Playoff races in West and Central tight

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Michael Finewax
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There are a few playoff races going on in the NHL with Vegas, Colorado and Minnesota home and cooled out in the West, while Carolina, Florida and Tampa Bay easily in in the Central.

In the East the four teams have been all but decided as Washington, the New York Islanders, Pittsburgh and Boston are the best, while up north, Toronto, Winnipeg and Edmonton have strangleholds on a playoff berth while Montreal looks to be in a strong position at this time.

Looking at the West and Central playoff races, as the other two divisions are almost locks, we see that Arizona is trying to hold off St. Louis and San Jose while in the Central, Dallas, Nashville and Chicago are battling it out.

It should make for an interesting last four weeks of the season.

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WEEK OF APRIL 26-MAY 2

4 Games Anaheim, Arizona, Carolina, Colorado, Dallas, Detroit, Edmonton, Florida, Los Angeles, Montreal, San Jose, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Vancouver

3 Games – Boston, Buffalo, Calgary, Chicago, Minnesota, Nashville, New Jersey, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Ottawa, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Toronto, Vegas, Washington, Winnipeg

2 Games - Columbus

Florida and Vancouver play four games on the road.

Buffalo, Carolina and Tampa Bay play three games on the road.

Chicago, Montreal, Nashville, Washington and Winnipeg play three games at home.

Any crossed off games have been postponed due to the coronavirus and are expected to be replayed at a later date.

INJURIES

Mikko Rantanen is on the COVID protocol list after being a close contact with someone who tested positive. (Click here to see the rest of the injury list.)

ANAHEIM

Games this week

@ Los Angeles, @ Los Angeles, vs. Los Angeles, vs. Los Angeles

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Ducks play four games this week, all against their cross-town rival Los Angeles Kings, including three games in four nights...Look for John Gibson to play at least two games with Anthony Stolarz playing the remainder of the games...Trevor Zegras was returned to the minors to get in playing time as a center after he played the wing in Anaheim and it has paid off as he has five goals and nine points in seven games...He will be a star in the NHL and a player the Ducks can build around...Anaheim sent Sam Carrick to the minors in a surprising move as he had a goal and four points in five games for the offensively challenged Ducks...Max Comtois leads the Ducks with 13 goals and 28 points.

ARIZONA

Games this week

@ San Jose, @ San Jose, vs. Vegas, vs. Vegas

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Coyotes play three games in four nights as part of their four-game week...Darcy Kuemper and Antti Raanta should share the net...Conor Garland is week-to-week after suffering a lower-body injury in practice Tuesday and that won’t help the Coyotes playoff drive as he is tied for second in points with 32...Arizona is reeling, having lost seven of their last eight games...Heading into action on Monday, the Coyotes have only eight games remaining but six are against San Jose and Los Angeles who are not in a playoff spot...Jakob Chychrun has taken a big leap this season and with 13 goals and 32 points in 47 games, is one of the top offensive threats from the blueline.

BOSTON

Games this week

@ Pittsburgh, vs. Buffalo, vs. Buffalo

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy has been so impressed with the play of rookie goaltender Jeremy Swayman, that he has decided that he and Tuukka Rask will share the net, sending veteran Jaroslav Halak to the role of third-string goaltender...Swayman is 5-1-0 with a 1.65 GAA and a .943 save percentage and is deserving of starting...David Pastrnak is on a five-game points streak and has 18 goals and 41 points in 38 games...There is still is no timetable for the return of the injured Ondrej Kase, who has been out since Game 2 on January 16th with an upper-body injury...It must be such a different experience for both Taylor Hall and Curtis Lazar who have yet to lose in any of the six games played since they came over from lowly Buffalo on April 12...Hall has two goals and four points in the six games while Lazar has a goal and an assist.

Editor’s Note: The Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins face off Sunday on NBC starting at 3:00 pm ET. Livestream all the action here.

BUFFALO

Games this week

@ New York Rangers, @ Boston, @ Boston

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Sabres must be excited about rookie Arttu Ruotsalainen who has three goals in his first eight games...Rookie Jack Quinn, the Sabres first pick and eighth overall in 2020, had successful surgery to repair a hernia and will miss the remainder of the season as he will need six weeks to recover...Linus Ullmark is week-to-week with a lower-body injury, leaving the goaltending duties to Dustin Tokarski and Finnish netminder Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen...The Sabres have played much better under interim head coach Don Granato than former coach Ralph Krueger as they are 6-10-3 with Granato after going 6-18-4 with Krueger...Don’t forget, they also had the services of the injured Jack Eichel when Krueger was behind the bench for 21of his 28 games.

