Eastern Conference playoff race
x-1. Philadelphia – 102 pts
x-2. Washington – 99 pts
x-3. Boston – 96 pts
x-4. Pittsburgh – 98 pts
5. Tampa Bay – 93 pts
6. Montreal – 89 pts
7. Buffalo – 87 pts
8. NY Rangers – 87 pts
9. Carolina – 84 pts
10. Toronto – 80 pts
11. Atlanta – 76 pts
12. New Jersey – 75 pts
z – clinched conference title
y – clinched division title
x – clinched playoff spot
New Jersey 3, NY Islanders 2
The Devils did what they needed to do to keep their slim playoff hopes alive by beating the New York Islanders. New Jersey defenseman Andy Greene scored the eventual game-winning goal with about 5 minutes left in the game to save New Jersey’s hopes for one more night. Unfortunately for fans in Newark, the chances to make the second season took yet another hit as the Buffalo Sabres won their game as well. The Devils need to win the rest of their games and they need the Rangers or Sabres to lose the rest of theirs. In regulation. Even if that were to happen, they’d need the Hurricanes to fall off a cliff as well. It was a fantastic run for the Devils while it lasted—but it’s time to start looking towards next season.
Carolina 6, Montreal 2
Don’t look now, but the Montreal Canadiens’ stranglehold on the 6th seed isn’t as secure as it was a couple of weeks ago. Jeff Skinner scored a pair of goals in the first period to get the Canes off to a good start and Jaime McBain scored a pair to remove any doubt. The loss was simply more of the same for Montreal. The Habs have only managed a single win in their last 5 games—which is in stark contrast to the Rangers and Sabres who have seemingly been gaining ground on a nightly basis. Montreal’s loss and Carolina’s win has served to make the Eastern Conference playoff picture look like an accordion. The 6th through 9th spots are not only separated by 5 points; the 6th through 8th spots are only separated by two points.
Buffalo 1, NY Rangers 0
In a game that seemed like a playoff contest, the Sabres went into battle without superstar goaltender Ryan Miller and escaped with a 1-0 victory. Back-up netminder Jhonas Enroth only needed to make 23 saves, but it was enough to help the surging Sabres pass the Rangers for the 7th spot in the East. After Buffalo’s win, the teams are tied with 87 points in 77 games; but the Sabres have one more win (not including shootouts) to win the new tiebreaker. Both teams have been playing out of their minds lately, but they’re both still only three points into a playoff spot over Carolina. Sure, they want to catch Montreal for the 6th spot—but more importantly, they both need to make it to the dance. On that note, they both could have used a Carolina loss. For Rangers fans, the night couldn’t have gone any worse. For Sabres fans, well, a win is a win. Any win in March in the middle of a playoff race is beautiful.
Marian Hossa and the Chicago Blackhawks announced in June that the 38-year-old forward will miss the entire 2017-18 season with a skin disorder.
However, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, the National Hockey League has yet to determine if Hossa will be eligible for long-term injured reserve.
“Marian Hossa underwent an independent medical evaluation several days ago,’’ NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told the Chicago Sun-Times. ‘‘We are waiting for the report. Once we have that, we should be in a position to determine his proper status.’’
Hossa’s total salary is only $1 million for this year. His cap hit remains at $5.275 million.
From CSN Chicago:
Here are two basics about the cap: a team can be 10 percent over it during the summer, and a team must be at or below it the day the regular season begins. If the Blackhawks place Hossa on LTIR, it wouldn’t take effect until the second day of the regular season. So on Day 1 of the season, the Blackhawks would still be carrying Hossa’s $5.275 cap hit.
Once the LTIR would take effect, though, the Blackhawks would have wiggle room. If they spent to the $75 million cap, they could utilize Hossa’s entire $5.275 million cap hit on other players.
While there are salary cap implications for Chicago with Hossa’s absence, not having him in the Blackhawks lineup is a difficult loss. Yes, he’s approaching 40 years of age, with more than 1,300 NHL regular season games under his belt. But last season, he also posted 26 goals and 45 points — still very productive at his age.
