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Struggling Lightning lose Ondrej Palat for indefinite period of time

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The Tampa Bay Lightning have been going through a difficult stretch lately and things got a lot more difficult on Sunday. The team announced that Ondrej Palat is out indefinitely after taking a spear from Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon on Saturday night.

The Bolts, who are on an eight-game road trip, have confirmed that Palat will head back to Tampa on Monday for further testing. He’s accumulated eight goals and 30 points in 46 games this season.

Although the video isn’t the clearest, this is the play that led to the injury:

The injury couldn’t have come at a worse time, as the Lightning have been slumping badly of late. They’ve dropped three games in a row to Calgary, Vegas and Minnesota.

Their once giant lead atop the Atlantic Division has dwindled to three points over the Boston Bruins, who have a game in hand.

“We’re just out of synch, it’s unreal,” head coach Jon Cooper said, per The Tampa Times. “The guys didn’t forget how to play hockey in the last week and a half. We’re just out of synch. One guy zigs, the other guy zags. It’s crazy that in the last week and a half, we kind of lost our swag.”

The Bolts will continue their road trip in Chicago, Nashville and Philadelphia before the All-Star break. On top of their difficult schedule, they’ll also be without number one defenseman Victor Hedman for the next few weeks.

Their spot in the playoffs isn’t in any danger, but the number one seed in the league (Vegas is coming in a hurry) and top spot in the division is in doubt.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

NHL Power Rankings: Here come the Flames

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Expectations were high for the Calgary Flames entering this season.

They have a promising young core of talent centered around Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, and Dougie Hamilton, then spent a bunch of money to bring in Travis Hamonic and Mike Smith over the summer. Hamonic, along with Hamilton, Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodie seemed to give them one of the better defensive units in the NHL (at least as far as the top-four is concerned) and Smith was expected to solidify a goaltending position that had been a pretty big sore spot the past couple of years.

When we last checked in with our power rankings two weeks ago the Flames were looking like one of the bigger disappointments in the league. They were on the outside of the playoff picture and looking like they were running out of time to make a big move in the standings.

But a six-game winning streak can change a lot.

Entering the week the Flames find themselves in the No. 2 spot in the Pacific Division and have built a four-point cushion over the first non-playoff teams in the West. One of those teams (San Jose) still has four games in hand on them, but the Flames are finally starting to resemble the team they were expected to be over the summer. They are 9-2-1 in their past 11 games.

Gaudreau is blossoming into a superstar while Smith has been on a roll in net over the past few weeks.

They made one of the biggest jumps in this week’s rankings.

Here is a look at where everyone else falls this week.

The Elites

1. Tampa Bay Lightning — Losing Victor Hedman for 3-6 weeks is going to hurt in the short-term, but the Lightning have their bye week for the first week of that timetable and have given themselves a huge cushion in the standings. They have the offense and goaltender to withstand that loss for a couple of weeks.

2. Vegas Golden Knights — Yes. Somehow Vegas gets included in the elites now, too. I only saw somehow because this story is still insane. An expansion team. A legitimate Stanley Cup contender more than halfway through the season. Madness. Entering Monday the Golden Knights are 14-1-2 in their previous 17 games, a stretch that includes games against Anaheim, Nashville (twice), Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Chicago, Los Angeles, Toronto, St. Louis and Washington. They are going to get a big test here with a four-game road trip including games against Nashville and Tampa Bay.

The Rest Of The Best

3. Washington Capitals — After losing a lot this offseason it was supposed to be a step back this season. That step back still has them on pace for 109 points and another Metropolitan Division title. As the NHL standings sit today, their reward for that would be a first-round matchup against … the Pittsburgh Penguins.

4. Boston Bruins — Given the offseason seasons for Mathew Barzal and Brock Boeser it is going to be tough for him to get a lot of attention in the Calder Trophy race, but Charlie McAvoy has been just as impactful as both. If not more impactful.

5. Nashville Predators — P.K. Subban should be one of the leaders in the clubhouse for the Norris Trophy at this point. His defensive play right now is laughably underrated.