CALGARY

Games this week

vs. Montreal, @ Edmonton, @ Edmonton

Tired: None

Rested: @ Edmonton (Thursday)

Notes

The Flames have no real chance at the playoffs as they are 4-10-0 in their last 14 games...Matthew Tkachuk has picked an inopportune time to slump as he has only two assists in his last seven games...Mikael Backlund has been hot of late with points in nine of his last 11 games...Johnny Gaudreau leads the Flames with 15 goals this season but after a hot start where he had 11 points in his first nine games, he has only 22 points in his last 36 contests...He has been scoring of late with six points in his last five games...Until the Flames are finally eliminated, look for Jacob Markstrom to play the rest of the way.

CAROLINA

Games this week

@ Dallas, @ Dallas, vs. Detroit, @ Columbus

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Hurricanes play three games in four nights as part of their four-game week so expect to see Petr Mrazek share the net with Alex Nedeljkovic as James Reimer seems to be the odd-man out...Nedeljkovic has been outstanding since his recall as he has won four in a row and is 12-4-2 with a 1.87 GAA and a .933 save percentage...Mrazek is 5-1-2 with a 1.68 GAA and a .939 as the Hurricanes netminding looks awfully good heading into the playoffs...The Hurricanes should get Teuvo Teravainen back soon as he has only played once since February 19 as he has been dealing with a concussion...The good news is that he has been skating...Sebastian Aho has 20 goals and 23 assists in 46 games to lead the Canes...Andrei Svechnikov was expected to star this season but has taken a bit of a step back as he has 13 goals and 32 points in 46 contests.

CHICAGO

Games this week

vs. Tampa Bay, vs. Florida, vs. Florida

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Blackhawks lost Calvin de Haan to a hip injury on Wednesday...Chicago got defenseman Adam Boqvist back on Wednesday as he had been out of action with a concussion for the previous three games...Patrick Kane continues to be the Blackhawks top player (and still a top-five forward in the NHL) as he has 15 goals and 58 points in 47 games...Alex DeBrincat has had a great comeback season with 23 goals and 21 assists in 43 games after scoring only 18 goals and picking up 45 points in 70 games last season...Pius Suter has had a nice rookie season with 13 goals and 23 points...It’s strange that there has been no news about the health of Jonathan Toews who has been unable to play this season due to a medical condition...We hope he is okay.

COLORADO

Games this week

@ St. Louis, @ Vegas, vs. San Jose, vs. San Jose

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Avalanche play four games this week including three games in four nights...Philipp Grubauer is still in COVID protocol and is questionable at best to play this week, leaving the goaltending in the hands of Devan Dubnyk and Jonas Johansson...Expect Dubnyk to play three times with Johansson playing once as the Avs played on Thursday for the first time in eight days...Mikko Rantanen is also on the COVID protocol list and missed Thursday’s game...He has 26 goals and 52 points, second best in points on Colorado to Nathan MacKinnon...Andre Burakovsky is having a fine season with 14 goals and 29 points in 41 games and replaced Rantanen on the top line with MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog Thursday...Cale Makar continues to shine on the blueline with four goals and 32 points in 32 games.

COLUMBUS

Games this week

vs. Detroit, vs. Carolina

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Blue Jackets are looking to see where they will pick in the lottery as they are currently in the Central basement, as Detroit passed them this week...They have lost eight in a row and are 1-10-1 in their last 12 games...It must be killing coach John Tortorella who has to be looking everywhere for someone else to bench...His latest player to feel his wrath is Max Domi, who was a healthy scratch two games in a row this week before returning to action on Thursday...Tortorella wasn’t too happy (is he ever?) when Domi had two misconducts in three games and took some questionable penalties...Oliver Bjorkstrand continues to lead the Blue Jackets in goals and assists with 15 and 21 respectively...Patrik Laine has 10 goals and 18 points in 39 games since his trade from Winnipeg.

Editor’s Note: Watch the Columbus Blue Jackets face the Tampa Bay Lightning Sunday on NBCSN starting at 6:00 pm ET. Livestream all the action here.

