Shane Doan, Martin Hanzal

Coyotes boot Wild out of West’s top eight

Thursday’s busy night of action shuffled things up in both conferences.* The West’s bubble situation was even more active than the East’s today, so to keep you up to date, let’s look at what happened in order of each team’s position as of this very moment.

7. Los Angeles Kings: 62 points in 55 games (26 wins)

The Kings remain in sixth place but lost a 3-1 game to the Florida Panthers and face a harrowing stretch run schedule. It might seem like they’re above the fray, but it turns out that might be a naive assumption.

8. Phoenix Coyotes: 60 points in 55 games (26 wins)

The Phoenix Coyotes continue to heat up with a 2-1 overtime victory against the Calgary Flames, which amounted to a battle for a temporary hold on the West’s eighth seed. The ‘Yotes are currently on a four-game winning streak.

9. Dallas Stars: 58 points in 53 games (28 wins)

The Stars bested the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-2 to put themselves in a great position. They aren’t in the top eight right now but they hold edges against the two teams ahead of them when it comes to games in hand (two more) and wins (two more as well). The one mark against the Stars is that they’ve played three more home contests than road ones.

10. Minnesota Wild: 58 points in 54 games (25 wins)

The Wild began Thursday in eighth place but a 5-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks made them take quite the tumble. They’ve lost three consecutive games and hold a 3-5-2 record in their last 10, so things are just getting ugly right now. The one silver lining is pretty promising, though: the strong home team has 17 games left in Minnesota vs. just 11 contests remaining on the road.

11. Calgary Flames: 58 points in 55 games (25 wins)

The Flames could’ve been in eighth place if they notched a win against Phoenix. Instead, Calgary watched its stock drop all the way to 11th, which shows just how close this race is right now. They don’t really hold any significant advantages over the other bubble teams, though, so they’ll just need to play great hockey – or cut bait.

Inactive: 12. Colorado Avalanche: 57 points in 55 games (27 wins)

The Avs aren’t totally out of the picture, especially with a solid 27 wins. Still, they’ll need to make up some ground to top the other contenders for one of the final two spots.

* – Click here to read about how the Southeast Division shuffles made a significant impact on the East’s picture.

Serious performance: Blackhawks gain on Wild thanks to Toews’ five points

ST PAUL, MN - MAY 6: Jonathan Toews #19 of the Chicago Blackhawks controls the puck against Zach Parise #11 and Jason Pominville #29 of the Minnesota Wild during the first period in Game Three of the Second Round of the 2014 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on May 6, 2014 at Xcel Energy Center in St Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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If the Chicago Blackhawks are going to make up some serious ground and overtake the Minnesota Wild for the Central Division title, they’ll need wins like these.

It’s only fitting that “Captain Serious” Jonathan Toews did the heavy lifting, generating a hat trick and two assists as the Blackhawks beat the Wild 5-3 on Tuesday.

Yes, Toews was involved in every goal. And yes, the Blackhawks won this one in regulation after beating the Wild in overtime last time around. It’s a nice swing for Chicago:

Central Division title chase

1. Wild – 84 points in 59 games (39 wins, 36 ROW)
2. Blackhawks – 79 points in 60 games (37 wins, 35 ROW)

Yeah, that’s still a substantial edge for Minnesota … but this is a significant swing.

Even beyond the name recognition that comes with Toews & Co., the Blackhawks’ push shouldn’t be surprising. They’re red-hot in February so far, going 7-1-0 despite playing seven of eight on the road (strangely losing that lone home contest).

The Wild have played reasonably well in their own right, yet this loss sends them into a bye week with some frustration … and maybe some questions about whether they can hold the Blackhawks off.

Price didn’t just play for Habs; he made the difference vs. Rangers

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It’s one thing for Carey Price to shake off that Paul Byron shot in warm-ups. And, honestly, that bump from Shea Weber during the game. But to play like, well, Carey Price? That would be something else.

Well, you probably saw this one coming … but Price had some absolutely great moments against the New York Rangers in an eventual 3-2 shootout win.

He was the main difference-maker, although it must be said that there’s some comic relief in Byron scoring the shootout-winner.

Price vs. Rick Nash felt like a subplot of the overall story.

On one occasion, Price made a resounding stop on a Nash breakaway:

It was quite the night for the aging power forward, however, as he nailed his other opportunity.

Some might be a little sad that Nash vs. Price didn’t go against each other in the shootout, but hey, maybe the two teams could save that for next time?

The Canadiens needed this win more than the Rangers. The Ottawa Senators actually briefly went ahead for first place in the Atlantic Division, but now Montreal has 72 points to Ottawa’s 70 … while the Sens hold two games in hand.

Similar tweets might end up being relevant, however. Though betting against Price is also a dicey proposition.

Video: Laine hits 30 goals vs. Matthews and Leafs, Byfuglien battles Martin

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Patrik Laine might rub some people the wrong way with his matter-of-fact brand of swagger, but the Winnipeg Jets rookie can back up that talk.

Just look at how he performs against fellow Calder Trophy hopeful Auston Matthews and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Back in October, Laine stole the show with a hat trick. He has a chance to do that again, but either way, with two goals in as many periods, Laine hit the 30-goal mark as a rookie. In February.

His 29th goal came less than five minutes into the game:

He then hit the big 3-0 in the dying seconds of the middle frame, though that was far from the only noteworthy moment of the clip above this post’s headline.

As you can see, there were bodies being thrown around, culminating with a brief bout between Dustin Byfuglien and Matt Martin. The earth may or may not have shook from such an altercation. It wasn’t the only example of violence between the two teams tonight.

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It’s been a nice milestone night for young Jets scorers, as Nikolaj Ehlers also scored his 20th goal of 2016-17.

That 30th goal came less than 30 seconds after Leo Komarov‘s second goal of the contest, putting Winnipeg up 4-3 heading into the third period. For all we know, the Jets might need even more from Laine tonight.

No helmet, no stick, no problem as Preds’ Watson blocks shot anyway

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Sometimes, when you ponder a player who opts not to wear a visor, you wonder if that person cares about their health. Then you remember that it takes a certain mixture of bravery and recklessness to be a professional hockey player in the first place.

Even so, there are moments that stand out as especially “hockey tough” – and, yes, reckless – with Austin Watson of the Nashville Predators fitting both labels well on Tuesday.

It’s already brave and dangerous to block a shot with your full gear, but Watson did so without his stick and without his helmet against the Calgary Flames. Luckily, the shot didn’t hit him up high … but dude.