Martin St. Louis

Playoff bubble watch — Rangers edition


OK, so now that the trade deadline is behind us, we’re going to start doing these “playoff bubble watch” posts. At the moment, the bubble is a big one, and it includes a lot of teams who would cause quite the ruckus by missing the postseason.

Take the Rangers, who just traded their captain, Ryan Callahan, for Tampa Bay’s 38-year-old captain, Martin St. Louis. For general manager Glen Sather, this is another win-now move, as the New York Post’s Larry Brooks explains:

The Rangers didn’t have a first-round draft choice in 2013 — that pick sent to Columbus in the deal for Rick Nash. They won’t have one in 2015 — that gone with Callahan to Tampa Bay. If they reach the conference finals this year, they won’t have a No. 1 this June, either — the 2014 second-rounder becoming a No. 1.

Now imagine the Rangers miss the playoffs. Because it’s possible, you know. Per Sports Club Stats, their odds of qualifying are 66.7 percent. That’s a two-in-three chance. Better than 50 percent, but plenty of room for failure.

source:  New York has 19 games left to get into the postseason. And of those 19, just seven are at home. Could that be a factor?

True, the Rangers have actually been better on the road (18-11-0) than at MSG (15-15-4), but there’s no definitive reason to believe that trend will continue. Generally speaking, you want to play at home, where you have fan support, the last change and you don’t have travel fatigue.

“Every point is important right now. It’s annoying the way it ends,” Henrik Lundqvist said after last night’s 3-2 overtime loss to Toronto. “We played really well and worked ourselves back into this game. It’s a big frustration right now to not come out of it with two points.”

The Rangers play in Carolina Friday, then come home for a huge game Sunday versus a desperate Detroit side (on NBC). After that, it’s a three-games-in-four-nights trip to Carolina, Minnesota, and Winnipeg.

Look, chances are, the Rangers will make it. They had a tough start to the season while they got adjusted to a new coach and new system and, perhaps most importantly, Lundqvist struggled.

But there’s no denying they’ve got work to do, and the pressure’s on.

Campbell’s perfect snipe sinks Wings in OT

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Brian Campbell doesn’t score as many points as he used to, but he came up with a huge goal against the Red Wings on Sunday afternoon.

With the game tied, 1-1, in overtime, Campbell skated into the slot and beat Petr Mrazek with a perfect wrister to end the game.

It was also a pretty nice passing play between Jussi Jokinen, Jonathan Huberdeau and Campbell.

Dylan Larkin opened the scoring in the second period before Reilly Smith leveled the score with just over five minutes remaining.

The Wings have blown a lead in three straight games.

Detroit was up 2-0 and 3-2 in their last game, against Edmonton, before they finally closed the game out with an overtime goal by Niklas Kronwall.

They weren’t so fortunate against the Bruins on Wednesday, as they lost 3-2 in OT after leading 2-1 with under two minutes remaining in regulation.

This was the first meeting of the season between Detroit and Florida, but they’ll see each other three times between Feb. 4 and Mar. 19.

With Jonathan Bernier sputtering, we’ll meet Garret Sparks

Garett Sparks
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You can’t blame Mike Babcock for siding with the relatively unknown when the other option is Jonathan Bernier, a goalie who’s 0-8-1 so far in 2015-16.

With that in mind, meet Garret Sparks, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ expected starter for Monday’s game against the Edmonton Oilers.

Sparks was a seventh-round pick (190th overall) in 2011, a guy who was off to a great start in the AHL. That much wasn’t lost on Babcock.

Let’s face it, though; this is as much about the Leafs’ other two goalies as it is about Sparks (whose name inspired a very obscure reference in this post’s headline).

In Bernier’s case, there’s an “enough’s enough” feel:

Meanwhile, James Reimer‘s not quite healthy enough to play yet, so the window of opportunity is open for Sparks … a little bit.

Sparks will get a chance to make an impression, even if it’s just a small one.

Video: Dylan Larkin adds to his rookie goals lead

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So far, the 2015-16 crop of rookies is living up to the hype, if not exceeding it. Connor McDavid‘s unfortunate injury hasn’t even derailed this year’s crop.

The Detroit Red Wings are watching their own blue chip blossom, as Dylan Larkin is making an instant impact.

No. 71 scored his 10th goal of the season against the Florida Panthers on Sunday, fattening his rookie goals lead.

He still needs five points to match rookie points leader Artemi Panarin, though.

Latest report leaves Carey Price’s injury timeline fuzzy

Carey Price
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There’s one thing we seem to know about Carey Price‘s injury situation: he first got hurt stepping on a puck on Oct. 29, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.

Contrary to earlier reports about him missing about a month, it sounds like his window of recovery is still up in the air (which, to be fair, could mean that he’ll still miss about a month when it’s all said and done).

ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun reports that Price underwent testing with Montreal’s team doctor on Saturday and is expected to go through more; we may not know more about his expected injury timeline until early this coming week.

So, basically, Price’s situation is fuzzier than his mustache right now.

Leg injuries can be tricky anyway, so we shouldn’t be too surprised that there are mixed signals regarding Price, and this may remain a fluid situation for some time.

(But we’ll hopefully know more soon enough.)