6. Winnipeg Jets — It is really impressive how much offensive talent the Jets have, and how much of it is still young. Kyle Connor is scoring at a 30-goal pace over 82 games as a 20-year-old rookie and nobody even really mentions him much. If the goaltending can hold it together they will be a fascinating team to watch.

7. Los Angeles Kings — Jonathan Quick has at times been a little overrated in his career, but his performance this season has matched the reputation he has built. It’s almost as if he’s been a little underrated this year.

Just A Step Below

8. St. Louis Blues — The Blues need more from Jake Allen. A lot more. Carter Hutton has been really strong in a backup role this season and it’s probably time to give him a few more starts and ride the hot hand.

9. Calgary Flames — What a difference a couple of weeks can make in a team’s outlook for the season.

10. Columbus Blue Jackets — Jack Johnson wants a trade, but it is hard to see him bringing much of a return. Not only because every team knows he wants out, but because he is probably best suited as a third-pairing defenseman. There doesn’t seem to be a lot for Columbus to gain here and it’s hard to see Johnson getting more playing time on a team that will give him a better chance to win than Columbus will.

11. New Jersey Devils — They enter the week on a six-game losing streak. Time to panic, or just a small speed bump during  a long season full of peaks and valleys? They are still scoring goals so that is a good sign they can turn things around again.

12. Toronto Maple Leafs — They still have flaws, but it is amazing they are a top-five team in goals scored while getting only 14 goals from William Nylander and Mitch Marnrer and with Auston Matthews missing 10 games. Crazy depth up front.

13. Colorado Avalanche — One of the hottest teams in the NHL at the moment. Six game winning streak and 11-3-1 in their past 15 games. They are currently on the outside of the playoff picture, but they are only two points back and have two games in hand on the team they are chasing.

The Middle Ground

14. Pittsburgh Penguins — The Penguins are really on to something with this Sidney Crosby, Daniel Sprong, Dominik Simon line. It has also added a lot more balance to their forward lines. With Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel all rolling now the Penguins look like the Penguins again.

15. Dallas Stars — Alexander Radulov isn’t getting enough attention this season. He is on track for a career year offensively, is driving possession, and has generally been pretty outstanding for the Stars.

16. San Jose Sharks — Still having a hard time getting a feel for the Sharks. They are not bad, they are not really anything special, they are currently on the outside of the playoff picture … but they also have only played in 41 games and have multiple games in hand on everyone. They are not out of it by any stretch.

17. Minnesota Wild — Eric Staal‘s resurgence in Minnesota the past two years has been a pretty stunning development. He looked like he was done toward the end of his time in Carolina.

18. Philadelphia Flyers — Sean Couturier is on pace for 47 goals while playing dominant, shutdown defense. The goal scoring might end up being a bit of an outlier in his career (he is not a 19 percent shooter every year) but it is still a remarkable season for him.

19. New York Rangers — They have always been dependent on Henrik Lundqvist but right now they are taking that to an entirely new level. The defensive strategy just seems to be “pray that Lundqvist stops everything.”

20. Chicago Blackhawks — Like the trade for Anthony Duclair. Fresh start on a talented team might be good for him, and the Blackhawks could certainly use another young forward to fly around and create offense. But is the defense good enough to get them in the playoffs, especially with Corey Crawford‘s status still in question?

21. Anaheim Ducks — If they get healthy — and stay healthy — they could still be a team to watch out for in the second half. As of Monday they are two points back of a playoff spot. The challenge will be overcoming the five teams ahead of them at the moment.

22. Carolina Hurricanes — Just when it looked like they were ready to make a big move in the East they dropped six out of eight. Still a lot of intriguing talent and the new owner seems like he is fired up and can bring plenty of excitement. There is a core here you can win with.

23. New York Islanders — They might not make the playoffs, they still have to re-sign John Tavares and Josh Bailey, but Mathew Barzal looks dynamite. They fall so low because they are really cold right now and have lost a lot of ground in a short period of time. Still very much in the playoff race, but trending in the wrong direction.

Better Luck Next Season

24. Detroit Red Wings — They enter the week 5-2-0 over their past seven games, trying to show some signs of live. That is good news. The bad news: Even with that nice little run they are still probably out of the playoff race.

