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Red-hot Rangers now lead the Eastern Conference

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When most people discuss the race for the Atlantic Division title, it’s often seen as a two-horse race between the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins.

The New York Rangers seemingly appeared satisfied with fighting their way to one of the East’s lower seeds the last few seasons, but 2011-12 might just be different. John Tortorella & Co. improved to the best record in the Eastern Conference* with a 3-0 win against the New York Islanders.

The (now second place) Boston Bruins have been the hottest team in the NHL since November, but the Rangers aren’t far behind in that category. Here’s what their streaks have looked like, including an Oct. 31 win:

Oct. 31-Nov. 15: 8-0-0
Nov. 19-23: 0-2-0
Nov. 25-Dec. 3: 5-0-0
Dec. 5-Dec. 8: 0-1-1
Dec. 10-Dec.15: 2-2-0
Dec. 17-Dec. 26: 5-0-0

Overall, the Rangers are an astounding 20-5-1 in their last 26 games.

Considering this hot run of games, it’s time to consider the Rangers a serious contender for the Atlantic Division title and perhaps the No. 1 seed in the East. They have arguably the best goalie in the NHL in Henrik Lundqvist, who registered a 28-save shutout. The Rangers play a hard-working style, perhaps best embodied by their heart-and-soul captain Ryan Callahan. The biggest difference might just be that they now have a truly elite scoring duo in Brad Richards and a revived Marian Gaborik, though.

Are the Rangers the best team in the Atlantic or even the East, then? Share your thoughts in the comments.

* – The Rangers now have 48 points (22-8-4), putting them one ahead of the idle Boston Bruins (23-9-1 for 47 points). New York is technically in front of the Chicago Blackhawks for first overall, but it looks like the ‘Hawks will re-gain that Presidents Trophy lead if they hang on against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday.

Canada scores five unanswered in 5-1 rout of Team USA at Worlds

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Team Canada’s veteran lineup was too much for the young Americans to handle today in Saint Petersburg, Russia, where the Canadians rolled to a convincing 5-1 victory as the preliminary round of the World Championship got underway.

The United States actually opened the scoring, on a first-period, power-play goal by Patrick Maroon. But Taylor Hall quickly tied it, and soon after that, Brendan Gallagher gave the Canadians the lead. Matt Duchene, Boone Jenner, and Brad Marchand added the insurance goals for Canada.

Keith Kinkaid was in goal for the Americans, Cam Talbot for the Canadians.

Auston Matthews logged 16:56 in ice time and registered three shots for Team USA, who play Belarus tomorrow.

The Canadians are off until Sunday, when they’ll take on Hungary.

Rangers’ Lindberg has hip surgery, will need six months to recover

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 10: Oscar Lindberg #24 of the New York Rangers celebrates his second goal of the game at 5:12 of the first period against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Madison Square Garden on October 10, 2015 in New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The New York Rangers announced this morning that forward Oscar Lindberg has undergone a “successful simultaneous bilateral hip labral repair.”

That’s a long way of saying he had hip surgery.

The Rangers say the expected recovery time for Lindberg is six months, meaning the 24-year-old is likely to get a late start to next season.

In 2015-16, his first full season in the NHL, Lindberg had 13 goals and 15 assists in 68 games. However, he was a regular healthy scratch down the stretch.

“I thought Oscar was playing well,” head coach Alain Vigneault said in March. “But when Rick Nash came back, we had 13 healthy forwards. It’s just the way it slotted out.”

In the playoffs, Lindberg dressed for just two of the Rangers’ five contests (Games 4 and 5 versus Pittsburgh).

Related: Rangers sign Lindberg

Report: Wild talked to Crawford, Boucher about head coaching gig

Guy Boucher
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Of all the available coaching gigs, Minnesota’s seems to be the most muddled right now — there’s still no word on the status of interim bench boss John Torchetti, and GM Chuck Fletcher has reached out to both Randy Carlyle and Bruce Boudreau.

Now, the Star-Tribune is reporting Fletcher has also contacted another pair of veteran coaches: Marc Crawford and Guy Boucher.

Crawford, fresh off a four-year stint in the Swiss League — where he coached coveted draft prospect Auston Matthews in Zurich — is gunning for an NHL return, and would even accept an assistant coaching position to get his foot back in the door.

Related: Marc Crawford coaching in Detroit? Hey, could happen…

Boucher, also coming off a stint in the Swiss League, wants back in the NHL as well. He was in the running for a pair of gigs last offseason — Toronto, which ultimately went to Mike Babcock, and New Jersey, which ultimately went to John Hynes.

An interesting wrinkle with the Wild’s coaching search? Per the Star-Tribune, it sounds like coaches might be asking as many questions of Fletcher as Fletcher is of the coaches. The longtime GM has come under fire recently for the club’s current roster makeup, which forced owner Craig Leipold to give Fletcher a public vote of confidence during the playoffs.

Caggiula expected to sign shortly, Canucks could be front-runners

during the championship game of the 2016 NCAA Division I Men's Hockey Championships at Amalie Arena on April 9, 2016 in Tampa, Florida.The North Dakota Fighting Hawks defeated the Quinnipiac Bobcats 5-1 to win the national title. Getty
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College free agent Drake Caggiula is expected to pick a team shortly, possibly even today.

The University of North Dakota winger had originally shortlisted six teams, according to a report. Those teams were Philadelphia, Edmonton, Ottawa, Vancouver, Chicago and Buffalo.

TSN’s Bob McKenzie said this morning on Edmonton radio that the Canucks are “maybe” the front-runners to land the 21-year-old. Vancouver signed Caggiula’s teammate, defenseman Troy Stecher, a couple of weeks ago, and Caggiula’s linemate, Brock Boeser, was drafted by the Canucks in the first round last year.

Recently, Boeser told Postmedia that he was trying to convince Caggiula to sign with Vancouver, where there will be plenty of opportunities for young forwards in the next couple of years.

If it’s not the Canucks, McKenzie said he’s heard the Oilers have a “puncher’s chance” of getting Caggiula.