Rangers pick up crucial points in divisional battle vs. Islanders

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Rick Nash scored the game winner at 2:50 of the third period as the New York Rangers edged the New York Islanders 2-1 in their final regular season meeting at Nassau Coliseum.

With the win, the Rangers (41-17-7) move to within one point of the Islanders (43-21-4) for top spot in the Metropolitan Division. The Rangers have four games in hand.

After losing the first three games in the season series, the Rangers won the final two to finish 2-3-0 against the Islanders this season.

Anders Lee scored his 23rd of the season to give the Islanders a 1-0 lead at 9:35 of the first period. With the goal, Lee extended his point streak to six games (three goals, three assists).

Kevin Hayes replied for the Rangers in the second with his 13th of the season.

Cam Talbot made 28 saves as the Rangers improved to 11-1-3 in their last 15 games and 12-2-3 since Henrik Lundqvist was sidelined by a vascular injury.

The win improved the Rangers to 54-63-8-2 in regular season play at Nassau Coliseum.

Kyle Okposo returned after missing 22 games due to a detached retina. He finished with three shots on goal in 18:33 of ice time.

Jaroslav Halak made 20 saves in the loss.

Ovechkin returns Saturday after one-game absence

Alex Ovechkin was regarded as a game-time decision for Saturday’s contest against Buffalo after being unable to play Minnesota on Thursday due to a lower-body injury. The final verdict is that he’ll be on the ice tonight, per the Washington Post’s Alex Prewitt.

The 29-year-old superstar forward participated in all of Washington’s first 65 games this season, scoring 43 goals and 67 points. Not including the lockout shortened 2013 campaign, he has taken part in a minimum of 72 contests in each season since his debut.

Prior to getting hurt, Ovechkin was on fire with five goals in the span of four contests. With a five-marker lead over the New York Rangers’ Rick Nash, Ovechkin is on course to claim his third straight Rocket Richard Trophy and the fifth of his career.

Rangers handle Predators, win in Yandle’s debut

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If the New York Rangers are “mortgaging their future,” at least their home looked like a mansion on the night of the trade deadline.

The Rangers defeated the Nashville Predators 4-1 on Monday, and while Rick Nash’s empty-netter inflated the score, New York looked more than comfortable against the NHL’s current standings leader.

Speaking of standings, the Rangers stepped into first place in the Metropolitan Division with this win.

They’re tied with the New York Islanders at 84 points, yet they have two games in hand and two more regulation/overtime wins. They’re not that far from the top spot in the East, either.

Really, all the numbers look pretty splendid for a team pushing the envelop. Their +43 goal differential is the best difference in the entire league right now. They’re now 8-1-1 in their last 10 games.

Even this win was more than just its 4-1 score, as the possession was clearly in the Rangers’ favor:

source:

(via Natural Stat Trick)

Keith Yandle didn’t really make much of an impact in his debut (-1 rating, three shots on goal in 19:41 time on ice), but clearly didn’t have to.

The other lingering question is about the Predators. Nashville has now lost three games in a row and five of its last seven, with just one regulation win in that span.

Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli could be labeled as the Preds’ trade deadline gains, but some might be a little more worried about GM David Poile staying put after a loss like this.

Five on waivers as trade deadline looms

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With the trade deadline just around the corner, Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Rob Zepp, Dallas Stars defenseman David Schlemko, Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Tim Erixon, Vancouver Canucks forward Brandon McMillan, and Washington Capitals forward Aaron Volpatti have all been placed on waivers, per TVA Sports Renaud Lavoie.

This is one case where the teams that are putting players on waivers is as noteworthy as the players themselves as some of them might not end up in the minors. However, by going this route, teams are gaining some extra roster flexibility should it be needed before the 3:00 p.m. ET trade deadline.

Zepp, 33, has a 5-2-0 record, 2.89 GAA, and .888 save percentage in 10 games this season. He comes with a $600,000 annual cap hit at the NHL level and his presence on this list means that there’s a rental backup goaltender available outside of the trade market should any team be interested.

Schlemko, 27, has a goal and four points in 25 games this season with Arizona and Dallas. He’s already been claimed once this season back on Jan. 3, but the Stars have barely used him since that date.

Erixon, 24, has a goal and six points in 27 games this season. In addition to Chicago, he’s also played for the Columbus Blue Jackets and New York Rangers. He’s a former first round pick (24th overall, 2009) and was involved in the Jackets-Rangers Rick Nash trade back in 2012. It’s worth noting that Chicago added defenseman Kimmo Timonen on Friday.

McMillan, 24, has a goal and three points in 53 contests with Arizona and Vancouver in 2014-15. He’s a native of British Columbia and was claimed off of waivers by the Canucks on Feb. 12.

Volpatti, 29, has missed most of the season due to a neck injury. That being said, he’s been used sparingly since his return as he’s only played with Washington on Feb. 3 and Feb. 14 this season.

Oddsmaker: Sidney Crosby no longer Hart Trophy favorite

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Although Sidney Crosby is on a three-game point streak, he went on a rough stretch — at least when measured against the incredibly high standard he’s held to — from Jan. 20 to Feb. 19 where he recorded four goals and seven points in 13 games.

That seems to have taken its toll as Crosby’s no longer the favorite to win the Hart Trophy based on the odds from online bookmaker Bovada:

Carey Price 5/2
John Tavares 5/2
Sidney Crosby 3/1
Ryan Getzlaf 5/1
Alex Ovechkin 6/1
Jakub Voracek 15/2
Rick Nash 15/1
Mark Giordano 20/1
Vladimir Tarasenko 20/1

No goaltender has won the Hart Trophy since Jose Theodore in 2001–02, but there’s no denying that Carey Price has been vital to the Montreal Canadiens’ success. Meanwhile, Tavares was the big mover as he had 20/1 odds in early February.

Ovechkin also saw his chances jump significantly, from 15/1 to 6/1 as he chases his third straight Rocket Richard Trophy. Voracek has fallen from 9/2 to 15/2 while Philadelphia Flyers teammate Claude Giroux has slid off the list entirely.