Teddy Purcell, Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis

Tampa Bay’s charge up the standings is a one-line attack

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When you look at how quickly the Tampa Bay Lightning have risen up through the Eastern Conference, it’s incredible to think of how they’re doing it. Sure, Mathieu Garon is playing well enough in goal, but this is a team missing one of their big players in Vincent Lecavalier and traded away one of their better forwards in Steve Downie.

The Lightning’s top line, instead, has become a force of nature so to speak. Steve Stamkos centering Teddy Purcell and Martin St. Louis gives Tampa Bay the kind of attack they’ve needed all season to keep the offense rolling along. As Erik Erlendsson of The Tampa Tribune hears from Stamkos, it’s something they’re doing because they have to.

“We know the situation we are in, we lost some good players at the deadline, had injuries to key players and we know that everyone has to step up, including ourselves,” Stamkos said. “We’ve had a good stretch here and we’ve been able to produce, so I think we are heading into games expecting that of ourselves and we like that pressure.”

What kind of fortune are the trio having? Erlendsson shares that since Lecavalier went down on February 21, they’ve factored in on 16 of the team’s last 21 goals and adding 22 assists. Most impressive. If this line can keep producing like this and play like an offensive wrecking ball, the postseason might just be in their future. With Stamkos playing out of his mind this season, they’d prove to be a dangerous team in the opening round.

Video: Rangers shut out red-hot Sidney Crosby and the Penguins

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The New York Rangers are likely too far behind the Washington Capitals to take any legitimate run at the Atlantic Division down the stretch.

But winners now of four straight, the Rangers have opened up a bit of a gap between them and other Eastern Conference teams in the playoff race. New York scored a 3-0 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, winners in six of their last seven games, on Wednesday.

In the process, they held a red-hot Sidney Crosby off the score sheet, which has been a difficult, sometimes impossible task for opposing teams since about the middle of December. He entered this game with a seven-game scoring streak.

(In fact, New York held No. 87 to without a shot on goal in the entire game.)

Henrik Lundqvist stopped all 34 shots he faced for the shutout.

Kevin Hayes gave the Rangers the lead in the first period, before Dominic Moore and Jesper Fast put the game away in the third.

Pittsburgh remains in the second Wild Card spot in the East. The Rangers now move three points clear of the rival Islanders for second in the Metropolitan.

Video: Wideman hearing ‘a tricky case’ as NHLPA hopes to get 20-game suspension reduced

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There is no certain timeline for when NHL commissioner Gary Bettman might rule on Dennis Wideman‘s appeal, according to a report from hockey insider Darren Dreger on NBCSN, as the Calgary Flames defenseman hopes to get his 20-game ban for hitting linesman Don Henderson reduced.

“Now, ultimately what they’re hoping from a Wideman perspective and the Players’ Association is that commissioner Gary Bettman will rule and he will reduce the number of games suspended down from 20,” said Dreger during a segment on NBCSN.

“Is he going to reduce it by three games? Five games seems a bit of a stretch. And when might he do that? There’s no timeline on this.”

Report: Coyotes shut down Vitale (concussion) for the season

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Joe Vitale will not play again this season.

The Arizona Coyotes have shut Vitale down for the remainder of the 2015-16 campaign due to “concussion-related issues,” according to a report from Sarah McLellan of azcentral sports on Wednesday.

Vitale, a 30-year-old veteran center, appeared in only one game for the Coyotes this season. That was back on Oct. 17, when he suffered a concussion and broken orbital bone in a fight with Kevan Miller of the Boston Bruins.

Sens announce Frattin, acquired in Phaneuf deal, will stick with AHL Marlies

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Matt Frattin was traded by the Leafs to Ottawa yesterday as part of the Dion Phaneuf blockbuster.

But for now, he’s staying in Toronto.

On Wednesday, Sens GM Bryan Murray announced that Frattin will remain with the Leafs’ AHL affiliate — the Toronto Marlies — on loan, but will be available for selection should Ottawa require his services down the road.

Frattin, 28, has spent all of this season with the Marlies, scoring nine goals and 22 points in 47 games. His last NHL appearance came during the ’14-15 campaign, with the Leafs.

Prior to that, the former North Dakota standout had spent time in Los Angeles and Columbus.