Pre-game reading: Arguing for a play-in game

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— Up top, P.K. Subban was in tough against Lawson Crouse on Saturday. Bit of a reach advantage for the 6-foot-4 Coyotes forward.

— ESPN’s Craig Custance makes a case for a play-in game between the No. 8 and No. 9 seeds in each conference. “Imagine a one-game playoff between Steven Stamkos‘ Lightning and Alex Ovechkin‘s Washington Capitals, two teams with Stanley Cup aspirations. The current standings suggest it wouldn’t be out of the question. Or what about a one-game play-in game between Connor McDavid and the Oilers versus Patrik Laine and the Jets?” The NHL, for the record, has shown absolutely no interest in this idea. (ESPN)

— We weren’t the only ones to recognize the Metropolitan Division as the new power division in the NHL. Writes Sportsnet’s Sean McIndoe: “Here’s something to keep an eye on: If things keep trending in this direction, we have the possibility of running into a scenario that’s long been possible in the NHL but rarely actually happens: a top-eight team in a conference not making the postseason. That would require the relatively unlikely outcome of one division’s sixth place team ending up ahead of the other’s third place finisher, and we’re almost there right now…. The Devils (or Hurricanes) could theoretically finish eighth or even seventh in the East and still miss out on a postseason invite.” (Sportsnet)

— The Tampa Bay Lightning are enduring a tough start to the season, but they should still be considered Stanley Cup contenders. And you know what else? They’ve got a pretty good group of prospects, including six invitees to Team Canada’s World Juniors camp. “It’s a credit to the management staff in Tampa Bay for the prospects they’ve put into their system,” said forward Mitchell Stephens, the 33rd overall pick in 2015. “It shows they’re one of the top teams in the league for a reason.” (Canadian Press)

— On the annual Rookie Orientation Program, a joint initiative between the NHL and NHLPA, which aims to help rich, young athletes stay rich. “At the end of the day, it’s your money and you want to know what’s happening with it,” said Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl, who could be a lot richer very soon. “I think it’s really important that you know what’s going on and that you watch your money and you have good people surrounding yourself.” (Canadian Press)

— The Detroit Red Wings are having all sorts of trouble scoring, but at least they’ve got Jimmy Howard back. The veteran netminder stopped 35 of 36 shots in Sunday’s 1-0 OT loss to Philadelphia. He is now 5-5-1 with a .945 save percentage. Sunday’s loss marked the fourth time this season that the Wings have been shut out. No regular netminder has received worse goal support than Howard has. (MLive)

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Enjoy the games!

Video: Leafs’ Carrick delivers thunderous hit on Blue Jackets’ Anderson

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Both the Columbus Blue Jackets and Toronto Maple Leafs have motivation to win their Wednesday game, but the Maple Leafs need it more.

So far, it shows, too.

The Maple Leafs have raced off to a 2-0 lead, with Auston Matthews scoring his 33rd goal of the season. If generating such offense didn’t highlight the urgency, Connor Carrick‘s huge hit on Josh Anderson makes a compelling argument. Witness that big impact in the video above.

There was also another high-impact moment when Nick Foligno went crashing into the boards:

Ouch, Blues consider Paul Stastny out week-to-week

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The St. Louis Blues announced that Paul Stastny is out week-to-week with a lower-body injury.

Stastny was limited to less than four minutes of ice time during last night’s 4-2 win against the Colorado Avalanche. Initially, head coach Mike Yeo indicated that the issue wasn’t serious.

There are only about three weeks left in the regular season, so it’s tough to tell if “week-to-week” would mean that the Blues will be without Stastny for any playoff time.

With Stastny out for an expended period of time and other injuries affecting Blues forwards, it sounds like Nail Yakupov gets another chance to prove himself:

Stastny generated 18 goals and 40 points in 66 games so far this season. He has played more of a defensive role this season (46.2 offensive zone start percentage after being closer to 50 earlier in his Blues days) and has been impressive in the dot, winning 53.8 of his faceoffs.

WATCH LIVE: Islanders at Rangers – Wednesday Night Rivalry

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A night after a feisty matcuhup with the Devils, the Rangers host an even bigger rival in the Islanders at Madison Square Garden for Wednesday Night Rivalry on NBCSN.

As nasty as Tuesday’s contest got at times, this one means more.

While the Rangers seem pretty safely seated as the East’s first wild card, the Islanders stand three points behind the Maple Leafs for the final spot in the conference. They’ve seen other bubble teams stumble, so this is their chance to close in on Toronto in what might be a shrinking field of contenders.

Spiting the Islanders might just give the Rangers a little extra life on back-to-back nights … especially since their fans would probably let them have it if they sleepwalk through this one.

It should be a fun, physical and dramatic one on NBCSN. You can also watch online and via the NBC Sports App.

Click here for the livestream.

Pre-game reading: ‘Trying to keep playing at such a high level, it was going to kill me’

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The Pioneer Press caught up with former Minnesota Wild goalie Josh Harding, who quietly retired from professional hockey two-and-a-half years ago. That decision came after Harding was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and made a stirring comeback with the Wild, capturing the 2013 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy as a result.

In the piece, Harding talks about his final game, one in which he left an AHL game against Charlotte in an ambulance due to severe dehydration. That proved an eye-opener, one that all but cemented the need for him to hang up his skates.

More:

Sara Harding took one look at her gaunt husband on FaceTime [following the game in Charlotte] and immediately bought a one-way plane ticket from Minneapolis, not knowing when she would return — or if she would be coming back alone.

“She was really scared,” Harding recalled Tuesday. “That was the final dagger. It started hitting me that I still have a family and life to live here. People that I love and that love me, I saw how scared they were and how much it affected them. I knew it was time to put up the pads.

 “The doctors all told me if I kept doing this to my body, trying to keep playing at such a high level, it was going to kill me.”

Harding, who has attended a few Wild games since retirement, is currently working as a goalie coach at a local Minnesota high school.

— “I think there’s only three teams left in the NHL that don’t have a downtown arena, and we’re one of them and it’s tragic that we don’t. I bought the team out of bankruptcy and that’s where the arena was, and that’s what I bought. But we need to move things downtown, if it’s Ottawa it’s got to be downtown.”

That’s Sens owner Eugene Melnyk (per the Citizen) talking about Ottawa’s proposed new arena. He’s hopeful negotiations with the National Capital Commission on the development of Lebreton Flats will be completed before the end of the year, at which point construction can begin on what he promises will be a “gorgeous” complex.

— The latest development in the U.S. women’s looming boycott of the 2017 World Hockey Championships: USA Hockey has postponed a pre-tourney training camp, and an exhibition game against Finland. The organization is still hopeful it can hold a camp just prior to the start of the worlds, which will begin on Mar. 31 in Plymouth, MI. (Yahoo)