Tonight's games: A hope and a prayer

Once again, there’s a playoff impact (either big or small) for every one of tonight’s games. There are four that stand out as being more interesting, though, so we’ll focus on those.

Vancouver Canucks (46-26-4, 96 pts) at Los Angeles Kings (43-27-6, 92 pts) 10:30 PM ET

I have to admit, I’m starting to wonder if Vancouver is the team that is best equipped for a deep playoff run in the West since they have a little bit of everything. The Kings, on the other hand, are a solid but not-quite-there-yet club that still needs to ensure its place in the playoffs.

Atlanta Thrashers (34-31-12, 80 pts) at Washington Capitals (49-15-12, 110 pts) 7 PM ET

The Capitals can be excused for being vaguely disinterested in this one since they already wrapped up the top spot in the East. The Thrashers have to feel good about their chances since they’re only two points behind the bottom three playoff teams in the East. Of course, we’re all aware of their murderous final five games, though.

St. Louis Blues (37-30-9, 83 pts) at Nashville Predators (44-28-6, 94 pts) 8 PM ET

The Blues are heating up right now, winning three in a row, but they would need to win their next six games and get a lot of breaks to get into the playoffs. I’m hoping that I didn’t put the whammy on the Predators, who were scratching and clawing to an 8-1-1 record before I praised them as a dark horse candidate. Then again, 8-2-1 isn’t too bad either, right?

Carolina Hurricanes (33-35-9, 75 pts) at Ottawa Senators (42-30-5, 89 pts) 7:30 PM ET

The Senators are on the verge of clinching a spot in the playoffs while the Hurricanes are hoping for a miraculous last second run into the post-season. Both teams are playing pretty well right now, with Ottawa especially hot on a five game winning streak.

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    This fight between Tom Wilson, Chris Stewart got downright gory (Video)

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    For those who decry the decline in fighting – in “blood and guts” hockey – Tuesday presented a bloody moment, one fairly high on this season’s Muta scale.

    Also, for some, seeing it happen to Tom Wilson specifically may provide additional pleasure.

    Anyway, as you can see in the video above, Minnesota Wild winger Chris Stewart bloodied the Washington Capitals pest in a fight. Whether you’re for, against or neutral toward Wilson, it’s quite the sight.

    Wilson may be hurt, by the way. He missed some time but returned later in the contest.

    Milestones: Matthews, Nylander break Leafs rookie records; Chara hits 600

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    Auston Matthews likely ranks as the top reason that many Toronto Maple Leafs are starting to get the same feelings they had in better times, so it only makes sense that he broke a beloved Buds’ record on Tuesday.

    With his 35th goal of a potential Calder season – but a brilliant debut either way – Matthews passed Wendel Clark for the Maple Leafs’ rookie record for goals in a season.

    That goal was also meaningful for William Nylander, as he extended his point streak to 12 games with an assist. This team, fueled by young players, just keeps shattering first-year marks:

    Switching gears, let’s go from new to (relatively) old: Zdeno Chara collected the 600th point of his outstanding career with an assist:

    Yes, it’s true that most people think of his imposing size and all-world defensive instincts in praising Chara, but he’s been a respectable point producer, too.

    U.S. women end boycott, will represent USA Hockey at worlds

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    The U.S. women’s national team voted in favor of accepting USA Hockey’s deal, so they’ll participate in the world championship tournament. USA Hockey recently made the news official with this press release.

    The press release confirmed a report that the contract will last four years, while financial terms were kept confidential. (Team members had been seeking a living wage to represent USA Hockey.)

    “Our sport is the big winner today,” Team captain Meghan Duggan said. “We stood up for what we thought was right and USA Hockey’s leadership listened. In the end, both sides came together. I’m proud of my teammates and can’t thank everyone who supported us enough. It’s time now to turn the page. We can’t wait to play in the World Championship later this week in front of our fans as we try and defend our gold medal.”

    The U.S. women’s national team is scheduled to face Canada on Friday.

    Here’s a screen cap of the press release for your convenience:

    Logan Couture can at least speak and eat following horrifying mouth injury

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    As much as many of us suffer during a trip to the dentist, few can fathom the horrors hockey players often go through when a puck, stick or fist finds their teeth/mouths. Consult this vintage PHT post from 2010 if you want to cringe, a lot.

    Much like Eddie Lack “only” dealing with a neck sprain, it’s strange to be heartened to hear that Logan Couture can speak and eat after his own painful ordeal, but that’s the positive update from the Mercury News on Tuesday.

    Couture, Wilson said, did not need to have his jaw wired shut after a deflected puck caught him in the mouth on Saturday when the Sharks played the Nashville Predators.

    “Hey, he can speak and eat … and his jaw isn’t wired shut!” Yeesh.

    To little surprise, Couture isn’t playing on Tuesday. As far as the Sharks next three games (Thursday, Friday and Sunday), that remains to be seen.

    As an aside, consider this: on the same day Jonathan Drouin‘s celebrating his birthday after helping the Lightning win, Couture is lucky if he can force down some birthday cake. Life: it isn’t always fair.

    PHT discussed his trip to the dentist on Monday.

    More mouth pain: When David Backes felt like his face was falling off.