The Western Conference wild card standings still boast the same two teams, but the battle for the final playoff spot remains that much more wide-open after Saturday’s contests.
The Minnesota Wild strengthened their grip on the top wild card spot with a 3-1 win against the Phoenix Coyotes while the Dallas Stars crept up on the Coyotes with a 4-2 win against the St. Louis Blues.
With that, the Stars are just one point behind the Coyotes for the final wild card position with a game in hand. In other words, the seesaw for the conference’s final playoff spot keeps moving in different directions, with things leaning toward Dallas on this night.
Being behind one point might not sound great, but consider this: the two teams meet in the final game of the 2013-14 season, so Dallas would probably be quite happy with even a one-point deficit after both teams finish Game 81.
The Wild faced the prospect of giving up their hold on the top wild card spot going into Saturday’s game, yet now they hold a three-point lead over the Wild for the seventh seed in the West and a four-point lead over Dallas (with one fewer game remaining). Those aren’t huge margins, yet that might be enough to distance themselves from the pack.
The Vancouver Canucks are still in action as of this writing, so here is a look at how those three teams alone are jostling for position:
Those who feel as though the Boston Bruins may rebound – John Tortorella, maybe? – likely rest some of their optimism on the back of a healthy Zdeno Chara.
It’s possible that he’s merely limping into what may otherwise be a healthy 2015-16 season, but it’s definitely looking like a slow start thanks to a lower-body injury.
The latest sign of a bumpy beginning came on Monday, as several onlookers (including CSNNE.com’s Joe Haggerty) pointed out that Chara was listed on injured reserve.
As Haggerty notes, that move is retroactive to Sept. 24, so his status really just opens up options for the Bruins.
Still … it’s a little unsettling, isn’t it?
The Bruins likely realize that they need to transition away from their generational behemoth, but last season provided a stark suggestion that may not be ready yet. Trading Dougie Hamilton and losing Dennis Seidenberg to injury only make them more dependent on the towering 38-year-old.
This isn’t really something to panic about, yet it might leave a few extra seats open on the Bruins’ bandwagon.
Zack Kassian may have avoided major injuries stemming from his Sunday car accident, but it likely sent the signal that he may need help.
The response: he was placed in Stage Two of the Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program (SABH) of the NHL and NHLPA on Monday.
According to the league’s release, Kassian “will be suspended without pay until cleared for on-ice competition by the program administrators.”
Speaking of being suspended without pay, here’s a key detail:
The 24-year-old ended up with a broken nose and broken foot from that accident. The 2015-16 season was set to be his first campaign in the Montreal Canadiens organization after a tumultuous time with the Vancouver Canucks.
Kassian spoke of becoming more mature heading to Montreal, but the Canadiens were critical of his actions, wondering how many wake-up calls someone can get.
In case you’re wondering about the difference between stage one and two: