James O'Brien

Washington Capitals’ T.J. Oshie, right, takes a check by Minnesota Wild’s Mikko Koivu of Finland in the first period of an NHL hockey game, Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016, in St. Paul, Minn. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
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Reunion postponed: Flu keeps Oshie from facing Blues

If T.J. Oshie wants to play against his former teammates, he’ll need to wait until April 9.

That’s the last time the Washington Capitals face the St. Louis Blues, and hey, that one holds even more meaning since it takes place in St. Louis.

Oshie is unable to suit up for the Caps tonight because he’s dealing with the flu.

Oshie played the first seven seasons of his career with the Blues, appearing in 443 regular season and 30 playoff games. He joined the Capitals in a trade that sent Troy Brouwer and other assets to St. Louis.

(“Changes had to be made,” according to Oshie.)

The Blues have a lineup note of their own, as Carl Gunnarsson is sidelined with a lower-body injury, opening up a spot in the mix for Petteri Lindbohm.

Red-hot goalies Braden Holtby and Brian Elliott are taking the night off, too, so … yes, this game lost some pizzazz.

Card carrying: Wild clobber Avs, take five-point lead for playoff spot

Minnesota Wild left wing Zach Parise, front, scores a goal past Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov, of Russia, in the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, March 26, 2016, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
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If the Minnesota Wild edge the Colorado Avalanche for the West’s second wild card spot, we might just look at Saturday afternoon as the day that cemented the difference.

The Wild continued their hot streak with a convincing 4-0 win against the Avalanche today, extending their winning run to five straight games.

In the process, Minnesota fattened its lead over Colorado to five standings points.

From a tiebreaker standpoint, the Avalanche hold more run-of-the-mill wins than the Wild (38 to 37) and most importantly hold a game in hand. Minnesota now equals Colorado with 34 regulation/OT wins.

Ultimately, the Wild really seem to have the Avalanche’s number, and that might be the difference between a playoff berth and early golfing outings.

Then again, maybe the coaching change was the real difference-maker?

Either way, give Zach Parise a big chunk of the credit (two goals on Saturday, seven points during a three-game streak) and don’t forget Devan Dubnyk, whose shutout gives him five straight victories.

In other words, the Wild are getting big contributions during huge moments, and that might just punch their ticket to another playoff berth.

Blues clinch playoff berth via yet another Brian Elliott shutout

St. Louis Blues goalie Brian Elliott is unable to control the puck during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Winnipeg Jets Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016, in St. Louis. After Elliott lost control, Jet's Bryan Little was able to knock the puck in for a goal. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
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The St. Louis Blues are making a habit out of earning playoff berths, and Brian Elliott is spinning off shutout streaks with impressive regularity.

Those patterns convened on Friday, as Elliott helped the Blues clinch a playoff spot via a 4-0 win against the collapsing Vancouver Canucks.

That marked his third straight shutout, which apparently is becoming something of a Brian Elliott specialty lately:

Again, the Blues have a nice playoff streak going …

… Which people will almost instantly disparage thanks to middling work once the playoffs begin.

Considering the streak he’s currently enjoying, maybe Elliott’s the right goalie to help the Blues end their run of disappointments in April?

Lightning move to first in Atlantic, but bad Stralman news taints victory

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The Tampa Bay Lightning beat the New York Islanders 7-4 in a rip-roaring game. They moved, at least briefly, into first place in the Atlantic Division by doing so. And they probably feel pretty empty.

That’s what happens when an injury overshadows your successes, which is absolutely the case on Friday, as the team announced that Anton Stralman is out indefinitely “with a non-displaced fracture of his left fibula.”

(You can see that awkward fall in the video above. If you’re a Lightning fan, you may especially want to skip it.)

Brutal, just brutal. Obviously, “out indefinitely” is openly vague, but a fracture implies a pretty long stay on the shelf. It’s possible that the Lightning won’t see Stralman again until 2016-17.

Head coach Jon Cooper seems more optimistic, however:

Let’s summarize just how important Stralman is to a Lightning team that was rising to the challenge after a somewhat disappointing start to 2015-16.

Big blow, no doubt.

Anders Lee seems sad about it:

Note: Nikita Kucherov was shaken up during the game, too, but returned for a shift. He’s another guy to watch.

Carlson takes it for Caps, Holtby eyes Brodeur’s single-season wins record

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The Washington Capitals only have so much drama to offer with virtually everything clinched, yet they generated two legit stories in their 1-0 overtime win against the New Jersey Devils.

Most impressively, Braden Holtby earned his third shutout and 45th win of the 2015-16 season. With that, Holtby is really creeping on Martin Brodeur’s single-season record for goalie wins at 48.

The Capitals have nine games remaining this season, so there’s at least a possible best-of-both worlds scenario for Washington: he can chase the record and still maybe get a little breather toward the playoffs.

The other cool story: in his first game back from that lingering lower-body injury, John Carlson scored the game’s only goal in overtime.

And he did so emphatically:

Other fun stuff

Actually, there are some “sub-stories” of note.

For one thing, Scott Wedgewood’s shutout streak ended, even if he continued what’s been a remarkable introduction to the NHL.

Also, the Capitals have one another thing to shoot for, beyond Holtby’s possible record:

The Devils, meanwhile, saw their long odds at a playoff run get that much longer on Friday night.