What bubble teams must do to survive the looming stretch drive
NHL teams will soon be turning their attention to next week's resumption of play that begins on Monday night in Denver where the Avalanche host the Detroit Red Wings. The Wings, currently tied with the Dallas Stars at 28-21-12, find themselves in the unfamiliar circumstance of chasing down a playoff spot. Both the Stars and Wings trail the Calgary Flames by a single point, having played one less game. In seventh are the Nashville Predators with 71 points.
Also in the mix out west are the Anaheim Ducks with 67points. Two points behind are St. Louis, with Minnesota another point back. The problem for the Blues and Wild is not only the point differential between them and the top eight, it's the number of teams between them and the cut-off line. But as the Blues proved last season, an unprecedented run to a berth isn't out of the possibility.
Still, in the Red Wings, Stars and Ducks, you're looking at teams in transition despite their long playoff histories. Certainly the Wings are legitimate playoff contenders. They're counting on their roster returning to health after the Olympics and, with that, a more robust offense. If
The Stars' situation is interesting in that they acquired goaltender
Maybe the deal had nothing to do with Turco's triumphs. The veteran netminder had surrendered only four goals in his previous three starts before the Lehtonen trade, including another shutout against the Coyotes. Turco was 3-1-1 -- the lone loss a 1-0 defeat in Columbus -- leading into the break and he gave a glimpse of the type of performances he needs to put up for the Stars to advance to the postseason derby -- assuming, of course, that they opt to keep him. Turco's name was frequently mentioned as trade bait before he got hot.
Meanwhile, the Ducks sorted out their goaltending before the Olympics, with
In the East, the Montreal Canadiens are clinging to the eighth seed with 64 points, but they've played the most games (63) of any team. The Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Rangers sit a point back, with the Thrashers just one behind them. Atlanta has three games in hand on the Habs, two on the Rangers and one on the Bolts. Also, 14 of the Thrashers' remaining games are on home ice, as they've played the fewest home games of any team in the NHL thus far.
Still, the Thrashers will have to make their playoff push without longtime star scorer
The plight of the Lightning is just the opposite. They've been a good home team, but abysmal on the road, winning just 9 of 31 tilts away from Hockey Bay. That includes the last two before the break, where the Lightning lost three in a row while surrendering five goals in each. The combination of inconsistent defense and trouble on the road will be lethal to the Bolts as they try to vault into the top eight. A big part of that is their goaltending situation.
For the Rangers, there are no such issues in goal, where