Push for the Playoffs: Jets, Oilers on collision course for First Round meeting

Push for the Playoffs will run every morning through the end of the 2020-21 NHL season. We’ll highlight the current playoff picture in both conferences, take a look at what the first-round matchups might look like, see who’s leading the race for the best odds in the draft lottery and more.

This week’s two-game set between the Jets and Oilers is part First Round North Division dress rehearsal, part fight for home-ice advantage.

Edmonton is winning the battle currently, up a point on Winnipeg following Monday’s 6-1 romp. The Oilers also have the advantage with two games in-hand on the Jets.

Whatever’s ailing the Jets right now needs to be fixed before the playoffs. Winnipeg has now dropped four straight and have been outscored 18-5 over that stretch. Mark Scheifele was benched during Saturday’s loss to Toronto and they just have not moved into “playoff hockey” mode yet.

“We missed the gear change coming off the road,” Jets head coach Paul Maurice said Monday night. “We need to make a decision based on the game that is being played now, not the game that was played two weeks ago. So that gear change happened and it’s happened with the two teams ahead of us in the standings in the division, and tonight it blew up on us.”

[Your 2020-21 NHL on NBC TV schedule]

Getting a win Wednesday night against their likely First Round opponent could go a long way to getting off to a strong start in their opening series. Edmonton has won six of their eight meetings this season and outscored Winnipeg 18-6 during their five consecutive wins over the Jets.

This bump has derailed a Jets team that was playing good hockey for most of the season. They have a six-point buffer in front of fourth-place Montreal, but with the Habs owning a game in-hand, more dropped points could send them to a First Round meeting with the Maple Leafs.

Winnipeg has eight games left in the regular season to pick up the pieces and get their confidence back.

“I’d say it’s shaken in the moment,” said Jets forward Andrew Copp. “But if we dig deep we can revert to some of the positives we’ve had over the course of this season and trick ourselves into feeling good. Yeah, temporarily shaken, but definitely not broken.”

IF PLAYOFFS STARTED TODAY (matchups by total points)

EAST DIVISION
1. Capitals vs. 4. Bruins
2. Penguins vs. 3 Islanders

NORTH DIVISION
1. Maple Leafs vs. 4. Canadiens
2. Oilers vs. 3. Jets

CENTRAL DIVISION
1. Hurricanes vs. 4. Predators
2. Panthers vs. 3 Lightning

(NOTE: Dallas currently holds a better points percentage than Nashville — .551 to .549.)

WEST DIVISION
1. Golden Knights vs. 4. Blues
2. Avalanche vs. 3. Wild

TODAY’S KEY GAMES
Blues vs. Wild, 7 p.m. ET (NBCSN livestream)
Maple Leafs vs. Canadiens, 8 p.m. ET
Oilers vs. Jets, 9 p.m. ET
Avalanche vs. Golden Knights, 9:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN livestream)

WEDNESDAY’S CLINCHING SCENARIO
• Toronto can clinch a playoff berth if they beat Montreal in regulation AND Ottawa tops Vancouver in regulation OR if the Maple Leafs win in overtime AND Ottawa beats Vancouver in regulation AND Edmonton-Winnipeg ends in regulation.

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via MoneyPuck)

Capitals – 99.98%
Penguins – 99.97%
Bruins – 98.3%
Islanders – 95.6%
Rangers – 6.1%
Flyers – 0%
Devils – eliminated
Sabres – eliminated

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via MoneyPuck)

Maple Leafs – 100%
Oilers – 99.96%
Jets – 99.6%
Canadiens – 89.3%
Flames – 8.5%
Canucks – 2.7%
Senators – 0%

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via MoneyPuck)

Hurricanes – Clinched
Panthers – Clinched
Lightning – Clinched
Predators – 58.5%
Stars – 40.8%
Blackhawks – 0.7%
Red Wings – eliminated
Blue Jackets – eliminated

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via MoneyPuck)

