Chicago Blackhawks v Anaheim Ducks

Race for the playoffs: Ducks-Hawks highlight tonight’s Western Conference shuffle

Western Conference

3. San Jose – 95 pts
4. Phoenix – 93 pts
5. Los Angeles – 90 pts
6. Nashville – 90 pts
7. Chicago – 88 pts
8. Anaheim – 87 pts
9. Dallas – 86 pts
10. Calgary – 85 pts

Colorado @ Los Angeles – 4 p.m. ET
L.A. is three points behind fourth place Phoenix and five back of San Jose for the division. Colorado is trying to make sure they stay one of the three worst teams in the league. The Kings are also locked into a battle with Nashville for the middle part of the pack and with Chicago lurking behind by two points the pressure is on the Kings to keep winning. Ideally, facing off  with the Avalanche gives them a bit of a break, but it’s also the brand of game that could be a trap. The Kings would like to avoid having to face off with Vancouver or Detroit in the first round. With no playoff spots guaranteed, however, keeping their spot in the middle of the playoff pack is optimal.

Dallas @ Nashville – 8 p.m. ET

Nashville is doing quite well to rebound from a bad stretch and vault themselves heavily into the mix to make a run at home ice in the first round of the playoffs. Just three behind Phoenix for the fourth seed, they’re even at 90 points with the Kings. Dallas, meanwhile, has fallen off inconsistently but still sit just one point out of eighth and two back of seventh place Chicago. Going through this playoff race can make fans ride the emotional roller coaster and the Stars are in a dip right now. Taking out Nashville would get them right back into the mix and give them some momentum starting off a five game road trip.

Anaheim @ Chicago – 8:30 p.m. ET

The Western Conference shuffle is pretty well surmised in this game in Chicago. The Blackhawks with 88 points in seventh, the Ducks with 87 points in eighth and everyone is still in danger of somehow finding a way to get booted down in the standings if they’re not careful. Chicago’s won three of their last four games and the Ducks are working Jonas Hiller back into action after missing the last few weeks with vertigo. Having him deal with the Chicago attack of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane might be asking a lot of him especially after the Ducks got spanked by Nashville on Thursday. What are fans of other Western playoff teams hoping for here? A decision in regulation regardless of who wins.

San Jose @ Phoenix – 9 p.m. ET

While Phoenix is sitting rather nicely in front of L.A. and Nashville, they can change their fortunes in a big way by beating the Sharks. The Sharks hold just a two point lead on the hot Coyotes who have won eight of their last ten and earned points in nine of those games. It doesn’t end here for either of these two teams as they’ll play each other on back-to-back nights to close out the season. For now, this sets up as a great warmup for the rest of the season and a big test to see just how real the Coyotes can be.

Calgary @ Edmonton – 10 p.m. ET

The Flames are dangerously close to being irrelevant in the West playoff race and they’ll need to win every game the rest of the way to just get a shot at doing it. With just six games left to play, Calgary’s room for error is slim as other teams ahead of them have eight or nine games left in their schedule. Having to deal with their provincial rivals from Edmonton won’t make life an easier on them.

Goalie nods: Backup extraordinaire Montoya gets the call versus Wings

Florida Panthers goalie Al Montoya watches game action against the New Jersey Devils' during the second period of a NHL hockey game in Sunrise, Fla., Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)
AP
Leave a comment

The Florida Panthers have had no problem giving Roberto Luongo the odd night off this season. That’s because Al Montoya has been one of the best backups in the league.

Montoya (8-2-1, .931) will get the call tonight in Detroit, with Luongo (23-13-5, .930) expected to start tomorrow in Buffalo.

The Panthers have the highest team save percentage in the NHL, at .926 (which includes empty-net goals).

“They both give us a chance to win every night,” Panthers d-man Brian Campbell told the Miami Herald recently. “Both make huge saves for us at times. You need consistent saves every night and they both bring it. Montoya gets put into a tough spot a lot of times and nothing seems to change.”

Beyond Montoya, other NHL backups with particularly good numbers include the Flyers’ Michal Neuvirth (.933), the Kings’ Jhonas Enroth (.931), the Blues’ Brian Elliott (.930), the Islanders’ Thomas Greiss (.929), and the Wild’s Darcy Kuemper (.928).

Petr Mrazek will start for the Red Wings. He used to be Detroit’s backup, but he’s since surpassed Jimmy Howard for the starting job.

Elsewhere…

Cory Schneider for the Devils at MSG, versus Henrik Lundqvist for the Rangers.

John Gibson for the Ducks in Pittsburgh, versus Marc-Andre Fleury for the Penguins.

— Andrei Vasilevskiy for the Lightning in Ottawa, versus Craig Anderson for the Sens.

Blues put Pietrangelo on IR with knee injury

Pietrangelo-Coyle
1 Comment

Not good news for the St. Louis Blues — the club announced this morning that defenseman Alex Pietrangelo has been placed on injured reserve with a right-knee injury. He’ll be re-evaluated in three weeks.

Pietrangelo suffered the injury Saturday in a knee-on-knee collision with Minnesota’s Charlie Coyle.

Based on the timeline provided, the Blues will be without their leader in average ice time (26:40) until at least the end of the month. St. Louis plays 10 times between now and Feb. 29, which also happens to be the trade deadline.

The big question, of course, is whether Pietrangelo will be ready to go upon re-evaluation.

The first day of the playoffs is April 13.

Update:

Related: Armstrong wants Blues to get healthy before any trades are made

“I wonder if that’s Crosby, what happens?’ — AV upset after McDonagh concussed by Simmonds

Alain Vigneault
AP
16 Comments

Alain Vigneault took another shot at the NHL’s Department of Player Safety today.

This time, the Rangers head coach was upset about the lack of supplementary discipline for Philadelphia’s Wayne Simmonds in the wake of Saturday’s altercation with New York captain Ryan McDonagh.

“An All-Star player gets sucker-punched, goes down,” Vigneault said, per The Record. “I wonder if that’s (Sidney) Crosby, what happens? What are the consequences? And, on top of that, a player breaks his stick, throws it at the referees. In the rulebook, that’s automatic. It’s three games. Nothing happens. It’s not even on the sheet after the game.”

Simmonds’ punch left McDonagh concussed and unable to play tonight versus New Jersey, with no timetable for his return.

Earlier this season, Vigneault voiced his frustration with the league after Rangers center Derek Stepan suffered broken ribs in Boston on a hit from Bruins forward Matt Beleskey.

Vigneault felt the hit was late.

“I remember Aaron Rome in this building, .6 seconds late, getting suspended four games in the Stanley Cup Final,” the former Vancouver Canucks coach said, recalling the contentious 2011 final.

Beleskey was not suspended.

Crosby, Karlsson and Trocheck are NHL’s three stars of the week

Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby celebrates his goal during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Carolina Hurricanes in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2016. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
AP
Leave a comment

Penguins center Sidney Crosby, Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson, and Panthers center Vincent Trocheck have been named the NHL’s three stars for the past week.

From the NHL:

Crosby led the League in goals and points (5-3-8) in three games as the Penguins (26-18-7, 59 points) earned four of a possible six points to secure the second Wild Card position in the Eastern Conference.

Karlsson led the League in assists and ranked second in points (0-7-7) in three games as the Senators (24-23-6, 54 points) won one of three starts for the week.

Trocheck notched six points (3-3—6) in three games, helping the Panthers (31-15-6, 68 points) widen their lead atop the Atlantic Division to six points.

Related: Red-hot Crosby could make Pens a flawed (but dangerous) dark horse