Tag:Minnesota Wild
Posted on: February 24, 2012 8:58 pm
Edited on: February 24, 2012 9:02 pm
 

Marek Zidlicky traded to Devils

WildDevilsBy: Adam Gretz

In a move that had been rumored and expected for a couple of weeks now, the Minnesota Wild have traded defenseman Marek Zidlicky to the New Jersey Devils in exchange for defenseman Kurtis Foster, forwards Nick Palmieri and Stephane Velieux, as well as a pair of draft picks.

Zidlicky has been struggling through one of the worst seassons of his career in Minnesota, and recently sounded off about the number of times he had been a healthy scratch under first-year head coach Mike Yeo. In 41 games this season he's yet to score a goal and has 14 assists, and throughout his career the 34-year-old rearguard has usually been a around 40-point producer from the blue line, providing most of his offense on the power play. Perhaps a change of scenery is what he needs at this point. It certainly can't hurt.

He's signed throug the end of next season and his contract pays him $4 million per year.

Zidlicky is going to a Devils team that could certainly use some offensive production from its defense, as their leading scorer among defensemen this season is 19-year-old rookie Adam Larsson with 16 points in 48 games.

The key player for Minnesota, along with the draft picks and the additional cap space it will save for next season, is probably the 22-year-old Palmieri. He's spent limited time with the Devils over the past couple of years scoring 13 goals in 78 career games.

The Devils acquired Foster in a trade with the Anaheim Ducks earlier this season in exchange for Mark Fraser, Rod Pelley and a seventh-round draft pick. Foster previously spent time with Minnesota from 2005 to 2009.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: February 24, 2012 10:01 am
Edited on: February 24, 2012 10:57 am
 

Morning Skate: Stars and Wild in West's big one

By Brian Stubits

The Morning Skate is back. Every morning for the rest of the season we're going to take a look at the games that have the greatest significance in the push for the postseason for you to digest while you drink your java. We'll throw in some miscellany for the fun of it.

Playoff Race

8:30 ET, Minnesota at Dallas: With how quiet they have been since their early-season run, it's a little surprising to wake up on Friday and see that the Dallas Stars are in the eighth position in the Western Conference.

With how bad they've been since their early-season run, it's a little surprising the Minnesota Wild are still within earshot of the playoffs in the Western Conference.

Today's movin' and shakin' game in the massive battle for the West's last playoff spot is the matchup of the two teams that have called Minnesota home. It's like their step-brothers or something and the "first" brother doesn't take kindly to the "new" brother moving in. It's been 15 straight trips to Dallas without a victory for Minnesota. Yikes.

This would be as good a time as any to snap that. The Wild head into Friday three points behind the logjam for eighth place. Fall five back and they really have a tough task at hand.

But the Wild have picked it up here. Over the weekend it looked like they were about to be buried for good until they turned in one of their best performances in months and beat the Bruins. Then on Thursday night they got a rare shootout win over the Panthers in Florida. They're getting back to that Mike Yeo hockey that was so successful.

The Stars, meanwhile, aren't setting the world on fire but nobody at the bottom of the West is, so they're tied for that No. 8 spot after a strong win in Chicago on Thursday. Yet they are still reportedly considering being a seller at Monday's deadline.

For teams teetering, every game before the deadline is that much more important, especially when the playoff race is in full swing.

7 ET, Montreal at Washington: No two teams have been a bigger drama show this season than the Capitals and Canadiens. So maybe it's fitting they play each other just before the trade deadline, the season's biggest big top.

These are two teams either on the brink (Washington) or already over it (Montreal). The Habs are now in the bottom three. Starting Friday eight points out of a playoff spot, they are close to done for. At this point it's more like playing out the string ... and playing spoiler.

Really, most everybody's eyes will be on the Capitals. They have been significantly better on home ice this season so perhaps that can be the cure for the three-game losing streak that ails them. They are still miraculously in the Southeast Division race, entering Friday four points behind the Jets and three behind the Panthers. But remember they have four games in hand on Winnipeg. Florida, meanwhile, will have two in hand on Washington after Friday.

