Southeast Division Watch (February 21)

Every week, we’ll provide updates for each division. The biggest contenders and/or closest races will receive the greatest amount of attention.

Bold = playoff contender; Italics = likely lottery fodder.

Southeast Division outlook (February 21 -27)

1. Tampa Bay Lightning (34-18-7 for 75 pts; 59 Games Played)

Current streak: Three straight losses.

Week ahead: Home vs. Phoenix (Wednesday), home vs. New Jersey (Friday) and @ NY Rangers (Sunday.)

Thoughts: After a bad week, the Lightning are now only 5-3-2 in the first 10 games of their mammoth 12-game homestand. That being said, two wins would mean that they earned 16 out of a possible 24 points. They need to stock them up, because the Capitals are starting look like their old, dangerous selves again.

2. Washington Capitals (31-19-10 for 72 pts; 60 GP)

Current streak: One win.

Week ahead: @ Pittsburgh (Mon), home vs. Rangers (Fri), @ NY Islanders (Sat).

Thoughts: Tonight’s game against the Penguins will determine how this road trip (currently 2-2-0) went, but Tampa Bay’s stumbles dictates that it wasn’t a disaster. The Lightning still have the advantage, though.

3. Carolina Hurricanes (28-24-8 for 64 pts; 60 GP)

Current streak: One loss.

Week ahead: Home vs. Rangers (Tues), home vs. Pittsburgh (Fri) and @ Montreal (Sat).

Thoughts: The Canes still have plenty of space in front of the surging Devils, but they didn’t make a compelling statement about their superiority by losing to them twice last week. They need to eke out points against three teams currently above them in the Eastern Conference standings this week or they might find themselves looking up at Buffalo or Atlanta.

4. Atlanta Thrashers (25-25-10 for 60 pts; 60 GP)

Current streak: Three losses.

Week ahead: @ Buffalo (Wed), home vs. Florida (Fri) and home vs. Toronto (Sun).

Thoughts: It hasn’t been a very happy 2011 for the Thrashers, unless you’re Dustin Byfuglien’s accountant. They only have five wins in 19 games since the new year began.

5. Florida Panthers (25-27-7 for 57 pts; 59 GP)

Current streak: One loss.

Week ahead: @ Ottawa (Wed), @ Atlanta (Fri) and home vs. New Jersey (Sat).

Thoughts: The Panthers aren’t totally out of the playoff run right now, but they shouldn’t be buyers during the trade deadline either. In fact, it would probably be wise if they tried to get something for Tomas Vokoun, unless they decide that he’s still their goalie of the (immediate) future.

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