Dana Tyrell, Brett Clark, Sean Bergenheim, Tuomo Ruutu

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.

Stars end Capitals’ winning streak, pass Blackhawks for West lead

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For two periods, the Dallas Stars seemed to say, “Are you sure the Washington Capitals are the best team in the NHL?”

They chased Braden Holtby and built a 4-0 lead through those first 40 minutes, and that was enough … but barely. The Stars beat the Capitals 4-3 on Saturday, which accomplished the following:

  • Dallas ended Washington’s winning streak at five games. The Stars have now won three straight.
  • This win slides the Stars ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks for first place in the highly competitive Central Division. While both teams sit at 77 standings points, Dallas holds three games in hand.
  • By passing Chicago, the Stars now lead the Western Conference as a whole.

Impressive stuff. Some might even call it a statement game, although others may hold that nail-biting ending against them (possibly arguing that the Stars’ flaws may come back to haunt them in the playoffs).

Dallas’ biggest concern likely has little to do with doubters. Instead, they must monitor the statuses of forwards Tyler Seguin and Cody Eakin.

Long story short, the Stars are red-hot, yet bigger challenges likely lie ahead.

Blackhawks fall to Ducks in OT, lose Hossa to injury

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The Chicago Blackhawks are on edge on Saturday, and it’s not because of what’s currently a close game against the Anaheim Ducks.

(Not that they’re indifferent toward a match against their opponents from last year’s conference final match, mind you.)

Instead, the Blackhawks are quite concerned about the health of Marian Hossa, who needed help off of the ice following an awkward, scary-looking crash into the boards. (Hampus Lindholm delivered the hip check that sent Hossa sprawling, in case you’re wondering.)

You can see that moment in the video above, while My Regular Face’s GIF also captures that troubling moment:

It’s too early to tell if Hossa will bounce back or miss some time from this. Stay tuned for potential updates.

Update: Joel Quenneville seems optimistic about Hossa, broadly speaking:

Ryan Getzlaf scored the overtime game-winner as the Ducks won 3-2 (OT).

Understatement: Saturday was a rough night for Panthers

Nashville Predators center Colin Wilson (33) checks Florida Panthers center Jonathan Huberdeau (11) during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
AP
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If it weren’t for Mike Yeo and the Minnesota Wild, you could argue that the Florida Panthers suffered from the worst night so far.

You can see that Saturday was unpleasant merely from looking at the scoreboard: the Nashville Predators pummeled the Panthers by an unkind score of 5-0.

The pain goes beyond that … literally so.

For one thing, Quinton Howden suffered an upper-body injury and did not return. That’s no good, but if you want to feel sick to your stomach, footage of Brandon Pirri‘s likely lower-body injury (ankle maybe?) may do the trick.

(Seriously, you may be happier if you don’t look.)

The Panthers didn’t make an announcement about Pirri one way or another, so we’ll see if he somehow avoided anything significant.

Either way, it was a night this team would like to forget.

Fractured jaw from fight sidelines Chris Stewart for 4-8 weeks

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It’s unlikely that Chris Stewart will generate another 30-goal season in the NHL, but he still might be missed by the Anaheim Ducks.

The team announced that the ornery forward is expected to miss four-to-eight weeks with a fractured jaw. If that’s the recovery window, Stewart may go into the playoffs a little rusty (if he can get in any regular season games at all).

The Ducks didn’t elaborate, but the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline believes that the injury happened during a fight with Dalton Prout of the Columbus Blue Jackets. You can see that brawl in the video above.

One bright side for Anaheim: if they believe that they need to replace what Stewart brings to the table (rugged play with a dash of offense), then at least this injury happened before the the Feb. 29 trade deadline.