Washington might have to do it without Alex Ovechkin again, too. He missed the team's game in Ottawa earlier this week with a "lower-body injury" and has been listed as day to day. For a team that's struggling to score like the Caps are, being down an Ovechkin really isn't helping matters. They'll have to rely on some quality goaltending, whoever might get that nod.

7 ET, Vancouver at New Jersey: After taking out the Red Wings in a shootout and ending their home winning streak at 23 games, the Canucks set their sights on taking over the West's top spot for the time being with a trip to New Jersey.

Only problem for them is the Devils are no slouch. They have been one if the absolute best teams in the league since the All-Star break and have climbed into the East's No. 4 position, that critical spot for home-ice advantage in the first round.

Hard for me to believe that with both of these teams' pedigrees that people seem to be sleeping on them. The Canucks are quietly going about their business -- perhaps a refreshing change in Vancouver -- and are again in the Presidents' Trophy race. The same goes for the Devils who could potentially move to within five points of the Rangers for the top position in the East if they get some help from the Islanders.

Others worth watching

7 ET, Rangers at Islanders: What better way for the Rangers to get out of a scoring funk than to visit their neighbors on Long Island?

7 ET, Colorado at Columbus: The Avs are another one in that West logjam while the Jackets move on to the post-Jeff Carter era (era?).

7:30 ET, Boston at Buffalo: This was supposed to be a big game. Now it's about Brad Marchand calling Buffalo the worst city in the league.

Your promised miscellany

  • Kyle Quincey, just moved to Detroit after a three-way deal, wasn't very complimentary of the Avalanche franchise and said other guys were jealous that he got to leave. (Denver Post)
  • Want to know why the Canadiens have been called a circus act this season? Here's a reason. P.K. Subban got into a skirmish with a teammate at practice. Again. (TSN)
  • Peter Laviolette was just a bit unhappy with his Flyers' performance in Edmonton on Thursday night and he let the Philly media know. (Philadelphia Inquirer)
  • Jeff Carter might not have welcomed his move to Columbus with open arms, but at least Jack Johnson is giving it a try. (Columbus Dispatch)
  • Flames GM Jay Feaster wasn't pleased with his team's effort in the last couple of games and threatened his team by telling Sportsnet it would be busy on Monday if they didn't pick it up. (Sportsnet)

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: February 23, 2012 10:01 am
Edited on: February 23, 2012 10:40 am
 

Morning Skate: Playoff ramifications galore


By Brian Stubits

The Morning Skate is back. Every morning for the rest of the season we're going to take a look at the games that have the greatest significance in the push for the postseason for you to digest while you drink your java. We'll throw in some miscellany for the fun of it.

In this day and age with only two teams -- two! -- in the entire NHL being more than 10 points out of a playoff spot, it's hard to find a game on the schedule that isn't carrying a huge impact on the playoff picture. Save for Edmonton playing Columbus, they all have an impact.

That holds even if you have two teams hanging on by life support. Which is just what is on the schedule on Thursday night.

7 ET, Anaheim at Carolina: This is pretty much hockey's equivalent of a loser leave town match. The Hurricanes are eight points back of a playoff position, the Ducks are six back. So, you know, you can't lose this game if you want to stay in the conversation.

To be sure, both face very long odds. More specifically, the 'Canes have a 2.94 percent chance of seeing the postseason according to sportsclubstats.com while the Ducks have a 5.52 percentage.

For Anaheim it brings an end to one hellacious road trip that has been going since what feels like the All-Star break. And they've done very well on it until their last momentum-killing game, a loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

And Carolina? Well they are actually starting to brim with confidence. They just smacked down the Capitals 5-0 -- then again, who isn't these days? -- and are finally getting the expected production from Eric Staal.

So we have two teams near (or at, in Carolina's case in the East) the bottom of the standings playing some of the best hockey in the league. The game is make or break for both. Should be fun.

