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.

Welcome back, Babs: Red Wings chase Bernier

Mike Babcock
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Mike Babcock admitted that there might be a painful transformation as he tries to fix the Toronto Maple Leafs.

His old friends made that abundantly, painfully clear on Friday.

As of this writing, the Detroit Red Wings are up 4-0 on the Buds. Justin Abdelkader just completed a hat trick with James Reimer in net, so the subplot isn’t just about Jonathan Bernier having another tough start.

The big story might just be Detroit’s varied new line of Abdelkader, Dylan Larkin (who scored his first career goal) and Henrik Zetterberg. At the moment, they’ve combined for seven points.

This post will be updated if Detroit’s tribute video to Babcock surfaces.

Really, though, this beating has been about as ugly as this blanket so far.

Blue Jackets’ Wennberg done for night with upper-body injury

Alexander Wennberg, Jay Bouwmeester
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It wouldn’t be a regular season game without a Columbus Blue Jackets injury, right?

OK, the Blue Jackets hope that 2015-16 looks different from the medically challenged mess of last season, but at least one player is banged up tonight.

Alexander Wennberg suffered an upper-body injury and won’t return on Friday, as the team noted.

There’s no word yet regarding how serious the issue might be. It looks like he might have suffered an injury thanks to a Chris Kreider check:

Naturally, the Blue Jackets must hope that this doesn’t begin another trend.