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Push for the Playoffs: Big game between Predators and Wild

Push for the Playoffs will run every morning through the end of the 2019-20 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.

Plenty of teams face playoff implications on Tuesday, but the Predators and Wild rank among those with the most urgency. So, in taking on each other, two teams on similarly bumpy paths try to push the other off-road.

Nashville might feel especially dazed despite needing to push for the playoffs.

To start, they must quickly shake off a stunning 8-3 loss to the Oilers from Monday. Pekka Rinne and the Predators imploded during a cataclysmic third period where Edmonton scored five goals in less than six minutes. John Hynes was not pleased with the Predators’ (lack of) pushback.

“We didn’t come out with any intensity,” Hynes said of his team’s effort in the third period, via The Tennessean. “No emotion. Lackadaisical with the puck. Soft in puck battles.

“That’s something we’re going to have to discuss (Tuesday), how we come out in a tie game at home and have zero passion, focus, intensity level, (with the) game on the line. Lots of time you like to give your opponent credit, but I thought the third period for us was no good.”

On a more personal note, the Predators also must try to maintain focus after tornadoes caused casualties and heavy damage in the Nashville area.

The Wild saw their own recent loss boil down to brief-but-blistering breakdowns, so both teams must work to head into a significant test with the right mindset. A regulation win for either team would be big for their Push for the Playoffs.

IF PLAYOFFS STARTED TODAY

EASTERN CONFERENCE
Bruins vs. Blue Jackets
Capitals vs. Islanders
Lightning vs. Maple Leafs
Flyers vs. Penguins

WESTERN CONFERENCE
Blues vs. Predators
Golden Knights vs. Canucks
Avalanche vs. Stars
Oilers vs. Flames

TODAY’S GAMES WITH PLAYOFF CONTENDERS
Canadiens at Islanders, 7 p.m. ET
Blues at Rangers, 7 p.m. ET
Senators at Penguins, 7 p.m. ET
Bruins at Lightning, 7:30 p.m. ET (watch live on NBCSN)
Predators at Wild, 8 p.m. ET
Sabres at Jets, 8 p.m. ET
Ducks at Blackhawks, 8:30 p.m. ET
Oilers at Stars, 8:30 p.m. ET
Devils at Golden Knights, 10 p.m. ET
Maple Leafs at Sharks, 10:30 p.m. ET

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES(Via Hockey Reference)
Bruins: 100 percent
Lightning: 100
Capitals: 99.9
Flyers: 97.6
Penguins: 93.1
Maple Leafs: 87.8
Islanders: 81.2
Hurricanes: 57.2
Blue Jackets: 34
Rangers: 29.1
Panthers: 18.2
Canadiens: 1.4
Sabres: 0.5
Devils: 0
Senators: 0
Red Wings: out

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (Via Hockey Reference)
Avalanche: 100 percent
Blues: 100
Stars: 99.7
Golden Knights: 96.1
Oilers: 94.7
Canucks: 81.4
Flames: 63.7
Wild: 48
Predators: 46.2
Coyotes: 3.7
Jets: 29.7
Blackhawks: 7.8
Ducks: 0
Sharks: 0
Kings: 0

THE DRAFT LOTTERY PICTURE
Red Wings – 18.5 percent
Kings – 13.5 percent
Senators – 11. 5 percent
Ducks – 9.5 percent
Senators – 8.5 percent*
Devils – 7.5 percent
Blackhawks – 6.5 percent
Sabres – 6 percent
Canadiens – 5 percent
Devils – 3.5 percent**
Jets – 3 percent
Wild – 2.5 percent
Panthers – 2 percent
Rangers – 1.5 percent
Blue Jackets – 1 percent

(* SJ’s 2020 first-round pick owned by OTT)
(** ARZ’s lottery-protected 2020 first-round pick owned by NJ. If top three, moves to 2021)

ART ROSS RACE
Leon Draisaitl, Oilers – 107 points
Connor McDavid, Oilers – 94 points
David Pastrnak, Bruins – 91 points
Artemi Panarin, Rangers – 90 points
Nathan MacKinnon, Avalanche – 86 points

ROCKET RICHARD RACE
David Pastrnak, Bruins – 47 goals
Alex Ovechkin, Capitals – 45 goals
Auston Matthews, Maple Leafs – 45 goals
Leon Draisaitl, Oilers – 43 goals
Sebastian Aho, Hurricanes – 36 goals

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Watch Evgeni Malkin hit the century mark

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The Pittsburgh Penguins suffered a 5-3 loss to the New York Islanders on Wednesday, but Evgeni Malkin did improve his chances of winning the Hart Trophy by reaching the 100-point mark. You can check out the play below.

Malkin has missed seven games this season, but no one is even close to him in terms of points. That being said, Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos and Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist could both give him a run for his money in the Hart Trophy vote.

Is this Evgeni Malkin’s best work yet?

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Evgeni Malkin is one of the league’s most irresistible forces right now – even back-to-back games can’t slow him down for good.

After scoring the last two goals in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ big win against the New York Rangers on Thursday, Geno erupted in the third period to help his team overcome a 4-2 deficit against the Montreal Canadiens. Malkin scored the game-tying goal on a laser beam of a shot and then collected the shootout winner as Pittsburgh topped the Habs 5-4 (SO).