Golden Knights – Clinched
Avalanche – Clinched
Wild – Clinched
Blues – 68.7%
Coyotes – 21.4%
Kings – 6.9%
Sharks – 3%
Ducks – 0%

draft lottery
Getty Images

DRAFT LOTTERY PICTURE (via MoneyPuck)

Sabres – 17.7%
Ducks – 13.7%
Devils – 10.6%
Blue Jackets – 8.9%
Red Wings – 8.4%
Senators – 8.3%
Sharks – 5.8%
Kings – 5.3%
Canucks – 5.1%
Blackhawks – 3.5%
Coyotes – 3.3%
Flames – 3%
Flyers – 2.2%
Blues – 1.1%
Stars – 1.1%

ART ROSS TROPHY RACE
Connor McDavid, Oilers – 81 points
Leon Draisaitl, Oilers – 66
Nathan MacKinnon, Avalanche – 60
Patrick Kane, Blackhawks – 60
Mitch Marner, Maple Leafs – 59
Auston Matthews, Maple Leafs – 58
Brad Marchand, Bruins – 58

ROCKET RICHARD RACE
Auston Matthews, Maple Leafs – 34 goals
Connor McDavid, Oilers – 28
Mikko Rantanen, Avalanche – 26
Brad Marchand, Bruins – 26
Tyler Toffoli, Canadiens – 25
Alex Ovechkin, Capitals – 24
Aleksander Barkov, Panthers – 24

————

Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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    Golden Knights captain Mark Stone undergoes back surgery

    mark stone surgery
    Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA TODAY Sports
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    LAS VEGAS — Vegas Golden Knights captain Mark Stone is out indefinitely after undergoing back surgery in Denver, the club announced.

    The Knights termed the procedure as successful and that Stone “is expected to make a full recovery.”

    This is the second time in less than a year that Stone has had back surgery. He also had a procedure May 19, 2022, and Stone said in December this was the best he had felt in some time.

    But he was injured Jan. 12 against the Florida Panthers, and his absence has had a noticeable effect on the Knights. They have gone 1-5-2 without Stone, dropping out of first place in the Pacific Division into third.

    Stone is second on the team in goals with 17 and in points with 38.

    Devils associate coach Andrew Brunette charged with DUI

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    DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. — New Jersey Devils associate coach and former Florida Panthers head coach Andrew Brunette was arrested in South Florida while driving home from a bar in his golf cart, authorities said.

    Brunette, 49, was pulled over just blocks from the ocean in the Deerfield Beach area, north of Fort Lauderdale, according to a Broward Sheriff’s Office arrest report. He was charged with one count of driving under the influence and two counts of disobeying a stop or yield sign. Brunette was released on $500 bond.

    The Devils said in a statement that the team was aware of Brunette’s arrest and gathering additional information.

    According to the arrest report, a deputy was in the process of giving Brunette’s illegally parked golf cart a ticket around midnight when Brunette walked out of a nearby bar and told the deputy he was about to leave. The deputy said Brunette seemed unsteady on his feet and slurred his speech, and when he was joined by his wife, the deputy said he overheard the wife tell Brunette not to drive while the deputy was there.

    The deputy remained in the area and reported watching the couple drive away about 17 minutes later, according to the report. The deputy said he watched the golf cart run two stop signs before pulling Brunette over on a residential street about a mile away from his home. According to the report, Brunette had difficulty following instructions during a field sobriety test before eventually quitting and asking for an attorney. He also declined to take a breathe test to measure his blood-alcohol level, officials said.

    Online jail and court records didn’t list an attorney for Brunette.

    Brunette is in his first season as associate coach of the Devils. He was interim coach of the Florida Panthers last season after taking over when Joel Quenneville resigned for his connection to a 2010 Chicago Blackhawks sexual abuse scandal.

    The Panthers fired Brunette after they lost in the second round of the playoffs last spring despite him leading them to the Presidents’ Trophy as the league’s top team during the regular season.

    The Sudbury, Ontario, native played 1,159 NHL games for Washington, Nashville, Atlanta, Minnesota, Colorado and Chicago from 1995-2012. He was a Wild assistant in 2015-16 and worked on Florida’s staff from 2019-2022.

    Stars aligned with new coach DeBoer, Nill-constructed roster

    Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
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    DALLAS — General manager Jim Nill sensed things were coming together for the Dallas Stars even before the season started with new coach Pete DeBoer and a roster mixed with proven veterans, up-and-coming young players, and even a teenaged center.

    At the NHL’s All-Star break, after 51 games together, these Stars are leading the Western Conference.

    “Every year you start, you put a team together, and there’s always going to be question marks,” said Nill, in his 10th season as the Stars GM. “You have ideas how you think you’re going to come together, but there’s always the unknown. . This year has been one of those years where right from the start, you could just see everything was kind of jelling.”

    The Stars (28-13-10, 66 points) have their trio of 2017 draft picks that just keep getting better: All-Star winger Jason Robertson, goaltender Jake Oettinger and defenseman Miro Heiskanen. The seemingly ageless Joe Pavelski, at 38 and already re-signed for next season, is on the high-scoring top line with Robertson and point-a-game winger Roope Hintz. Wyatt Johnston, their first-round pick in 2021 and half Pavelski’s age, has 13 goals.

    There is also the resurgence of six-time All-Star forward Tyler Seguin two years after hip surgery and 33-year-old captain Jamie Benn, who already has more goals (19) than he did playing all 82 games last season.

    The Stars have a plus-40 goal differential, which is second-best in the NHL. They are averaging 3.37 goals per game, more than a half-goal better than last season when they were the only team to make the playoffs after being outscored in the regular season. They are also allowing fewer goals, and have improved on power plays and penalty kills.

    “Where we sit at this break, I think guys are happy with that,” Seguin said, before being asked the keys to the Stars leading the West and on pace for a 100-point season with their new coach.

    “Our style, our team speed, our puck speed, being predictable. All the clichés, knowing where the puck’s going. Really how we play the five-man unit,” he said. “Our pace this year, it’s been a lot quicker. There’s been some solid depth scoring this year while we’ve got one of the best lines in hockey.”

    The Stars went into the break on their only three-game losing streak of the season, all 3-2 overtime losses at home.

    “Those aren’t real losses,” said DeBoer, who twice has gone to the Stanley Cup Final in his first season with a new team. “I’m happy where we’re at. I like how we’re playing.”

    Plus, Dallas won’t have to worry in the playoffs about 3-on-3 hockey, which has been the only real stain on their season so far. Only one team has more than its 10 losses after regulation.

    “We’ve played a lot of good hockey. We’ve made a lot of good strides in our game,” DeBoer said. “We still have another level we have to get to when we get back, but there are a lot of good things that have happened. They’ve worked to have us where we are right now in the standings. Good spot to be in.”

    The Stars have 31 games left in the regular season. The first four after the break at home, like the last four before their week-long hiatus.

    Robertson’s 33 goals rank sixth in the NHL, and the 23-year-old has the same number of assists while averaging 1.29 points a game even after he missed most of training camp before signing a four-year, $31 million contract. Pavelski has 48 points (14 goals, 34 assists) while playing every game, and Hintz 46 points (20 goals, 26 assists) in only 43 games.

    Oettinger, who is 21-7 in regulation, has a .923 save percentage and 2.26 goals against average since signing his three-year, $12 million contract. That deal came after 223 saves in a seven-game playoff series against Calgary last May, capped by 64 in the series finale that went to overtime.

    Nill said Robertson’s production has improved even with the league adjusting to the high-scoring forward, and that Oettinger is proving to be one of the league’s best goalies. But they are just part of what has been a tremendous team effort.

    “They kind of had that mojo right from the start, and it was kind of this team’s got the right mix,” Nill said. “It’s come together well, and it’s shown in the standings. It’s been good to watch.”

    Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

    Ilya Mikheyev
    Bob Frid/USA TODAY Sports
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    VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

    Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

    Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

    Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.