Upcoming games: Devils, February 7, 7:00 p.m.; Lightning, February 9, 7:00 p.m.; @ Flyers, February 11, 1:00 p.m.; Capitals, February 12, 12:30 p.m.
New Jersey Devils (63 points, 6th place, 30-19-3)
The Devils won 4-3 in a shootout last week against the Blueshirts after David Clarkson scored the tying goal for New Jersey in the final minute of regulation. The Devils rallied from three one-goal deficits in their ninth shootout win. Ilya Kovalchuk scored a power play goal and the game winning shootout goal. Kovalchuk has ten points in his last four games and was named the NHL’s second star of the week. New Jersey beat the Penguins 5-2 on Sunday for their fourth straight win. Rookie breakout Adam Henrique recently returned to the lineup after a groin injury had him sidelined the last few games. The Devils moved up in the NHL’s power ranking this week to the ninth slot thanks to some under the radar contributions from left winger Alexei Ponikarovsky. He has two goals and four assists in six games.
Tampa Bay Lightning (51 points, 11th place, 23-23-5)
The Rangers are 1-1 against the Lightning this season. The Lightning beat the Rangers 3-2 in a shootout at Madison Square Garden back in December. Tampa Bay has gotten in a groove lately. They beat the Panthers 6-3 on Saturday, their sixth win in the last seven games. Martin St. Louis scored a hat trick in his 900th career game while captain Vincent Lecavalier had three assists and Steven Stamkos netted his league leading 34th goal. Their offense remains dynamic and deadly but their goaltending is still a sore spot. The Lightning have the worst goals against average in the league, allowing an average of 3.3 goals per game. Dwayne Roloson has a 3.65 goals against average while Mathieu Garon is 16-13. Garon has won four of his last five starts though.
Philadelphia Flyers (66 points, 4th place, 30-16-6)
The Rangers have the Flyers number. A dominant 5-2 win at the Garden on Sunday was the Rangers fourth straight win against Philadelphia this season, and sixth straight since last season. The weekend was tough for Philly as they lost a messy game 6-4 to the Devils on Saturday. Center Zac Rinaldo was fined $5,000 by the league for a late hit and dangerous trip during the Devils match. The Flyers dropped in the NHL’s power rankings two slots down to 10th place after posting a dismal 10-7-3 record since December’s seven game winning streak.
The Flyers have a potent offense, ranked second in the league with an average of 3.3 goals per game. Claude Giroux and his top line mates Scott Hartnell and Jaromir Jagr are leading the team in points, goals, power play goals and game winning goals.
Washington Capitals (58 points, 9th place, 27-21-4)
The Rangers are 1-1 against the Caps this season. The Blueshirts lost 4-1 on December 28 in Washington. Alex Semin scored two goals while Tomas Vokoun made 31 saves in the victory the last time the teams met. The Caps had a roller coaster weekend with a 3-0 shutout against the Canadiens on Saturday only to be followed with a 4-1 blowout at home against the Bruins. It was captain Alex Ovechkin’s second game back after a three game suspension. Center Brooks Laich was rattled after a check into the boards by Dennis Seidenburg. His status is still questionable for their upcoming game against the Florida Panthers tomorrow. The Capitals have been without star center Nicklas Backstrom for the last 14 games due to a concussion. The Caps, just two points out of a playoff spot, are 4-4-2 in their last ten games. Veteran NHLer Keith Aucoin was recently recalled from their AHL affiliate to help plug up the hole at center. Aucoin leads the AHL in scoring with 70 points and in assists (59).