With the NHL trade deadline now over, and approximately just two weeks remaining throughout the regular season, teams spread out all over the league are looking to make one strong, final push towards the postseason, including in the Southeast Division, where the standings still remain tightly bunched.
Here is some news, as well as a few notes, recapping all the action in the Southeast Division in recent weeks:
SOUTHEAST DIVISION STANDINGS, ENTERING PLAY ON THURSDAY, APRIL 10
Washington Capitals 21-17-2 44 Points
Winnipeg Jets 20-19-2 42 Points
Tampa Bay Lightning 17-20-2 36 Points
Carolina Hurricanes 16-21-2 34 Points
Florida Panthers 13-20-6 32 Points
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
The Bolts will wrap up a two-game homestand on Thursday, after earning a win in the first contest on Tuesday in a 3-2 win over the Ottawa Senators.
Tampa Bay has an important road trip coming up, as after Thursday’s matchup, the team will head out on a four-game road trip that includes a pair of contests against division-rivals Washington and Winnipeg, each of which could potentially carry with it playoff implications.
The Lightning remain six points out of the final playoff spot as of today, but nevertheless made a big splash at the trade deadline in addition to acquiring a seventh-round pick for Marc-Andre Bergeron, as the team also acquired Ben Bishop from the Senators in exchange for Cory Conacher.
The two faced off last night against their former clubs, with Bishop making 31 saves to get his second victory in four games in a Bolts sweater.
It seems to be a good deal for both teams, as Bishop has performed well so far in four games with the Bolts, and is not expected to be just a short-term solution. At the time of his acquisition, general manager Steve Yzerman made it clear that his intention is to sign Bishop in the offseason and have him perform in tandem with Anders Lindback for next year and possibly for years to come.
The infusion of youth continues to pay dividends as well for Tampa Bay, as Mark Barberio made his NHL debut last night against Ottawa, Matt Taormina got a game in as well this past week, and the team continues to develop its young prospects, as 2012 first round pick Slater Koekkoek and 2008 draft pick Luke Witkowski, in addition to forward Tanner Richard, were each inked to contracts last week.
Goals: Stamkos (26), St. Louis (9), Lecavalier (9)
Assists: St. Louis (40), Stamkos (24), Purcell (22)
Points: Stamkos (50), St. Louis (49), Purcell (30)
Thursday, April 11 vs. Pittsburgh
Saturday, April 13 at Washington
Sunday, April 14 at Buffalo
The Hurricanes played at home last night to the tune of a 5-3 loss against the Pittsburgh Penguins, but alternate each of their next pair of games on the road and at home, with no real consistency in their schedule for the remainder of the regular season.
Once the Southeast Division leader, Carolina has fallen fast, as the Hurricanes now find themselves eight points out of playoff position.
Carolina’s play recently has faltered, as the team has racked up losses in six consecutive games and has gone 1-9-0 in its last 10 outings. To make matters worse, it lost defenseman Joni Pitkanen to season-ending injury last week.
With no real major move at the trade deadline, Carolina instead spent a lot of time activating players from Injured Reserve, including Justin Faulk, Bobby Sanguinetti, Dan Ellis and Chad LaRose.
In addition, a myriad of players including Zac Dalpe, Brett Bellemore, Tim Wallace and John Muse were either sent down or recalled to or from Charlotte of the AHL.
The Hurricanes, though, did bolster their defense in acquiring Marc-Andre Bergeron and also dealt Jussi Jokinen to the Penguins in exchange for a conditional 2013 sixth or seventh round draft pick from Pittsburgh.
Goals: Tlusty (17), E. Staal (16), Semin (10)
Assists: Semin (26), E. Staal (26), J. Staal (15)
Points: E. Staal (42), Semin (36), Tlusty (27)
Thursday, April 11 at Washington
Saturday, April 13 vs. Boston
Tuesday, April 16 at Ottawa
The Bolts’ in-state rivals remain in last place in the Eastern Conference, but at least have shown some fight lately, closing the gap in the Southeast Division standings.
The Panthers have been decimated by injuries to key players this year, perhaps more so than any other team, but have managed to win four of their past five games to bring their point total to 32 points, just four behind the Lightning in the standings.
The road, however, only gets more challenging, as the team plays just three of its final nine regular season games at home.
TJ Brennan has played an integral part in the Panthers lineup as of late, recording five points in 10 games since coming over from Buffalo in the middle of March.
Florida continues to foster its future prospects such as Brennan, as highly-regarded hopeful Nick Bjugstad also made his NHL debut this past Saturday vs. Washington. In addition, the Panthers also entered into an entry-level contract with defenseman Jonathan Racine, as Florida continues to build for its future.
Goals: Kopecky (15), Matthias (14), Huberdeau (13)
Assists: Fleischmann (18), Campbell (16), Huberdeau (14)
Points: Huberdeau (27), Kopecky (26), Fleischmann (26)
Thursday, April 11 at Winnipeg
Saturday, April 13 vs. Pittsburgh
Tuesday, April 16 at New York Islanders
There has been no hotter team in the NHL as of late than the Capitals.
Washington, after a slow start to the season, has surged to the top of the division standings, going 8-1-1 in its past 10 games.
The team, too, perhaps has the hottest player as well, as Alex Ovechkin has caught fire recently, scoring 16 goals since March 17, which is the most by any player in the NHL in that span.
Ovechkin was also named the NHL’s First Star of the Week on Monday for his performance recently.
In preparation for the playoffs, Washington acquired Martin Erat and Michael Latta from Nashville in exchange for 2012 draft pick Filip Forsberg.
Erat, 31, recorded 21 points (four goals, 17 assists) and 26 penalty minutes in 36 games with Nashville this season and ranked tied for first on Nashville in points and led the team in assists at the time of the trade.
Latta, 21, ranks second on the Milwaukee Admirals (AHL) in points (34) and first in assists (26) among active players. He compiled a plus-9 rating and 184 penalty minutes (led the team) in 67 games played this season.
Goals: Ovechkin (26), Brouwer (13), Ribeiro (12)
Assists: Backstrom (36), Ribeiro (26), Ovechkin (18)
Points: Ovechkin (44), Backstrom (42), Ribeiro (38)
Thursday, April 11 vs. Carolina
Saturday, April 13 vs. Tampa Bay
Tuesday, April 16 vs. Toronto
The Jets are in the midst of a six-game home stand, which could prove beneficial to the club as they continue to battle the Capitals for first place in the Southeast.
Winnipeg has hit a lull lately, winning only two games of its past seven, but remain just two points behind the Capitals.
A series of minor moves has seen fluctuations in personnel lately, as Patrice Cormier and Aaron Gagnon were reassigned and recalled, respectively, to the Jets AHL affiliate in St. John’s.
The team also agreed to terms with 2012 draft pick Jacob Trouba as well as Juho Olkinuora, but perhaps made its most significant move recently by claiming Mike Santorelli off waivers from the Panthers.
Goals: Ladd (15), Wheeler (15), Kane (14)
Assists: Ladd (21), Little (19), Wheeler (16)
Points: Ladd (36), Wheeler (31), Kane (29)
Thursday, April 11 vs. Florida
Tuesday, April 16 vs. Tampa Bay
Thursday, April 18 vs. Carolina
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