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 playoff race
y-1. Washington – 105 pts (2 GR)
x-2. Philadelphia 103 pts (2 GR)
y-3. Boston – 99 pts (3 GR)
x-4. Pittsburgh – 102 pts (2 GR)
x-5. Tampa Bay – 99 pts (2 GR)
x-6. Montreal – 93 pts (2 GR)
7. Buffalo – 92 pts (2 GR)
8. NY Rangers – 91 pts (2 GR)
9. Carolina – 87 pts (3 GR)
y – clinched division title
x – clinched playoff spot
GR – games remaining
Detroit @ Carolina – 7 p.m. ET
Carolina’s mission to make the playoffs is simple on paper and highly difficult to pull off. They must win out the rest of the way and hope that the Rangers slip up in one of their final games. Starting off that mission facing the Central Division champions from Detroit makes the immediate hill to climb look like a mountain.
A loss by Carolina by any means puts the Buffalo Sabres into the playoffs. Carolina loss would also put their tragic number at one as the Rangers would only need to earn one point in their final two games to make the playoffs.
Florida @ Washington – 7 p.m. ET
The Caps have taken hold of the top seed in the Eastern Conference thanks to their own great play of late and the Flyers’ disturbing swoon. The Caps can really put the pressure on the Flyers to win out to stay in the hunt for the East’s top spot by beating Florida. Of course, the Caps winning the East could mean they end up being rewarded with facing the Rangers in the first round and that might not be the match up they’d be hoping for. Even without Ryan Callahan, the Rangers have given the Caps fits all season long and a playoff series between the two would surely be more of the same.
NY Islanders @ Boston – 7 p.m. ET
The Bruins have an extreme outside shot at the top spot in the East (all it takes is one point from the Caps to shut the Bruins out of that), but they’ve got a sincere chance at moving up to the two seed. With a game in hand on the Flyers, a win over the Isles tonight would inch them to within two points of Philly. Getting that higher seed and a potential home ice advantage over them in a potential second or third round match-up would be huge for the Bruins. While home ice didn’t help them last year against Philly, we’d like to think the same mistakes won’t be made two years in a row should they meet yet again.
After a good Tuesday night, the Vancouver Canucks are having a lousy Wednesday morning.
The club has just announced that center Brandon Sutter and defenseman Alex Edler have been sent home from the club’s current two-game road swing, after suffering injuries in a win over Colorado last night.
Craig Oster, Sutter’s agent, told News 1130 his client has a broken jaw after taking a puck to the face. Per TSN, Edler is undergoing “imaging” on his foot following a blocked shot, but it’s believed he’ll be out the next 2-3 weeks.
The impact of these injuries could be profound.
Vancouver hasn’t been good this year but remains in the thick of the playoff chase, sitting just four points back of the Avs for the final wild card spot in the Western Conference — with three games in hand.
At the same time, the Canucks also have two potentially big trade chips at the deadline in pending UFAs Dan Hamhuis and Radim Vrbata.
Will the Sutter and Edler injuries factor into Vancouver’s future plans?
You’d have to think so.
Edler is a staple on the back end, leading all Canuck blueliners in points (20) and TOI per game (24:27). Sutter, meanwhile, was supposed to be a key piece of the club this year but has had most of his season ravaged by injury — prior to the broken jaw, he missed 33 games following sports hernia surgery.
All told, Sutter has appeared in just 20 games this year.
His is also the second major facial injury suffered by a Canuck this season — Hamhuis only recently returned from a 21-game absence after taking a puck to the face in mid-December.
The Los Angeles Kings have placed defenseman Christian Ehrhoff on waivers, according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie.
A veteran of almost 800 NHL games, Ehrhoff has not fit well with Los Angeles after signing a one-year, $1.5 million deal in August. The 33-year-old has just 11 points in 40 games and is a team-worst minus-10. Though he had two assists in last night’s 9-2 win over the Bruins, he also took a careless tripping penalty in the first period that led to a Boston goal.
In a related story, the Kings are rumored to be looking for help on the back end. In fact, they were reportedly quite interested in Dustin Byfuglien, before he re-signed with the Jets.
According to Jon Rosen of LA Kings Insider, 23-year-old defenseman Kevin Gravel is “on the verge of a recall” from AHL Ontario.
The Kings play Thursday in Brooklyn.
Nazem Kadri‘s throat-slashing gesture is under review by the NHL, according to TSN.ca.
The Maple Leafs forward made the gesture while sitting on Toronto’s bench last night in Calgary, moments after he was laid out by Flames captain Mark Giordano.
The NHL first started cracking down on the throat-slashing gesture in 2000. Former NHLer Nick Boyton was suspended twice for making the gesture, first in 2006 then again in 2010. He was banned one game for each incident.
After Tuesday’s loss to the Jets — the Blues’ fourth in their last six games — head coach Ken Hitchcock said his club has “got to play harder than this” and “got to compete at a lot higher level than this.”
He then added “it’s up to us to fix it.”
Well, help is on the way.
On Wednesday, the Blues activated forward Jaden Schwartz off injured reserve, after he missed the last 49 contests with a fractured left ankle. Schwartz is expected to be in the lineup on Friday when the Blues take on the Panthers in Florida.
The 23-year-old should provide an immediate boost to the lineup. Schwartz had four points in seven games before getting hurt, and that came on the heels of a successful ’14-15 campaign in which he posted career highs in goals (28) and points (63).
The Blues’ first-round pick in 2010 (14th overall), Schwartz is a 17-18 TOI per night guy, so he’ll be a big presence almost immediately. His return also inches the team back to full health, though there’s still a ways to go — Alex Pietrangelo and Jake Allen are still week-to-week with knee and lower-body injuries, while Steve Ott is out until late February following hamstrings surgery.
Related: Armstrong wants Blues to get healthy before any trades are made