Tonight's remaining games

While the Maple Leafs – Penguins game and the irrelevant Oilers – Blues contest are already in progress, the remaining three games are fairly big. Some factor into playoff positioning, while one can either stop the bleeding of a now-playoff-threatened team or continue a troubling drop from contention.

New Jersey Devils (44-25-5, 93 pts) at Philadelphia Flyers (37-32-6, 80 pts) 7:00 PM ET

Could the Philadelphia Flyers actually miss the playoffs? It’s starting to look like that is a legitimate possibility now that the goalie-challenged club is on a 5 game losing streak and only has a two point edge on the Atlanta Thrashers. Simply put, a playoff miss would be a disaster considering all of that talent in cream cheese land. A Devils win would widen their small lead over the Penguins.

Columbus Blue Jackets (30-32-13, 73 pts) at Chicago Blackhawks (46-20-7, 99 pts) 7:00 PM ET

I hate to condone losing, but I can’t see why the rudderless Blue Jackets wouldn’t benefit from tanking for the rest of the season. They’re just slightly ahead of the Islanders, Lightning, Panthers and Hurricanes. If they could drop behind those four, they’d have the third best chance to land the top pick. For Chicago, the Sharks’ lead on the #1 spot isn’t that huge when you consider the fact that the Blackhawks have two games in hand.

Colorado Avalanche (41-26-7, 89 pts) at San Jose Sharks (46-19-10, 102 pts) 8:00 PM ET

The Avs’ lead on the eighth seed is reasonably safe; they have four more points, three more wins and two games in hand on the Flames. Still, they are suddenly staring at a possible problem here (especially if the Sharks keep them away from even a charity point). The Sharks need to build a cushion against Chicago and Phoenix.

Games already in progress:

Maple Leafs at Pittsburgh Penguins

Edmonton Oilers at St. Louis Blues

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    Video: Friday night fights between Bolts and Red Wings

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    Not much offense — actually, just one goal midway through the second period as of the writing of this post — between the Detroit Red Wings and Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday.

    But there has definitely been some animosity between the two clubs.

    Tempers flared late in the first period, with Adam Erne and Andreas Athanasiou getting involved in a spirited scrap — and Athanasiou unsuccessful in his attempt at the take-down.

    The bad blood continued in the second period with Greg McKegg and Anthony Mantha getting involved in a fight, and Mantha — given the instigator — landing a couple of shots with McKegg on the ice.

     

    NHL, MLB player unions support U.S. women hockey players’ boycott

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    Unions representing NHL and Major League Baseball players are backing U.S. Women’s National Hockey team players’ decision to boycott next week’s world championships because of a wage dispute.

    The NHL Players’ Association posted a note on its Twitter account on Friday saying it supports the U.S. players while panning USA Hockey’s bid to stock the team with replacements. The NHLPA says the decision to go with replacement players “would only serve to make relations, now and in the future, much worse.”

    Earlier in the day, the MLB Players Association encouraged all women hockey players to stand united behind their national team colleagues.

    Read more: USA Hockey says it will not offer living wage, as dispute with women’s national team continues

    The Twitter messages were posted a day after USA Hockey announced it would begin gauging interest of replacement players to compete at the tournament, which opens next Friday in Plymouth, Michigan.

    Players are seeking a four-year contract that includes payments outside the six-month Olympic period.

    Brock Boeser Watch is officially on in Vancouver

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    It’s been a bleak season for the Vancouver Canucks.

    Perhaps developments Friday evening can provide some optimism for fans of a team that can’t score, has trouble defending and has been decimated by injury.

    Brock Boeser’s sophomore college season came to an end Friday, as North Dakota lost 4-3 to Boston University in double overtime. The Canucks selected Boeser 23rd overall in the 2015 draft with the hopes the talented right winger would one day become a central figure in that team’s scoring attack.

    In his first season at North Dakota, Boeser scored 27 goals and 60 points in 42 games. His overall production dropped in his sophomore year — he had wrist surgery in December — but he still averaged more than a point per game in 31 contests, with 16 goals.

    With North Dakota’s campaign finished, the Canucks can now work to get Boeser under contract and perhaps get him into some NHL games to close out what has been a disappointing season in Vancouver.

    In that case, the Canucks would burn the first year of his entry-level contract.

    The Canucks, officially eliminated from playoff contention, have nine games remaining on their schedule.

    More from The Province:

    Giving the fans something to get excited about in another season gone south seems as vital as giving Boeser a crash course on what to expect next season.

