Pacific Division Watch (February 19)

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.

Pacific Division outlook (February 19 -25)

1. Phoenix Coyotes (31-19-9 for 71 pts; 59 Games Played)

Current streak: Six wins in a row.

Week ahead: Four road games – vs. Nashville (Saturday), Philadelphia (Tuesday), Tampa Bay (Wednesday) and Columbus (Friday).

Thoughts: With five away games in a row and 12 games against teams in the two conferences’ playoff picture, the Desert Dogs might be the next Pacific Division team to see a painful drop. If they make it through that run at No. 1, maybe they’ll do some legitimate damage in the playoffs too.

2. San Jose Sharks (32-20-6 for 70 pts; 59 GP)

Current streak: Two wins in a row.

Week ahead: One home game (vs. Colorado on Sat) then three away games – vs. Detroit (Tues), Pittsburgh (Wed) and Calgary (Fri).

Thoughts: The Pacific is such a confusing mass of quality (but not quite dominant) teams that I’ll just stick with my off-season prediction that the Sharks would win the division again.

3. Los Angeles Kings (32-22-4 for 68 pts; 58 GP)

Current streak: One loss.

Week ahead: @ NY Islanders (Sat), @ Anaheim (Wed), home vs. Minnesota (Thurs).

Thoughts: The impressive thing about the Kings’ nice run back into the thick of things is that they’ve been successful during a brutal 10-game road swing so far. They are 5-0-3, meaning that they’ve squeezed at least a point from every game. If they can beat the Isles and at least make it a three point game between the hated Ducks, this tour would be an outstanding success. As it stands, it’s a testament to a strong willed team that unfortunately (for them) resides in a conference and division full of like-minded squads.

4. Dallas Stars (31-21-6 for 68 pts; 58 GP)

Current streak: Three straight losses.

Week ahead: @ Vancouver (Sat), home vs. New Jersey (Tues), @ Detroit (Thurs).

Thoughts: It’s not a snowflake-level original thought but jeez, they’re all the way down to fourth place just like that? This week’s games obviously aren’t going to make the climb back any easier, with games against the two highest ranked teams in the West and possibly the hottest team in the NHL.

5. Anaheim Ducks (32-23-4 for 68 pts; 59 GP)

Current streak: Two losses.

Week ahead: @ St. Louis (Sat), home vs. Los Angeles (Wed), home vs. Minnesota (Fri).

Week ahead: With the possible exception of the long-shot Blues, the Ducks face two teams that are just a touch ahead of them. It’s been impressive to watch Anaheim stay in the picture despite losing Ryan Getzlaf and Jonas Hiller for patches of games.

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

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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’

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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’

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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

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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.