Detroit Red Wings v Ottawa Senators

Central Division Watch (February 2nd)

With the All-Star break over, it’s time for the NHL playoff races to intensify. Every week, we’ll provide updates for each division’s outlook. The biggest contenders and/or closest races will receive the greatest amount of attention.

Bold = playoff contender; Italics = likely lottery fodder.

Central Division outlook (Wednesday, February 2nd – Tuesday, February 8th)

1. Detroit Red Wings (31-13-6 for 68 pts; 50 GP)

Current streak: Two wins.

Week ahead: Win vs. Ottawa, vs. Columbus (Friday), @ Nashville (Saturday), home vs. Rangers (Monday).

Thoughts: Nashville’s slippage ends yet another here-today gone-tomorrow threat to the Red Wings’ top spot in the division. They’ll face the two most recent contenders/pretenders to the throne in a back-to-back this weekend.

2. Nashville Predators (27-17-7 for 61 pts; 51 GP)

Current streak: Three losses in a row.

Week ahead: @ Philadelphia (Thurs), home vs. Detroit (Sat), home vs. Edmonton (Monday).

Thoughts: There’s not much room for slumps in the bitterly competitive West. Nashville is now threatened by just about every Pacific Division team outside of Dallas and their own division foes from Chicago. If they go into lull mode this week, the scrappy bunch could see their cushion disappear completely.

3. Chicago Blackhawks (27-20-4 for 58 pts; 51 GP)

Current streak: One win.

Week ahead: Two road games – one against Vancouver (Fri), one against Calgary (Mon)

Thoughts: The Canucks and Red Wings are the only two teams with better goal differentials than the Blackhawks’ +21, yet Chicago is in a far more tenuous playoff situation. The Hawks begin a five game road trip (and a tough February with eight of their next 11 games away from home) this week. Perhaps having a ton of all-star representatives will inspire them to, you know, actually make the postseason.

4. St. Louis Blues (22-20-7 for 51 pts; 49 GP)

Current streak: Four game losing streak.

Week ahead: home vs. Edmonton (Fri), @ Tampa Bay (Sun), @ Florida (Tues).

Thoughts: The Blues aren’t totally out of contention, but they’re fading fast. It won’t be an easy February overall (especially after the next two weeks), so they might want to consider going into “sell mode” if they don’t at least earn two wins.

5. Columbus Blue Jackets (23-22-5 for 51 pts; 50 GP)

Current streak: Two losses in a row.

Week ahead: @ Detroit (Fri), vs. Edmonton (Sat), @ Pittsburgh (Tues)

Thoughts: The next week might do the Blue Jackets in, especially when you consider the fact that they’ll face the suddenly hot San Jose Sharks on Wednesday the 9th. Not sure how many players on the Columbus roster are trade deadline material (the team is largely comprised of young and/or overpriced players), although I’m sure there might be some people interested in defensive center Samuel Pahlsson.

Lower-body injury will keep Ryan Pulock out for 4-6 weeks

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 21: Ryan Pulock #6 of the New York Islanders skates against the Arizona Coyotes at the Barclays Center on October 21, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Well, this isn’t the start to the season Ryan Pulock was hoping for.

After playing six games with the Islanders during last year’s playoffs, many expected Pulock to make the team out of training, but that didn’t happen.

He didn’t spend much time in the minors (two games) because of the injury to Nick Leddy.

Pulock made his season debut in last night’s game against Arizona. Unfortunately for him, he suffered a lower-body injury after playing just 3:57.

On Saturday, the team announced that Pulock will be out anywhere between 4-to-6 weeks.

If Leddy can’t play on Sunday, the Islanders will have to recall another defenseman from the minors. Because they’re carrying three goalies, they only have room for six blue liners.

With Tuukka Rask banged up, Bruins recall Zane McIntyre on emergency basis

BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 22: Zane McIntyre #50 of the Boston Bruins makes a save against the Washington Capitals during the second period at TD Garden on September 22, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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The Boston Bruins recalled goalie Zane McIntyre on an emergency basis on Saturday morning.

The call up was necessary because it doesn’t look like starter Tuukka Rask will be able to suit up against the Montreal Canadiens tonight.

Rask missed Friday’s practice with what head coach Claude Julien described as “general body soreness,” but it might be a little more serious than that if he’s forced to miss multiple games.

According to Julien, Rask is feeling better, but the prefer giving him the night off.

