Going into the Olympic break, the Los Angeles Kings had just a four-point cushion in the fight for a playoff spot and had won just two of their last 11 contests.
It looks like a trip to Sochi was the perfect cure though. Dustin Brown has turned his season around since he was benched while playing for the United States and Jonathan Quick has a 1.00 GAA and .956 save percentage following his service as America’s goaltender.
The two of them have helped lead the Kings to an eight-game winning streak, with seven of those victories coming after the Winter Games. At this point the Kings’ playoff spot is all-but secured, but they have a chance to make some history when they play the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight.
Los Angeles is within striking distance of its franchise record nine-game winning streak. They could also hand coach Darryl Sutter his 500th victory on his first attempt.
Sutter is set to become the 18th coach to ever reach that milestone, although he chose to downplay the potential accomplishment.
“I think in today’s game the most important part is percentages,” Sutter told LA Kings Insider. “You get extra points now. You get one point, so it’s way more important.”
For what it’s worth, Sutter’s points percentage (points divided by the maximum possible) is at .563, which is good for 35th place on the all-time list among bench bosses that coached at least 200 games. He’s also tied for 11th place with 72 playoff wins.
Alain Vigneault took another shot at the NHL’s Department of Player Safety today.
This time, the Rangers head coach was upset about the lack of supplementary discipline for Philadelphia’s Wayne Simmonds in the wake of Saturday’s altercation with New York captain Ryan McDonagh.
“An All-Star player gets sucker-punched, goes down,” Vigneault said, per The Record. “I wonder if that’s (Sidney) Crosby, what happens? What are the consequences? And, on top of that, a player breaks his stick, throws it at the referees. In the rulebook, that’s automatic. It’s three games. Nothing happens. It’s not even on the sheet after the game.”
Simmonds’ punch left McDonagh concussed and unable to play tonight versus New Jersey, with no timetable for his return.
Earlier this season, Vigneault voiced his frustration with the league after Rangers center Derek Stepan suffered broken ribs in Boston on a hit from Bruins forward Matt Beleskey.
Vigneault felt the hit was late.
“I remember Aaron Rome in this building, .6 seconds late, getting suspended four games in the Stanley Cup Final,” the former Vancouver Canucks coach said, recalling the contentious 2011 final.
Beleskey was not suspended.
Penguins center Sidney Crosby, Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson, and Panthers center Vincent Trocheck have been named the NHL’s three stars for the past week.
From the NHL:
Crosby led the League in goals and points (5-3-8) in three games as the Penguins (26-18-7, 59 points) earned four of a possible six points to secure the second Wild Card position in the Eastern Conference.
Karlsson led the League in assists and ranked second in points (0-7-7) in three games as the Senators (24-23-6, 54 points) won one of three starts for the week.
Trocheck notched six points (3-3—6) in three games, helping the Panthers (31-15-6, 68 points) widen their lead atop the Atlantic Division to six points.
Related: Red-hot Crosby could make Pens a flawed (but dangerous) dark horse
Evgeni Malkin‘s “nagging” lower-body injury will keep him out at least one more game.
Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said this morning that the star center will sit out tonight at home against the Ducks. Malkin already missed two contests this weekend in Florida. His status is day-to-day.
The Penguins lost, 6-3, in Tampa on Friday, but rebounded Saturday with a 3-2 OT win over the Panthers.
Pittsburgh’s next game after tonight’s is Wednesday at home versus the Rangers.
The New York Rangers will be without Ryan McDonagh tonight at home to New Jersey, the club announcing this morning that the defenseman is out with a concussion.
McDonagh left Saturday’s game in Philadelphia following an altercation with the Flyers’ Wayne Simmonds that ended with McDonagh taking a punch to the face from Simmonds.
Simmonds received a match penalty and was thrown out of the game, but did not receive any supplemental discipline.
Given the standings, the Rangers can ill afford to lose McDonagh for long. They play in Pittsburgh Wednesday, followed by three home games against Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Chicago.