Brooks Laich, Martin St. Louis

Southeast Division Watch (February 28)

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 28 -March 6)

1. Tampa Bay Lightning (37-18-7 for 81 pts; 62 Games Played)

Current streak: Three straight wins.

Week ahead: @ New Jersey (Wednesday), @ Boston (Thursday) and home vs. Montreal (Saturday).

Thoughts: The Lightning have five more points, four more wins and one game in hand against the Capitals for the division lead. Still, they just recently finished the carbo-loading part of their schedule; now it’s time for the final leg of the marathon to the playoffs. Can they outlast Washington?

2. Washington Capitals (33-20-10 for 76 pts; 63 GP)

Current streak: One win.

Week ahead: Home against Islanders (Tues), St. Louis (Thurs) and @ Florida (Sun).

Thoughts: This will be a nice opportunity for the Capitals to earn some relatively easy points, which is good, because they have a treacherous six-game road trip coming up in mid-March.

3. Carolina Hurricanes (29-25-9 for 67 pts; 63 GP)

Current streak: One loss.

Week ahead: Home vs. Florida (Tues), home vs. Buffalo (Thurs) and @ Chicago (Fri).

Thoughts: The Canes can push the Panthers’ playoff dreams closer to the grave, then play a huge game at home against the ninth-place Sabres before they visit the red-hot Blackhawks. No cakewalks this week, unless Florida trades all their veterans for picks.

4. Atlanta Thrashers (26-26-11 for 63 pts; 63 GP)

Current streak: One win.

Week ahead: Three home games – vs. Montreal (Tues), Ottawa (Thurs) and Florida (Sat).

Thoughts: The Thrashers need to have a good week, because their schedule gets awfully rocky to finish the season. After they conclude their five-game homestand against the Panthers, they’ll play three of four and five of seven on the road. There’s also another five-game road trip remaining on their schedule. Overall, they play 10 of 16 away from Atlanta after Saturday’s game against Florida. They might end up a few strides short of being one of the feel-good stories of the 2010-11 season.

5. Florida Panthers (26-29-7 for 59 pts; 62 GP)

Current streak: One loss.

Week ahead: Away vs. Carolina (Tues), home vs. Montreal (Thurs), @ Atlanta (Sat), home vs. Washington (Sun)

Thoughts: If the Panthers can scrap together enough points to still be playoff-relevant on Sunday, they feature possibly the league’s oddest March schedule. Starting with that game against the Capitals, they will have a seven-game homestand followed by a five-game road trip. They might be the odds-on favorite to be next month’s streakiest team, then.

‘If he was in Toronto, there’d be no Carey Price, media-wise’ – Boudreau on Dubnyk

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The Minnesota Wild aren’t exactly dominating the NHL, so it might be easy to ignore just how outstanding Devan Dubnyk has been to start the 2016-17 season.

We’re talking “Carey Price and Tuukka Rask territory.”

While his 11-6-3 record won’t blow anyone’s mind, his 1.65 GAA and .946 save percentage are jaw-dropping. With Dubnyk doing special things, Bruce Boudreau felt the need to say weird things* after Dubnyk helped the Wild beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-2 on Wednesday.

“If he was in Toronto, there would be no Carey Price … I’m just saying media-wise,” Boudreau said after the game, as you can see in this video:

That’s some Haagen-Daz level praise from Boudreau.

Even if Dubnyk was in a bigger market, there’d probably be room in our hockey thoughts for Dubnyk and the consensus best goalie in the world, but Boudreau’s larger point is taken: Dubnyk has been right there with the best early on this season.

And, let’s be honest, we shouldn’t be too hard on Boudreau or he might stop saying … well, things like this:

Never change, Bruce.

* – Unlike his comments about “Die Hard,” which were amusingly on-point.

Trademark headaches for the Vegas Golden Knights?

LAS VEGAS, NV - NOVEMBER 22:  The team name and logo for the Vegas Golden Knights are displayed on T-Mobile Arena's video mesh wall after the Vegas Golden Knights was announced as the name for the Las Vegas NHL franchise at T-Mobile Arena on November 22, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The team will begin play in the 2017-18 season.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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It’s difficult to tell just how big of a headache this might be, but SBNation‘s Mary Clarke uncovered quite the eyebrow-raiser on Wednesday: the Vegas Golden Knights’ trademark request was rejected by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

You can read the 164-page document here (if you’re weird), but the gist is that “registration of the applied-for mark is refused because of a likelihood of confusion with the mark” used by the College of Saint Rose Golden Knights.

Clarke summarized it simply enough:

Essentially, the logos and stylizations are too similar. It’s baffling the NHL and Vegas didn’t go through the trademark process before announcing the name and logo last month. Yet, all is not lost. Later down, the document states the Black Knight Sports and Entertainment group “may respond to the refusal by submitting evidence and arguments in support of registration.”

Sports Illustrated’s Alex Prewitt received this release from the Vegas Golden Knights, which indicated that they will respond to the refusal (and also noted how teams like the Boston Bruins and UCLA Bruins share names without issues).

There seem to be some mixed messages, at least if you note owner Bill Foley’s response to NBC Las Vegas’ Amber Dixon:

Hmm.

This could merely be a messy issue that really doesn’t cause anything to go off track, even if people are certainly having some fun at the league and team’s expense.

The logo and other marks seem to be the biggest sticking point, so compare the two for yourself:

Again, this could all be a mild disruption, but it’s an odd situation. And, to some, a great laugh.

Related: There also might be some issues involving the Army.

Capitals manage OT win after coughing up lead to Bruins

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It wasn’t pretty, and they might have lost key defenseman Matt Niskanen to injury, but at least the Washington Capitals managed a win against the Boston Bruins.

For a while, it was looking pretty ugly.

After going up 3-0, the Capitals went more than a period’s worth of time without even managing a shot on goal. Whether you lean more toward giving the Bruins credit for fighting back or beating up the Capitals for “sitting on a lead,” it’s staggering that such a dangerous offense could be held in check for so long.

Luckily for Washington, Nicklas Backstrom salvaged the night with an overtime goal to give the Capitals a 4-3 overtime win.

Both teams have had a knack for extending games beyond regulation lately, by the way:

Capitals over the last three games:
Shootout loss to the Lightning
Overtime win against the Sabres
Overtime win tonight against the Bruins

Bruins over the last five games:
Shootout loss against Flyers
Shootout win against Hurricanes
Regulation win against Sabres
Overtime win against Panthers
Overtime loss to the Capitals

Maybe that’s what gets it done in 2016-17: finding ways to carve out wins and shake out rough patches, like the Caps did tonight.

Matt Niskanen injured by Patrice Bergeron boarding hit

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Patrice Bergeron doesn’t have a reputation for dirty hits, but he drew the Washington Capitals’ ire for a hit on Matt Niskanen.

The Capitals consider Niskanen “probable” to return to Wednesday’s game against the Boston Bruins with what they’re calling an upper-body injury. Bergeron received a two-minute boarding penalty for the infraction.

(Check out video of the hit above.)

The Capitals’ Twitter acknowledged the brewing bad feelings.

Does Bergeron deserve supplemental discipline for that boarding hit?

Update: The Capitals won the game 4-3 in overtime, but Niskanen did not return. Click here for more on the Caps’ victory.