Ryan Miller, David Clarkson

Race for the Playoffs: Eastern races can get a bit clearer today

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With the season winding down and the playoff picture sorting itself out, we’ll be taking a look at the night’s games and how they’ll potentially affect the playoff races. This is ProHockeyTalk’s “Race for the Playoffs.”

Eastern Conference

6. Montreal 87 pts
7. NY Rangers 85 pts
8. Buffalo 83 pts
9. Carolina 80 pts
10. Toronto 78 pts

Today could see things get cleared up a bit more in the race for the 7th and 8th spots in the East. With all five of these teams in action, today turns into put-up-or-shut-up day.

NY Rangers @ Boston – 1 p.m.

A Rangers win will help them continue to keep the heat off as well as help them draw closer to Montreal for the time being. A Rangers loss puts them right into the throes of battle with Buffalo for the eighth spot. The Bruins can do their own bit of playoff maintenance with a win and help virtually put away the Northeast Division title and a top three seed. Sean Avery is back in the lineup for New York and we can only imagine he’ll be making Tuukka Rask’s life miserable around the goal.

New Jersey @ Buffal0 – 7 p.m.

The Sabres can help strengthen their spot in the playoffs with a win while simultaneously putting the final stake through the heart of the Devils. New Jersey is ten points behind the Sabres for eighth and a loss today would put them down by 12 with just seven games left. Yeah, not looking good there. For Buffalo, if things break right with Montreal and New York ahead of them, a win gives them an honest shot at moving up as far as sixth.  With Carolina behind them by three points, winning is the only way to keep it all going.

Washington @ Montreal – 7 p.m.

The Habs aren’t really in peril here, but their hold on the sixth seed is if they can’t keep winning. With just a two point edge on the Rangers and four on the Sabres, if they want to avoid a potential first round meeting with the likes of the Caps or Flyers and attempt to draw the Bruins, they’ve got to get back to winning. After getting humiliated by Boston, you wonder if perhaps they’d be more comfortable not facing them in a seven game series. Washington has a playoff spot locked up, but can put Tampa Bay out of sight and out of mind in the division title race with a win. The Caps are seven points up on the Lightning in the Southeast.

Tampa Bay @ Carolina – 7 p.m.

Carolina’s in a rough spot just on the outside looking in by three points. After getting a big win over Tampa Bay last night in Florida, they head to RBC Center to try and complete the sweep and keep pace with Buffalo in the race for eighth. Tampa Bay is in a bit of desperate spot of their own as they’re trying to get things turned around positively heading into the playoffs. For Carolina, they can’t get into scoreboard watching though as they just need to keep winning to stay relevant in the race.

Toronto @ Detroit – 7 p.m.

While this seems like a bad match-up at a bad time for the Leafs, they’ve done exceedingly well against the Wings the last few years. They’ll need to be great tonight to keep up in the Eastern race, however, as they’re on the precipice of becoming a full-on afterthought in the playoff race. Sitting five points back of Buffalo with seven games to play makes it a desperate situation. A loss to Detroit for all intents and purposes puts the Leafs and their great story away as James Reimer hopes to continue his folk hero-like play. Detroit is second in the Western Conference and can essentially salt away the division with a win as they’d at least temporarily have a nine point lead on Chicago in the Central.

Las Vegas hires former Panthers director of player personnel Scott Luce

ST PAUL, MN - JUNE 24:  Director of scouting Scott Luce of the Florida Panthers smiles before day one of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft at Xcel Energy Center on June 24, 2011 in St Paul, Minnesota.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Scott Luce has gone from the Florida Panthers to the Las Vegas expansion franchise.

The new NHL organization — still searching for a team name — announced Thursday that it has hired Luce as its new director of amateur scouting.

Luce spent the last 14 years in Florida, as a scout and as director of player personnel.

Luce was let go earlier in the offseason, as the Panthers underwent massive change within their front office, with the promotion of Dale Tallon to president of hockey operations and Tom Rowe to GM, and more attention to analytics.

Report: Avalanche bring Rene Bourque in for a PTO

NEWARK, NJ - OCTOBER 27: Rene Bourque #18 of the Columbus Blue Jackets skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on October 27, 2015 in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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After announcing the hiring of Jared Bednar as their next head coach, the Colorado Avalanche have brought in forward Rene Bourque on a professional tryout, according to James Mirtle of the Globe and Mail.