Tonight’s goal ups Malkin’s league-leading points total to 55, which is especially impressive because he’s played in just 40 games. (Current runner-up Henrik Sedin has 52 points in 47 contests.) You can break up Geno’s recent work into scary-good chunks, but I’d say going back to Nov. 20 is a solid idea:

Malkin in the last 27 games: 20 goals, 21 assists for 41 points with a +10 rating and 132 shots on goal. Most recently, Malkin has eight goals and 10 points in his last six contests.

That’s some ridiculous stuff, prompting onlookers to boast about his swagger and forcing me to wonder: where does this rank with the gifted center’s all-time best work?

source: API asked folks on Twitter how “2011-12 Malkin compares to Art Ross Malkin” and those who responded ranked his best runs in an interesting way.

1. “Conn Smythe Malkin.”
2. “Current Malkin.”
3. “Art Ross Malkin.”

Malkin earned the Art Ross and Conn Smythe in the same world-beating 2008-09 season, but for the sake of fun, let’s look at those “three Malkins” through the simplest of stats.

“Current Malkin”: 40 Games Played: 25 goals, 30 assists for 55 points (1.375 per game)
“Art Ross Malkin”: 82 GP: 35 goals, 78 assists for 113 points (1.378 per game)
“Conn Smythe Malkin”: 24 GP: 14 goals, 22 assists for 36 points (1.5 points per game)

Seriously, Malkin scored 1.5 points per game in the playoffs that year.

Looking at the numbers, it’s clear that Malkin is approaching the level that some worried he’d never reach again after he struggled a bit with fatigue and injuries 2009-10 and 2010-11. Then again, context – minus Sidney Crosby, plus James Neal – could prompt some to believe that he’s at a new level of excellence.

However his work stacks up to his greatest hits, most hockey fans have been delighted to watch Malkin return to his superhuman form of old – unless he’s rumbling down the ice against their own team.

Pavel Datsyuk climbs the scoring ranks

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For several years, Pavel Datsyuk was considered something of a hockey connoisseur’s Hart Trophy pick. Despite scoring at a great rate in just about every season, he always seemed resigned to settle for a Selke Trophy because Datsyuk fell a few strides short of being a top scorer.

It seemed that would happen again this season, but all of a sudden the ludicrously slick forward is making a meteoric rise up the scoring ranks, as Ansar Khan discusses here.

With 11 goals and 30 assists in his last 30 games, Datsyuk’s 51 overall points ties him with Steven Stamkos and Joffrey Lupul for third place overall in the NHL.

The Sedin twins and Evgeni Malkin will surely give Datsyuk everything he can handle in the Art Ross Trophy race, but considering his fantastic two-way play and eye-grabbing style, one cannot help but wonder if he’ll finally get serious Hart consideration from the guys who cast the ballots.

Who’s your early NHL MVP, then?

Corey Perry, Daniel Sedin and Martin St. Louis named Hart Trophy finalists; Who wins?

There are plenty of awards to shoot for in the NHL, but the Hart Trophy is easily the biggest. It’s the league’s MVP award, so reading its list of winners is a quick guide to the players who sat atop the NHL in a given season.

The NHL announced the top three nominees for the 2010-11 season: Anaheim Ducks winger Corey Perry, Vancouver Canucks forward Daniel Sedin and Martin St. Louis of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Here’s a quick rundown of their superlative seasons.

Perry: No doubt about it, Perry had the hottest second half of any player in the NHL, scoring 19 goals in his final 16 games. The divisive Ducks winger was the only person to reach the 50-goal plateau this season, earning himself the Maurice Richard Trophy in the process. One interesting category that sets him apart from Daniel Sedin – his main competition for the MVP trophy – is time on ice. Perry was second among forwards with an average of 22:18 minutes on ice, including 1:38 of shorthanded time. That’s almost four more minutes per game than Sedin’s 18:38 total and six seconds of shorthanded time per game.

If you judge value by how much a player is used, Perry wins that margin by a substantial amount.

Sedin: Perry has his pluses, but Sedin’s +30 was the second highest plus/minus total among NHL forwards. He also lead the NHL in the all-important points category, taking home the Art Ross Trophy with 104 points (five more than St. Louis and six more than Perry). He was also the best player on the best team in the NHL. The question is: will voters allow him to match his twin Henrik Sedin, who won the Hart last season (as you can see from this post’s main photo, by the way)?

St. Louis: The Lightning’s pint-sized star is the dark horse of this race, but that shouldn’t camouflage another outstanding season by St. Louis. He finished second in the league in scoring with 99 points, getting stronger while his much-ballyhooed linemate Steven Stamkos sagged. That’s the thing about St. Louis, though. While Tampa Bay hits peaks and valleys, he’s almost always a world-class player and person.

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So now that you’re caught up to speed about the three finalists, tell us which player you think is most deserving. Should it be the polarizing (and pulverizing) force in Perry, the scoring leader in Sedin or the undersized brilliance of St. Louis? Let us know by voting in the poll and sharing your thoughts in the comments.