|Radulove said on Wednesday he'd be ready to play if called upon. (Getty Images)|
7 ET, Nashville at Pittsburgh
It's pretty rare that with less than 10 games to play in the regular season, we're talking about a player making his debut. But we are in the case of Alexander Radulov, the two-time KHL MVP who is back with the Predators, a team he left four years ago.
Remember, he just flew half way around the globe and admitted in his re-introductory news conference that he had been too wrapped up with paperwork recently to really work out. But if the Predators asked him to play, he'll play. They asked him to play.
They could use him tonight, too. The Penguins have been mighty tough of late, so good to the point that they nearly erased the Rangers' mammoth lead in the Eastern Conference for the top seed. To show how good they have been they have picked up 25 of the last 26 points for the taking. Pick up just one tonight and they become the third team this season to seal a playoff spot.
But the Preds are fighting for seeding, too. They're in a three-way tangle with Detroit and Chicago for the fourth seed and home ice in the first round and currently the Preds are one back of the Wings with tonight's game in hand.
But the night will mostly end up being about Rads. When was the last time you can remember Sidney Crosby being overshadowed by another player in a game?
10 ET, Colorado at Phoenix
With each passing day, you start to believe the Avalanche might actually hang on to their position in the playoffs, especially when they play teams they are in a battle with.
Colorado still has played more games than any team in the league. Tonight will already be No. 76. But if they keep winning, they'll be very hard to catch even if teams have games in hand on them. For instance, with a regulation win in Phoenix tonight, they can take the game in hand out of the equation against the Coyotes , building a three-point lead with only one more game.
And right now the Coyotes are a bit of a wounded animal, if you will. They lost some of their teeth on Wednesday when Brendan Shanahan announced a three-game suspension for Phoenix captain Shane Doan .
Phoenix won two of the first three games in the series, outscoring the Avs 13-4 in the three games, most recently a 6-1 rout in Glendale back in January.
7 ET, Washington at Philadelphia
The good news for Washington is that it will remain in a playoff position when the night is done. That's because if nothing else, they own the tie-breaker on the Sabres, who pulled even with the Caps in points on Wednesday.
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But the heat is on. This is the fifth in a five-game road trip on which the Caps have actually fared well enough. I expected this trip to be their undoing but so far they have won two of the four games. They finish it with a game against their closest rival even though the Flyers are in another division.
With a loss they remain tied with the Sabres for eighth as I already established. But with a win they pull only two points back of the Senators for seventh, a true two points since the Caps also own the tie-breaker there. Slowly but surely there is perhaps another spot coming into play in the East.
Worth noting: Alex Ovechkin is heating up a bit right now, good timing too. Washington's captain has five goals on the four games of the road trip so far, including two in Detroit.
Others worth watching
10:30 ET, Boston at San Jose: If this game doesn't bring out a desperate look in the Sharks then not sure what will. They enter the night in 10th place in the West with a couple of the teams ahead of them in action. It's possible they could be four points out of eighth place come tomorrow morning.
10:30 ET, St. Louis at Los Angeles: There is no team in the league hotter than the Kings right now. Winners of five in a row, they'll have to go through the top-seeded Blues who are again in the thick of a hot Presidents' Trophy race. This is a potential first-round matchup (it is right now if playoffs began today).
8:30 ET, Vancouver at Dallas: The Stars enter the game third in the Western Conference. They can end the day out of a playoff spot. But the good news is they have done well with the Canucks this season, winning the first two games.
Your promised miscellany
- Wednesday's Winners & Losers
- Another Masterton nominee, Dan Girardi from the Rangers. (NHL.com)
- I hope you're not expecting to hear anything concrete on Martin Brodeur's future. (Wall Street Journal)
- The You Can Play team got two massive additions from the Sunshine State in Brian Campbell and Steven Stamkos . (Puck Daddy)
- Sean Bergenheim had a little playoff taunt for the Hurricanes last night. Hard to fathom Panthers taunting others about playing golf early. (Pro Hockey Talk)
- Finally, a little comedy relief courtesy of Marian Hossa in last night's warmups.