7 ET, San Jose at Toronto: The Maple Leafs are still in the thick of the futility battle that is the race for eighth in the East/the Southeast Division. It's like everybody has hit a slump together, giving hope to teams that once appeared on the outs. Toronto is no different.

The goaltending was looking good not long ago. Now Leafs fans are begging for help. They are 1-5-1 in the last seven games. In the last six games -- one OT win in there -- they have yielded 27 goals. That's 4.5 per game. They need to take advantage of the home games they have left, starting tonight.

The Sharks, meanwhile, find themselves actually in a battle for the Pacific Division crown. As of now, they are tied with the surging Coyotes. Now the Sharks do have two games in hand on Phoenix, but those do you no good if you don't win them.

On their own whirlwind road trip, the Sharks are riding a four-game losing streak, three in a row without points. Apparently they think the race for eighth looks so interesting they thought they might play their way into it. As of now, they are only three points up on that eighth spot, but again, have games in hand.

7:30 ET, Vancouver at Detroit: Here's the game of the night without a doubt. Neither team is fighting for their playoff lives, instead they are fighting each other for the top seed in the Western Conference.

Oh, and there is something about a 23-game home winning streak being on the line for the Red Wings? I suppose that might garner some interest here too.

But in reality this game is massive on many levels. In addition to the two-point discrepancy between the teams in the standings, it would do the Canucks a world of good to knock off Detroit at the Joe, prove to themselves that they can do it in case it comes up again at playoff time.

Unfortunately for the Wings -- and fans -- Pavel Datsyuk won't be in the lineup for the Wings, sitting out a couple weeks after having his knee scoped.

9 ET, Phoenix at Calgary: This is the West battle being waged in Calgary right here. The Coyotes have been on fire, winning eight of their last nine games and shooting into not only seventh place in the West but in a tie with the Sharks in the Pacific. And they just added Antoine Vermette.

If Phoenix takes two points tonight, you start to wonder if they can prepare for some playoff games in the desert again. Of course that's no guarantee, but they'd be in one good position for it.

But don't sleep on the Flames. They enter the day in ninth place, one back of the Kings and this will be their one game in hand. Here's what makes the Flames a real threat for a playoff berth, if you can believe that. They have 22 games remaining, 14 of them come at home. That's as favorable as any playoff hopeful down the stretch run.

Also worth watching: The Panthers host the Wild with Florida still clinging to the Southeast lead and Minnesota still clinging to their playoff hopes.

The Blues and Predators renew acquaintances in their continued battle for that crucial fourth seed in the West. The Preds have just owned the Blues this season.

The Stars visit the Blackhawks where Chicago has reeled off four in a row after the nine-game losing streak. Dallas is another team that's hanging within striking distance in the West.

The Lightning visit the Jets with Winnipeg entering in a tie for both the Southeast lead and the eighth spot in the East. They need to win these games since they've played more than any team. But the Lightning are still clawing, hanging five points back of the playoffs.

Your promised miscellany

  • Capitals coach Dale Hunter was hard on goaltender Tomas Vokoun after Washington's second big loss in a row on Wednesday. Of course, without Vokoun, there's no telling how low the Caps would be this season. He's been good for them the majority of the season. (Washington Times)
  • Here's a good read from ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun about the always interesting P.K. Subban of the Canadiens. (ESPN.com)
  • Now this is entertaining. Check out Maxime Talbot of the Flyers taking on a fan in a Just Dance 3 challenge at the team's recent fair. (Puck Daddy)
  • While Milan Michalek scored one very pretty goal against the Capitals, Mathieu Perreault had one ugly goal that tried to make him ugly (the puck went in off his face). Guess what? They both counted as one score.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: February 19, 2012 7:17 pm
Edited on: February 19, 2012 8:43 pm
 

Wild give Brodziak three-year contract extension

Brodziak is on his way to a career high in goals this season. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

It was a good day in Minnesota all around.

The Wild celebrated Hockey Day in America with a big shutout win over the Boston Bruins in NBC's marquee game. It was the first time since 1975 Minnesota had a regular-season game broadcast nationally on network television. Both goals were actually scored by Minnesotans and Niklas Backstrom was oustanding with 49 saves.