It was reported, prior to the Blackhawks announcing that Hossa had this skin condition, that there was a “legitimate possibility” Hossa had played his last NHL game.
The good news? Erik Karlsson hit the ice to skate with his Ottawa Senators teammates on Saturday.
“Back at it,” is what the star defenseman wrote in an Instagram post, which included a photo of him on the ice in a blue jersey.
It’s certainly an exciting development for the Senators and their fans. Karlsson was a dominant player for Ottawa during the Stanley Cup playoffs despite playing with a foot injury that later required surgery, with an expected recovery time of four months.
Head coach Guy Boucher, however, offered some cautionary words on Karlsson’s status. Basically, it’s exciting, but Boucher doesn’t want anyone — Karlsson included — to get too far ahead of themselves right now.
“It’s a positive thing, but we don’t want to get too excited. It’s a second step,” said Boucher, according to NHL.com.
“The first step was to let the therapists tell us when it was adequate to put him on the ice, because you need to get the flexibility and the strength off the ice before we could put [him] on the ice. Yesterday they apparently put the skates on to see how it felt and [went] very lightly on the ice, and they felt he was able this morning [to] get dressed and be with the boys.
“Basically, this is the second step, but there’s quite a few steps before we get to him playing. We don’t want him to get too excited.”
His status for the Senators’ season opener against the Washington Capitals on Oct. 5 has been up in the air since he underwent the operation. Karlsson admitted earlier this month that he wasn’t sure if he’d be ready for that game.
Ottawa is dealing with a few injury situations right now, with four preseason games remaining on their schedule. Karlsson is one of the best defensemen in the entire NHL and given how important he is to the Senators, there is absolutely no need to rush him back into the lineup if he’s not ready.
Capitals forward Tom Wilson has been suspended for two preseason games for interference, after his late hit on St. Louis Blues forward Robert Thomas during Friday’s exhibition game.
The incident occurred early in the third period, as Wilson caught Thomas with a heavy and late hit along the boards at the Blues bench.
“Over a full second after Thomas loses control of the puck, well past the point where Thomas is eligible to be checked, Wilson comes in from the side and delivers a forceful body check, knocking Thomas to the ice,” stated a member of the NHL Department of Player Safety in a video explanation of the suspension.
“In addition to the lateness of the hit, what elevates this hit to the level of supplemental discipline is the predatory nature and force of the hit. Wilson tracks Thomas for some time and alters his course to ensure he is able to finish his hit. Then, with the puck long gone from Thomas’ control, Wilson finishes the check with force.”
The Capitals continue their preseason schedule Saturday against the Carolina Hurricanes. They also play the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday.
For the first time since February, Kris Letang is expected to be in the Pittsburgh Penguins lineup when they face the St. Louis Blues on Sunday.
Letang hasn’t played since Feb. 21. He underwent neck surgery in April and missed the entire Stanley Cup playoffs as a result. Despite the absence of their best defenseman, which is a huge loss in Letang, the Penguins were able to overcome that and emerge as champions over Nashville.
According to Pens Inside Scoop on Saturday, head coach Mike Sullivan said Letang will play in Sunday’s Kraft Hockeyville game between the Penguins and St. Louis Blues.
That wasn’t the only Letang news Saturday:
Getting Letang back into the lineup will provide a huge boost to an already strong Penguins team, with his ability to log heavy minutes and act as a catalyst in Pittsburgh’s offensive attack.
“I want to be the same player I was before. I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t be able to do that,” said Letang. “Hopefully everything goes well and I go back to the old way, playing over 25 minutes and in all situations.”
But what is most critical is having Letang healthy, and Sullivan this offseason has stressed to the star defenseman to recognize situations when he should make a simple play rather than risk taking an unnecessary hit.
“When people try to dissect all of that, they make assumptions that they understand, but they don’t,” Letang told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
“Mike and I have a clear understanding of what he wants me to do. I think I’m tired of hearing people around it because I had a talk with Mike and Jim. It’s just a way of avoiding those unnecessary hits. It’s not going to be reducing ice time or anything like that. It’s taking a different approach on certain plays.”
Related: Letang isn’t interested in getting less ice time now that he’s healthy