Calgary Flames v Vancouver Canucks

Northwest Division Watch (February 12)

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.

Northwest Division outlook (February 12-18)

1. Vancouver Canucks (35-11-9 for 79 pts; 55 Games Played)

Current streak: One loss.

Week ahead: Home vs. Calgary (Saturday), @ St. Louis (Monday), @ Minnesota (Tuesday), @Nashville (Thursday).

Thoughts: The Canucks’ real race is with the Philadelphia Flyers, at least right now.

2. Calgary Flames (28-21-8 for 64 pts; 57 GP)

Current streak: One loss.

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

Thoughts: It’s still a bit weird to see the Flames all the way up to second place in the Northwest Division, isn’t it? They play against two division leaders and one division rival spiraling down the drain in Colorado this week.

3. Minnesota Wild (29-20-5 for 63 pts; 54 GP)

Current streak: Two wins.

Week ahead: Home vs. St. Louis (Sat), Home vs. Vancouver (Tues) @ Chicago (Wed), home vs. Anaheim (Fri).

Thoughts: The Wild are quietly one of the hottest teams in the NHL. Their upcoming schedule is challenging as always, but they play three of the four games in Minnesota so their chances of having a good week are solid.

4. Colorado Avalanche (25-24-6 for 56 pts; 55 GP)

Current streak: Six game losing streak.

Week ahead: @Nashville (Sat), home vs. Calgary (Mon), home vs. Pittsburgh (Wed).

Thoughts: Obviously, the Avs need to get their acts together. Their next two games are tough, but with the Penguins reeling, this might be a good chance to take 5-6 points from those three games.

5. Edmonton Oilers (16-30-8 for 40 pts; 54 pts)

Current streak: One loss.

Week ahead: Four home games – vs. Ottawa (Sat), Anaheim (Sun), Dallas (Tues), Montreal (Thurs).

Thoughts: Aside from their blooper bowl game against the Senators, the Oilers have a great chance to play the spoiler role this week. They lost to Chicago 4-1 to begin this six-game homestand.

Ducks name Kesler alternate captain

Ryan Kesler
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For the second time in his career, Ryan Kesler is wearing an “A.”

On Thursday, the Anaheim Ducks announced that Kesler would serve as one of the club’s alternate captains this season, taking over for Francois Beauchemin, who signed in Colorado this summer.

With the move, Kesler joins Anaheim’s existing leadership group of captain Ryan Getzlaf, and alternate Corey Perry.

“It’s an honor,” Kesler said, per the Ducks. “It’s special. I’m going to wear it with pride and lead by example.”

As mentioned earlier, Kesler has some experience as an alternate — he wore an “A” in Vancouver from 2008-13, but had it removed prior to the start of the ’13-14 campaign.

It’s not surprising Anaheim went in this direction. GM Bob Murray made a huge investment in Kesler this summer by inking the 31-year-old to a six-year, $41.25M extension.

Diaz could leave Rangers for Europe

Raphael Diaz, Mike Sislo
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Could Raphael Diaz be on his way back to Switzerland?

We’ll know in a month.

Diaz, who lost out on the Rangers’ final blueline spot in training camp, has reported to the club’s AHL affiliate in Hartford but doesn’t seem pleased with his current situation, per the Post:

The 29-year-old Diaz, who cleared waivers last Saturday after the Blueshirts opted to keep rookie Dylan McIlrath as the club’s seventh on the blue line, is interested in the European option if he is not in the NHL.

The Blueshirts have told Diaz they will revisit the situation at the end of October, but have not promised to release him or assign him to a European team at that point.

If Diaz, a Swiss native who represented Switzerland in the 2014 Olympics, does play in Europe during the season, he would have to go through waivers in order to return to the NHL.

Diaz’s agent, Ritch Winter, told the Post that Diaz signed a one-year, $700,000 deal with the Rangers “to play with the Rangers.”

And it’s understandable if Diaz — a journeyman offensive defenseman — isn’t happy with this situation.

While some believe McIlrath earned his roster spot on merit, some think it’s because of his contract status. McIlrath, who’s only 23 and a former first-round pick, would’ve needed to clear waivers to go back to Hartford, and it’s believed he would’ve been claimed by another club.