Around the Rink – Wednesday, February 23rd

There are six games tonight, most of which have interesting playoff implications. As always, the start times are according to Eastern Standard Time (ET).

7:00 pm

Atlanta @ Buffalo

The Hurricanes, Devils, Maple Leafs and other bubble teams are rooting for only one thing: no overtime. It’s a game between two teams who are tied for ninth place in the East with 60 points (five behind eighth place Carolina), although the Sabres are in better shape with two games in hand.

Both teams are on three-game losing streaks right now, so perhaps the winner will use this contest to turn things around.

Florida @ Ottawa

Before he carried the Avalanche to the playoffs in 2009-10 and then fell out of favor this season, Craig Anderson was quietly one of the league’s most efficient backups as a member of the Panthers. This could be Anderson’s first home game as the Senators’ (interim?) starter, so he wants to make an impression by hurting Florida’s flimsy playoff hopes.

7:30 pm

Phoenix @ Tampa Bay

Some might really swing for the fences and say that this is a contest between “two non-traditional franchises who are proven successes.” That might be going a little far considering both teams’ slim divisional leads, but both the Coyotes and Lightning are doing an admirable job so far this season. Tampa Bay probably needs this one more as they’ve lost three in a row as their 12-game homestand is beginning to go a bit sour.

San Jose @ Pittsburgh

It appears that the Sharks might have the upper hand in this game between the two fourth-place teams in each respective conferences. San Jose comes in having won 13 out of 16 games while the Penguins offense is stalling without their big stars. One thing’s for sure: the Sharks are probably glad that they’ll see former Dallas Stars forward James Neal less often after tonight.

9:30 pm

Edmonton @ Colorado

Despite what Peter Stastny thinks about his son’s team, Erik Johnson provided early results with a game winning goal against his former club on Tuesday. It might be too late for the Avs to get back into a crowded Western Conference playoff bubble, but tonight could at least give them a chance to restore some confidence. Or damage it pretty badly.

10:00 pm

Los Angeles @ Anaheim

Much like Atlanta-Buffalo, this is one of those games that other teams hope against hope will end in regulation. The Kings technically hold a tie breaker lead over the Ducks, but they’re basically locked in at eighth with 68 points each. California games have gotten bigger each year as the three teams are becoming consistent contenders, but the context of this one could make it especially intriguing.

Ducks take control of second in Pacific after edging Oilers

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Connor McDavid was fantastic on Wednesday, but the Anaheim Ducks overcame his strong showing for a significant win in the Pacific.

McDavid scored a goal and two assists, yet Ryan Getzlaf was right there with him with three assists, helping the Ducks win 4-3.

With that, Anaheim is clearly ahead of Edmonton for second in the Pacific. The Ducks would hold home-ice over the Oilers if the playoffs began today, and better yet for them, a division title isn’t out of the question:

1. Sharks – 91 points in 73 games played
2. Ducks – 89 points in 73 GP
3. Oilers – 87 points in 73 GP
4. Flames – 86 points in 73 GP

As you can see, the Oilers aren’t exactly far ahead of the Flames for third, either.

Going forward, the Oilers have an interesting schedule: a mix of games against cellar dwellers (two apiece against the Canucks and Avalanche) plus two games apiece versus the Kings and Sharks.

The Ducks’ schedule includes two matches against the Flames, one against the Kings and one more match at Edmonton on April 1.

Long story short, the jockeying for position is far from over, but this was a pretty significant win for the Ducks.

Video: Connor McDavid shows off speed and skill (again)

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Connor McDavid‘s 26th goal of 2016-17 was a lot like many others: an impressive display of skill and speed. He didn’t blaze past the Anaheim Ducks like has against opponents on other occasions, but his rare wheels still came in handy.

Maybe more than sheer speed, this tally is a reminder that McDavid could do impressive things while losing little or no momentum. It’s one thing to have straight-line speed, but he has the hands and hockey IQ to take advantage of his swift skating.

McDavid already has two points in this one, pushing him to 84 points. He also extended his point streak to five games (three goals, six assists if he stays at one of each on Wednesday).

Islanders grab precious points by beating Rangers

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The goal posts might move from time to time – now they’re chasing the Boston Bruins more than the Toronto Maple Leafs – but the bottom line is that the New York Islanders need to get it done to make the playoffs.

They still have some climbing to do, but Wednesday represented a step in the right direction with a tough 3-2 win against the New York Rangers.

The Rangers built 1-0 and 2-1 leads in the second period as John Tavares struggled with a “hat trick” of penalties, but Tavares & Co. wouldn’t give up. They managed two power-play goals in the third (one by Nikolay Kulemin, the winner by Andrew Ladd) to turn things around for a significant win.

Anders Lee was also a big part of the win, grabbing a goal and an assist. The biggest difference-maker may very well have been Thomas Greiss, who stopped 34 of 36 shots (including all 11 in the third) as the Rangers created a lot of offense.

The Islanders now have 80 standings points, placing them two behind the Bruins for the East’s final wild card spot.

The Rangers’ hold over the first wild card seems quite secure, but they do have to worry ever so slightly about their play at home. With this defeat, they’ve now lost seven straight (0-5-2) at Madison Square Garden.

Video: Rick Nash scores 20th goal in sprawling style

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Rick Nash has his critics stemming from his playoff struggles in the past, but for those who support him, moments like these are satisfying.

Why? Because you’d be absurd to discredit how hard he tries when Nash scores goals like he did for the New York Rangers against the New York Islanders on Wednesday.

Nash went all-out for his 20th goal of the season, sprawling after scoring against Thomas Greiss. It’s quite a sight, and Getty Images really was on top of that one.

via Getty Images

The Rangers may need more from him tonight, however, as the Islanders just went up 3-2. Watch the remainder of the contest on NBCSN.