They kept the good vibes going after the game by announcing a three-year contract extension for center Kyle Brodziak. Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports the contract is for $2.83 million per season.

"I’m really happy," Brodziak said. "Just happy it’s done with and now I can concentrate more on playing hockey.

"My goal as a player is to keep getting better every year. There’s definite belief in this organization. I want to be part of building it into a winning team. The culture is changing around here and I just want to be part of the future and helping to turn this around into a winning club."

This season Brodziak has 15 goals and 14 assists in 58 games. He's one shy of his career high in goals. One of the great things about Brodziak if you're going to make a three-year investment is that he's very durable. In his four previous full seasons he has played in 79 or more games each season.

Not too bad for a seventh-round draft pick by the Oilers back in 2003.

More fro Eye on Hockey

Wild's Peters suspended one game

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: February 19, 2012 4:53 pm
 

Wild's Peters suspended one game for cross check

By Brian Stubits

Warren Peters of the Minnesota Wild was suspended for one game by the NHL and Brendan Shanahan on Sunday for a cross check he delivered to the head of Blues captain David Backes on Saturday.

The check came in a post-play scrum where Backes was surrounded by three Wild players including Peters. It came in apparent retaliation for a Backes hit a moment earlier.

Peters only receives one game for the cross check to the side of Backes' head because not all of Shanny's naughty checklist was met. Backes didn't suffer any apparent injuries as a result and Peters doesn't have a disciplinary history to speak of. So the punishment is just one game.

I think this ruling carries a little bit of a hidden significance, however. It serves as a reminder that the NHL is looking at every game and every play with an eye out for these things. This wasn't a well-publicized incident at all. In fact, when it the suspension came down, I didn't even know what it was about.

In that way it is a small sign that they are serious in Shanny's offices, if that was even in question in the first place.

More NHL Discipline news

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: February 18, 2012 10:42 am
 

The Kings need to find some offense

RichardsBy: Adam Gretz

The Los Angeles Kings have one of the best goaltenders in the NHL this season, and a pretty solid defense anchored by young star Drew Doughty.

Unfortunately, they're running the risk of letting it all go to waste with what has been one of the worst goal-scoring teams the NHL has seen over the past 14 years.

Entering Saturday's game against Calgary, the Kings are clinging to the No. 8 playoff spot in the Western Conference, just two points ahead of the Flames team they're hosting. If not for the stellar play of Jonathan Quick it's worth wondering if this team would even be in playoff contention right now.

Quick, who is currently third in the NHL in goals against average and save percentage, has been the very definition of a hard luck loser. He has had 10 games this season where he's allowed two goals or fewer and still come away with a loss, whether it be in regulation or in overtime/shootout.

That includes Thursday's 1-0 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes, the third time in the past month-and-a-half he's been on the wrong side of a 1-0 decision. There is only so much he can do.

As of Saturday morning, the Kings are averaging just 2.07 goals per game, by far the worst total in the NHL. And this is a team that has had the 6th most power play opportunities in the NHL. Granted, it's not exactly been a great power play (23rd in the league), but they've had more chances on the man advantage than most teams. Outside of that, there is almost no 5-on-5 scoring to speak of with a league-worst 76 goals during 5-on-5 situations this season. The second-worst team, the Minnesota Wild, has 84.

But how does this season stack up against recent goal-scoring shortages? Since the start of the 1997-98 season, only three teams have finished a full season averaging fewer goals per game than '11-12 Kings are currently averaging: The 2000-01 Wild (2.05), 2001-02 Blue Jackets (2.00) and 1997-98 Tampa Bay Lightning (1.84). Keep in mind, that Wild team was in its first year of existence, while the Blue Jackets were in their second year of existence.

At their current pace, the Kings would finish the regular season with just 169 goals, a total that would actually fall nearly 50 goals short of what would be the league average. This is a big problem.