Bourque became an unrestricted free agent at the beginning of July, after his six-year contract worth a total value of $20 million expired. The annual cap hit on his previous deal was $3.333 million.

He spent last season with the Columbus Blue Jackets, scoring three goals and eight points in 49 games. He was placed on waivers at the end of February.

During the 2014-15 campaign, he spent time with the Montreal Canadiens, Anaheim Ducks and the Blue Jackets, before a back injury sidelined him for the remainder of that season.

Panthers need to keep Luongo rested and refreshed after offseason hip surgery

Florida Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo (1) reacts after New York Islanders Thomas Hickey scored the game-winning goal during overtime in Game 3 of an NHL hockey first-round Stanley Cup playoff series, Sunday, April 17, 2016, in New York. The Islanders won 4-3. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
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This post is part of Florida Panthers day at PHT…

Florida Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo has provided an encouraging update on his comeback from offseason surgery.

At the age of 37 and with 926 regular season games under his belt, Luongo had hip surgery earlier this summer. There was discussion at the time that he might not be ready for the beginning of the regular season in October, but it appears there is reason for optimism with his rehab.

The Panthers open the season at home against the New Jersey Devils on Oct. 13.

“I started skating Aug. 5 and there has been slow progression but we’ve ramped it up here the past week or so and it has been good,” Luongo told George Richards of the Miami Herald.

“I’m not 100 percent; it’s a five month rehab. But I’m feeling better than I thought I would. I thought it would be a slower progression, especially on the ice. It has gone fairly quickly and I’m happy about that. If the season were to start tomorrow, I probably wouldn’t be able to go. But I feel good where I’m at and I’m excited about it.”

Because of Luongo’s age — he’ll celebrate his 38th birthday next April, just before the playoffs begin — the Panthers made a prudent move in free agency by signing James Reimer to a five-year deal, worth a total value of $17 million.

To add further depth at the goalie position, the Panthers also brought in Reto Berra.

The Panthers, at least based on what GM Tom Rowe has said, are in no rush to bring Luongo back until he’s ready.

“Everything will be determined by how Lou gets through the offseason with his rehabilitation. Right now, it’s going really well. We’ll take it one day at a time. We don’t want to rush him back. We want him to come back on his schedule and just make sure we’re doing everything the right way,” said Rowe in July.

Signing Reimer is a move for the future, both long and short term.

He could, this season, take a considerable amount of games as a reliable No. 2, which could help keep Luongo’s energy levels up. And that should be very beneficial for the Panthers, considering Luongo still had a very good season as one of the oldest starters in the league.

Last season, Luongo appeared in 62 regular season games for the Panthers. He posted strong numbers, with a .922 save percentage. He followed that up in the post-season with a .934 save percentage in six games.

He saw plenty of playing time, more than 3,600 minutes. He faced more than 1,800 shots. It all took a toll, as he expressed fatigue in the playoffs.

The expectation is the Panthers make it back to the post-season, perhaps do some damage, too.

Having a rested and refreshed Luongo in goal would certainly help their cause.

‘He doesn’t seem to get rattled’: Blues officially name Alex Pietrangelo team captain

St. Louis Blues' Alex Pietrangelo (27) skates against the Chicago Blackhawks' in an NHL hockey game Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Bill Boyce)
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The news leaked a day early, but on Thursday the St. Louis Blues made it official: Alex Pietrangelo is the 21st captain in the club’s history.

Selected fourth overall in 2008, Pietrangelo has played 459 games for the Blues, with 51 goals and 255 points in that span. He takes over the ‘C’ from David Backes, who signed with the Boston Bruins as a free agent this summer, following the Blues’ run to the Western Conference Final.

“Watching him perform when the game is on the line, he doesn’t seem to get rattled,” said Blues GM Doug Armstrong of Pietrangelo, as per the club’s website.

“As the captain, you have to answer questions, the tough questions when games are over. I really like his personality, his demeanor to his teammates, to the coaching staff and to the media. He’s someone that has the respect of everyone.”

In an interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch at the end of July, Pietrangelo praised Backes for the impact he had on the young defenseman as he was developing with the Blues.

“I think being so close with Dave over the five years he was captain, I’ve learned a lot from him just kind of sitting back and seeing how he operates on a daily basis,” said Pietrangelo.

“Not only on the ice but off the ice, which is a big part of it trying to keep the locker room together and doing the off-ice stuff.”

The Blues also announced that Alexander Steen, Paul Stastny, Vladimir Tarasenko and Kevin Shattenkirk were named as assistant captains.