Southeast Division Watch (February 14)

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.

Southeast Division outlook (February 14 -20)

1. Tampa Bay Lightning (34-17-5 for 73 pts; 56 Games Played)

Current streak: One win.

Week ahead: Three home games – Philadelphia (Tuesday), Detroit (Thursday) and Florida (Saturday).

Thoughts: The Bolts are steadily adding to their division lead, with five points between them and the Capitals. So far they are 5-2 in the first seven games of their 12-game homestand, but they should make the most of it.

2. Washington Capitals (29-17-10 for 68 pts; 56 GP)

Current streak: Two losses.

Week ahead: Four road games: vs. Phoenix (Mon), vs. Anaheim (Wed), vs. San Jose (Thurs) and  Buffalo (Sun).

Thoughts: Including today’s game against the Coyotes, the Capitals begin a five-game road swing this week. Considering the fact that it corresponds with the end of the Lightning’s homestand, Washington could find themselves in a big hole if they don’t respond well to this Pacific-heavy schedule.

3. Carolina Hurricanes (27-22-8 for 62 pts; 57 GP)

Current streak: One win.

Week ahead: @ New Jersey (Wed), home vs. Philadelphia (Fri) and New Jersey (Sat).

Thoughts: The Canes built a minimal amount of breathing room between themselves and the Thrashers for the eighth spot in the East. They can close the door on the Devils’ slim hopes (maybe not mathematically, but probably emotionally) if they win these two games. It could be a tough week if the Devils are for real, though, as they host them and the Flyers in back-to-back games.

4. Atlanta Thrashers (25-23-10 for 60 pts; 58 GP)

Current streak: One loss.

Week ahead: Two road games – vs. Phoenix (Thurs) and Edmonton (Sat).

Thoughts: The Thrashers are coming off a disheartening loss against the Hurricanes on Sunday. You can look at the gap between yesterday and their next game on Thursday two different ways: as a valuable opportunity to heal up or an unfortunate situation in which they must stew about the defeat.

5. Florida Panthers (24-24-7 for 55 pts; 55 GP)

Current streak: One win.

Week ahead: Home vs. Philadelphia (Wed), home vs. Detroit (Fri), @ Tampa Bay (Sat).

Thoughts: This is the kind of week that could either empower the Panthers to keep pushing toward the playoffs or demoralize them enough to make them realize that they’re better off being sellers during the trade deadline. We shall see.

Report: Blue Jackets RFA Anderson in contact with Hockey Canada about 2018 Olympics

Getty
Leave a comment

The preseason is well underway and Josh Anderson is still without a contract.

Anderson, who scored 17 goals and 29 points last season for the Columbus Blue Jackets, is one of two remaining restricted free agents without a new deal. The other is Andreas Athanasiou of the Detroit Red Wings.

While there were reports this summer about Athanasiou potentially going to the KHL for this season, John Shannon of Sportsnet reported on Thursday that Anderson’s representatives have reached out to Hockey Canada’s staff about the 2018 Olympics. 

Anderson’s entry-level contract, with an AAV of just over $894,000, expired at the end of last season.

Meanwhile, here is the latest on this ongoing contract situation.

Making an impression: Sergachev has ‘NHL written all over him’

Getty
Leave a comment

Mikhail Sergachev has, over the summer, stated his belief he can play in the NHL this season.

He had a small taste of NHL action last season, appearing in four games for Montreal — the team that selected him ninth overall in 2016 — before getting sent back to junior and then being traded in June to Tampa Bay, as part of a blockbuster involving Jonathan Drouin to the Habs.

Well, Sergachev made a statement Wednesday in his preseason debut for the Lightning.

He scored once. He also played more than 22 minutes, which led all Lightning players on the night. That included time on the power play and penalty kill. If he was looking to make a favorable impression, to show that he belongs at the NHL level when the regular season begins, this seems to be another step in that direction.

“You watch this kid skate, shoot, stickhandle, he’s got NHL written all over him,” Tampa Bay’s associate coach Rick Bowness told the Tampa Bay Times. “Now we’ve got to give him experience. How much can he handle?”

There is competition on the blue line, with eight defensemen under contract in Tampa Bay for this season. That includes Sergachev, who is still only 19 years old. After getting sent back to junior last season, he recorded 43 points in 50 games with Windsor and then won the Memorial Cup that spring. That said, he’s made it a point of saying going back to junior “is not an option” for him.

Related:

Looking to make the leap: Mikhail Sergachev

Report: Lupul will have ‘independent medical exam’

Getty
9 Comments

Joffrey Lupul issued a statement Wednesday, saying he wouldn’t seek a second medical opinion after the Maple Leafs announced he didn’t pass his training camp physical.

A day later, reports have surfaced that the 33-year-old forward will, in fact, undergo another, independent medical test.

That is according to James Mirtle of The Athletic:

Earlier this week, Lupul made accusations against the Maple Leafs on Instagram.

“I’m ready … just awaiting the call,” Lupul wrote in the comments section of the Instagram post, per a screen grab. “haha failed physical? They cheat. Everyone lets them.”

Lupul, who didn’t pass his physical for a second year in a row, issued an apology yesterday. But those comments — which have since been deleted — seem to have grabbed the attention of the league.

Darren Dreger of TSN added to that, saying it’s the NHL pursuing a second medical opinion on this matter.

“The National Hockey League has that right to pursue the second opinion. That’s exactly what they’re engaging in right now,” Dreger reported Thursday.

“The reasoning behind it is because of the comment that Lupul made on social media. I’ll go back a year ago. The league didn’t step in a year ago but Lupul stayed quiet at that point. So they want to make sure — ‘They’ being the National Hockey League — that the medical evaluation from the Toronto Maple Leafs is 100 per cent above the board.”

Team USA won’t include NHL draft-eligible prospects at 2018 Olympics

Getty
Leave a comment

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) General manager Jim Johannson has ruled out the possibility of the U.S. men’s hockey team having NHL draft-eligible prospects competing at the Winter Olympics in February.

Johannson tells The Associated Press he doesn’t view anyone from the 18-and-younger pool of prospects capable of cracking the projected lineup of non-NHL players, many of whom are opening this season playing in Europe.

USA Hockey’s assistant executive director says he’s also targeting a number of established college players, and would not rule out keeping a spot or two open for members of the U.S. team competing at the World Junior Championships this winter.

Johansson spoke in Buffalo, New York, on Thursday, where he is attending USA Hockey’s sixth annual All-American Prospects game. The game features the top 42 U.S.-born players eligible to be selected in the NHL draft in June.