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.

Fight video: Flyers’ Manning vs. Penguins’ Gaunce

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Breaking: the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers don’t like each other.

The stakes might be higher for the Penguins than the Flyers – aside from those who still believe Philly has a shot at a playoff run – their rivalry rarely subsides.

With that in mind, it’s no surprise that Sunday featured at least one fight, with Cameron Gaunce squaring off against Brandon Manning in a pretty spirited bout.

Manning isn’t shy about fighting, by the way; this was his seventh bout of the season, according to Hockey Fights.

Higher on the radar for the Penguins is the situation for Conor Sheary, who has been absent from the ice since about midway through the first period. PHT will keep an eye out for updates on what could be yet another injury for the health-challenged Pens.

Dreading the work week? Watch this dog get ‘ice time’ with puck

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Life is difficult, complex and confusing. Good thing we have dog videos.

Forgive this video being one night late, but for those of us who watch cute animal clips, time is a furry circle. Or something like that.

Anyway, this golden retriever got a little “ice time” before the Washington Capitals’ game against the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday in what would end up being a 4-1 win for the Caps. It’s an excellent video featuring a top-notch, hilarious pooch.

Alternate joke: Now that is some puck retrieval.

Patrik Laine’s out sick for Jets on Sunday

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Patrik Laine and Auston Matthews are locked with identical goals (34), assists (27) and points (61) on Sunday, which is remarkable since Laine has played in 67 games versus 75 for Matthews. He won’t get a chance to beef up his numbers on Sunday, either.

It looks like the high-scoring rookie is missing the Winnipeg Jets’ contest against the Vancouver Canucks because of an illness, according to TSN’s Sara Orlesky.

The Jets are almost assured to miss the playoffs, so seeing Laine lose a chance to bolster his Calder argument adds a little extra sadness to the night.

NHL schedules hearing for Micheal Haley’s sucker-punch on Calle Jarnkrok

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The NHL’s Department of Player Safety announced a Monday hearing for San Jose Sharks tough guy Micheal Haley for his “roughing/sucker punch” on Calle Jarnkrok of the Nashville Predators.

The league didn’t specify if Haley will face a telephone or in-person hearing on Monday afternoon. They did, interestingly, use the phrase “sucker punch” in that official announcement.

Haley received a match penalty during the game. Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer was highly upset about the hit that inspired Haley’s actions.

“When you run someone from behind in a game like that, you probably deserve to get a punch in the mouth,” DeBoer told reporters.

In other bad news for the Sharks, CSN Bay Area’s Kevin Kurz reports that Logan Couture‘s situation isn’t looking promising after he was hurt on Sunday.