DALLAS

Games this week

vs. Carolina, vs. Carolina, @ Tampa Bay, @ Nashville

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Stars play four games this week with three games occurring in four nights...Jake Oettinger and Anton Khudobin should share the net...What a difference a year makes!...Joe Pavelski in his first season with Dallas, had only 14 goals and 31 points in 67 games but has turned things around with 20 goals and 43 points in 46 games. Pavelski has been hot of late with scoring goals in five of his last six games...The Stars took a bad beat on Thursday in losing 7-3 to Detroit...Roope Hintz has been dealing with a lower-body injury the last two months that has kept him off the ice for practices and some games but he has gritted out most games and is having the best season of his career with 38 points in 33 games...John Klingberg has a goal and seven points in his last seven games.

Don’t forget, for everything NHL, check out NBCSportsEdge Player News, and follow @NBCSEdge HK and @mfinewaxhockey on Twitter.

DETROIT

Games this week

@ Columbus, @ Carolina, vs. Tampa Bay, vs. Tampa Bay

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Red Wings play four games this week, including three games in four nights...Jonathan Bernier and Thomas Greiss should share the net...Greiss is 4-0-2 in his last six starts after starting the season with a 2-15-5 mark...Detroit finally climbed out of the basement in the Central with a 7-3 win over Dallas Thursday...Jakub Vrana was on fire against the Stars as he scored four goals in the win, giving him five goals and six points in his four games since coming over from Washington...Tyler Bertuzzi (upper body) will miss the rest of the season, the Red Wings announced. He was injured on January 30 and was unable to play after that. Detroit really missed him as he started the season with five goals and seven points in nine games. He should be okay for the start of training camp next season.

EDMONTON

Games this week

@ Winnipeg, @ Winnipeg, vs. Calgary, vs. Calgary

Tired: vs. Calgary (Thursday)

Rested: None

Notes

The Oilers play three games in four nights as part of their four-game week...Mike Smith should get the call in three games with Mikko Koskinen playing once...Connor McDavid is having an amazing season with 25 goals and 77 points in only 45 games...It is a shame that the NHL is playing only 56 games this season as it would have been quite exciting to see if McDavid had a shot at 150 points in a full campaign...He needs 23 points in his final 11 games to hit 100 points but if anyone can do it, it is McDavid...Ryan Nugent-Hopkins returned from an upper-body injury that kept him off the ice for four games Wednesday and popped his 13th goal of the season...Jesse Puljujarvi has been playing well this season and has goals in three straight games to give him 11...Zack Kassian left Wednesday’s game with a lower-body injury after taking a hit from Shea Weber.

FLORIDA

Games this week

@ Nashville, @ Nashville, @ Chicago, @ Chicago

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Panthers are home for all four games this week including three games in four nights...Look for Sergei Bobrovsky and Spencer Knight to share the net as Chris Driedger is day-to-day with a lower-body injury...Knight made his NHL debut on Wednesday and gave up only goal on 34 shots against the Blue Jackets...Carter Verhaeghe (upper body) is not returning anytime soon so Nikita Gusev has taken his spot on the top line with Aleksander Barkov and Patric Hornqvist...Sam Bennett has been outstanding since his trade from Calgary and has three goals and five points in four games after being shut down on Thursday by Carolina...Jonathan Huberdeau continues to lead the Panthers with 50 points, two up on Barkov...Frank Vatrano is having a fine season with 17 goals while MacKenzie Weegar leads the blueline in points with 25, two up on Keith Yandle and three ahead of the injured Aaron Ekblad who has missed the last 13 games and is out the rest of the season with a broken leg.

LOS ANGELES

Games this week

vs. Anaheim, vs. Anaheim, @ Anaheim, @ Anaheim

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Kings play three games this week in four nights as part of their four games against Anaheim...Cal Petersen and Jonathan Quick should share the net...Petersen snapped a four-game losing streak Tuesday with a 4-1 win over Anaheim...He is 8-11-4 with a 2.67 GAA and a .920 save percentage and is the Kings goalie of the future...Trevor Moore is providing the Kings with some offense as he has two goals and four points in his last six games...He is also one of the few Kings who is not a minus player as he is even through 43 games, scoring seven times and adding 11 assists...Matt Roy returned to action on Tuesday for the first time since April 2 as he was in COVID protocol.

