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AROUND THE RINK is a new weekly hockey segment on the NHL and all of its teams. Every Wednesday we go over what’s new with your favorite teams, your favorite players, as well as the crazy things going on within the National Hockey League.

The St. Louis Blues have risen to the top of the Western Conference standings, only a few months after slipping to 13th in the West and being forced to make a coaching change

Eastern Conference

Boston Bruins: The Bruins have been reeling as of late, but defeated a re-energized Toronto team last night 5-4. It’s hard to see this team catching the Rangers for the number one spot, so it’s very likely the Bruins will end up the number 2 seed come playoff time.

Buffalo Sabres: The Sabres had an impressive Western road-trip, when they went 3-0 against the Ducks, Sharks, and Canucks before finally falling to the Jets Monday night in Winnipeg. Should be good for their confidence that they can defeat Western Conference teams, because Eastern Conference teams are sure giving them a hard time.

Carolina Hurricanes: It’s the beginning of March, and the Carolina Hurricanes remain the only team to not win a game when it comes down to the shootout.

Florida Panthers: It’s nice to see the Florida Panthers finally succeeding. They are the third seed in the East, but are closely followed by the Jets and the Capitals for the Southeast Division lead. In their last 1o games, however, they are 4-5-1.

Montreal Canadiens: And in what seemed like the inevitable outcome to an abysmal season, the Montreal Canadiens, the NHL’s New York Yankees, have fallen to last place in the East. #FailforNailYakupov

New Jersey Devils: In case you didn’t watch the Rangers/Devils game last night, Ilya Kovalchuk was a monster last night, taking over the game just like GM Lou Lamoriello said he would. Check out the video as Kovy scores in the opening minute of last nights contest:

New York Islanders: Whatever hope anyone had about the Islanders finally making the playoffs this year went down the drain as the team seems to not be able to beat anybody but the New Jersey Devils on a regular basis.

New York Rangers: Great article in NHL.com discussing the Rangers getting a wake up call for their sloppy play in last nights game against the Devils. For a team that seems to be running away with the East, last night was sure one hell of a statement.

Ottawa Senators: The Senators are 7-3-0 in their last 10 games. With the way they are playing now, they could easily overcome NJ and Philly to take the 5th spot in the East.

Philadelphia Flyers: After months of being criticized by the Philadelphia media, Ilya Bryzgalov finally has put together a string of great games, and have helped the Flyers become better in the process. They will without a doubt need him to keep up his play if they want to make any noise in the playoffs.

Pittsburgh Penguins: The Penguins unveiled their statue of Mario Lemieux in front of the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh. A very nice gesture for an all time great hockey player.

Tampa Bay Lightning: The Lightening are 4 points out of a playoff spot. After playing abysmally all season, can this team finally recover? Not with a goal differential of -39 on the season!

Toronto Maple Leafs: New Leafs coach Randy Carlyle has brought some life to an otherwise defeated Leafs team. However, it’s an uphill battle for the Leafs and if Carlyle can’t do it this season, he should definitely have them in playoff contention as soon as next year.

Washington Capitals: Talk about a disaster season. The Capitals can’t seem to do anything right. They lost Nicklas Backstrom to long-term injury reserve and seem to have lost their scoring touch. Dale Hunter hasn’t put any sort of system into place and the organization is suffering. Tough times in DC.

Winnipeg Jets: The Jets are currently sitting in the 8th spot in the Eastern Conference, and could play the Rangers first round in the playoffs started today. I still can’t imagine what a playoff game in Winnipeg is going to be like. That environment is going to be insane.

