Southeast Division Watch (March 14)

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.

Southeast Division outlook (March 14 -March 20th)

1. Washington Capitals (40-20-10 for 90 pts; 70 Games Played)

Current streak: Eight wins in a row.

Week ahead: Three road games – vs. Montreal (Tuesday), Detroit (Wednesday) and New Jersey (Friday).

Thoughts: The Capitals are one of the hottest teams in the NHL right now, there’s no doubt about that. Even with a five-point lead in the Southeast Division, they can’t rest on their laurels. Tuesday’s game against the Canadiens begins a six-game road trip that should test Washington’s growing case as a Cup contender.

2. Tampa Bay Lightning (38-22-9 for 85 pts; 69 GP)

Current streak: Two losses in a row.

Week ahead: Three road games – vs. Toronto (Mon), Montreal (Thurs) and Ottawa (Sat).

Thoughts: If I had to wager on the Capitals or Lightning, I’d probably have to go with Washington. Tampa Bay would improve their odds if they closed the gap to three points with 12 games to go if they beat the Maple Leafs tonight. Still, with eight of their last 13 contests away from home, it might be a bit much to ask.

3. Carolina Hurricanes (31-28-10 for 72 pts; 69 GP)

Current streak: Four straight losses.

Week ahead: Away vs. Buffalo (Tues), home against Toronto (Wed) and home vs. Islanders (Fri).

Thoughts: It’s probably true that every remaining game is at least somewhat big for the Canes, but the next two are still substantial, as they take on bubble teams on Tuesday and Wednesday. Cam Ward, Eric Staal & Co. actually play the Sabres two more times counting Tuesday’s big road contest, so they could conceivably close the gap in a vacuum if they won both of those games in regulation.

4. Atlanta Thrashers (29-28-12 for 70 pts; 69 GP)

Current streak: One win.

Week ahead: Road game vs. New Jersey (Tues), home vs. Philadelphia (Thurs) and @ Buffalo (Sat).

Thoughts: This week might just be a “fork in the road” moment for the puzzling Thrashers. All three of these contests could be defeats, but if they make an impressive showing, that will reveal their legitimacy in the home stretch. It’s tough to fault anyone who has been questioning their playoff credibility since New Year’s, though.

5. Florida Panthers (28-32-9 for 65 pts; 69 GP)

Current streak: One win.

Week ahead: Three home games – vs. Philadelphia (Tues), Toronto (Thurs) and Islanders (Saturday).

Thoughts: The Panthers have been solid in the first four games in their seven-game homestand (2-1-1), but solid wasn’t what they needed to make a last minute surge into the playoff picture. Instead, they leave their fans with yet another purgatory season in which they’re not good enough to make the postseason but not bad enough to get a great draft pick. Unless they start tanking right now, that is.

Flames ‘likely’ to leave Brouwer unprotected: Calgary Herald

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He turns 32 in August, and he’s got three years left on his contract with a sizable cap hit of $4.5 million.

He didn’t have a great playoffs either.

So we shouldn’t be too surprised to read that the Calgary Flames are “likely” to leave winger Troy Brouwer unprotected in the expansion draft.

From the Calgary Herald:

The acquisition of Curtis Lazar at the trade deadline for a second round pick came with a public assurance from GM Brad Treliving that Lazar was a reclamation project he planned to protect.

Thus, the list of seven forwards protected will likely include Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Mikael Backlund, Michael Frolik, Micheal Ferland, Sam Bennett and Lazar. First and second-year players like Matthew Tkachuk are exempt.

Brouwer had just 13 goals in 74 games for the Flames this season. He signed in Calgary on July 1, leaving the St. Louis Blues as an unrestricted free agent.

As the Herald notes, there’s no guarantee that Vegas will select him. But certainly, his old general manager from their days together in Washington, George McPhee, will give it some consideration.

McPhee gave Brouwer a three-year extension in 2012, calling him “a physical and versatile power forward who can play both wings. … He is a Stanley Cup winner and a great leader.”

Seguin undergoes surgery for torn labrum

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By all accounts, Tyler Seguin and new head coach Ken Hitchcock can’t wait to start working together in Dallas.

But now, they’ll have to.

On Wednesday, Stars GM Jim Nill announced Seguin had undergone shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum, per the Morning-News.

The Stars announced the procedure is followed by a four-month recovery period. Nill said that Seguin is expected to be healthy and ready for September’s training camp.

It’s a bit surprising to learn the 25-year-old had an injury of this significance. Seguin didn’t miss a single contest last year, marking the first time in his career he played a full 82-game campaign.

Related: Hitch wants Seguin thinking, playing like a No. 1 center

It’s a battle of red-hot goalies in Preds-Blues series

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) No goaltender has played better this postseason than Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators, though Jake Allen of the St. Louis Blues came closest in the first round.

Now their teammates have to figure out how to score on these two stingy goalies if they want to advance to the Western Conference finals. (Watch tonight at 8 pm ET on NBCSN or the NBC Sports app)

“We have to try to solve Jake Allen and make life difficult for him,” Rinne said . “It comes down to me trying to maintain and try to be at my best. At the same time, of course, you’re going to look at the other side of the rink and the guy who you play against, you try to outplay him.”

Rinne allowed only three goals on 126 shots faced in helping Nashville to its first postseason sweep in franchise history. He shut out top-seeded Chicago twice on the Blackhawks’ own ice, becoming just the fourth goalie to win four postseason games with a goals-against average of 0.70 or less.

Related: Five impressive stats from the first round

When the Blues open their conference semifinal Wednesday night in St. Louis, they hope to take advantage of some inside information to solve Rinne. Carter Hutton backed up Rinne the past three seasons in Nashville, and the two remain close friends. That friendship is about to take a timeout for the duration of this series.

“He’s one of those guys that he’s a streaky goalie at the same time, so I think we have to do a good job of getting traffic and getting in there,” Hutton said. “But it’s going to be a battle of the goalies. We’ve got two of the best going at it here.”

Allen ranks just behind Rinne this postseason with a 1.47 goals-against average and .956 save percentage in leading the Blues over Minnesota in five games in the first round.

“He’s been our playoff MVP so far,” Hutton said of Allen.

Read more: A remarkable turnaround for Jake Allen

Longtime Habs assistant coach Jodoin resigns

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There was a changing of the guard in Montreal on Wednesday, as veteran assistant bench boss Clement Jodoin resigned from the club.

“Marc Bergevin and I regretfully accepted the resignation of assistant coach Clement Jodoin, who made the decision to end his long-time association with the Montreal Canadiens,” head coach Claude Julien said in a release. “At our post-season meeting, we offered Clement to remain on our coaching staff, but he indicated to us that at this stage in his career, he would be looking for a change and would like to explore other challenges.”

Jodoin, 65, first caught on with the Canadiens in 1997 as an assistant under then-head coach Alain Vigneault. He spent six years with the club until returning to coach junior hockey in the Quebec League.

In 2011, he returned to the Habs organization as the head coach of their AHL affiliate in Hamilton. One year later, he was back in the bigs in a familiar role — as Montreal’s assistant coach, working alongside Michel Therrien.

Montreal had no immediate word on who will replace Jodoin on Julien’s staff.