Northwest Division Watch (February 18)

Every week, we’ll provide updates for each division. 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 18 -24)

1. Vancouver Canucks (37-13-9 for 83 pts; 59 Games Played)

Current streak: One loss.

Week ahead: Three homes games: vs. Dallas (Saturday), Montreal (Tuesday) and St. Louis (Thursday).

Thoughts: Conventional wisdom would suggest that the injury-ravaged Canucks will tread water – at best – on their six game homestand. Yet this team keeps showing personnel perseverance, so who knows, they might go on another tear anyway.

2. Calgary Flames (30-22-8 for 68 pts; 60 GP)

Current streak: Two wins.

Week ahead: Two home games – Heritage Classic vs. Montreal (Sun) and vs. Boston (Tues).

Thoughts: The Flames’ lead over the other bubble teams is misleading because of their high number of games played, so they must keep things in perspective during the Heritage Classic. It’s still shocking that they are hotter than the Canadiens going into this game, though.

3. Minnesota Wild (30-22-5 for 65 pts; 57 GP)

Current streak: Two losses.

Week ahead: Three home games – vs. Anaheim (Fri), vs. Detroit (Sun), vs. Edmonton (Tues) and one away game against Los Angeles (Thurs).

Thoughts: As tough as this week might be, the Wild need to squeeze as many points as possible out of these games. One contest against a true titan (the Red Wings), one contest against a should-be doormat (the Oilers) and then two matches against California teams ahead of Minnesota makes this a challenging seven days. How will they respond?

4. Colorado Avalanche (25-26-7 for 57 pts; 58 GP)

Current streak: Nine losses in a row.

Week ahead: @ San Jose (Sat), @ St. Louis (Tues) and home vs. Edmonton (Wed).

Thoughts: Yuck, Colorado. Just … yuck.

5. Edmonton Oilers (18-32-8 for 44 pts; 58 GP)

Current streak: Two wins in a row.

Week ahead: Home vs. Atlanta (Sat), @ Minnesota (Tues) and @ Colorado (Wed).

Thoughts: The Oilers organization and its fans hope that this is the last season in which they’re in “spoiler” mode as early as February.

Video: Flames goalie makes incredible behind-the-back glove save

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A save of the year candidate in September? It’s possible.

Jon Gillies of the Calgary Flames made an incredible stop during Wednesday’s exhibition game against the Vancouver Canucks.

The camera angle from directly above the net is the best, as it clearly shows how Gillies appeared to bump the puck back toward the goal line, then suddenly reach back with a no-look, behind-the-back glove save to prevent a Canucks goal and stop play.

That is one incredible save.

Drouin shows ‘commitment’ to community with donation to Montreal hospital

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Jonathan Drouin has yet to play a regular season game for his new team, the Montreal Canadiens.

But after getting traded to the Habs in the summer, Drouin has already made a sizable contribution in the community, donating $500,000 over 10 years to the University of Montreal Hospital Centre and planning to help in the fundraising activities to raise an additional $5 million, according to The Canadian Press.

From Sportsnet:

“I think all of that had some impact on his overall decision making,” Drouin’s agent Allan Walsh told Sportsnet. “One day when he’s retired and 50 years old, that hospital [which will begin serving patients for the first time this coming October] will still be here and he’ll have played a role in its development. That means something to him.

“But I think more than anything else he wants to help people. If he can help people—the hospital is going to be the largest hospital in North America and there’s a tremendous need for it in the city—and if he can use the fact that he plays for the Montreal Canadiens to do that, I wish more players felt that kind of responsibility to their communities.”

As noted in the Sportsnet piece above, Drouin is following in the footsteps of Saku Koivu and P.K. Subban, who made generous donations in the community during their time in Montreal.

The Habs acquired Drouin from the Lightning in June, sending prospect defenseman Mikhail Sergachev to Tampa Bay. They then signed the 22-year-old forward — who was born in nearby Ste-Agathe, Que. — to a six-year, $33 million contract.

It won’t be long before the pressure falls on Drouin’s on-ice ability, especially playing as a potential No. 1 center in Montreal and essentially being a hometown player for the Habs. But without even playing a meaningful game for his new team, he’s already giving back to an important cause in the city.

“And when you look at that, if you make $6 million and you give $50,000 a year, it’s not a big deal and you get tax receipts,” he said, per the Montreal Gazette. “But it’s a commitment, and being involved in the community and doing something for your community I think it’s something that you have to do.”

Lupul apologizes, takes ‘full responsibility’ after calling out Maple Leafs on Instagram

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Joffrey Lupul made headlines earlier this week after appearing to make accusations against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Instagram.

The comments — which have since been deleted but caught on a screen grab — came after the Maple Leafs announced Lupul failed his physical prior to training camp for the second year in a row.

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

On Wednesday, the 33-year-old forward, who hasn’t played since the 2015-16 season, posted a statement on his verified Twitter account, saying his Instagram comments were an “inappropriate response.”

Here is his entire statement:

What’s also significant is that he stated he will not seek a second medical opinion regarding this failed physical. As previously noted, that option was available to him, although, per reports, the deadline for this was 5 p.m. on Thursday.

Lupul is in the final year of his five-year, $26.25 million contract.

Erik Cole retires as a member of the Hurricanes

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Erik Cole has officially retired.

The Carolina Hurricanes made the announcement on Wednesday, stating that Cole signed a ceremonial contract with the NHL team and retired as a member of the Hurricanes.

Now 38 years old, Cole played 892 regular season games in the NHL, scoring 265 goals and 532 points. A number of his best seasons occurred while he was with the Hurricanes, reaching 30 goals with the 2005-06 Stanley Cup winning team.

His best season came with the Montreal Canadiens in 2011-12, as he scored 35 goals and 61 points.

His last season was in 2014-15. He began the year in Dallas and was moved to Detroit at the trade deadline, but a spinal cord contusion essentially meant an end to his playing career.

From the Detroit Free Press in April, 2015:

Cole revealed Wednesday that he has a spinal cord contusion severe enough doctors have cautioned him not to play again this spring.

“It stems back from my neck injury in 2006,” Cole said. “When I ran into the player in the Arizona game, I bruised my spinal cord. A spinal contusion is something that you have to let heal and obviously, it’s a pretty serious occurrence. Doctors feel I need to look out for my well-being as a person, not just as a hockey player.”

Cole is now a team ambassador for the Hurricanes.