Around the rink – March 4; Devils and Blackhawks look to stay hot

7:00 p.m. ET

Pittsburgh @ New Jersey

The Devils are on a crazy run and they’re coming off a big win over Tampa Bay on Wednesday night. The Penguins are losers of five of their last six games and hurting for goals. The Devils during their run have been reminiscent of Devils teams from the past playing stifling defensive hockey. I think you can see where I’m going with this one and it doesn’t bode well for Pittsburgh. The Pens are five points behind Philly for the lead in the Atlantic and the Eastern Conference. A win would help them keep the Caps off their heels for fourth and help them narrow the gap on the Flyers. The Devils, meanwhile, can’t afford to lose any games making virtually every game from here out like Game 7 for them.

7:30 p.m. ET

NY Rangers @ Ottawa

Things are getting awkward for the Rangers now. They’re in eighth in the East now and sit just two points ahead of Buffalo and three ahead of a hot and streaking Toronto. The Rangers can’t seem to score on anyone and facing Craig Anderson and the Senators tonight doesn’t help their prospects there. Anderson has allowed just seven goals in six games with the Sens and has a .966 save percentage over those games. The Rangers have lost three in a row and have just four goals in those three games. With Ottawa in full on spoiler mode (both for other teams and their own shot at the #1 pick) this isn’t shaping up to be a good night for New York.

8:30 p.m. ET

Carolina @ Chicago

The good news for Carolina is they’re not in eighth place anymore jumping to seventh in the East. The bad news is that they’ve got to face Jonathan Toews and the streaking Blackhawks tonight. Chicago has won six in a row and have vaulted themselves heavily into the mix for the playoffs in the West. As things go there, wins and other teams winning move you up and down the standings wildly, but Chicago is in that position now thanks to Toews. Just a couple weeks ago, they were on the outside looking in and feeling desperate. This season’s been funny like that for a lot of teams out West. Well, funny if you make the playoffs, infuriating if you miss them.

9:00 p.m. ET

Columbus @ Calgary

Remember three games ago when Columbus looked poised to join the fray fighting for a spot in the playoffs? Those were fun times. The Jackets have, instead, lost three in a row and returned to their regular place in the “also ran” category. Steve Mason’s play has returned to earth and with it so have the hopes of Columbus fans. Hockey life is cruel. Calgary comes in 5-2-1 in their last eight and looking to bounce back after a 6-4 loss to Chicago on Wednesday. Outside of that game, Miikka Kiprusoff has been outstanding for Calgary in goal of late. The Flames may be without Brendan Morrison in this one.

10:00 p.m. ET

Dallas @ Anaheim

A pair of teams looking to stay hot as Dallas goes into Anaheim on a three-game win streak while the the Ducks have won two in a row. We can’t stress enough how important it is to keep the good times rolling in the Western Conference. Surprising development for Anaheim? The great play of Dan Ellis in goal. Ellis is 2-0-1 with Anaheim with a 1.93 goals against and a .929 save percentage. With Jonas Hiller out getting solid play like this from Ellis is huge for the Ducks in their efforts to get into the playoffs. Dallas, meanwhile, seems to have settled down after avoiding the Brad Richards trade drama. After a prolonged dry spell, they’ve got three wins in a row and back into the fray for the playoffs.

Habs sign Mark Streit — is he Markov’s replacement?

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The Montreal Canadiens have signed 39-year-old defenseman Mark Streit to a one-year contract worth a reported $700,000.

This will actually be Streit’s second stint with the Habs. He started his NHL career in Montreal, all the way back in 2005.

Streit split last season between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. In the playoffs, he only appeared in three games for the Penguins, all of them in the Eastern Conference Final against Ottawa when Justin Schultz was hurt.

What the Streit signing means for Andrei Markov remains to be seen. Streit, like Markov, can run a power play, so it’s tempting to conclude that Streit is Markov’s replacement.

That being said, almost all of Streit’s contract could be buried in the AHL if necessary, so that conclusion may be premature. This could even be a move by GM Marc Bergevin to gain leverage and convince Markov to sign.

Markov, 38, remains an unrestricted free agent. The Canadiens want him back, but only at a certain price.

Devils give Mirco Mueller two-year extension

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The New Jersey Devils have signed defenseman Mirco Mueller to a two-year contract extension with a cap hit of $850,000.

Mueller, a first-round draft pick of the Sharks in 2013, has only played 54 NHL games, scoring two goals with four assists. In June, after spending most of 2016-17 in the AHL, San Jose traded the 22-year-old to the Devils.

In New Jersey, Mueller should get a good chance to crack a rebuilding roster.

“Mirco is adding another piece to what we’re trying to build here,” Devils coach John Hynes said, per NJ.com. “He’s a young player, he can play with pace. He’s a very good skater. He’s got size, which is something we need on the back end. He makes a good first pass. He allows you to get out of your own zone because he can break out, he can end plays defensively, get possession, make the pass to be able to transition yourself out of defensive situations.”

The Devils have also re-signed goalie Scott Wedgewood and forward Joseph Blandisi.

Rangers lock up Zibanejad for next five years

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The New York Rangers have locked up a key piece of their future, signing center Mika Zibanejad to a five-year deal with a cap hit of $5.35 million.

Zibanejad had an arbitration hearing scheduled for today, but that won’t be required anymore.

The 24-year-old had 14 goals and 23 assists in 56 games last season. It was his first year in New York after getting traded from Ottawa for Derick Brassard.

With Derek Stepan in Arizona now, Zibanejad is arguably the Rangers’ No. 1 center. Kevin Hayes is in that conversation as well, and perhaps Lias Andersson will be soon.

But getting Zibanejad signed long term was a top priority for GM Jeff Gorton this offseason. Hayes can become a restricted free agent next summer, but that’s a bridge to cross at a later date.

Related: Andersson to get ‘every opportunity’ to make Rangers next season

Avalanche reportedly settle with Nieto, avoiding arbitration

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Matt Nieto won’t need his arbitration hearing on Monday.

According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, Nieto has agreed to a one-year, $1 million contract with the Colorado Avalanche.

Nieto split last season between San Jose and Colorado, which claimed him off waivers in January.

In 43 games for the Avalanche, the 24-year-old forward scored seven goals with four assists.

Nieto was the only Colorado player on this summer’s arbitration list. However, the Avs still have a restricted free agent in Nikita Zadorov, who could be off to the KHL next season.