    The Canucks are willing to burn a year of his entry-level deal because playing one game at age 20 would do that. But it seems worth the price for an organization in transition, even if Boeser would become a restricted free agent after two seasons and be in line for a big pay day should his production match predictions of effectiveness.

    The Canucks are in Minnesota on Saturday and Winnipeg on Sunday.

    It seemed, several weeks ago, that North Dakota’s hockey program was preparing for Boeser to turn pro after his second year ended.

    Related: Trading Burrows and Hansen represents significant ‘shift’ for Canucks

    Survival of the lucky? Stanley Cup playoff hopes can rise and fall with significant injuries

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    There’s plenty of knocking on wood this time of year around the NHL as teams hope to avoid injuries that could damage their playoff hopes.

    For some, it’s already too late.

    The Tampa Bay Lightning lost Steven Stamkos for four months — and counting — and now Tyler Johnson. The Florida Panthers went without Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov for much of the year. The Los Angeles Kings tried to stay afloat without goaltender Jonathan Quick until late February but will likely miss the playoffs.

    While the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins have withstood a barrage of injuries and the league-leading Washington Capitals have largely avoided them, they’re keenly aware of how quickly even one injury can make a difference.

    “There’s other teams that are good teams that have just had some bad luck,” Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford said. “Tampa Bay just couldn’t overcome the injuries. If Tampa Bay has Stamkos all the way through the season, they’d certainly be in a different place.”

    Read more: Injuries keep adding up for Lightning

    Considered Cup contenders at the start of the season, the Lightning had to make a run just to get within three points of a playoff spot with nine games remaining.

    The Panthers got Barkov and Huberdeau back and dug out of an early hole, but a lower-body injury to goaltender Roberto Luongo contributed to a 3-7-1 tailspin that might ultimately cost them the chance to make the postseason for a second consecutive year.

    “Sometimes just your body breaks up because of the games and stuff like that,” said Barkov, who missed 15 games with a back injury. “Some teams just get more injuries, and some teams just get lucky not to get injuries.”

    Injuries have again been the story of the year for the Penguins, who are currently without half their regular defense in Kris Letang, Trevor Daley and Olli Maatta, and also lost trade acquisition Ron Hainsey. But they haven’t missed a beat.

    “The guys that have come in just understanding whatever role that they get, they have to be accepting of it,” captain Sidney Crosby said. “They have a lot of responsibility in most cases, too, because they’re filling in for some guys who play a lot of key minutes.”

    Injuries were a severe blow to the Dallas Stars, with 292 man games lost, and 265 man games lost has put the Detroit Red Wings’ 25-season playoff streak in serious jeopardy. The Edmonton Oilers have around 300 man games lost, but unlike last year’s stumble when Connor McDavid broke his collarbone they are poised to end a 10-year playoff drought.

    “This organization seems to have a way of getting beat up and having injuries and needing others to support the group, and this year I think we’ve done a better job,” coach Todd McLellan said. “We haven’t lost those key forwards, knock on wood, like we did last year.”

    Tampa Bay did when Stamkos tore the meniscus in his right knee Nov. 15 after putting up 20 points in his first 17 games. Friday night marked his 57th consecutive game out of the lineup.

    Yet in Washington, the Capitals have a grand total of 42 man games lost all season and have only dealt with a hand injury that sidelined forward Andre Burakovsky 15 games and upper-body ailments that cost T.J. Oshie 13. Defenseman Brooks Orpik believes the Capitals’ fortunes are a combination of off-ice injury prevention techniques and luck, while the team’s brass thinks it’s also about taxing players less each game.

    “The team philosophy of going four lines and spreading the ice time out and spreading the ice time out on defense and spreading the ice time out among your goalies, I think it puts less stress on your lineup,” general manager Brian MacLellan said. “Having a deep team, I think, results in less injuries.”

    Depth up front helped the Chicago Blackhawks withstand captain Jonathan Toews‘ nine-game absence with back problems, and having backup Antti Raanta kept the New York Rangers on track when goaltender Henrik Lundqvist went out for two weeks this month with a lower-body injury. Lundqvist is expected back this weekend.

    The Columbus Blue Jackets feel fortunate not to need to test their depth again this season after injuries ravaged them to the count of 510 man games lost two years ago. They’ve overcome defenseman Seth Jones‘ broken foot and Ryan Murray‘s broken hand to make the playoffs for the third time in franchise history, so it doesn’t feel at all like 2014-15 in Columbus.

    “It’s just too good of a league to be able to survive that type of season,” Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen said. “This year we’ve been lucky and hopefully done some things right as well where we haven’t been injured as much and knock on wood hopefully stay healthy for the rest of the year.”