R.J. Umberger #18 of the Columbus Blue Jackets screens Jimmy Howard #35 of the Detroit Red Wings as James Wisniewski #21 of the Columbus Blue Jackets scores a power play goal with a shot from the blue line during the first period on February 2, 2013 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio.

Playoff picture: Red Wings, Jackets battling for final spot


The Dallas Stars needed a win last night in San Jose.

They didn’t get it.

As a result, their playoff chances are down to just 4.8%, according to Sports Club Stats.

After the Stars’ stumble, it’s Detroit and Columbus who are battling closest for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.


The Red Wings host defending champion Los Angeles tonight (on NBCSN).

“L.A. is a great team,” Detroit forward Dan Cleary said, per ESPN.com. “They started the season with a bit of a lull, which happens. But they’re firing on all cylinders now.

“That team is rolling now. L.A. can’t win the division but they’re still jockeying for home ice. It’s a big game.”

Nashville’s at Joe Louis Arena tomorrow, then it’s a trip to Dallas Saturday for what may still be a big game.

As for the Jackets, they’ve only got two games left — in Dallas Thursday, home to Nashville Saturday.

Ducks name Kesler alternate captain

Ryan Kesler
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For the second time in his career, Ryan Kesler is wearing an “A.”

On Thursday, the Anaheim Ducks announced that Kesler would serve as one of the club’s alternate captains this season, taking over for Francois Beauchemin, who signed in Colorado this summer.

With the move, Kesler joins Anaheim’s existing leadership group of captain Ryan Getzlaf, and alternate Corey Perry.

“It’s an honor,” Kesler said, per the Ducks. “It’s special. I’m going to wear it with pride and lead by example.”

As mentioned earlier, Kesler has some experience as an alternate — he wore an “A” in Vancouver from 2008-13, but had it removed prior to the start of the ’13-14 campaign.

It’s not surprising Anaheim went in this direction. GM Bob Murray made a huge investment in Kesler this summer by inking the 31-year-old to a six-year, $41.25M extension.

Diaz could leave Rangers for Europe

Raphael Diaz, Mike Sislo
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Could Raphael Diaz be on his way back to Switzerland?

We’ll know in a month.

Diaz, who lost out on the Rangers’ final blueline spot in training camp, has reported to the club’s AHL affiliate in Hartford but doesn’t seem pleased with his current situation, per the Post:

The 29-year-old Diaz, who cleared waivers last Saturday after the Blueshirts opted to keep rookie Dylan McIlrath as the club’s seventh on the blue line, is interested in the European option if he is not in the NHL.

The Blueshirts have told Diaz they will revisit the situation at the end of October, but have not promised to release him or assign him to a European team at that point.

If Diaz, a Swiss native who represented Switzerland in the 2014 Olympics, does play in Europe during the season, he would have to go through waivers in order to return to the NHL.

Diaz’s agent, Ritch Winter, told the Post that Diaz signed a one-year, $700,000 deal with the Rangers “to play with the Rangers.”

And it’s understandable if Diaz — a journeyman offensive defenseman — isn’t happy with this situation.

While some believe McIlrath earned his roster spot on merit, some think it’s because of his contract status. McIlrath, who’s only 23 and a former first-round pick, would’ve needed to clear waivers to go back to Hartford, and it’s believed he would’ve been claimed by another club.