Toronto Maple Leafs v Atlanta Thrashers

Tonight in the East bubble: Devils win again, Thrashers beat Leafs in OT

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Just about every night will be important for the New Jersey Devils, Atlanta Thrashers, Toronto Maple Leafs and other teams fighting for the East’s final playoff spot. Yet Sunday might be a particularly important evening for those general managers, as teams with uncertain futures were given one last chance to convince their front offices that they should be buyers rather than sellers during tomorrow’s trade deadline.

It’s tough to deny that Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon and Devils manager Lou Lamoriello are feeling quite differently about their teams, even if Tallon’s group actually holds one more point in the overall standings.

New Jersey 2, Florida 1

Since January 26th, the Devils only lost to two teams: the Panthers and the Tampa Bay Lightning. I was going to make some convoluted joke about sun burns, but the Florida loss actually came in New Jersey.

Either way, New Jersey earned a measure of revenge by beating their bubble opponents. Better yet, they managed to do so in regulation, keeping the Rats from getting a charity point in the process. Devils coach Jacques Lemaire is making a compelling case for the Jack Adams award, as his team is an incredible 17-2-2 in their last 21 games.

While the Devils seemed to win in typical fashion (a bland, low-scoring game), there was one thing that made tonight special: Martin Brodeur earned the victory in his first start since February 6th. Brian Rolston and David Clarkson provided just enough offense for New Jersey, as they were able to limit Florida to one Marty Reasoner score to win the game.

Atlanta 3, Toronto 2 (OT)

While it was great for the Devils to win on Sunday, it hasn’t been a great weekend overall considering the fact that most of the bubble teams kept picking up points. Atlanta’s been involved in two three-point games, as the Thrashers won this game in overtime against the Maple Leafs and received a charity point against the Panthers on Friday.

The Maple Leafs built a 2-0 lead, but received what could be a crucial blow when James Reimer went down with a head injury in the second period. We’ll keep an eye out for updates regarding the team’s surprisingly effective rookie netminder, especially considering the fact that Jean-Sebastien Giguere allowed all three of those Thrashers goals.

To be fair, Atlanta threw 43 shots at Reimer and Giguere, so it’s not like the older netminder was alone in the blame. The second and third periods were especially one-sided, as the Birds out-shot the Leafs by a whopping 31-11 margin. Ron Hainsey’s overtime winner probably wasn’t Giguere’s fault, as it appeared the goalie was screened by his own defenseman.

With these results in mind, let’s take a look at the race for eighth place with some help from our NHL Standings page:

(click to enlarge)

At this moment in time, it looks like the Buffalo Sabres and Carolina Hurricanes are the two teams with the best chance to take the final spot in the East. Obviously, there are plenty of contenders, though, so this should be awfully fun to watch. Could it come down to a final game (or even point) like last season? Stay tuned.

WATCH LIVE: St. Louis Blues at Dallas Stars – Game 1

St. Louis Blues' Jay Bouwmeester (19) checks Dallas Stars' Valeri Nichushkin (43), of Russia, during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Bill Boyce)
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They were the top teams in the Western Conference during the regular season, with 109 and 107 points, respectively. And now, the Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues clash with a second-round series in the playoffs. You can catch Game 1 between these Central Division foes on NBCSN (8 p.m. ET) or online using NBC Sports’ Live Extra.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Some links to check out for tonight’s game:

Stars expect Seguin to miss at least first two games of Blues series

Here are PHT’s second-round playoff predictions

 

Canucks sign free agent goalie and Mike Richter Award nominee Garteig

Quinnipiac goalie Michael Garteig (34) eyes a save on a shot by North Dakota during the first period of an NCAA Frozen Four championship college hockey game Saturday, April 9, 2016, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
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Nine days after getting prized prospect goalie Thatcher Demko under contract, the Vancouver Canucks have inked another college puck stopper.

The Canucks have signed college free agent goalie Michael Garteig to a one-year entry-level contract, the team announced Friday. Garteig recently completed his senior year with Quinnipiac University, which won the ECAC championship but lost the NCAA championship game to North Dakota earlier this month.

Garteig, 24, posted a 32-4-7 record with a .924 save percentage and a career best eight shutouts this season. He was also once again nominated for the 2016 Mike Richter Award.

Sabres extend Larsson: one year, $950,000

BUFFALO, NY - JANUARY 22: Johan Larsson #22 of the Buffalo Sabres warms up before the game against the Detroit Red Wings on January 22, 2016 at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Tom Brenner/Getty Images)
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BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) The Buffalo Sabres have re-signed forward Johan Larsson to a one-year contract.

Larsson was eligible to become a restricted free agent once his contract expired this summer. The Swedish-born player is coming off a season in which he set career bests with 10 goals, 17 points and 74 games. He also finished tied with rookie center Jack Eichel in scoring five game-winning goals.

Overall, he has 16 goals and 21 assists in 142 games for the Sabres.

Buffalo acquired Larsson in a trade that sent former Sabres captain Jason Pominville to Minnesota in April 2013. The Wild selected Larsson in the second round of the 2010 draft.

Contractual details, per the Buffalo News:

Burke: Once a team picks first overall, no more drafting first overall (for a few years at least)

Calgary Flames' President of Hockey Operations & acting GM, Brian Burke speaks to the media as team members show up for NHL hockey season-end activities in Calgary, Alberta, on Monday, April 14, 2014. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Larry MacDougal)
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Brian Burke isn’t trying to pick on the Edmonton Oilers — no really, he isn’t — but Calgary’s president of hockey ops doesn’t believe any team should get to draft first overall as much as his northern rivals have done the past few years.

“If you’re a team that picks first overall, you shouldn’t be allowed to pick first overall for some specified period … three years or five years, whatever … or even the top two teams, pick in the top two,” Burke told the Flames’ website.

“You could still pick four or five, still get a good player, but you can’t get rewarded for continued failure, or continued luck.”

The Oilers, of course, picked first overall in 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2015. And after yet another dismal season in 2015-16, they have a 13.5 percent of winning’s tomorrow’s lottery and getting the same privilege again

“Everyone thinks when you talk about the draft having flaws, that you’re picking on Edmonton,” said Burke.

“There are a lot of teams that have followed this path and have repeated high, high picks for a number of years. Chicago did it. Florida’s done it. Buffalo’s done it. You can argue we did it in Toronto, certainly by not any effort of ours. We were just not successful in the lottery. This is not an indictment of any one team and it’s not an indictment of the system.

“This is saying, ‘Okay, if 30 reasonable people got into a room and said, how do we best award amateur talent in the draft without having abuses,’ I’m not sure this is the system we’d come up with. That’s all I’m saying.”

And many would agree with Burke.

In fact, many would go a lot further, suggesting the entire system should be rethought.

But the question will remain, what’s a better system? The current one incentivizes losing, and so some teams tank. They may not use the word “tanking,” but they’re sure not trying to win. Not in the short term.

Now, is it a good look for the NHL when teams are built to be bad and we see fans openly rooting for losses? No, it’s not a good look.

But would it be preferable for each team to have the same odds of drafting first overall. Even the Stanley Cup champion?

Imagine for a moment a system that didn’t take the standings into account. You just know there’d be some poor franchise that was chronically unlucky, year after year after year. And you just know there’d be some ultra-lucky franchise, too.

The fact is, as long as the NHL wants to maintain its competitive balance — and remember, there’s nothing the NHL is prouder of than its precious parity — losing teams will be rewarded in the draft.

Burke is fine with that.

All he’s saying is the current system could use a few tweaks.

And if the Oilers win the lottery tomorrow, you can bet there’ll be some.