MINNESOTA

Games this week

vs. St. Louis, vs. St. Louis, @ St. Louis

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Wild play three games in four nights...Cam Talbot has taken over as the starter and should play twice with Kaapo Kahkonen getting one start...The Wild are sitting comfortably in third place in the West and it appears that is where they will finish as Minnesota trails Colorado by five points with the Avs holding a game in hand; and are 16 points up on St. Louis who are in fourth...Ryan Hartman has reportedly agreed to a three-year extension...Mats Zuccarello is hot again with four goals and six points in his last five games including three goals on the power play...Kirill Kaprizov scored his 19th goal of the season and set a Minnesota Wild rookie record for goals, surpassing Marian Gaborik’s 18 set in the 2000-01 season.

MONTREAL

Games this week

@ Calgary, vs. Toronto, vs. Winnipeg, vs. Ottawa

Tired: vs. Ottawa (Saturday)

Rested: None

Notes

The Canadiens play four games this week including three contests in four nights...Carey Price (concussion) is unlikely to return so look for Jake Allen to play three games with Charlie Lindgren picking up one start...Josh Anderson scored twice Wednesday and has 16 goals. He is playing so well and making the off-season deal for Max Domi look like a steal for the Canadiens...Tyler Toffoli leads Montreal like he has most of the season, in goals with 22...Jon Merrill played his first game on the Habs blueline Wednesday after completing quarantining and Erik Gustafsson is next as he finished his quarantining Wednesday...Jonathan Drouin has not found the back of the net in his last 25 games and has only two in 44 games this season.

NASHVILLE

Games this week

vs. Florida, vs. Florida, vs. Dallas

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Predators are fighting for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Central and are up two points on Dallas with the Stars holding two games in hand...That makes Saturday’s contest at home against Dallas so very important...Eeli Tolvanen returned to action Wednesday, forcing Rocco Grimaldi to the press box...Juuse Saros has been terrific in goal for Nashville this season as he is 16-9-1 with a 2.32 GAA and a .925 save percentage this season, despite giving up five goals on 30 shots in a 5-4 overtime loss to Chicago Wednesday...The big news of the week could be the return of Filip Forsberg (upper body) as he is hoping to play after being out since March 25...The Predators could really use their best forward back in the lineup.

NEW JERSEY

Games this week

vs. Philadelphia, vs. Philadelphia, @ Philadelphia

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Devils are floundering in seventh place in the tough East Division and are being pursued by the Buffalo Sabres who are now only three points in arrears of New Jersey...The Devils have lost eight in a row and are 2-12-2 in their last 16 games...Mackenzie Blackwood has missed a couple of games with an upper-body injury but should be okay this week...In the meantime, Aaron Dell and Scott Wedgewood are sharing the net...Pavel Zacha returned to action Thursday after missing five games with a lower-body injury...He is tied for the team lead in points with Jesper Bratt at 25...Yegor Sharangovich has been a pleasant surprise this season with 11 goals and 22 points in 44 games...Ty Smith, their top rookie on the blueline, has missed the last two games with an upper-body injury...The Devils hope he is available this week.

NEW YORK ISLANDERS

Games this week

@ Washington, @ New York Rangers, vs. New York Rangers

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Islanders are in a huge battle for the top spot in the East as they are tied for second with Pittsburgh, just one point behind Washington, who beat them 1-0 Thursday in a shootout...Anthony Beauvillier finally had a big game Tuesday with a goal and three assists but has only 19 points in 38 games to date...New York continues to get outstanding goalkeeping from Semyon Varlamov and Ilya Sorokin as Varlamov is 17-9-4 with a 2.12 GAA and a .926 GAA while Sorokin is 12-4-1/2.02/.922...Mathew Barzal has 38 points in 47 games to lead the Islanders as they rely on their outstanding netminding and defense to win games...Leo Komarov has moved to the top line with Barzal and Jordan Eberle while Michael Dal Colle is seeing second line duty with Brock Nelson and Kyle Palmieri.

NEW YORK RANGERS

Games this week

vs. Buffalo, vs. New York Islanders, @ New York Islanders

Tired: None

Rested: None
Notes

New York will likely finish fifth in the East as they are eight points behind the fourth place Bruins with Boston holding two games in hand...The Rangers have had Igor Shesterkin establish himself as an NHL goaltender...He is 13-11-3 with a 2.45 GAA and a .920 save percentage and has taken hold of the top job with the Rangers...Artemi Panarin continues to amaze as he has 53 points in only 36 games, good for a tie for 10th in NHL scoring despite playing less games than anyone else...The Rangers decided to see what rookie Alexis Lafreniere could do on the top line with Mika Zibanejad and Pavel Buchnevich Thursday and he was a minus-one in 13:31 of action...Chris Kreider moved down the lineup at played with youngsters Filip Chytil and Kaapo Kakko.

OTTAWA

Games this week

vs. Vancouver, vs. Vancouver, @ Montreal

Tired: None

Rested: @ Montreal (Saturday)

Notes

The Senators remain the only team in the NHL who have not been shut out this season and have been more than competitive of late, winning their last three and four out of five...Matt Murray made 31 saves for his second shutout of the season Thursday and improved his record to 10-13-1...I have liked the play of Drake Batherson this season and the 22-year-old center had a goal and assist Thursday to give him 16 goals and 30 points with five points in his last three contests...Josh Norris has been very good this season and deserves consideration for the Calder as not only does he have 13 goals and 30 points as he is on a six-game scoring streak, but he also plays against all the top lines in the high-scoring North Division, including facing Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews and Mark Scheifele...Tim Stutzle scored Thursday for his second goal in 19 games.

PHILADELPHIA

Games this week

@ New Jersey, @ New Jersey, vs. New Jersey

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Flyers were thought to be a Stanley Cup contender this season after a solid 2019-20 season but the wheels fell off earlier this season and they are currently sitting in sixth in the East, 11 points behind the Bruins in fourth with just 10 games left in the schedule...They relied on goaltender Carter Hart to give them top-10 or even top-five goaltending but Hart turned stone-cold this season, becoming a bottom ranked goaltender and the Flyers followed suit, falling apart...He has improved of late, giving the Flyers some hope for next season but is currently out with a mild knee sprain...Wade Allison scored his first career NHL goal Saturday and it was a power play effort...James van Riemsdyk leads the Flyers with 16 goals and 37 points in 46 games.

PITTSBURGH

Games this week

vs. Boston, @ Washington, @ Washington

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Penguins have placed Jeff Carter on the second line with Jared McCann and Jason Zucker and the trio have played well together...This bodes well for the return of Evgeni Malkin to the lineup as the talented center could give the Penguins a top-nine that will be more than troublesome to the rest of the league...Sidney Crosby is ninth in the NHL in scoring with 54 points and Jake Guentzel leads the team with 20 goals, one more than linemates Crosby and Bryan Rust...Pittsburgh is getting healthier as Kasperi Kapanen returned to action Thursday after missing 13 games with a lower-body injury and Malkin is due back shortly...As well, Brandon Tanev skated on his own Wednesday for the first time since he suffered an upper-body injury April 3.

SAN JOSE

Games this week

vs. Arizona, vs. Arizona, @ Colorado, @ Colorado

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Sharks play four games this week including three games in four nights...Martin Jones should get three starts with Josef Korenar getting the other game...Korenar has yet to win in two stars as he has also taken over in relief twice for Jones...The Sharks have lost seven games in a row, picking up only one point in a shootout loss Monday and sit in sixth place in the West, four points out of a playoff spot with only 10 games left in the season...Evander Kane leads the Sharks in most offensive categories including goals (17), points (36) and shots on goal with 150...Timo Meier has been a disappointment again this season with only nine goals to date, after scoring 30 just two seasons ago.

ST. LOUIS

Games this week

vs. Colorado, @ Minnesota, @ Minnesota, vs. Minnesota

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Blues play three times in four nights as part of their four-game week...Jordan Binnington should get three starts with Ville Husso picking up one...The Blues are in fifth in the West, just one point behind Arizona with three games in hand...Torey Krug has been a major disappointment this season with only one goal in 44 games (22 assists) after signing a seven-year deal worth $6.5 million per season...Vladimir Tarasenko has not had an easy time of it since returning from off-season shoulder surgery as he said it was taking longer than expected to get his timing back...He has three goals and 12 points in 20 games and is playing alongside Jaden Schwartz and Tyler Bozak.

TAMPA BAY

Games this week

@ Chicago, vs. Dallas, @ Detroit, @ Detroit

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Lightning play four games this week including three games in four nights...Andrei Vasilevskiy should start three games with Curtis McElhinney playing once...The Lightning are sitting third behind Carolina and Florida with nine games left on their schedule...Victor Hedman leads the team with 42 points, three better than Brayden Point and the surprising Ondrej Palat...Hedman has been a stud quarterbacking the Tampa Bay power play as he has a goal and 22 assists with the man-advantage...Don’t be surprised of Seattle native Tyler Johnson winds up with the Kraken next season...David Savard made his Tampa Bay debut Thursday and was a plus-one in 21:25 of action, playing with Ryan McDonagh...The injury suffered by Steven Stamkos is not related to his core muscle injury of last season.

TORONTO

Games this week

@ Montreal, vs. Vancouver, vs. Montreal

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Maple Leafs play three games in four nights this week...Their goaltending has been mediocre of late as fans are now clamoring for the return of the injured Frederik Andersen...It is likely that Jack Campbell will get two starts with newcomer David Rittich playing once...Auston Matthews leads the NHL with 34 goals in 43 games and looks to be the first Maple Leafs ever to win the Rocket Richard Trophy...He is also tied with Mitch Marner and Patrick Kane for third in the NHL points race with 58, despite playing four games less than either player...The Maple Leafs lost Zach Hyman for a couple of weeks after he suffered a knee-on-knee hit, courtesy of Alexander Edler who picked up a two-game suspension for his misdeed...The Leafs finally got Nick Foligno in the lineup after he was forced to quarantine after his trade from Columbus...Toronto will be hard to play against in the playoffs with grinders like Hyman, Foligno and Wayne Simmonds...They all also can score.

VANCOUVER

Games this week

@ Ottawa, @ Ottawa, @ Toronto, @ Toronto

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Canucks play four games this week including three contests in four nights...Thatcher Demko and Braden Holtby should share the net...It was amazing to see the Canucks win a pair of games against front-running Toronto after their return to action on April 18...Vancouver had not played since March 24 as COVID ravaged the team...They came back down to Earth Thursday as Ottawa shut them out 3-0...Brock Boeser leads the Canucks with 36 points and his 16 goals are tied with Bo Horvat...The Canucks still have 16 games left to play in the final 26 days of the season...Antoine Roussel is out for a couple of weeks with a lower-body injury suffered Tuesday against Toronto...Demko was absolutely outstanding in winning both games against the Maple Leafs.

VEGAS

Games this week

vs. Colorado, @Arizona, @ Arizona

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Golden Knights play three games in four nights...Since they have been splitting the net of late, look for Marc-Andre Fleury to get a pair of starts with Robin Lehner playing once...Mark Stone is on a six-game points streak and has 18 goals and 53 points, tied for 10th best in the NHL...He won’t win it but the outstanding two-way winger deserves plenty of Hart Trophy consideration as he is the Golden Knights best player up front by a lot...He should get plenty of consideration for the Selke as well as his skills defensively are top-notch...Reilly Smith has missed the last two games with an undisclosed injury...Max Pacioretty has 22 goals and 46 points this season in 44 games, his best point-per-game season of his career thus far.

WASHINGTON

Games this week

vs. New York Islanders, vs. Pittsburgh, vs. Pittsburgh

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Capitals moved into sole possession of first place Thursday with a 1-0 shootout win over the Islanders...Ilya Samsonov was great in stopping all 26 shots in regulation and in the overtime while giving up only one goal in the shootout and is 12-3-1 this season...Michael Raffl made his Capitals’ debut Thursday, alongside Conor Sheary and Lars Eller...Justin Schultz is day-to-day with a lower-body injury...Anthony Mantha finally saw his career-best five-game goal scoring streak come to an end Thursday but still has 15 goals and 26 points in 47 games split between the Caps and Detroit...Alex Ovechkin has not found the back of the net in his last two games after scoring 17 goals in his previous 22 contests.

WINNIPEG

Games this week

vs. Edmonton, vs. Edmonton, @ Montreal

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Jets are six in arrears of Toronto for first place after their 5-3 home ice loss to the Maple Leafs Thursday...Adam Lowry left Thursday’s game with an upper-body injury after taking a high hit from Alex Galchenyuk and did not return...Mark Scheifele had a goal and an assist to give him 54 points in 46 contests...Kyle Connor leads the team with 22 goals...Blake Wheeler returned to action on Thursday after missing six games with a concussion...Paul Maurice moved Pierre-Luc Dubois back to center with Paul Stastny and Nikolaj Ehlers on his wing after he had been playing on the right wing in Wheeler’s spot on the first line...Neal Pionk has 29 points to lead all Winnipeg blueliners...The Jets have had only nine goals from their blueliners this season.