 

Western Conference

Anaheim Ducks– All Bobby Ryan does is score highlight-reel goals. Check him out as he goes airborne to score a goal against the Edmonton Oilers Monday night:

 

Calgary Flames– The Flames are only two points out of a playoff spot right now, but have two games out of hand on 8th-seeded San Jose. With their division already well out of reach (Vancouver has all but sewn up the Northwest, and are 19 points ahead of the Flames), Calgary’s only hope is for a miracle stretch run…

Chicago Blackhawks– Woe in the Windy City. Jonathan Toews is still out with concussion-like symptoms, and they’ve slipped to fourth in the Central Division. They’re still clinging to a playoff spot by five points, but have two games out of hand (Chicago’s played 68 games, most other teams have played 66). A team like Los Angeles, who have won three straight and are charging hard right now, could catch them for a postseason spot…

Colorado Avalanche– New additions Steve Downie and Jamie McGinn have been revelations since joining the Avalanche. Both have been scoring at a point-per-game clip, as McGinn has four points in four games (3 goals, 1 assist), and Downie has 10 points in seven games (two goals, eight assists).

Columbus Blue Jackets– Freshly acquired defenseman Jack Johnson has settled in quite nicely in Columbus, and has been a key part of the Jackets’ three game winning streak. Johnson is +4 and has three points in the last three games (one goal, two assists).

Dallas Stars– No team is hotter than the Dallas Stars right now. They’re 8-1-2 in their last eleven games, and have rode that streak all the way to the top of the Pacific Division. During that stretch, no player has been more consistent than winger Loui Eriksson, who has 13 points (five goals, eight assists), five multi-point games and two game-winning goals in that stretch. One of those five goals, a short-hander against Calgary, is a potential Goal of the Year Candidate.  Check it out:

 

Detroit Red Wings– The losses of top-line center Pavel Datsyuk and first-string goaltender Jimmy Howard may be beginning to take their toll. Detroit has lost two straight, is only 5-4-1 in their last ten, and they’ve lost their spot atop the Central Division to St. Louis….

Edmonton Oilers– Jordan Eberle continues to be amazing. He hit the 30-goal plateau during the Oilers 3-2 shootout win over the Sharks, and is averaging slightly better than a point per game (30 goals, 33 assists for 63 points in 62 games)…

Los Angeles Kings– Jeff Carter was acquired from Columbus to jump-start the Kings’ sluggish offense, but it appears as though the scoring woes that plagued Carter in Columbus have followed him to Los Angeles. Carter has only two goals and no assists in five games with the Kings…though oddly enough, the Kings’ offense  has  improved with Carter in the lineup- Los Angeles has scored at least four goals in each of their last three games….

Minnesota Wild– Not much good news coming out of the State of Hockey lately, but the future does reveal a ray of hope for the Wild: Minnesota top prospect Charlie Coyle, whom the team just signed to a three-year entry-level deal, has 29 points in 18 games with his junior team this year.

Nashville Predators– Winger Patric Hornqvist became the first Predator to break the 20-goal plateau this season after he notched two goals during Nashville’s 5-4 loss to Los Angeles Tuesday night. Pretty impressive that he’s the first to reach that mark, and the team is holding fast at fifth place in the Western Conference….

Phoenix Coyotes– The magic from the Coyotes’ 11-0-1 February run appears to have run out. Since the beginning of March, Phoenix is 0-4-0, including two losses to the league-worst Columbus Blue Jackets….

San Jose Sharks– Something is rotten in San Jose right now. The Sharks, once comfortably atop the Pacific Division, have lost seven of their last ten, and have slipped all the way to eighth in the conference. One thing working in San Jose’s favor is that they’ve played only 65 games so far, fewest it the Western Conference, but those games-in-hand won’t matter if they can’t start winning….

St. Louis Blues-St. Louis, once in 13th place in the Western Conference, has surged into first place under new coach Ken Hitchcock, on the strength of their two-goalie system, and an incredibly home-ice advantage (only four regulation losses at home all season). Speaking of those two goalies, check out Jaroslav Halak’s save against Chicago. Luck? Or skill?

 

Vancouver Canucks– The Sedin twins have been struggling mightily as of late. They have only one point combined in the last six games (an assist from Daniel), and neither has scored a goal since February. Vancouver’s spot in the postseason is far from being in jeopardy, but a slump like this does not bode well for the Canucks’ fate in the playoffs…..

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