Pittsburgh Penguins v Washington Capitals

TGIF: Five NHL games to watch this weekend

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Saturday: Pittsburgh at Montreal (7 p.m. ET)

Question: Has Marc-Andre Fleury played himself back into contention for a spot on Team Canada’s Olympic squad? After 19 games, he’s 13-6-0 with a .924 save percentage. On Wednesday, he shut out Washington, 4-0. At this point, Carey Price and Roberto Luongo are considered the top two contenders for the starting job. As for the third spot? That’s up for debate. Corey Crawford won the Stanley Cup, but he isn’t playing that great these days. Mike Smith is playing OK, but his big-game experience is lacking. Martin Brodeur is playing well, but his time in the international spotlight is likely over. Jonathan Bernier, James Reimer, Josh Harding, and Braden Holtby all have excellent numbers; however, like Smith, what they lack is experience. Fleury has struggled badly in recent postseasons and, as result, wasn’t invited to Team Canada’s summer camp (Crawford, Holtby, Luongo, Price, Smith got the call). At the very least, he deserves credit for putting himself back in the conversation.

Saturday: New York Islanders at Philadelphia (7 p.m. ET)

The Flyers get a great chance to build on their current 5-0-1 streak when they host the disappointing Isles, who’ve lost six of their last eight in regulation and sit tied with Columbus for last place in the Metropolitan. On Tuesday, New York out-shot the Leafs, 37-24, and lost, 5-2. Goalie Kevin Poulin did have a handful of decent games earlier this month, but he’s struggled in recent outings. We know, we harp on the Isles’ goaltending all the time. But this team isn’t good enough to get away with poor, or even average, play from its netminders. We only harp because we care.

Saturday: Dallas at St. Louis (8 p.m. ET)

If not for Henrik Lundqvist, the Stars would’ve won their fourth straight Thursday versus the Rangers. Instead, they lost, 3-2, while outshooting New York, 43-37. Though Dallas has been doing a lot of good things lately, the power play continues to be a concern. It currently ranks 27th in the NHL, at 12.0 percent. In a very related story, Sergei Gonchar has just four PP assists in 21 games. Did Stars GM Jim Nill overestimate how much Gonchar had left in the tank when the Stars signed the 39-year-old to a two-year, $10 million deal?

Saturday: Chicago at Vancouver (10 p.m. ET)

The last time the Blackhawks visited Rogers Arena, on April 22, the Canucks came away with a 3-1 victory and optimism abounded. One of the local newspapers called it Vancouver’s “best game in ages.” Daniel Sedin said: “If we play like we did today, I think we’re good.” The Canucks then lost the last two games of the regular season and got swept by San Jose in the playoffs.

Saturday: Colorado at Los Angeles (10:30 p.m. ET)

At least one handsome hockey blog wondered if the Avs were headed for a reality check after they lost three in a row by a combined score of 13-5. Instead, they beat the defending champions, 5-1, and got a 4-3 overtime win at Jobing.com Arena, where the Coyotes had been 9-0-1. Goalie Semyon Varlamov was named first star in both victories, as the Avs were out-shot by a combined margin of 81-53. Chances are good they’ll get out-shot again by the Kings, who have the second-best shot differential in the NHL, behind only Chicago.

Raanta rewards Rangers for starts over Lundqvist by blanking Blackhawks

VANCOUVER, BC - NOVEMBER 15: Goalie Henrik Lundqvist #30 of the New York Rangers shares a laugh with teammate Antti Raanta #32 after defeating the Vancouver Canucks 7-2 in NHL action on November 15, 2016 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.  (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
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If someone told you that the New York Rangers started a goalie on back-to-back nights, and that goalie wasn’t Henrik Lundqvist, you’d probably wonder if he was hurt or retired.

Nope. It just so happens that Antti Raanta is playing at an incredibly high level, Alain Vigneault noticed, and that decision paid dividends on Friday night. Raanta won both nights of a back-to-back, allowing a single goal (with the Rangers protecting him, being that he only needed to stop 43 of 44 shots during that span).

