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I am a contributing editor/writer/troublemaker for NBC's Pro Hockey Talk blog.
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Erik Karlsson returns at a crucial time for Senators

The Ottawa Senators have lost four in a row and find themselves in a dogfight for Atlantic Division positioning, but there’s some good news: all-world defenseman Erik Karlsson is back tonight.

Karlsson’s been sidelined since March 28, but he’ll suit up against the Detroit Red Wings on Monday.

Other key games in the division include the Toronto Maple Leafs facing the Buffalo Sabres and the Montreal Canadiens getting a chance to clinch the Atlantic by beating the Florida Panthers.

Just look at how snug things are for the Senators, even ignoring – for a moment – the possibility of the Lightning possibly booting them out of the playoffs altogether.*

2. Bruins – 92 poitns in 79 games
3. Maple Leafs – 91 points in 77 games (37 ROW)

Senators – 91 points in 77 games

The worst-case scenario is unlikely for Ottawa, but falling behind in seeding is a very real threat. Getting Karlsson back against a Detroit Red Wings team that’s been awfully frisky lately could certainly help to stop the bleeding.

Karlsson’s 68 points easily leads the team in scoring, by the way.

* – The Lightning face long odds in that regard … but it isn’t impossible.

Iginla ties Sakic for 15th all-time in goals during Kings win

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) Jarome Iginla scored his 625th career goal and Jonathan Quick made 35 saves for his second shutout of the season as the Los Angeles Kings beat the Vancouver Canucks 2-0 on Friday night.

Tyler Toffoli also scored for Los Angeles, which is clinging to slim playoff hopes and now sits eight points behind Nashville for the second wild card in the Western Conference with five games remaining for each team.

Iginla’s milestone goal tied Joe Sakic for 15th place on the league’s all-time list.

Ryan Miller made 24 stops for Vancouver, which was eliminated from postseason contention last week and was shut out for the 10th time this season.

Iginla got the Kings on the board on the power play with 7:17 left in the second period by deflecting a shot from Alec Martinez past Miller for his 14th of the season and third goal in three games. It was also Iginla’s fourth game-winning goal of the season and the 101st of his career.

Acquired from Colorado prior to the NHL trade deadline, the 39-year-old has six goals in 14 games with Los Angeles after scoring just eight times in 61 contests with the Avalanche.

Toffoli doubled the Kings’ lead 3:50 later on a 3-on-2 rush, beating Miller high over the blocker with a perfect shot off the crossbar and in for his 19th.

The Canucks – now 2-8-2 over their last 12 games – had a great chance to jump in front less than two minutes into the second on a power play of their own, but rookie forward Brock Boeser, who came in with two goals in his first three NHL games, missed a wide-open net with Quick out of position.

The Kings were coming off a 4-1 victory in Calgary after picking up just one win over their last five (1-4-0), a stretch that helped put the club’s playoff hopes on the brink of elimination.

Quick, who missed 59 games earlier this season with a groin injury, picked up his 44th career shutout after going 4-4-0 over his last nine starts, with 16 goals-against over that span.

He made a nice pad save on Canucks defenseman Luca Sbisa from the slot about five minutes into the third.

Miller kept the Canucks in it midway through the period when he stopped Adrian Kempe all alone in front on a 2-on-1 break before Quick stoned Daniel Sedin moments later.

Vancouver held an early 6-0 lead in shots before Los Angeles forced Miller into a save, but Martinez rang a seeing-eye effort through traffic moments later that found iron and stayed out.

NOTES: Griffen Molino, who signed a two-year contract as a college free agent with Vancouver on Tuesday, made his NHL debut. The 23-year-old forward had 15 goals and 18 assists in 40 games with Western Michigan University this season. … Canucks F Drew Shore and brother Nick Shore, a forward with the Kings, played against each other in the NHL for the first time. Drew Shore picked up an assist on L.A.’s second goal. … Vancouver backup G Jacob Markstrom, who hasn’t played since injuring his right knee during the team’s skills competition in late February, will have surgery next week and is out for the year.

UP NEXT

Kings: Host Arizona on Sunday to open a four-game homestand before visiting Anaheim in the season finale.

Canucks: Host San Jose on Sunday in the opener of a home-and-home set.

Blues, Flames clinch playoff berths; final West spot down to Kings or Preds

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The Calgary Flames clinched a playoff berth by beating the San Jose Sharks 5-2 and the St. Louis Blues did the same by getting to overtime (but ultimately losing 2-1 via a shootout) to the Colorado Avalanche on Friday night.

The Blues have now made it to the playoffs six straight times since 2011-12. This is just the second time Calgary’s made it to the postseason since 2009-10.

It all makes for a pretty deal in Western Canada, especially if seeding pits the Flames against the Edmonton Oilers.

With that, there is just one Western Conference playoff spot still up for grabs. It comes down to either the Nashville Predators or Los Angeles Kings, with a huge advantage for Nashville:

Predators: 89 points in 77 games
Kings: 79 points in 76 games (in progress against the Canucks)

Barring a borderline-miraculous turnaround for Los Angeles, the West’s final stretch will revolve around jockeying for position.

The Flames could see quite a bit of movement in the congested top rankings of the Pacific. The Blues, meanwhile, hope to hold off the Predators for the third spot in the Central.

Blackhawks reach 50 wins for just second time in franchise history

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Remember when many, many smart hockey people believed that the Chicago Blackhawks would struggle this season? Do you recall the not-so-outrageous arguments that they might miss the playoffs altogether?

Well, much like people who wondered if Tom Brady was washed up, the Blackhawks have been making their critics look silly, especially lately.

The latest confirmation that 2016-17 is, indeed, another great season for Chicago came on Friday. After beating the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-1, the Blackhawks reached the 50-win plateau for just the second time.

It was another nice night for some of Chicago’s big guns, with Artemi Panarin supplying two goals and Marian Hossa grabbing the other.

The Blackhawks have four games remaining on their schedule. They can max out at 54 wins and 115 points.

Chicago hasn’t officially locked down the Central Division title, but it might be a formality at this point. The Minnesota Wild are currently at 98 points and would finish at 108 if they ran the table with five wins. As you can see, that’s a pretty small margin of error (and would assume a serious slump by the Blackhawks).

The Blue Jackets now find their lead over the Pittsburgh Penguins down to one standings point with both teams holding five more games on the season. Columbus can’t complain too much since the Blackhawks beat the Penguins in regulation earlier this week.

Tyson Jost’s grandfather cries tears of joy during his Avalanche debut

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It’s likely a heartening sight for Colorado Avalanche fans to get an early look at 2015 first-rounder Tyson Jost. Especially with Bob McKenzie dropping a Jonathan Toews comparison on NBCSN earlier this week.

As much as the Avalanche get a look at Jost from a cold, analytical standpoint … there’s also the emotional side of seeing Jost play in his first NHL game.

Jost’s grandfather cried tears of joy in seeing him play against the St. Louis Blues on Friday night, as you can see from these two great GIFs. It’s OK if it gets a little dusty in your given room, by the way.

The Avalanche ended up winning 2-1 via a shootout, but the Blues clinched a playoff spot in the process.