Pacific Division Watch (February 6)

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.

Pacific Division outlook (February 6-13)

1. Dallas Stars (30-18-5 for 65 pts; 53 Games Played)

Current streak: Three loses in a row.

Week ahead: Two home games – vs. Phoenix (Wed), vs. Chicago (Fri).

Thoughts: Dallas is still on top of the Pacific, but to give you an idea of how competitive if it is: they only have a five point lead over last place Los Angeles. Wow.

2. San Jose Sharks (28-19-6 for 62 pts; 53 GP)

Current streak: Three wins in a row.

Week ahead: Three road games – Washington (Tues), Columbus (Wed), New Jersey (Fri).

Thoughts: The Sharks won the first two games of a seven game road trip that continues this week. San Jose will then finish February with three more away games (with two games at home sandwiched in between) before a friendly March schedule begins.

3. Anaheim Ducks (29-21-4 for 62 pts; 54 GP)

Current streak: One win.

Week ahead: Two road games: vs. Vancouver (Wed) and Calgary (Fri).

Thoughts: The Ducks are in the middle of a Northwest Division tour, having beaten Colorado. They’ll finish it off in Edmonton a week from today.

4. Phoenix Coyotes (26-19-9 for 61 pts; 61 GP)

Current streak: One win.

Week ahead: At home vs. Colorado (Mon), @ Dallas (Wed), home vs. Chicago (Sat).

Thoughts: The Coyotes earned a 1-0 win playing their style of hockey on Saturday, so they should go into a very tough week with some confidence.

5. Los Angeles Kings (29-22-2 for 60 pts; 53 GP)

Current streak: Two wins in a row.

Week ahead: Two road games @ Pittsburgh (Thurs) and @ Washington (Sat).

Thoughts: The Kings have two wins and five out of six points in the first three games of their lengthy 10-game roadtrip, but this week includes two tough ones. Then again, if you had to catch the Penguins (minus Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin) and Capitals (minus Alex Semin, maybe without Mike Green and/or Alex Ovechkin), this might be a good week to do it.

Methot ‘out for weeks’ after suffering a shattered finger from Crosby clash

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The Ottawa Senators lost defenseman Marc Methot for the bulk of Thursday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and it seems he’ll be out for quite a while longer, too.

Methot was injured on a Sidney Crosby slash across the hand in the first period. He didn’t return to the game and there was no penalty called on the Penguins captain.

Footage showed the gruesome aftermath of the slash — Methot’s finger on his left hand bloodied and injured as he skated back to the bench.

“His finger is shattered and he’s out for weeks,” said Senators head coach Guy Boucher, per the Ottawa Sun.

Methot immediately confronted Crosby after the slash, which occurred as the Sens blue liner went to dump the puck into the Pittsburgh zone late in the first period.

The Senators got revenge, scoring a 2-1 shootout victory to move within a point of Montreal for the Atlantic Division lead. Crosby was also denied in the shootout.

NHL to make ‘special announcement’ in China next week

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The National Hockey League has announced it will make a “special announcement” at the LeSports Center in Beijing, China next Thursday.

In January, the league’s deputy commissioner Bill Daly made it clear the NHL has interest in playing games in China — likely starting out with pre-season games before potentially adding in some regular season contests in the future, as well.

Just after the league made its announcement on Thursday, the L.A. Kings tweeted out that they will participate in next week’s event, along with the Vancouver Canucks.

In January, hockey insider Darren Dreger reported that the Canucks and Kings were likely to play NHL pre-season games in China this upcoming September.

Last July, members of the Boston Bruins visited China, specifically Beijing and Shanghai, to host hockey clinics in those cities.

Beijing will also host the 2022 Winter Olympics.

Flyers survive early Mason mistake to upset Wild

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Insert the ‘It’s not how you start but how you finish’ cliche right here.

The Philadelphia Flyers fell behind the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, as Zach Parise was the beneficiary of a Steve Mason mistake just 2:07 into the first period.

Mason couldn’t control the deflection into the zone, coughing up a rebound in front. Eric Staal forced a loose puck to Parise and he buried it to open the scoring.

Yeah, not ideal for the Flyers, who are still clinging to the slimmest of playoff hopes.

But they responded with three unanswered goals, including this beauty from Sean Couturier.

Philadelphia took over for a 3-1 victory, with Mason making 24 saves on 25 shots, as Minnesota’s struggles continue. The Wild still sit second in the Central Division but have only two wins in their last 10 games.

Bolts close gap on struggling Bruins in playoff race

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Well, that was quite a third period.

For the Boston Bruins, it was disastrous. For the Tampa Bay Lightning, it propelled them to a critical victory in the playoff race.

Nikita Kucherov completed the hat trick with a pair of goals in the final period and Jonathan Drouin scored what would eventually be the winner, as Tampa Bay snapped its own three-game losing streak in a 6-3 victory, putting the Bolts within three points of the final wild card spot — held by the Bruins — in the Eastern Conference.

The Drouin goal — his 18th of the season but first since Feb. 19, a span of 13 games — is probably one Tuukka Rask would like back.

Drouin teed up the slap shot from the faceoff circle, beating Rask under the left arm.

And just like that, the Bruins have lost four consecutive games. On Saturday, they face the New York Islanders, another team looking to catch Boston in the wild card race.

Read more: Remember this stretch if Bruins settle for a wild card spot (or worse?)

The Islanders are only two points back of Boston.

Despite the win, there was bad news for the Lightning during this game, as defenseman Jason Garrison left with an injury.

From NHL.com:

The play occurred behind the Lightning goal, Garrison appearing to get his left leg rolled up from behind by a Bruin. Garrison had to be helped off the ice by Anton Stralman and Brayden Point and headed back to the Bolts’ locker room.

The team announced during the second intermission that Garrison sustained a lower-body injury. He did not return to the game.