Both locals will be facing off tonight. The slumping Islanders (lost 3 straight) will look to overcome their demons against Tampa in St. Petersburg. They've lost the last seven to the Lightning, who currently rank sixth in the East with 82 points (one more than the Rangers). Starting netminder Slick Rick DiPietro could be returning from a concussion suffered in a loss at Montreal last week.
It's a huge game for the Fishsticks, who are in a three-way tie for ninth with Toronto and Montreal. All three trail eighth Carolina by a point. And they're all playing tonight. The Leafs will host the Devils at the ACC while the Canadiens visit Boston.
For the Devils, they'll try to gain valuable ground on idle Pittsburgh, who lost in regulation last night to the Rangers 2-1 thanks to a Jaromir Jagr goal with 33.8 left. Two points up on the Pens for the Atlantic, the Devs will attempt to bounceback from a dreadful 7-2 spanking courtesy of the Canes on St. Patty's Day. The good news for the Devs is that the game is on the road, where they've gone 8-0-2 in their last 10. The bad is that the Leafs will be out for retribution for Cam Janssen's cheap hit on Tomas Kaberle. If it's decided, there could be some fireworks.
This from the NHL Today:
From Elias: Minnesota goaltender Niklas Backstrom is 14-3-3 with a 2.14 goals-against average, .923 save percentage and one shutout in 21 games since January 20. Marc-Andre Fleury (16) and Roberto Luongo (15) are the only goaltenders with more wins than Backstrom since January 20. Martin Brodeur also has 14 wins since that date.
The Wild have climbed the standings since star forward Marian Gaborik returned in February. But without the splendid play of Backstrom, replacing injured starter Manny Fernandez, they wouldn't be challenging Vancouver for the Northwest crown. No small feat there.
And while we're on topic with the Western race, don't look now but the sizzling Avs are right on the tail of eighth place Calgary. Since the deadline, Colorado hasn't lost in regulation. They had a great come from behind 4-3 victory over San Jose the other night. Trailing by two against a Western power, they rallied to tie it forcing OT. In the extra session, the resurgent Milan Hejduk netted his 30th via a power play to propel the Avs to the big win- pulling them within four points of the Flames.
Colorado has 80 points as they chase Calgary. Each team has 10 games remaining. The Avs need to take advantage of a couple of upcoming meetings against the dreadful Oilers. Edmonton hasn't won since trading heart and soul Ryan Smyth to the Isles on the deadline. In fact, after last night's 2-1 defeat to Vancouver, they've now dropped their last 11. When will they get another win? The Avs hope it's not them and neither do their homeristic announcers, who already have them in the playoffs. They certainly are playing lights out as Joe Sakic, Hejduk, Andrew Brunette and sizzling rookie Paul Stastny continue to roll.
It should be an exciting final three weeks.
And finally, an interesting column was written by my co-host Gary Harding via the NYHR. He discusses the Chris Simon suspension and makes interesting points about other suspensions handed out. Check it out here.