Let’s take a look at Thursday’s five-some of games, with all start times according to Eastern Standard Time (ET).
New Jersey @ Toronto
Call it the Clash of the Dreamers: the Maple Leafs are heating up and remain eight points out of a playoff spot while the Devils are on fire but remain 15 points behind the Hurricanes. Both teams face considerable odds, but whichever crew ends up with two points will dream a little bigger.
Los Angeles @ Pittsburgh
The Penguins are a team the Kings probably look up to – at least from a “we can get there someday” standpoint – but right now Pittsburgh resembles Los Angeles. After all, the Pens’ top players are injured, so they are playing an even tighter style predicated on attacking defensemen and the skills of a center who wears No. 11. Hmm …
Carolina @ Philadelphia
If the 2011 playoffs began today, this would be the first round’s top versus bottom seed series. In fact, the first game would even take place in Philly. We’re a long way from that actually happening (especially considering the competition the Hurricanes face), but it would probably be as good a 1 vs. 8 matchup will get in the East. (For the West, it must be Vancouver vs. Chicago, right?)
Buffalo @ Florida
It’s a game between the 10th-place Sabres and the 11th-place Panthers, with Buffalo looking a little stronger (especially considering the fact that the offensively challenged Panthers traded away former 20-goal scorer Michael Frolik). Not helping matters for Florida is their home struggles: they’ll try to avoid their fifth-straight loss in Sunrise tonight.
NY Islanders @ Montreal
The Canadiens won’t get a chance to lick their wounds from that violent and potentially deflating loss against the Bruins, as they host the lowly Isles tonight. Whichever poor soul plays in New York’s net might have a long night if the Habs release their vengeful anger on Thursday, though.
If the Minnesota Wild want to make a coaching change, it sounds like Mike Yeo won’t make it easy for them by stepping down.
“I’m not freaking quitting here,” Yeo said to reporters including the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Michael Russo.
It also sounds like Yeo realizes that Minnesota’s morbid losing streak – now at a worrisome eight games – may very well cost him his job.
The scene sounded pretty somber after today’s loss to the Boston Bruins, and not in your usual way.
Firing Yeo would be a big step for the Wild, even more than usual, as he began his coaching stint in 2011. GM Chuck Fletcher was hired in 2009, so the two have been attached at the hip since then.
(And they got to know each other well in the Pittsburgh Penguins organization.)
Will one or both be gone, possibly in the near future? Even Yeo admits big changes can happen.
Wild players, meanwhile, just seem beaten down … and maybe ambivalent about Yeo?
Just when you think things couldn’t get any worse for the Wild, they hit a new low.
Minnesota dropped an eighth straight decision in Saturday’s matinee against the Boston Bruins.
The Wild got behind the eight ball early.
Brad Marchand opened the scoring with a shorthanded goal at the 6:18 mark of the first period.
Thomas Vanek ended a 10-game goal drought to tie the game at two in the second period.
Unfortunately for Minnesota, the Bruins answered with goals by David Krejci, Loui Eriksson and Zdeno Chara.
Minnesota drops to 0-4 since GM Cliff Fletcher announced that coach Mike Yeo and his staff were safe.
Even the captain acknowledged that today’s effort wasn’t good enough:
The numbers aren’t pretty:
If they were to lose next Sunday’s Stadium Series game against Chicago, they would establish a new franchise record with their ninth straight loss on ice.
As bad as the Wild have been, they’re still in the thick of the playoff race.
Minnesota is three points behind Nashville for the final Wild Card spot in the West.
Laurent Brossoit will make his second career start in Saturday’s game against the Winnipeg Jets.
Brossoit will be between the pipes because starter Cam Talbot is ill and missed the morning skate.
The Oilers are hoping Brossoit isn’t as busy this time as he was in his first career start last year when he turned aside 49 shots in a 3-1 loss to San Jose.
“I’m a big believer in Brossoit,” said teammate Brandon Davidson, per the team’s website. “He’s done a great job. I played with him in the minors and he competes like no other. He’s tremendously athletic and he did a great job last year when he got the game too. He’s ready and I think he’ll show that tonight.”
The Jets will go with Ondrej Pavelec, who hasn’t played since Nov. 21 because of a knee injury.
–The Leafs have yet to announce their start. The Canucks haven’t named one either, but expect them to go with Ryan Miller.
—Craig Anderson will be between the pipes for Ottawa. The Blue Jackets will counter with Joonas Korpisalo.
–Like the Leafs and Canucks, the Islanders and Hurricanes have yet to announce their starting goaltenders. It could be Jaroslav Halak against Eddie Lack.
–Expect Pekka Rinne to get the start against the Panthers. Roberto Luongo, who was pulled on Friday, will be between the pipes for Florida.
—Braden Holtby will put his five-game winning streak on the line when Washington takes on Dallas. Kari Lehtonen will look to extend his winning streak to three games.
–The Ducks have yet to announce their start. The ‘Hawks will turn to Vezina Trophy candidate Corey Crawford.
—Louis Domingue will look to win his second straight game. Martin Jones will get the start for San Jose.
Shayne Gostisbehere is the proud owner of a new rookie record.
With his goal in the third period of Saturday’s 2-1 OT loss to the Devils, the 22-year-old extended his point streak to 11 games, which is a record for rookie defensemen in the NHL.
Gostisbehere has an incredible 10 goals and 30 points in 35 games this season.
Gostisbehere’s goal tied the game at one after Devils forward Joseph Blandisi scored this beauty in the first period:
Adam Henrique added the game-winning goal in overtime.
It’s the second straight 2-1 victory for the Devils, who also beat the Oilers by the same score on Tuesday night.
The Flyers have just one win in their last five contests.
To add insult to injury, Philadelphia lost Michael Del Zotto to an upper-body injury, per GM Ron Hextall.
Here’s an updated look at the Metropolitan division standings and Wild Card race: