<span class="vcard">James O'Brien</span>

Kevin Shattenkirk

Shattenkirk is ‘ready to go’ for Blues

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As anticipated, the St. Louis Blues are getting a significant boost on Saturday, as key defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk returns to the lineup against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

As an added bonus, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch points out that the Blues will see the return of two blueliners with Carl Gunnarsson also slated to come back.

Shattenkirk sounds excited about shaking off the rust.

“I’m ready to go,’” Shattenkirk said. “I felt good out there. It was nice to just be back with the team and get the speed of the game back a little bit. I’m exited about it.

“I’ve done what I’ve had to do rehab-wise. It’s time to just get back into it. It may not be pretty to start, but you have to get that mindset of playing games to really get back up to speed.”

To start things off, head coach Ken Hitchcock is pairing Shattenkirk with Barret Jackman, Gunnarsson with Alex Pietrangelo and rounding things out with Jay Bouwmeester – Zbynek Michalek. There’s also a chance that St. Louis will dress seven defensemen, but if not, Robert Bortuzzo would be a healthy scratch.

Despite missing 25 games with this abdominal injury, Shattenkirk is second in scoring among Blues defensemen with 40 points (Pietrangelo just passed him with 41). This already-formidable St. Louis squad could be very scary if the 26-year-old can get up to speed by the playoffs.

Photo: Jets’ Olsen shares battle scars from tough day in AHL

olsen
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Want to know what a tough day like looks in the AHL?

Winnipeg Jets prospect Ryan Olsen shared his battle scars on Twitter after taking a puck to the face and getting in a fight for the St. John’s IceCaps against the Portland Pirates on Friday:

Olsen, 21, was selected by the Jets in the sixth round (160th overall) in 2012. Here’s a photo of Olsen in pre-mangled form, in case you want to compare and contrast:

Winnipeg Jets Headshots
Getty Images

That’s hockey for you.

Kings bump Flames out of West’s top eight (for tonight, at least)

Brayden McNabb, Anze Kopitar
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We’re at that point in a season where every night off can be nerve-wracking for teams in playoff races.

The Calgary Flames watched on tonight as the Los Angeles Kings and Winnipeg Jets won significant contests, leaving the Flames outside of the West’s wild card spots as of this evening.

Let’s cut the West up to show the wild card/buffer races in a very simplified way (apologies to the likes of Dallas and San Jose, just keeping things simple here):

Pacific second spot: Vancouver – 90 points in 74 games played (update: the Colorado Avalanche beat them 4-1)
Pacific third spot: Los Angeles – 88 points in 74 games played after beating the New York Islanders 3-2

First wild card: Minnesota – 91 points in 74 games played
Second wild card: Winnipeg – 90 points in 75 games played after beat the Montreal Canadiens 5-2

Just outside the playoffs: Calgary – 87 points in 74 games played

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As you can see above, the Kings’ win is the most directly relevant to Calgary, as that knocked them out of the Pacific’s third spot (and thus the playoff picture altogether).

Plenty of jostling can take place in the Pacific. In fact, the situation is fluid enough that Vancouver, Los Angeles and Calgary also must be mindful of the two Central Division teams currently holding the two wild card spots.

Simply put, today hasn’t gone well for the Flames, especially if Vancouver manages to come back against Colorado.

That said, one can simply turn to what might as well be the motto of the playoff run: there’s always tomorrow. In this specific case, Friday’s game is a big one as the Flames visit the Wild in Minnesota.

Bruins can’t hold Ducks off, suffer sixth loss in a row

Buffalo Sabres v Boston Bruins
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For much of Thursday’s game, it looked like the Boston Bruins would do just enough to beat the Anaheim Ducks. Instead, they suffered a bitter 3-2 OT loss, now their sixth straight defeat.

Simply put, the Ducks’ big guns ultimately made the difference. Corey Perry scored the game-tying goal with about 40 seconds remaining in the third period while Ryan Getzlaf nabbed the OT clincher.

(The Ducks noted that Getzlaf’s seven OT-winners stand as a club record.)

Bruins head coach Claude Julien has his beefs about Perry’s 2-2 tally, yet one wonders if the Bruins simply didn’t give themselves enough of a margin for error. The (rather stunning) numbers reveal that the Ducks finish out games with astounding proficiency:

David Krejci looked understandably tentative in his return to action, but he also made some nice plays, including picking up an assist. It wasn’t enough, yet he could be a key component down the stretch.

Some close calls may turn the knife a little deeper for the Bruins during this six-game skid. Counting tonight’s OT defeat, three of these setbacks could have been wins (two were in shootouts).

Could those three points end up being the difference? We’ll see. The only good news for Boston is that tonight was probably even rougher for the Ottawa Senators.

Boston fell just short tonight, and if the Bruins aren’t careful, that may just be the story of their 2014-15 season.

Ticket punched: Rangers become first team to clinch 2015 playoff berth

New York Rangers v New York Islanders
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The New York Rangers were the last team to be “eliminated” from the 2014 playoffs. They’re now the first team to officially make the 2015 postseason.

With their 5-1 win against the Ottawa Senators and the Anaheim Ducks’ comeback OT victory against the Boston Bruins in the books, the Rangers clinched their playoff spot on Thursday night.

Update: The Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning failed to clinch spots tonight, so only the Rangers did it.