I generally don’t like being the melodramatic type, but today is a pretty huge day for playoff jockeying. I’m not going to go off the deep end and call it an “epic” day, but there’s a lot of things that can get squared away in both conferences.
Things get started early this afternoon for the Atlanta Thrashers as they continue their schedule from hell to try and muscle their way into the playoffs and take on the Penguins in Pittsburgh. Luckily for the Thrashers, the Pens have been less-than impressive of late losing five of their last eight games.
Tonight, Montreal will try to keep things going against Buffalo. With the Habs’ win over Philadelphia last night, they were able to keep down another team looking to make the playoffs and improve their own standings in the race. Montreal currently sits in sixth place in the East, two points ahead of both Boston and Philadelphia. The Bruins face off with the Maple Leafs tonight as the Leafs will continue to try and play spoiler.
The Rangers are in Sunrise, Florida to take on the Panthers and after beating the Lightning in convincing fashion last night, one has to wonder if perhaps the Rangers are getting warm at the right time. I won’t say they’re hot because no one in this playoff race in the East is hot, but if anyone can even get lukewarm a playoff spot could be had.
In the Western Conference, Calgary helped get themselves back into the playoff picture by beating the Avalanche. As for others still jockeying for position, Detroit takes on Nashville in a game where one point can clinch a playoff spot for the Predators, meanwhile a win in regulation for the Red Wings could vault them ahead of the Predators for fifth place in the meantime.
Los Angeles can make life for themselves a lot less stressful if they can beat the Ducks later tonight. The Ducks come into the game with nothing but pride to play for but have won seven of their last ten games. Meanwhile, the Kings have lost six of their last ten games but are coming off a definitive 8-3 win over Vancouver on Thursday night.
The last time Anton Rodin got into the Vancouver Canucks’ lineup, he sat on the bench the entire game.
Today, the Canucks announced that the 26-year-old winger has re-aggravated the same knee injury he suffered a year ago while playing in Sweden, and now he needs to rest.
“Our Canucks medical team and Anton have determined it is in his best interest to undergo a period of rest, followed by rehab, until his knee strength and function return,” said GM Jim Benning in a release. “Anton will undergo an MRI and orthopedic consult this week.”
In the same release, Benning confirmed that Rodin fell on his knee Jan. 6 against the Flames at Rogers Arena. It was the very next night in Calgary that he didn’t play a single shift, as the Canucks only had five healthy defensemen and were forced to dress 13 forwards.
“Rodin wasn’t 100 percent and once it gets past 10 minutes, it’s hard to get him in and once you do, it’s not fair to play him,” explained head coach Willie Desjardins, per The Province.
It’s a disappointing turn of events for Rodin, who waited a long time to make his NHL debut. He’s only been able to skate in three games for the Canucks, and his ice time was limited in all three.
Rodin started the season on injured reserve after re-aggravating his knee in the preseason.
Related: Anton Rodin is looking to make the leap
Having already lost Kris Letang to a knee injury and Brian Dumoulin to a broken jaw, the Pens received more tough news in the health department on Tuesday — in the form of veteran forward Matt Cullen.
Cullen was hurt after taking a shot to the foot in last night’s wild 8-7 win over Washington and will miss the next 3-4 weeks, Pens head coach Mike Sullivan announced.
Cullen, 40, is one of the NHL’s oldest skaters but has been remarkably durable since joining Pittsburgh. In fact, he hasn’t missed a single game — he played in all 82 last season, then all 24 en route to the Stanley Cup, and is one of just seven Penguins to appear in all 43 games this year.
The cagey vet has been steady in terms of production as well. He has eight goals and 17 points thus far, which had him on pace to match last year’s impressive effort (16 goals, 32 points).
It’s a tough break for the Pens, but there is a silver lining. Shortly after announcing Cullen’s injury, Sullivan said Dumoulin would travel for an upcoming road swing through Montreal and Carolina.
Expect a more composed Jamie Benn when the Dallas Stars take on the Rangers tonight in New York.
At the very least, don’t expect another stick-breaking rampage like we saw yesterday in Buffalo.
“I have to do a better job with body language and my play on the ice,” Benn said, per the Dallas Morning News.
He also said of his recent play, “I wish I could say how I really feel, but it’s probably not good for TV.”
The Stars’ captain is understandably frustrated. His team is four points back of a wild-card spot, and his production, with 10 goals in 41 games, is down significantly compared to last season when he finished with 40 goals in 82 games and his team won the Central Division.
Tonight, it doesn’t get any easier. The Stars will take on a Rangers team that will have Mika Zibenajad in their lineup for the first time since Nov. 20. Meanwhile, the rest of the Blueshirts have had two days to recuperate after their 5-4 loss in Montreal on Saturday.
It’s estimated the Stars will need to go around 21-11-5 in their remaining 37 games to make the playoffs. So regardless of their frustrations, they’d best get on a roll soon. A better performance from their captain would be a good start.
With P.K. Subban, Roman Josi and Petter Granberg all out with their respective injuries, the Nashville Predators are a little thin on the blueline.
So on Tuesday, they set about adding some depth.
Brad Hunt, the 28-year-old offensive defenseman, has been claimed off waivers from St. Louis, per TSN. Hunt has spent most of this year with the Blues’ AHL affiliate in Chicago but, in limited time with the big club, has shown pretty well.
The Bemidji State product has five points in nine games for the Blues, while averaging 13:36 TOI per night. He was widely praised for his passing ability, and how quickly he helped the Blues transition from defense to offense.
“[Hunt] just moves the puck,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcok said earlier this year, per the Post-Dispatch. “He gets himself out of trouble, he gets the team out of trouble. He’s a smart player.”
That offensive output is what Hunt’s known for — a consistently productive AHLer, Hunt recently made his fourth career All-Star Game on the strength of 29 points in 23 games for the Wolves.