Raanta and the Rangers blanked the Chicago Blackhawks with a 1-0 overtime win, at least briefly climbing to first place in the massively competitive Metro Division:

1. Rangers – 39 points in 29 games played
2. Penguins- 37 points in 27 GP
3. Blue Jackets – 36 points in 25 GP
4. Capitals – 35 points in 26 GP
5. Flyers – 35 points in 29 GP

Nick Holden ended up scoring the only goal of the game:

Meanwhile, the Blackhawks lost but at least salvaged a standings point and it seems like Patrick Kane is OK after this injury scare:

Raanta improved to 7-1-0 on the season, allowing two goals or less in all but one of his appearances so far this season. That’s the kind of work you’d expect to see if you’re going sit a guy who’s, you know, a living legend.

Blue Jackets remain in thick of things in Metro on tough night for Red Wings

DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 01:  Boone Jenner #38 of the Columbus Blue Jackets is congratulated by his teammates after scoring the go ahead goal against the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center on December 1, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
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As the Columbus Blue Jackets keep rolling, the Detroit Red Wings are probably just happy to get Friday behind them.

For the second straight game, the Blue Jackets beat their opponent 4-1.

They’re now on a five-game winning streak, and like the climbing St. Louis Blues, things look great if you go back a little further. They’re 10-1-2 in their last 13 games and 13-2-3 since November began.

Columbus is now at 16-5-4, giving them 36 standings points. They’re once again in breathing distance of leading the Metro Division when you consider games in hand.

Update: Here’s how the standings look after the Rangers beat the Blackhawks 1-0 in overtime:

1. Rangers – 39 points in 29 games played
2. Penguins- 37 points in 27 GP
3. Blue Jackets – 36 points in 25 GP
4. Capitals – 35 points in 26 GP
5. Flyers – 35 points in 29 GP

That’s a stout division, and the Blue Jackets remain shockingly effective. Then again, with results like these over and over again, it might be time to merely expect such impressive work.

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For Detroit, it was a rough night. Jonathan Ericsson couldn’t play, Mike Green was a little banged up and Petr Mrazek was pulled for Jimmy Howard. This goal summarized some of their struggles:

Blues blaze through Devils, even in New Jersey

NEWARK, NJ - DECEMBER 09: (L-R) Brad Hunt #77, Robby Fabbri #15 and Vladimir Tarasenko #91 of the St. Louis Blues celebrate Fabri's first period goal against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on December 9, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The New Jersey Devils have been incredibly difficult to beat at home. Lately, the St. Louis Blues have been on a roll just about anywhere.

On Friday night, the Blues were the hotter team, handing the Devils their first home loss in regulation in 2016-17. And it wasn’t particularly close, with St. Louis winning 4-1.

It’s a convenient time to note that the Blues rank among the hottest teams in the NHL. Most recently, they’re 5-1-1 in their last seven games, but they’ve been especially impressive since they flirted with .500 at 7-6-3. Beginning with a 4-1 win against the Buffalo Sabres on Nov. 15, the Blues are on a 8-2-1 tear.

This leaves them second in the Central with a 16-8-4 record.

That’s impressive stuff.

This 4-1 win was quite the showcase for Robby Fabbri and Vladimir Tarasenko, in particular. Tarasenko collected three assists while Fabbri scored two goals on Friday night. His second goal was particularly slick:

The Blues are right in saying that this was a pretty fitting opportunity to drop a “Holy Jumpin.”

Oh yeah, don’t forget about Jake Allen, either.

Leon Draisaitl continues hot streak with silky smooth goal (Video)

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Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk has been the most difficult goalies to score against this season. Leave it to a high-level player like Leon Draisaitl to make it look this, well, “easy.”

Draisaitl scored his 13th goal of 2016-17 by capping this pretty give-and-go play with Benoit Pouliot. You can see the frustration from Dubnyk at the end of the tally, as if he was saying “How was I supposed to stop that?” (though probably with more colorful language).

Draisaitl came into Friday with five goals and three assists in his last five games, so he’s been almost unstoppable lately.

Read more about his rise here.

Update: The Wild were able to shake off that goal, ultimately beating the Oilers 3-2 via a shootout.