The Dallas Stars lost to the Florida Panthers today, which means that just a point separates them and the Phoenix Coyotes in the battle for the final Wild Card spot.
Both teams have four games left to play and will face each other in one of the last games of the regular season. In other words, the winner of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference might not be determined until the last possible minute.
Although those are the only two teams in the Western Conference still in a serious battle for a playoff spot, there’s a lot of teams competing for positioning and today’s contests had implications in that regard:
- The St. Louis Blues dropped their game against the Blackhawks. They are still in a strong position in the battle for the Central Division title, but the Blues have fallen behind in the race for the Presidents’ Trophy. They also missed an opportunity to pull ahead as they compete for the top seed in the Western Conference.
- Anaheim suffered a 4-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers. The Ducks have just a one-point lead on San Jose in the fight for the Pacific Division title, although Anaheim has played in one less contest and has a commanding lead in the tiebreaker (wins minus shootout victories).
- Chicago’s win keeps them in the running for the second seed in the Central Division. They also got help from Pittsburgh, which defeated the Colorado Avalanche in a shootout.
Here’s the updated Western Conference standings:
Last night in Los Angeles, Kings forward Milan Lucic received a match penalty after skating the entire width of the ice to give San Jose’s Logan Couture a two-hand shove to the face.
Lucic didn’t hurt Couture, who had caught Lucic with an open-ice hit that Lucic didn’t like. Couture’s smiling, mocking face was good evidence that the Sharks’ forward was going to be OK.
This morning, Lucic was still in disbelief that he was penalized so harshly.
“I didn’t cross any line,” Lucic said, per Rich Hammond of the O.C. Register. “Believe me, if my intentions were to hurt him, I would have hurt him.”
While Lucic knew he deserved a penalty, he said after the game that he didn’t “know why it was called a match penalty.” His coach, Darryl Sutter, agreed, calling it “a borderline even roughing penalty.”
And though former NHL referee Kerry Fraser believes a match penalty was indeed warranted, Lucic said this morning that he hasn’t heard from the NHL about any possible supplemental discipline.
Nor for that matter has Dustin Brown, after his high hit on Couture in the first period.
In conclusion, it’s good to have hockey back.
Related: Sutter says Kings weren’t ‘interested’ in checking the Sharks
A statement from Raffi Torres:
“I accept the 41-game suspension handed down to me by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety. I worked extremely hard over the last two years following reconstructive knee surgery to resume my NHL career, and this is the last thing I wanted to happen. I am disappointed I have put myself in a position to be suspended again. I sincerely apologize to Jakob for the hit that led to this suspension, and I’m extremely thankful that he wasn’t seriously injured as a result of the play. I also want to apologize to my Sharks teammates and the organization.”
A statement from San Jose GM Doug Wilson:
“The Sharks organization fully supports the NHL’s supplementary discipline decision regarding Raffi. While we do not believe there was any malicious intent, this type of hit is unacceptable and has no place in our game. There is a difference between playing hard and crossing the line and there is no doubt, in this instance, Raffi crossed that line. We’re very thankful that Jakob was not seriously injured as a result of this play.”
Silfverberg says he expects to play Saturday when the Ducks open their regular season Saturday in San Jose.