organization allowed him to take a leave to be with his wife, Danielle, who gave birth to twin girls on Feb. 5.
Scott only appeared in four games for St. John’s prior to the All-Star Game, going pointless with six penalty minutes and a minus-1 rating.
The John Scott story, coming to a theater near you?
Therrien on Habs recalling Scott: ‘You never know’
Journeyman Peter Budaj looks as though he’ll make his first regular-season NHL appearance since April of 2014, when the Kings take on the Rangers at MSG.
Recalled from AHL Ontario due to an injury to Jonathan Quick, Budaj gets the nod tonight after Quick’s backup, Jhonas Enroth, was beat for four goals on 29 shots in last night’s loss to the Islanders.
Budaj, 33, has certainly earned another crack at the big leagues. After catching on with the Kings through a PTO in training camp, he’s been terrific in Ontario, going 26-9-3 with a 1.58 GAA and .935 save percentage. The Slovakian netminder also has eight shutouts this year.
For the Rangers, Antti Raanta gets the start in goal, giving Henrik Lundqvist a night off.
— Ben Scrivens, who appears to be the new No. 1 in Montreal, will go for his fourth straight win when the Habs visit Buffalo. Chad Johnson is in goal for the Sabres, who’ve really struggled of late.
— Marc-Andre Fleury goes for the Penguins, while it looks like Cam Ward is in for Carolina.
— Really good matchup in Detroit as Semyon Varlamov goes up against Petr Mrazek who, according to Yahoo’s Puck Daddy, has “crashed Braden Holtby’s Vezina party.”
— Battle of All-Star netminders in Tampa Bay, as Ben Bishop goes for the Bolts while Pekka Rinne starts for Nashville.
— The red-hot Brian Elliott will continue to roll as St. Louis’ No. 1 in Florida. The Panthers will go with their old reliable, Roberto Luongo.
— Now that Karri Ramo’s on IR, it’s Jonas Hiller time for the Flames. He’ll start tonight in Arizona, against Louis Domingue.