Tonight's best: Atlantic, Pacific races take spotlight

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.

Jason Demers tweets #FreeTorres, gets mocked

Los Angeles Kings v San Jose Sharks - Game One
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Following his stunning 41-game suspension, it looks like Raffi Torres has at least one former teammate in his corner.

We haven’t yet seen how the San Jose Sharks or the NHLPA are reacting to the league’s hammer-dropping decision to punish Torres for his Torres-like hit on Jakob Silfverberg, but Jason Demers decided to put in a good word for Torres tonight.

It was a simple message: “#FreeTorres.”

Demers, now of the Dallas Stars, was once with Torres and the Sharks. (In case this post’s main image didn’t make that clear enough already.)

Perhaps this will become “a thing” at some point.

So far, it seems like it’s instead “a thing (that people are making fun of).”

… You get the idea.

The bottom line is that there are some who either a) blindly support Torres because they’re Sharks fans or b) simply think that the punishment was excessive.

The most important statement came from the Department of Player Safety, though.

Bruins list Chara on IR, for now

Zdeno Chara

Those who feel as though the Boston Bruins may rebound – John Tortorella, maybe? – likely rest some of their optimism on the back of a healthy Zdeno Chara.

It’s possible that he’s merely limping into what may otherwise be a healthy 2015-16 season, but it’s definitely looking like a slow start thanks to a lower-body injury.

The latest sign of a bumpy beginning came on Monday, as several onlookers (including’s Joe Haggerty) pointed out that Chara was listed on injured reserve.

As Haggerty notes, that move is retroactive to Sept. 24, so his status really just opens up options for the Bruins.

Still … it’s a little unsettling, isn’t it?

The Bruins likely realize that they need to transition away from their generational behemoth, but last season provided a stark suggestion that may not be ready yet. Trading Dougie Hamilton and losing Dennis Seidenberg to injury only make them more dependent on the towering 38-year-old.

This isn’t really something to panic about, yet it might leave a few extra seats open on the Bruins’ bandwagon.