The Bruins selected McIntyre in the sixth-round of the 2010 Entry Draft.

He’s never suited up in an NHL game before.

The 24-year-old turned pro last year, after spending three years at the University of North Dakota.

He had a 14-8-7 record with a 2.68 goals-against-average and a .898 save percentage with Providence in 2015-16. This season, he has a 0.44 goals-against and a .977 save percentage in three games.

It’s interesting to note that the Bruins preferred McIntyre to former first rounder Malcolm Subban.

Subban has an 0-3 record in the AHL this year and he’s been pulled in two of his three outings.

Guy Boucher won’t have ‘revenge’ on his mind during Saturday’s tilt against the Bolts

OTTAWA, ON - OCTOBER 12: Head coach Guy Boucher of the Ottawa Senators looks on from the bench against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Canadian Tire Centre on October 12, 2016 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)
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On Saturday night, Sens coach Guy Boucher will get his first crack at the Tampa Bay Lightning since they fired him during the 2012-13 season.

After being relieved of his duties, he had a hard time finding a head coaching gig in the NHL and was forced to move to Switzerland to stay behind the bench.

Despite the end result, Boucher says there’s no hard feelings between he and his old club.

“Maybe it’s the distance of the years, I’m very calm and almost cold about it,” Boucher said, per the Tampa Bay Times. “I don’t know how to explain it. It’s been too long. I guess if it was last year, or two months ago, and it was all the people I worked with, all the players I had, but I only coached two players. That’s it.”

Boucher’s tenure in Tampa Bay wasn’t all bad. He helped them reach the Eastern Conference Final in his first year as coach in 2010-11, but failed to make the playoffs the following season.

After a 13-17 start in 2012-13, the Lightning decided to go in a different direction.

But for a guy who had no previous NHL coaching experience, Boucher insists he’s just thankful for the opportunity his first team gave him.

“That’s why I’d love to say, ‘Oh my goodness, it’s a revenge day,’ and the whole big story so you can get a great story. But for me, I’m so grateful… Steve Yzerman and Mr. Vinik, Julien (BriseBois), I owe them a lot. As a family we had four years down there, a really good life. I was very fortunate he gave me the reins of an NHL team.”

He’s off to a good start with his new team, as the Sens are 3-1-0 heading into tonight’s game.

Canucks look to remain unbeaten on tough weekend road trip

VANCOUVER, BC - OCTOBER 15: Brandon Sutter #20 of the Vancouver Canucks celebrates his game winning goal against the Calgary Flames during a shootout of their NHL game at Rogers Arena on October 15, 2016 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Ben Nelms/Getty Images)
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The Vancouver Canucks were a popular preseason pick to finish the 2016-17 season as one of the worst teams in the Western Conference. Who knows, when all is said and done they still might end up closer to the basement. But for now, the Canucks are — quite surprisingly! — the NHL’s last unbeaten team thanks to a 4-0-0 start that has included a bunch of one-goal wins, including three overtime games.

Relying on overtime and come-from-behind wins every night probably isn’t the best long-term strategy when it comes to winning games, but for right now it has worked, and the wins in October count just as much as the wins later in the season.

Every point helps.

If they want to remain as the NHL’s only unbeaten team through the weekend they are going to have to do it on a tough road trip that features a set of back-to-back games in Los Angeles and Anaheim.

Any set of back-to-back games on the road is a tough situation, especially when you are talking about two teams that have been Stanley Cup contenders in recent years as the Kings and Ducks typically are. But this weekend swing may not be as daunting as it would have first appeared when the schedule came out.

They get a Kings team on Saturday that is off to a 1-3 start and has already given up 15 goals in four games. A lot of that is due to the absence of starting goalie Jonathan Quick. Backups Jeff Zatkoff and Peter Budaj have not played particularly well in his place. They didn’t get their first win until Thursday on a controversial overtime goal against Dallas.

Then on Sunday the Canucks make a visit to Anaheim to face the Randy Carlyle-led Ducks who are only 1-3-1 through their first five games while only scoring 10 goals.

In other words: Everything seems to be going Vancouver’s way right now. They are keeping teams off the scoreboard, finding ways to win, and even when they go on their first road trip of the season they are getting a pair of teams that are struggling. If they can somehow get through this set of back-to-back games they return home for another three-game home stand against Ottawa, Edmonton and Washington. So they have a great opportunity to get off to a fantastic start.