With the NHL playoff race getting down to the wire, we’ll be providing regular updates on each bubble team’s postseason push.
On the bubble: Florida Panthers
Where they stand: 3rd in the East (first in the Southeast Division), three points clear of eighth-place Washington and ninth-place Buffalo, and with a game in hand on each
Games remaining: 7
SportsClubStats.com says: 96.2% chance of making the playoffs
Why they’ll get in:
They’ve already given themselves a decent-sized cushion, so it’s not like they’ll have to run the table to clinch their first postseason berth since 2000. The Panthers have earned at least a point in eight of their last nine games. If they can get eight points out of a possible 14, they should be okay. And they might not even have to do that.
Why they won’t:
They just blew two great opportunities to get wins by losing Friday to Edmonton in a shootout and Sunday to the Islanders in a shootout. Both those games were at home against teams in the bottom five of league standings. Now they have to play five of their last seven away from the BankAtlantic Center. And while three of their five road opponents – Montreal, Minnesota and Columbus – are non-playoff teams, road games are still road games and tough to win in the NHL.
“We wanted four of four [points against the Oilers and Islanders], but, hey, that’s life in the big city. You don’t always get what you want. We’ll regroup and get back at it.” – Panthers forward Stephen Weiss
Key game coming up:
Apr. 5 at Washington
Some good news/bad news for the Rangers.
Exactly one week after suffering a concussion against the Philadelphia Flyers, defenseman Ryan McDonagh returned to the ice with his teammates this morning.
The Rangers captain was wearing a non-contract jersey, but “looked good” according to coach Alain Vigneault.
McDonagh was hurt after taking a punch to the head from Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds (above).
The 26-year-old has missed each of his team’s last three games since suffering the injury.
McDonagh hasn’t been cleared for contact, but that could happen in the next few days according to Vigneault.
The news wasn’t as good for forward Rick Nash, who’s been dealing with a bone bruise in his leg.
Nash has missed each of New York last eight game’s and Vigneault admitted that he’s no longer considered day-to-day.
He’ll miss at least another week.
What a story Joseph Blandisi‘s been for the New Jersey Devils this season.
The 21-year-old played in his first NHL game on Dec. 11 and has stayed with the Devils ever since.
It took him five games to pick up his first career point, but he’s done a whole lot more damage since then.
Blandisi came into Saturday’s action with 10 points in his last 12 games and he added to that against the Flyers.
He opened the scoring with this beautiful between-the-legs goal on goalie Michal Neuvirth (top of the page).
That’s Blandisi’s fourth goal of the season.
Some Twitter reaction to the goal:
The Boston Bruins will be without center Patrice Bergeron in Saturday afternoon’s matinee against the Minnesota Wild.
It’s unclear how Bergeron suffered the undisclosed injury, but there’s reason to believe it occurred after he dropped the gloves with Jets forward Blake Wheeler (above).
He’s considered day-to-day at this point.
Losing him for an extended period of time would be devastating for Boston.
“You don’t like seeing your star players (fight), but you also understand that it’s an emotional game and that stuff happens and at one point a player says, ‘Enough is enough and I’m going to stand up for myself,’” Bruins head coach Claude Julien said after the game, as per the Boston Herald.
“From what I gathered there was a lot of slashes behind the legs behind the play and stuff like that. He took things upon himself. As much as you don’t like it, you can’t tell him he’s not allowed. He’s a big boy and he can certainly make some decisions on the ice. And it’s not the first time that he’s fought. But I like the fact that he doesn’t fight much.”
After this incident, there’s no doubt that the Bruins will tell Bergeron to keep his gloves on from now on.
Jets captain Andrew Ladd still doesn’t have a contract for next season and with the Feb. 29 trade deadline approaching, something’s gonna have to give.
According to TSN’s Gary Lawless, the Winnipeg Jets will make one last push to sign the forward before making him available on the trade market.
Ladd doesn’t want to leave and the team wants to keep him, but after Dustin Byfgulien got an extension earlier this month, there may not be enough money to go around.
At one point, the Jets reportedly made Ladd a six-year offer worth $6 million per year, which he obviously didn’t accept.
Can they top that? Time will tell.
Waiting to trade Ladd is probably the smartest decision.
Keeping the captain around would be great, but if the two sides can’t agree to a new contract, there’ll be no shortage of suitors for Ladd’s services.
Lawless mentions the Penguins, Panthers and Blackhawks as potential landing spots for the 30-year-old.
The Kings have also been mentioned as a potential destination for Ladd.
Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff will have to make some crucial decisions over the next few weeks.