25. Florida Panthers — Aleksander Barkov got a much deserved spot on the Atlantic Division All-Star team. A true bright spot for the Panthers and a foundational player to build around for a long, long time.

26. Edmonton Oilers — They won two in a row heading into the bye week but the mountain standing in front of them for a playoff spot is still a massive one.

27. Montreal Canadiens — Don’t look now but Max Pacioretty is starting to turn it around. He has points in four consecutive games, including three straight with a goal.

28. Vancouver Canucks — It’s still the Brock Boeser show in Vancouver.

29. Ottawa Senators — After scoring at least 15 goals in each of the past four seasons Erik Karlsson has only three goals in 37 games this season. That is by far the worst goal-scoring pace of his NHL career. The only other time it was that low was his rookie season when he only played in 60 games as a 19-year-old.

30. Buffalo Sabres — The big thing worth watching now is where does Evander Kane end up before the trade deadline?

31. Arizona Coyotes — The Coyotes are on track to be one of the worst teams in recent memory. Only 27 points through 45 games and a minus-55 goal differential.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Fantasy Adds & Drops: Bernier baby Bernier

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Every week, PHT will look to provide its readers with some fantasy hockey advice. This column will aim to help you navigate through the rough waters of the waiver wire. We’ll tell you which players owned in 50 percent or less of Yahoo leagues are worth adding and we’ll also let you know which players you can safely part ways with.

If you have any specific fantasy hockey questions, feel free to write me an e-mail at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

Here we go:

Adds:

Joe Thornton– C- San Jose Sharks (42 percent)

The Sharks will be pretty busy this week, as they’ll play five games between Monday and Sunday. Thornton went into the Sharks’ bye week on a three-game point drought, but he exploded for three points against the Coyotes on Saturday night. The veteran is on pace to hit the 60-point mark in 2017-18.

Jonathan Bernier– G- Colorado Avalanche (31 percent)

The Avalanche have been playing some good hockey of late and Bernier has a lot to do with that. He was the NHL’s second star last week, and with Semyon Varlamov out for at least two more weeks, he’ll continue to see a good amount of action. He’s worth at least a short-term add for those looking for a goaltender.

David Krejci– C- Boston Bruins (22 percent)

The Bruins forward has missed a good chunk of the season because of injuries, but he’s back and healthy now. Krejci has picked up four points in five games since returning from an upper-body injury in late December. As long as he’s healthy, he’ll be worth owning in most standard fantasy leagues.

Hampus Lindholm– D- Anaheim Ducks (16 percent)

Lindholm has registered four assists in his last four games. He sees large amounts of ice time on the Ducks blue line, so opportunities to produce won’t be an issue for him. Lindholm has produced at a 0.48 points-per-game clip this season, which is beyond reasonable for a defenseman.

[More Fantasy: Rotoworld Hockey Podcast on All-Star Snubs]

Anthony Beauvillier– C/LW- New York Islanders (5 percent)

Beauvillier spent the bye week in the minors which clearly seemed to work for him, as he came back and had three points against the Rangers over the weekend. The fact that he played on a line with Mathew Barzal and Jordan Eberle makes him an intriguing add in deeper leagues.

Drop:

Brent Seabrook– D- Chicago Blackhawks (50 percent)

Seabrook scored in his first game back in the lineup after being a healthy scratch last week, but that doesn’t mean he’ll provide fantasy owners with strong production. If Hampus Lindholm is available in your league, it might be time for you to swap Seabrook for him.

Zach Parise– LW- Minnesota Wild (50 percent)

Parise finally made his regular season debut earlier this month after missing the first three months of the season with a back injury. The Wild forward has accumulated just one assist in his first seven games. It will take him time to find his legs, but there are other players that could provide strong fantasy value in the meantime.

[More Fantasy: Rotoworld’s Power Play Report]

Brendan Gallagher– RW- Montreal Canadiens (49 percent)

Gallagher is an incredibly hard worker that had a fine first half of the season on a mediocre Montreal team, but don’t be surprised if he comes back down to earth in the second half. His work rate will always be high, it’s just that his production will likely dip. Gallagher has just three goals in his last 15 games.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

The Buzzer: Barzal raises bar; McDavid’s happy birthday

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Players of the Night: 

Mathew Barzal, New York Islanders: Where do we begin? Barzal made some history on Saturday, recording two goals and three assists for his second five-point outing of the season.

Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins: Malkin had two goals and two assists as the Penguins downed the Detroit Red Wings 4-1 on Saturday. It’s the second time in as many games that Malkin has scored twice, and he’s been a big part of the Penguins winning their past three games, with five goals and eight points in the span.

Sean Couturier, Philadelphia Flyers: Couturier scored a pair of goals for the third straight game and added an assist for good measure as the Flyers won their fourth straight and 12th in their past 17.

Joonas Donskoi, San Jose Sharks: Donskoi scored two goals and one assist on Saturday, with his all-around effort on his second goal (see in the highlights below) earning him a mention among the day’s best.

Highlights of the Night: 

It doesn’t get much filthier than this. Mathew Barzal is something else:

Devan Dubnyk channeling Johnny Bower:

Donskoi made the save, then scored the goal that sent Sharks – Coyotes to OT:

Factoids of the Night: 

Nice way for Connor McDavid to celebrate his 21st birthday.

Meanwhile, Joe Thornton hits a mark McDavid hopes to match some day:

MISC:

Some heartwarming stuff.

Scores: 

Islanders 7, Rangers 2
Penguins 1, Red Wings 1
Wild 4, Jets 1
Bruins 4, Canadiens 3 (SO)
Flyers 5, Devils 3
Avalanche 4, Stars 1
Oilers 3, Golden Knights 2 (OT)
Ducks 4, Kings 2
Sharks 6, Coyotes 5 (OT)


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

The Buzzer: Anderson steals one for Sens; Seabrook scores in return

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Player Of The Night: Craig Anderson, Ottawa Senators: 

What a difference 24 hours makes.

On Tuesday night the Ottawa Senators were getting blown out by the Chicago Blackhawks in a game that saw Craig Anderson give up four goals on 26 shots in less than 30 minutes of action.

He still gave up three goals on Wednesday night and the Senators could have very easily been blown out again, but thanks to Anderson’s 45 saves they were able to leave Toronto with a 4-3 win over the Maple Leafs. The Senators were not particularly good on Wednesday, but Anderson was a game-changer and was able to keep his team in the game long enough to wait for Toronto to make a couple of crucial defensive mistakes that helped Ottawa pull off the win.

It is the second time in his past three starts that Anderson has had to make at least 45 saves in a Senators win (more on that in a minute), also doing it on Saturday in a win over the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Player Of The Night, Part Two: Devan Dubnyk, Minnesota Wild

While Anderson was stealing a game in Toronto for the Senators, Devan Dubnyk was having a similar night for the Minnesota Wild in Chicago. He only had to stop 34 out of 35 shots to help lead his team to a much-needed 2-1 win over the Blackhawks, but he played an equally big role in the result. Especially during the first period when the Blackhawk were skating circles around the Wild and Dubnyk did everything he could to keep his team in the game.

Welcome Back, Brent

You just had to know that when Brent Seabrook drew back into the Chicago Blackhawks lineup on Wednesday night after being a healthy scratch the night before that he was going to play some sort of a role in the game or make some kind of an impact. He did not waste much time. He scored the game’s opening goal 12:24 into the first period to give Chicago an early 1-0 lead.

The play had to withstand a coach’s challenge from Minnesota for a potential offside play, but there was not enough evidence to overturn. For Seabrook it was his second goal of the season and his first since the team’s 10-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins in the season opener all the way back on October 5. He had three points (one goal, two assists) that night. Before Wednesday’s game he had zero goals and eight assists in the 40 games that followed.

Highlight Of The Night

It came in a loss, and it did not result in a goal, but take a look at the stickhandling of Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews.

Factoid Of The Night

You could say that Craig Anderson likes to keep busy during games.

Scores

Ottawa Senators 4, Toronto Maple Leafs 3

Minnesota Wild 2, Chicago Blackhawks 1

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.