Around the Rink – Monday, December 13th

Here are previews for tonight’s six games. As always, these start times are Eastern Standard Time (ET).

7:30 pm

Atlanta @ Ottawa

With the Washington Capitals on a six-game slump, there’s the sense that both the Thrashers and Lightning could have at least a slight chance to win the Southeast. To do that, the Thrashers will need to beat teams like the Senators. Atlanta is 8-2-0 in their last 10 while Ottawa is 3-6-1 during their last 10.

Los Angeles @ Detroit

At home, the Kings and Red Wings are virtually the same team (11 wins, few losses). The difference between the two squads is that Los Angeles struggles when they’re away from sunny California, as they’re a pitiful 5-8-0 on the road.

So on paper, this could be a severe beating via Detroit. Then again, this is a chance for the Kings to turn things around against one of the league’s best, so we’ll just see.

8:00 pm

NY Islanders @ Nashville

To many, this game registers a 9.3 on the yawn-o-meter. Yet to me, it’s all about two teams in tough spots and how one perseveres (the Predators) while the other almost seems to roll over and quit (the Islanders).

9:00 pm

Chicago @ Colorado

The Avalanche are quietly the highest scoring team in the Western Conference, with 101 goals scored in only 29 games played. In fact, Colorado scored five more goals in two less games played than the much-hyped offensive force from Chicago. With two talented, young (and slightly banged up) rosters, this should be a fun one to watch.

Columbus @ Calgary

There’s a simple way for the Flames to stop the calls for Brent Sutter’s head: win. They haven’t done that very often, though, as Calgary is the worst team in the Western Conference right now. Meanwhile, the Blue Jackets are an up-and-down squad that sports the third star of last week, Rick Nash.

10:30 pm

Dallas @ San Jose

A regulation win for the Sharks wouldn’t technically give San Jose the lead in the Pacific Division over the Stars, but it would make it awfully close. Then again, the Pacific lead is like a championship belt in professional wrestling; it seems to change every other week or so. Either way, this should be an intriguing fight between the two teams that have won the Pacific for ages.

Rangers punch playoff ticket to wrap up night of clinched spots

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The New York Rangers weren’t ecstatic that Chris Tierney‘s 4-4 goal sent their game to overtime against the San Jose Sharks, but either way, getting beyond regulation punched their ticket to the playoffs on Tuesday night.

For the seventh season in a row, the Rangers are in the NHL’s postseason. They fell to the Sharks 5-4 in overtime, so they haven’t locked down the first wild-card spot in the East … yet. It seems like a matter of time, however.

The Rangers have now made the playoffs in 11 of their last 12 tries, a far cry from the barren stretch where the Rangers failed to make the playoffs from 1997-98 through 2003-04 (with the lockout season punctuating the end of that incompetent era).

New York has pivoted from the John Tortorella days to the Vigneault era, and this season has been especially interesting as they reacted to a 2016 first-round loss to the Penguins by instituting a more attacking style. The Metropolitan Division’s greatness has overshadowed, to some extent, how dramatic the improvement has been.

This result seems like a tidy way to discuss Tuesday’s other events.

The drama ends up being low for the Rangers going forward, and while there might be a shortage of life-or-death playoff struggles, the battles for seeding look to be fierce.

Oilers end NHL’s longest playoff drought; Sharks, Ducks also clinch

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There’s something beautiful about the symmetry on Tuesday … unless you’re a Detroit Red Wings fans, maybe.

On the same night that the longest active NHL playoff streak ended at 25 for Detroit, the longest playoff drought concluded when the Edmonton Oilers clinched a postseason spot by beating the Los Angeles Kings 2-1.

The Oilers haven’t reached the playoffs since 2005-06, when Chris Pronger lifted them to Game 7 of the 2006 Stanley Cup Final.

In doing so, other dominoes fell. Both the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks also punched their tickets to the postseason.

The Sharks, of course, hope to exceed last season’s surprising run to the 2016 Stanley Cup Final.

Meanwhile, the Anaheim Ducks continue their run of strong postseasons, even as their Cup win fades to the background ever so slightly. All three teams are currently vying for the Pacific Division title.

The Western Conference’s eight teams are dangerously close to being locked into place, as the Nashville Predators, Calgary Flames and St. Louis Blues are all close to looking down their spots as well.

Want the East perspective? Check out this summary of Tuesday’s events from the perspective of the other conference.

Craig Anderson took his blunder hard – probably too hard – in Sens loss

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Members of the Ottawa Senators were quick to come to Craig Anderson‘s blunder (see above) in Tuesday’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, and it’s easy to see why.

It’s not just about his personal struggles, either. When Anderson’s managed to play, he’s been flat-out phenomenal, generating a .927 save percentage that ranks near a Vezina-type level (if he managed to play more than 35 games).

Goaltending has been a huge reason why Ottawa has at least a shot of winning the Atlantic or at least grabbing a round of home-ice advantage, so unlike certain instances where teams shield a goalie’s failures, the defenses are absolutely justified.

Anderson, on the other hand, was very hard on himself.

You have to admire Anderson for taking the blame, even if in very much “hockey player” fashion, he’s not exactly demanding the same sort of credit for his great work this season.

It’s official: Red Wings’ playoff streak ends at 25 seasons

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When we look back at the 2016-17 season for the Detroit Red Wings, it will be remembered for some said endings.

It began without Pavel Datsyuk. We knew that their last game at Joe Louis Arena this season would be their last ever. And now we know that Joe Louis Arena won’t be home to another playoff run.

After 25 straight seasons of making the playoffs – quite often managing deep runs – the Red Wings were officially eliminated on Tuesday night. In getting this far, they enjoyed one of the greatest runs of longevity in NHL history:

Tonight revolves largely around East teams winning and teams clinching bids – the Edmonton Oilers could very well end the league’s longest playoff drought this evening – but this story is more solemn.

EA Sports tweeted out a great infographic:

“Right now it’s hard to talk about it, because you’re a big reason why it’s not continuing,” Henrik Zetterberg said in an NHL.com report absolutely worth your time.

Mike “Doc” Emrick narrated a great look back at Joe Louis Arena here: