Ryan Kesler

How are those guys who got hurt before/during the lockout doing?

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There were a host of players who were either injured before or during the lockout and now that the season is set to begin in just under two weeks, let’s have a look at how those guys are faring now.

Ryan Kesler – Vancouver Canucks

Kesler is recovering from surgery to both his wrist and shoulder, but it’s looking like the Canucks will be waiting a bit longer for him to return. Initial estimates had him out until December if the season started on time, but now it looks like we could be well into the season before he makes a return to action.

Claude Giroux – Philadelphia Flyers

Giroux’s European jaunt was cut short thanks to a rather mysterious neck injury in November. Some speculated it was a concussion, but that’s neither here nor there because he’s since resumed skating and, according to Renaud Lavoie from RDS, will be ready to start training camp.

Most of their defensmen – Philadelphia Flyers

The Flyers have more than a few worries with their team and Andrej Meszaros’ status is key for them. He tore his right Achilles’ tendon and had the season started on time, he would’ve missed a lot of action. Instead, GM Paul Holmgren expects him to be ready to go at the start of the season.

Kimmo Timonen will be ready to start the season after some offseason issues and Andreas Lilja is healthy again. One guy who isn’t any better, and likely won’t play again, is captain Chris Pronger. While Pronger will be visiting the team at training camp, he won’t be skating or doing anything hockey-related. If nothing else, the lockout helped the Flyers immensely.

source: Getty Images

Marian Gaborik – New York Rangers

Gaborik’s rotator cuff injury admission at the end of the Rangers’ postseason run surprised many and when they found out it would knock him out of action until at least December, many worried how they’d score goals. Then the Rangers traded for Rick Nash and the lockout happened to allay those concerns. But how’s Gaborik doing? Good question.

There hasn’t been much to report on him since early September when he practiced with the team. Given his original prognosis, you have to think he’ll be ready to go, if not on Day one then soon after.

Marian Hossa – Chicago Blackhawks

The last we saw Marian Hossa, he was being carried off the ice after a brutal and illegal hit by Phoenix’s Raffi Torres that left him with a concussion. While Hossa had some difficulties over the summer, he’s since been cleared for action and is ready to go for Chicago. If the schedule makers are evil, they’ll make Torres’ first game back from his 20+ game suspension against the Blackhawks.

Nathan Horton – Boston Bruins

Much like Hossa, Nathan Horton too had concussion issues. The problem for Horton was that his came during the regular season last year and kept him out of the playoffs. Fortunately, Horton was cleared for action weeks ago and had to wait out the end of the lockout like the rest of us schlubs. He’ll be ready to go on the opening day of training camp.

Tuomo Ruutu – Carolina Hurricanes

The big Finnish forward won’t get a shot to play until maybe the playoffs this year, if the Hurricanes can get there. Ruutu underwent surgery on his hip and could have him out of action until May 1. With Carolina now boasting both Eric Staal and Jordan Staal as well as Alex Semin, not having Ruutu puts a crimp in their plans for a big season.

Adam Henrique – New Jersey Devils

The Devils’ young playoff superstar was one of many players who were fortunate enough to be able to play in the AHL during the lockout. Unfortunately for Henrique, he wound up breaking his thumb in November and he will likely miss the first few weeks of the season for New Jersey.

Senators, Panthers fail to gain in Eastern playoff races

OTTAWA, CANADA - FEBRUARY 7: Jay Harrison #44 of the Carolina Hurricanes celebrates his game winning overtime goal with team mate Jeff Skinner #53, during an NHL game at Scotiabank Place on February 7, 2013 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)
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PHT already touched on the Florida Panthers falling to the Calgary Flames on Friday, but in tandem with the Ottawa Senators losing to the Carolina Hurricanes, it makes for a night of teams failing to gain valuable points out East.

With the Montreal Canadiens failing lately, the Senators had a chance to take first place in the Atlantic by tying the Habs in points while holding games in hand. Instead, they’ll need to wait.

For the sake of simplicity, here are the Atlantic rankings, with emphasis on the top five.

1. Canadiens – 72 points in 61 games played
2. Senators – 70 in 59
3. Maple Leafs – 68 in 60

Bruins – 68 in 61
Panthers – 66 in 60
Sabres and Lightning have 62 in 60, Red Wings have 58 in 60

You can see the Panthers hanging around the perimeter of the top three; a point or two would have made them a bigger threat to Toronto and Boston. Alas, even with a heavier slate of home games lately, Florida has lost two straight at home.

Here’s an updated look at the wild card races after the Panthers failed to make up some ground:

1. Blue Jackets – 79 in 58, more concerned with Metro races
2. Islanders – 68 in 60

Bruins – 68 in 61
Panthers – 66 in 60
Flyers – 63 in 60

Tiebreaker situations would have meant that the Panthers would have ended tonight technically outside of the playoffs anyway, but a win or even a “charity point” congests an already snug situation. Instead, they stayed put and wasted a game.

Ottawa’s still in a solid situation to overtake Montreal or at least maintain a round of home-ice advantage as the second seed in the Atlantic. So while both teams are kicking themselves for their losses, the Panthers have more to be upset about.

Ultimately, some of the biggest winners in the East were teams that didn’t play or that have a lot less to play for.

(Perhaps the Hurricanes feel a little more optimistic, by the way, as 58 points in 57 games played means they could at least theoretically fight their way back into the discussion.)

Road warriors: Flames move to first West wild card spot with win vs. Panthers

SUNRISE, FL - FEBRUARY 24: Troy Brouwer #36 of the Calgary Flames celebrates his second period goal against the Florida Panthers with Lance Bouma #17 and Matt Stajan #18 at the BB&T Center on February 24, 2017 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
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The road has been doing both the Calgary Flames and Florida Panthers quite a bit of good lately.

Calgary moved to the first wild card spot on Friday after beating the Panthers in Florida by a score of 4-2. So far, they’ve grabbed at least a point in every game during a road trip that ends in Carolina on Sunday:

Feb. 18: 2-1 OT loss at Vancouver
Feb. 21: 6-5 OT win at Nashville
Feb. 23: 3-2 win at Tampa Bay
Tonight: 4-2 win at Florida

You can’t totally blame the Panthers if they almost miss their road trip.

They rattled off five straight wins through what seemed like a brutal road haul on paper, but now they’ve lost back-to-back home games in regulation. With five of six and six of seven slated in Sunrise, the Panthers need to make the most of these opportunities. So far … not so good.

Here’s how the West wild card situations look now:

1. Flames – 68 points in 62 GP
2. Predators – 67 points in 60 GP

Kings – 62 in 60 GP
Jets – 62 in 63 GP

(The Blues could easily slip below the Predators into the wild card spot, as they also have 67 points in 60 games but hold wins and ROW tiebreaker advantages.)

So, Calgary might not manage to maintain its hold over the first wild card spot, but this streak makes a playoff berth look far more likely.

Capitals could make home-ice advantage a serious edge in playoffs

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 01: Brett Connolly #10 of the Washington Capitals celebrates his goal with teammates against the Boston Bruins during the third period at Verizon Center on February 1, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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Look, there’s no escaping the naysayers who will dismiss just about any Washington Capitals accomplishments with snark about past playoff letdowns.

All the Capitals can do is march forward and lock down as many edges as they can.

With 89 standings points after a tight 2-1 win against the Edmonton Oilers on Friday, the Capitals look increasingly likely to have home-ice advantage either through the East (seven-point edge on the Penguins or the entire playoffs (five-point edge on idle Wild, who only hold a game in hand on the Caps).

Now, it’s fair to argue that home-ice (or home-court) advantage matters less in hockey than some other sports. Sure, you can line-match more often with the last change, among other advantages. Still, the biggest edges might be mental.

That said … those small edges might be enough for a team as loaded – and with as much urgency – as this rendition of the Capitals.

Heeding the call at the Verizon Center

They’ve now won 13 games in a row at the Verizon Center, improving their overall home record to 25-5-1.

The Capitals are still a strong team on the road (16-7-6), yet that home record is lofty. It also could come in awfully handy, particularly if they face off against the Penguins again. Pittsburgh’s 24-4-3 home mark contrasts sharply with a more modest 13-10-5 road record.

Perhaps this talk is all small potatoes. Still, when you consider how close things have been – in this age of parity, and in the extremely competitive Metropolitian Division specifically – it could be quite the edge.

In short, the Capitals are a pretty scary group possibly with home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs. At least as of right now.

As far as the Oilers go, they’re locked in a tight race for second in the Pacific, as the Ducks currently hold the ROW tiebreaker. Grabbing at least a standings point in this one would have helped … but that’s a tall order against the Caps in their own backyard.

It wasn’t all good news for Washington, tonight:

Loss vs. Pens at Stadium Series could push Flyers to sell at trade deadline

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JUNE 28:  Chris Pryor, Director of Scouting (R), and Ron Hextall General Manager of the Philadelphia Flyers (L) sit at their team table on Day Two of the 2014 NHL Draft at the Wells Fargo Center on June 28, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Is a cross-state, historic NHL rivalry not enough to drum up interest in Saturday’s 2017 Stadium Series between the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins? Maybe a trade deadline hook will do it for you.

As the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Sam Carchidi reports, Flyers GM Ron Hextall already rules his team out as buyers. That leaves two options, really: standing pat or going into “sell mode.”

Hextall provides an interesting nugget in that regard: it might just come down to what happens against the Penguins tomorrow, via NHL.com’s Adam Kimelman:

It seems odd to imagine that the difference between generating zero versus two standings points might dictate a team’s direction, but it also shows the power of parity in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

Granted, it’s not like Hextall locks himself into one direction based on the result. Still, it sounds like that game could have some power in swaying his decision.

The Flyers have some interesting trade chips if they do decide to make a move. Michal Neuvirth fears being moved, while Steve Mason at least needs a new contract, leaving their goaltending future up to question.

There are some other interesting UFAs, particularly in defensemen Mark Streit and Michael Del Zotto.

Some Flyers fans believe that they should indeed be sellers, though it’s tough to imagine many of them rooting for the Penguins to win just to make it happen.