The last time the lowest-scoring team in the NHL actually qualified for the playoffs was the 1988-89 Vancouver Canucks after finishing with a 33-39-8 record to claim the fourth and final playoff spot in the Smythe Division. It's only happened three other times since the NHL expanded beyond the original six in 1967 -- the '86-87 Detroit Red Wings, the '70-71 Minnesota North Stars, and the '68-69 Philadelphia Flyers.

Feeling optimistic?

Great goaltending will only take you so far. In the end, you still need to score goals.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: February 17, 2012 1:58 pm
Edited on: February 17, 2012 5:01 pm
 

Weekend Preview: Hockey Weekend in America

Hossa and the 'Hawks are about ready to return home. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

Weekend schedules: Friday | Saturday | Sunday

In case you didn't know -- and chances are you didn't -- this weekend is Hockey Weekend in America. Mostly it's a name attached to a normal weekend of games, but dammit it's Patriotic and I'll be a son of a gun if Old Glory doesn't get me pumped up for anything.

The weekend showcase will be the triple-header early Sunday in what has become the spotlight game of the week now that football is in hibernation until the end of summer. Your choices -- OK, NBC's choices to show you based on where you live -- are Sharks at Red Wings (yes please!), Blues at Blackhawks (I'll take that) and Penguins at Sabres (hey, it looked good at the start of the season). It wraps with a game at 3 ET on NBC Sports Network as the Bruins visit the Wild.

With no slight to that Blues-Blackhawks game back in Chicago (home sweet home, eh 'Hawks?) the Sharks-Wings battle is the one to really watch. For if the Red Wings are still riding their record win streak into Sunday -- a mighty big "if" with the Predators visiting the Joe on Friday night -- then this will be the biggest threat to date.

There aren't many teams that can say this, but the Sharks have had Detroit's number recently. They are one of the few teams who have won in Detroit this season, doing so way back before Halloween. Go back to the beginning of last season and the Sharks are 9-4 vs. the Wings, including the playoffs. That includes five consecutive wins in regular-season matchups.

Must be coach Todd McLellan still knowing a secret or two to beating his old squad.

So while the bout in Motown might be the best from an action standpoint and as far as NHL history is concerned, I argue the more meaningful game is the one in the Windy City.

It was such a massive relief for the Blackhawks to finally end their losing streak that had peaked at nine games. Against the Rangers, no less. That's not like ending the skid against the Blue Jackets -- their final stop on this massive road trip Saturday -- it's the type of win that can really signify that things are alright. Taking down the best team in the league in their barn? Talk about a slumpbuster.

A return to home ice will be nice. Think about how you feel when you walk back in your front door after a vacation. Now think of how great that feeling is when you've had about the worst vacation you can imagine.

Then again, it's not so great when you have a house guest like St. Louis sitting on your porch awaiting for you to let them in. The good news is they aren't the type of guest who trashes your place, they're respectful that way. They are just 10-12-3 away from Scottrade Center.

Extended metaphor aside, there's no better time than now for the Blackhawks to regain their footing. That would put an end to the ridiculously stupid Patrick Kane trade suggestions and allow them to safely put space between them and the playoff chasers in the West.

One thing to consider: Face-off will be at 11:30 local time to accommodate NBC's time slot. That's an awfully early wakeup call after so long away from home.

Southeast showdown Part V

The Florida Panthers and Washington Capitals will square off for the fifth time this season Friday night in Florida. Strangely enough, it's going to be the first time that Tomas Vokoun has started a game back in Sunrise, his former stomping grounds, and the first start against the Capitals period for Jose Theodore this season. It's a bit odd that the No. 1 goalies have only received two of the eight starts in this series so far this season.

It makes sense both starters get the nod on Friday. It's another massive night for these teams. If the Panthers can do what they have done twice already this season and beat the Caps at home, they'll move six points up on Washington in the division. That's a nice cushion when we're getting down to 25 games or fewer left this season. Not insurmountable, but nice.

