Heading into Tuesday’s game, the Dallas Stars and Washington Capitals seemed to hold a decent number of things in common, most notably the fact that both headed into the contest ranked ninth in their respective conferences. Tuesday’s 5-0 Stars win makes a compelling argument that they’re going in very different directions, however.
For at least a brief period of time, Dallas moves to eighth place in the West, although the Phoenix Coyotes can move right back ahead of them by beating the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday.
Even so, the Stars hold a game in hand once tonight’s games wrap up and are generally putting themselves in a solid position to make this season’s regular season finale against Phoenix a match for a playoff spot.
The Stars are currently on a three-game winning streak and five of their last six games, beginning an interesting five-game road trip with two victories.
While the Stars get things together, the Capitals are falling apart. They’ve lost four games in a row and five of their last six games. The one bright side is that they were at least taking some points out of this tough stretch; four of their six games went to shootouts, although Washington only won one of them.
It might be tough for Caps fans to find bright sides (whether it’s fair to pin it on him or not, Alex Ovechkin’s oft-mentioned plus/minus sank to -36), but at least they get what could be a breather.
After facing tough Western Conference opponents and the Boston Bruins since March 18, they get a couple East opponents, although they play the next four games on the road. Assuming the margins aren’t too large for both teams, Friday’s road game against the Devils could be a make-or-break contest for the Capitals.
Then again, at this point, every game probably feels at least a little bit like that … and it’s mostly been cracks forming for the Caps lately.
Tonight is a big game for the Arizona Coyotes, as they host Vancouver, one of the teams they’re jockeying with for the final wild-card spot in the West.
If the Coyotes can beat the Canucks in regulation, they’ll move to within two points of Colorado for that final wild-card spot, with three games in hand on the Avs. Not only that, Vancouver’s playoff hopes would be dealt a significant blow.
Of course, that’s a pretty sizable “if” the way the Coyotes have been playing. The Desert Dogs are winless in their last four, with 21 total goals surrendered.
“We have to shore up some things and our goaltending has to be better,” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett told reporters, while confirming that Louis Domingue would get the start versus the Canucks.
Domingue, the NHL’s rookie of the month in January, has struggled of late, allowing five goals in each of his last three starts. In the Coyotes’ last game, they turned to Anders Lindback, only for Lindback to surrender five goals himself in a 5-2 loss to Anaheim.
For the Canucks, Ryan Miller is expected to start, after Jacob Markstrom got the win last night in Denver.
— Henrik Lundqvist for the Rangers in Pittsburgh, where Marc-Andre Fleury is expected to start for the Penguins.
— Craig Anderson for the Senators in Detroit, where Petr Mrazek will make his third straight start for the Red Wings.
The Buffalo Sabres have recalled forward Justin Bailey from AHL Rochester.
It’s the first time Bailey, a second-round pick in 2013, has ever been called up to the NHL. The 20-year-old joins the big club after piling up 11 points (5G, 6A) in his last eight games for the Americans.
Most Sabres fans will know that Bailey is from Buffalo (technically, Williamsville), the son of former Bills linebacker Carlton Bailey. (To learn more, click on this Buffalo News story from July.)
The Sabres play Thursday in Philadelphia, where Bailey will reportedly make his NHL debut.
To make room for Bailey on Buffalo’s roster, Zemgus Girgensons (lower body) was placed on injured reserve.
Thing have gone from bad to weird in Minnesota, where embattled Wild coach Mike Yeo was “disappointed” to see Zenon Konopka’s rabbit holding a sign that read, “YEO MUST GO.”
Hey, we told you things had gotten weird.
Konopka, a former Wild player, took to Twitter last night after Minnesota’s latest loss.
Here’s what Konopka tweeted:
And what did Yeo think about that?
“I really don’t care what he says,” he told the Star Tribune, apparently adding with a laugh, “I will say I was very disappointed to see Hoppy holding that sign.”
Now, according to the newspaper’s Michael Russo, “Konopka and Yeo had a lot of issues behind the scenes and that’s why [Konopka] ended up on waivers two Januarys ago.”
Still, that doesn’t change the fact that a lot of Wild fans agree with Hoppy, er, Konopka, and it doesn’t change the fact that the Wild could really, really use a win tomorrow at home to Washington.
Nice work from Artem Anisimov and Matt Niskanen this week, but Connor McDavid‘s tally is on a different level.
You can pretty much bank on McDavid being in Goals of the Year, too. Just saying.