I am a contributing editor/writer/troublemaker for NBC's Pro Hockey Talk blog.
The Detroit Red Wings recalled Jimmy Howard from a conditioning stint in the AHL on Wednesday.
The intention is to get him back into NHL action, though the Red Wings didn’t tip their hand as to when exactly that might happen (the earliest opportunity, theoretically, would be tonight against the Boston Bruins).
Howard, 32, hasn’t played a game for the Red Wings since Dec. 20 largely due to injuries. His issues and Petr Mrazek‘s own up-and-down season have certainly been factors in the likely demise of Detroit’s remarkable playoff streak.
Head coach Jeff Blashill discussed the goalie situation and tonight’s game against the Bruins:
So far, the Boston Bruins have been trending up with Bruce Cassidy behind the bench, but they’ve also lost two of their last three.
With the Toronto Maple Leafs nipping at their heels for third in the Atlantic, the Bruins host the fading Detroit Red Wings, who lost to said Maple Leafs last night.
So, yes, this is one of those games that could really come back to bite the Bruins … but for a team in the “cellar,” the Red Wings still have some potential as spoilers.
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Even while facing unusual struggles, Henrik Lundqvist continues to hit milestones and climb up the NHL’s record books.
In the case of Tuesday, the New York Rangers’ 5-2 win against the Florida Panthers gave Lundqvist the 404th win of his distinguished career. In doing so, Lundqvist broke his tie with Grant Fuhr for 10th all-time in goalie victories.
There’s a chance he can rise up another spot in 2016-17, too:
1. Martin Brodeur – 691 wins
2. Patrick Roy – 551
3. Ed Belfour – 484
4. Curtis Joseph – 454
5. Roberto Luongo – 453
6. Terry Sawchuk – 447
7. Jacques Plante – 437
8. Tony Esposito – 423
9. Glenn Hall – 407
10. Lundqvist – 404
Doing this against the Panthers seems like a nice touch, as Roberto Luongo and Jaromir Jagr have been putting together impressive marks/records of their own at times this season.
If 404 wins is a little too “vanilla” for you, Lundqvist also did something else impressive if more obscure:
Ah, those specific stats are the best, aren’t they?
The Rangers also give themselves an outside chance to crawl into the second or third spot in the Metro, though the Penguins and Blue Jackets hold some significant advantages at the moment:
2. Blue Jackets – 90 points in 65 games (beat the Devils)
3. Penguins – 88 points in 64 games (inactive)
First wild card: Rangers – 88 points in 67 games
And, as Jeremy Roenick and Brian Boucher discussed on Monday, there are actually some positives if the Rangers finish in that first wild card spot (especially if it means that Lundqvist can rest and regain confidence):
Even if Mike Yeo downplays the emotional side of beating the team he once coached in his return to Minnesota, this is still a big win for the St. Louis Blues.
In edging the Wild 2-1 in regulation, the Blues are swinging the pendulum back in their favor. This marks their second straight win after they dropped five straight losses (which was preceded by a six-game winning streak).
David Perron and Vladimir Tarasenko scored to give the Blues a 2-0 lead, and luckily for Jake Allen, a late blooper goal didn’t wash away what was a strong night overall. Allen fell just short of two straight shutouts thanks to the goal below, but he still stopped 32 out of 33 shots.
The most obvious perk of this win comes in strengthening their grip on the West’s second wild card spot. With 71 standings points, their lead grows to three or more on the West’s bubble teams.
St. Louis is also in a more reasonable position to catch the Nashville Predators for third place in the Central, although that wouldn’t happen tonight.
The Blues play back-to-back games at home this weekend and then set off for a five-game road trip. Perhaps grinding out a win like this will power them to a confident showing through March, as it seems like they’re on a bit of a roll again.
Update: Nashville grabbed a “charity point” to get to 74, losing to the Ducks in a shootout.
Also, to his credit, Yeo admitted beating the Wild felt good.
Tonight’s overall outlook can vary depending upon how the East’s other wild card teams perform, but the Philadelphia Flyers held up their end of the bargain on Tuesday.
Even Radko Gudas‘ loudest proponents would be surprised by his one-goal, two-assist night, which helped Philly handle the Buffalo Sabres by a score of 6-3.
The Flyers put themselves in a solid spot with 70 standings points, also wounding the Sabres’ thin playoff hopes in the process. Philly enjoyed scoring from a varied committee, from obvious choices (Claude Giroux with a goal, though those haven’t come easily for him lately) to surprises like Jordan Weal‘s one-goal, one-assist offering.
(Jack Eichel crossed the 100-point barrier on Tuesday, but it wasn’t enough on Tuesday. More on the young star finishing at 101 with two goals and an assist here.)
With at least a point (3-0-1) in their last four games, the Flyers seem like they’re gathering steam heading into two big games as they visit the Maple Leafs on Thursday and the Bruins on Saturday.
Overall, it’s a tough road ahead – just three home games through March 26 – but we’ll see if they can fight through it for another strong finish.
Update: Both the Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Islanders won their respective games on Tuesday, so the Flyers didn’t climb, but they also did not slip.