Just about halfway through the regular season, the Southeast Division race is shaping up to be a tight one. As the season enters the final stretch with the second half of play, teams will be looking to either add to or subtract from their rosters in order to either make a strong playoff push or simply build for the future.
We’ll see how it all plays out, but for now, here are the rumblings from the past two weeks across the Southeast:
SOUTHEAST DIVISION STANDINGS, ENTERING WEDNESDAY’S ACTION
Carolina 13-8-1 27 Points
Winnipeg 10-11-1 21 Points
Tampa Bay 10-12-1 21 Points
Washington 9-11-1 19 Points
Florida 7-11-5 19 Points
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
The Bolts finished up a four-game road trip on Tuesday that saw the team take two of a possible eight points, with its lone win coming in the finale with a 5-2 win over the New Jersey Devils that helped the club snap a five-game losing streak.
The Lightning will now play each of their next two at home, as well as five of the next six.
Even though injuries have occurred as of late, the Bolts’ young players from Syracuse of the American Hockey League have come in and made a strong impression.
Recently, the club recalled both Pierre-Cedric Labrie and Brendan Mikkelson up from a conditioning stint with the Crunch, as well as goaltender Cedrick Desjardins to back up Anders Lindback while Mathieu Garon recovers from an injury. Ondrej Palat and Alex Killorn also continue to find the score sheet for the Lightning with both Ryan Malone and Benoit Pouliot out of the lineup.
Speaking of injuries, Ryan Malone is expected to be back soon, while Benoit Pouliot remains out with an upper body injury and was placed on Injured Reserve, retroactive to March 2. Mathieu Garon’s injury, meanwhile, is not believed to be anything major and he is not expected to be out long.
Goals: Stamkos (17), Conacher (7), St. Louis (6)
Assists: St. Louis (24), Stamkos (17), Purcell (17)
Points: Stamkos (34), St. Louis (30), Purcell (21)
Thursday, March 7 vs. Winnipeg
Saturday, March 9 vs. Montreal
Tuesday, March 12 at Florida
The Hurricanes have soared to the top of the Southeast Division standings, entering Wednesday on a four-game win streak.
Remarkable, too, that the Hurricanes have accomplished such a feat with personnel changing in and out of the lineup due to injuries and call-ups.
With goaltender Cam Ward reported to be out for six to eight weeks with a third-degree MCL sprain, the duties in net will now be forced upon former Lightning netminder Dan Ellis, in tandem with Justin Peters.
The good news for Carolina is that Joni Pitkanen, Tim Gleason and Tim Brent have all been activated from Injured Reserve and are healthy, while the Canes also brought up Brett Sutter from Charlotte of the AHL to add in to the forward mix, and called up Michal Jordan to fill in on the back end.
Forward Zac Dalpe and defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani were each sent down to Charlotte, in addition.
Goals: E. Staal (12), Tlusty (11), Skinner (8)
Assists: Semin (17), E. Staal (16), J. Staal (11)
Points: E. Staal (28), Semin (23), Tlusty (18)
Thursday, March 7 vs. Montreal
Saturday, March 9 vs. New Jersey
Tuesday, March 12 at Washington
Florida rebounded with a 4-1 win over division-rival Winnipeg on Tuesday to snap a three-game skid, however still remain in last place in the division.
To make matters worse, the team received news that forward Stephen Weiss will miss the remainder of the season due to wrist surgery.
The Panthers also recalled goaltender Jacob Markstrom to replace the injured Jose Theodore, as well as defenseman Nolan Yonkman to bolster the blue line in the absence of Dmitry Kulikov, who is on Injured Reserve.
In addition, Jonathan Huberdeau received NHL Rookie of the Month honors for the month of February, edging out Lightning center Cory Conacher, Panthers teammate Drew Shore and Dallas Stars left wing Antoine Roussel for the award.
Goals: Huberdeau (11), Kopecky (9), Campbell (6)
Assists: Fleischmann (12), Campbell (10), Shore (8)
Points: Fleischmann (17), Huberdeau (16), Campbell (16)
Thursday, March 7 at Washington
Friday, March 8 vs. Winnipeg
Sunday, March 10 vs. Montreal
After a slow start, and albeit being fourth out of five teams in the division standings, Washington has won two straight and four of its past five as it begins to take shape midway through the season.
Washington begins a stretch Thursday where it plays three of the next four on home ice, which could help them pull away from Florida and catch up to Tampa Bay and Winnipeg if the current winning trend continues.
Earlier this week, the Capitals signed and recalled defenseman Steven Olesky, who has recorded two goals, 12 assists and 151 penalty minutes in 55 games with Hershey of the AHL this season. At the time of the recall, he led the Bears and ranked third among AHL defensemen in penalty minutes.
Washington also bettered their roster by claiming Aaron Volpatti off waivers from the Vancouver Canucks.
Volpatti, 27, has recorded one goal and 28 penalty minutes in 16 games with Vancouver this season. The native of Revelstoke, British Columbia, ranked second on Vancouver in penalty minutes this season and has collected three goals, one assist and 81 penalty minutes in 54 career NHL games with the Canucks.
Goals: Brouwer (9), Ribeiro (8), Ovechkin (8)
Assists: Ribeiro (17), Backstrom (17), Ovechkin (9)
Points: Ribeiro (25), Backstrom (19), Ovechkin (17)
Thursday, March 7 vs. Florida
Saturday, March 9 at New York Islanders
Sunday, March 10 vs. New York Rangers
The Jets have been earning points lately, as they’ve won three of their past five, although have dropped two straight.
To make matters worse, both of those defeats came at the hands of division opponents, affording them key points in the standings while the Jets themselves came away empty-handed.
Winnipeg is currently on a four-game road trip, with three contests still to play. The trip started out, however, with a 4-1 loss to the Panthers, but the team looks to rebound to get back on the winning side of things.
Last week, the Jets called up Derek Meech, 28, who has played in 46 games with the IceCaps this season, recording 23 points while leading all defensemen in points.
Goals: Ladd (12), Kane (9), Wheeler (7)
Assists: Enstrom (11), Wheeler (10), Little (10)
Points: Ladd (21), Kane (18), Wheeler (17)
Thursday, March 7 at Tampa Bay
Friday, March 8 at Florida
Sunday, March 10 at New Jersey
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