This is the third time these two have met this month. The last meeting was a 4-0 whitewashing by the Capitals in D.C. Coach Dale Hunter referred to that as a playoff game before it began and the Caps make it look as such. Since? They're 1-3-1. By my count, that'd have them eliminated (from the mythical Feb. playoffs, folks).

The good news is that Mike Green might return for the Caps against the Panthers. He's stopped and started so many times this season you'd think he was driving on the Washington Beltway during morning rush hour.

There will be a lot of interesting things to watch for in the game, but one for me will be the intensity of the Caps. In their last visit to Florida, Karl Alzner explained away their poor start by the lack of energy in the building. A pretty soft excuse in a pivotal division matchup.

They can't afford to start slow again. The Panthers have been doing that a lot lately themselves and coach Kevin Dineen is determined to make that stop in such an important game.

Desert streaking dogs

Holy Coyotes that team is hot right now.

Perhaps it's been a push to help garner interest to keep them in Phoenix, I don't know, but the Coyotes have caught fire. Just when you were ready to bury them in the desert sand, they spring off a run like this. "This" would be six wins in the last seven games to get into the playoff seedings at the moment.

To further their standing in the, um, standings, they get their own pivotal matchup. The Dallas Stars, one of the plethora of teams on their heels outside of the playoff picture at the moment, come to the desert on Saturday night.

It's a classic "four-point game" for the teams battling in the West and Pacific Division. Here's hoping there's a better than normal crowd to watch it, should be close to a playoff atmosphere.

Keystone clash rekindled

The Flyers and Penguins will renew acquaintances again this weekend. It's the start of a stretch with a lot of meetings for the intrastate rivals.

It will be the first of four meetings for the teams from now until April 7, the final day of the season. No wonder the chirping between the fan bases has been mostly quiet this season, they have hardly met.

The importance here should be pretty clear. As of now they are jockeying back and forth -- and with New Jersey -- for that all-important fourth spot in the East, the only home-ice award that goes to a non-division winner. It's very possible that these four tilts, starting with the Saturday matinee, will decide that race.

Plus it's about that time of the season where the Flyers could really stand for Ilya Bryzgalov to heat up and carry some momentum into the postseason. He's back in action now after an illness and this is the type of game where it would be so big if he came up humangous big for the Flyers but unfortunately the kind we've come to expect a few bad goals this season.

Sibling rivalry renewed

Unlike the last time the Calgary Flames and Los Angeles Kings met, this one won't be about the coaches. Very much, at least.

Brothers Brent and Darryl Sutter this time get the undercard billing with another battle of teams at the bottom of the playoff picture out West.

After their own long road trip, you'd think coming home might be enough to jolt that putrid 2.07 goals per game number for the Kings. Well they were shut out by the Coyotes on Thursday night at Staples Center, so you can probably shoot that theory down. Fact is they haven't been able to score much anywhere, no matter if it's at home or not.

The way it stands going into the weekend, L.A. is clinging to the eighth spot out West and Calgary is right behind them. Pretty astonishing I think, but the Flames are still right there.

So you see, this one is about a lot more than a sibling rivalry.

We're going streaking!

Here are the streaks -- both good and bad -- headed into the weekend.

Red Wings: Considering they've been playing a lot at home recently and they have an NHL record win streak going, it's no surprise they've won four straight. Two toughies this weekend with Nashville and San Jose visiting.

Anaheim Ducks: In the midst of an eight-game road trip, the Ducks have run off three in a row. They head to the Southeast now and face the Carolina Hurricanes and Panthers.

Sabres: It keeps getting worse and worse. After seven unanswered goals against on Thursday, they now have a three-game skid. They have the Canadiens on Friday and Penguins on Sunday.

Capitals: Needing to go on a tear late like they have in recent seasons, the Caps are instead sputtering. They do the Florida double-header this weekend entering with a three-game slide.

