All of a sudden, the Colorado Avalanche don’t need to settle for being a feel-good story and solid playoff team. With other teams either slipping or staying in neutral, the Avs could very well win their division and even the top spot in the Western Conference.
The door went from slightly ajar to quite a bit more open on Thursday, as Colorado jumped over St. Louis for the lead in the Central Division. Both the Avalanche and Blues finished Thursday with identical records (52-21-7, 111 points, two games left), but the Avalanche have a significant advantage in regulation/overtime wins (47-43). Here is an updated look at the standings:
Here are some highlights of the Blues’ tough loss, their fourth in a row (easily their worst streak of the season):
Take a quick look at closing schedules for Colorado and St. Louis:
Colorado: Friday – at San Jose, Sunday – at Anaheim
St. Louis: Friday – at Dallas, Sunday – vs. Detroit
Chicago is too far behind from a tiebreaker standpoint to catch the Avalanche or Blues, so the Central Division race is straightforward. Out in the Pacific, the Anaheim Ducks are clearly at the top while the San Jose Sharks will host the Los Angeles Kings.
Ultimately, the two races to watch out West are the Avalanche vs. the Blues and the Dallas Stars vs. the Phoenix Coyotes.
For the sake of comprehensiveness, here’s a look at the East standings, too:
They’re just one game into their regular season, but the Buffalo Sabres have already had to shift things around in their crease.
The Sabres announced that they have placed starting goaltender Robin Lehner on injured reserve after he was knocked out of Thursday’s game with a lower-body injury.
In a corresponding move, the club has recalled Nathan Lieuwen from their AHL affiliate in Rochester.
The 24-year-old didn’t play in the NHL last season, but he did have a 1-4-0 record with a 2.98 goals-against-average and a .906 save percentage in seven games during the 2013-14 season.
Lieuwen was Buffalo’s sixth round pick, 167th overall, in the 2011 draft.
The Sabres also announced that they have loaned defenseman Jake McCabe and goaltender Linus Ullmark to the Rochester Americans (AHL).
McCabe was a healthy scratch in Thursday’s game against Ottawa, while Ullmark is being activated off I.R. after having double hip surgery during the off-season.
It looks like the Boston Bruins will be without their captain again on Saturday night.
Head coach Claude Julien told members of the media that Zdeno Chara is considered doubtful for tonight’s game against the Montreal Canadiens.
Chara suffered an upper-body injury during the preseason and he’s already been forced to miss Boston’s season opening loss to the Jets.
Per CSN, Chara says he’s improving but he won’t return to the lineup until he’s as close to 100 percent as possible.
“Every area of the injury is improving,” said Chara. “Hopefully it’s not long before I’m free of any kind of discomfort. That’s what we’re doing right now…we’re being patient. For sure you don’t want to come back, and be half of what you are…and basically hurting yourself and the team. And you’re putting yourself in a position where you could be missing more time. At this time of the season, I think it’s important to be as close as you can be to 100 percent.”
Based on the number of defensive mistakes they committed on Thursday, the Bruins need Chara back as soon as possible: