Jason Brough

Things are looking up for the Tampa Bay Lightning

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With six wins in their last nine, the Tampa Bay Lightning are starting to resemble the team that nearly won the Stanley Cup last season.

A win tonight over the road-weary visitors from Vancouver and the Bolts (17-14-3) should go into the Christmas break feeling a lot better about themselves.

In fact, depending how the Senators do in Sunrise, Tampa Bay could even be back in a playoff spot.

“It’s a little too soon to say things have turned, but if I was going to pick a point in this season that our mindset is very much the mindset we had last season, it’s right now,” coach Jon Cooper told NHL.com. “And that’s with almost half our forward group being from the American Hockey League, from Syracuse.”

Indeed, the Lightning have a number of key forwards on injured reserve, including Tyler Johnson, Jonathan Drouin, Ondrej Palat, and Cedric Paquette.

That’s another thing to look forward to in the second half.

“We may have a rejuvenated group of guys come in like it’s the opening day of training camp,” said Cooper.

Paquette may actually be back tonight.

Of course, there’s still the Steven Stamkos situation hanging over everything. The captain says he wants to stay and win the Cup with the team that drafted him, but there remains considerable skepticism that the two sides can find common ground on a contract extension.

Stamkos is just trying to stay focused on hockey. He had two goals Sunday as the Bolts beat Ottawa to kick off a six-game home stand.

“We are looking at this six-game home stretch as an opportunity for our group to climb back in the playoff picture,” he told NHL.com. “We realize what these games mean at this time of year. Every point is important.”

Doan will stay with Coyotes ‘as long as he wants to’: Maloney

during the NHL game at Gila River Arena on November 12, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona.

Shane Doan is 39 years old and unsigned past this season. He only has six goals in 23 games, and his average ice time has fallen to 16:19 as he’s struggled to stay healthy.

That being said, if he wants to re-sign and keep playing for the Arizona Coyotes, he’s more than welcome.

“We had a conversation with his agent a few weeks ago,” GM Don Maloney told Sportsnet. “We both decided to evaluate at the end of year, see where his mindset is at. Shane Doan will stay with us as long as he wants to stay with us.”

Doan has made it pretty clear that he’s committed to the Coyotes, and he’s repeatedly rebuffed the idea that he could pursue a Stanley Cup with another team, a la Ray Bourque.

Still, if the Coyotes have fallen out of the playoff race by Feb. 29 — and with just two wins in their last nine, they’re not exactly trending in the right direction– don’t be surprised if the idea gets floated again.

He can always just shoot it down, again.

Related: Coyotes rebuild was ‘not my idea, not my ideal situation’

Rangers back to work after time to ‘reset, rethink, and refocus’

Alain Vigneault

Two desperate teams will meet tonight at MSG, where the Rangers — losers of three straight, and with just three wins in their last 14 — will host an Anaheim squad that just can’t seem to get on track in 2015-16.

New York coach Alain Vigneault gave his beleaguered troops the day off yesterday, after Sunday’s 7-3 home loss to the Capitals. It was the Rangers’ third straight defeat. Combined, they’ve been outscored 17-7 over the last 180 minutes.

“I don’t think guys’ minds were away from the rink; it was more of a reset, rethink, and refocus,” defenseman Marc Staal told NHL.com. “It was good to get away and come back here with some energy tonight to try to get a win.”

The good news for the Rangers is that they’re still comfortably in a playoff spot. The same can’t be said for the Ducks, the last-place team in the worst division in the league, the Pacific.

Anaheim lost 5-2 Monday in Brooklyn. The Ducks — who came into the season with Stanley Cup hopes — haven’t strung together more than two straight wins since the beginning of November, the only time they’ve done it all season.

“To end this, we need consistency,” said coach Bruce Boudreau. “We play a good game, then a bad game. We’re not forming good habits on a continual basis. We had a lot of errors, and when we have them, they end up in our net.”

“We have to be mentally stronger,” added captain Ryan Getzlaf.

Scoring a few more goals might help, too. Anaheim’s averaging just 1.84 per game, last in the NHL. Getzlaf only has one, and that was into an empty net.

As Jets fall further back in playoff race, decisions loom for Cheveldayoff

at the Barclays Center on October 12, 2015 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.

The Winnipeg Jets probably deserved better last night in Edmonton, where they outshot the Oilers, 45-21, only for Cam Talbot to steal another one for his team.

The Jets could only manage one goal against Talbot. They lost 3-1, their record falling to a disappointing 15-16-2.

“For sure, we outplayed them and thought we deserved the two points,” defenseman Tyler Myers told the Winnipeg Sun. “Their goalie played well and we’ve got to bear down on finishing our chances. We had a lot of chances and they just weren’t going in for us. All in all, we did a lot of good things.”

But despite all those good things they did, the reality is that the Jets will find themselves well back of a playoff spot heading into the Christmas break. Fellow Central Division team Nashville holds down the second wild-card spot in the West, eights point up on Winnipeg. The Jets aren’t even ahead of Colorado anymore.


As you can see, Winnipeg is the only team in its division with a negative goal differential. Goaltending has been a weakness. The Jets’ team save percentage is .900, 26th in the NHL. Neither Connor Hellebuyck nor Michael Hutchinson have played particularly well since Ondrej Pavelec was lost to injury.

Meanwhile, Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien remain pending unrestricted free agents in line for big pay days. The longer they go without signing extensions, and the further the Jets fall back in the playoff race, the more we can expect the trade speculation to increase as the Feb. 29 deadline approaches.

In some ways, where the Jets are in the standings could make things easier for GM Kevin Cheveldayoff. Imagine how hard it would be to trade a player like Byfuglien in the thick of a playoff race.

Not that Cheveldayoff was hoping for this. He has to be feeling the heat in the passionate market. Ditto for ownership, which has been accused of “pinching pennies” by some in the media. Winnipeg has the lowest cap payroll in the league.

The Jets play tonight in Calgary, then get four days off before hosting Pittsburgh and Detroit. After that, it’s a tough five-game road trip that includes a stop in Nashville.

Bottom line: they need to start stringing some wins together, because a return to the playoffs — and all the fun that comes with the postseason in Winnipeg — is looking increasingly unlikely.

Report: BU hockey player suspended for gambling, others may have been involved

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 09: Jack Eichel #9 of the Boston University Terriers is congratulated by teammates after scoring against North Dakota during the third period of the 2015 NCAA Division I Men's Hockey Championship semifinals at TD Garden on April 9, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts.The Boston Terriers defeat North Dakota 5-3.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

From the Buffalo News:

A potential scandal involving Jack Eichel’s college team is developing in Boston.

A Boston University hockey player has been suspended as part of an NCAA gambling investigation, and a report says players from last year’s team were also involved in the betting. The Buffalo Sabres organization has three skaters who played for the 2014-15 Terriers: Eichel, Evan Rodrigues and Cason Hohmann.

College Hockey News reported today that junior forward Nick Roberto had been suspended by the team and will not play for the remainder of the season. It hasn’t been reported which other players were involved, or alleged to be involved.

Now, before anyone jumps to the conclusion that we have another Boston College points-shaving scandal here, there’s no evidence that this has anything to do with throwing games or betting on college hockey, or even betting on professional hockey.

From College Hockey News:

According to NCAA by-laws, a player who is found gambling on any sporting event, amateur or pro in any sport, via a “bookie” or the Internet, faces a minimum one-year suspension. Other gambling, even through legal means such as fantasy sports, are subject to a suspension of an undetermined length. For some of the players, the gambling activities incurred “large” debts, which eventually led to the situation coming to light.

That last line sure makes it sound like a few of the players may have gotten in over their heads with a bookie, but we’ll have to wait for more details to emerge before we can draw any conclusions.