Wild: Six-game skid ... and likely counting. A back-to-back at the Blues and vs. the Bruins doesn't figure to be the remedy. This weekend could all but officially bury their once promising playoff hopes.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: February 15, 2012 12:08 pm
Edited on: February 15, 2012 12:20 pm
 

A look at the NHL playoff bubble

Can the Islanders pull off a miracle run? (Getty Images)

Pucks and Numbers:
a weekly statistical look at what's happening around the NHL. This week: A look at the playoff bubble and what the teams on it need to do to make the postseason


By: Adam Gretz

Recent hot streaks by the Montreal Canadiens, Anaheim Ducks, New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning have sparked some playoff hope for their respective fan bases. On the other side, a recent slump that's come in the form of a 9-game losing streak has left some wondering if the Chicago Blackhawks could, amazingly, find themselves on the outside of the Western Conference playoff picture when the regular season comes to a close.

Anything is possible, but even though there appears to be a large number of teams that are still "in" the playoff race, the harsh reality is that even a two or three-game deficit (four or six points in the standings) is a lot to overcome. It doesn't seem like it should be, but it is.

A couple of months ago I looked at how a slow start is extremely damaging to a teams playoff chances sooner than you might realize, and as the days of the regular season start to fall away those deficits become even more daunting. I mentioned on Twitter earlier this week that since the start of the '05-06 season there have only been two teams that managed to overcome a 5-point deficit this late in the season (the '06-07 Rangers and the '08-09 Blues) to qualify for the playoffs.

Ninety-five points is usually a safe bet to get your team into the playoffs, so with that in mind, let's take one more look at what each of the bubble teams will need to do over their remaining games to reach that level. Of course, it is possible for a team to make the playoffs with fewer than 95 points, and that may in fact happen this season, especially in the East, but I'm simply going with the number that tends to be a near automatic playoff berth.

Let's start with the Eastern Conference...

Eastern Conference Playoff Race
Seed Team Games Remaining Pts Needed Record Needed
7 Ottawa Senators 23 29 13-7-3
8 Toronto Maple Leafs 25 33 15-7-3
9 Washington Capitals 26 34 15-7-4
10 Winnipeg Jets 25 37 17-5-3
11 New York Islanders 26 39 17-4-5
12 Montreal Canadiens 25 40 18-3-4
13 Tampa Bay Lightning 26 41 18-3-5
14 Buffalo Sabres 26 41 18-3-5

Incredibly, Washington and Winnipeg still have an outside shot (at this point, a very outside shot) at winning the Southeast Division, which speaks more to the quality (or lack of it) of the division than anything else, but that hope of a Division title gets smaller with each loss. Once you get past Washington in the No. 9 spot the remaining teams have almost no margin for error.

The Canadiens? Better start praying. The Islanders, for example, have been playing some pretty great hockey recently, especially veteran goaltender Evgeni Nabokov, but does anybody believe they have a 17-4-5 finish in them?

Even if it only took 90 points to reach the playoffs, they would still need a 15-7-4 finish.

Now, a look at the Western Conference...

Western Conference Playoff Race
Seed Team Games Remaining Pts Needed Record Needed
6 Chicago Blackhawks 25 30 15-10-0
7 Los Angeles Kings 25 30 15-10-0
8 Phoenix Coyotes 25 32 15-8-2
9 Calgary Flames 25 33 15-7-3
10 Colorado Avalanche 25 35 16-6-3
11 Dallas Stars 26 36 17-7-2
12 Minnesota Wild 26 37 17-6-3
13 Anaheim Ducks 26 40 20-6-0

When you look at in terms of how many games these teams need to win the rest of the way, the playoff races may not be as deep as they appear to be. When you get right down to it, there might only be four teams (Chicago, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Calgary) in the West fighting for three playoff spots.

Minnesota would need to play almost as well as it did in October through December to get back into the top-eight, which shows just how far that team fell over the past month-and-a-half. After 30 games the Wild had the best record in the league. Just 26 games later they're going to need to play like the best team in hockey for the remainder of the season just to have a chance to make the playoffs.

Bruce Boudreau has certainly helped get Anaheim going back in the right direction, but he's going to need to turn water into wine to get Anaheim, as well as its played in recent weeks, into the playofs this season.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com