"Searching.... seek and destroy!" [note the weaponry...]
With the Sharks' upcoming visit to the Big D, it's time for another edition of Keeping Tabs, wherein we take a look at our closest enemies = the rest of the Pacific Division.*
* Not to sound boorish or arrogant, but the Sharks have a 24 point lead over the closest division rival (Dallas), and a 30 point lead over the division cellar dwellers (L.A. and Phoenix)... and San Jose has played less games than any of the four other teams. I guess that takes a little of the fun out of Keeping Tabs, but just in case, everyone quickly knock on wood... while noting that the Sharks have a 99.997435% chance of making the playoffs.
** We'll also look at the two teams trying to edge San Jose in the President's Trophy race = do I even need to name them?
From a lowly 15th in the West to as high as 5th in recent weeks, the resurging Dallas Stars, though currently 7th seeded, are just 1 point behind the 6th place Columbus Blue Jackets (did I really just type that?) with two games in hand, and 3 points behind the 5th place Vancouver Canucks, with one game in hand. (For those interested - there is a great divide between the Chicago Blackhawks, in 4th, and everyone else - take a look here). The Stars also have a 71.3% chance of making the playoffs - whodda thunk?
Despite losing center Brad Richards for the season due to a broken wrist, the Stars are 3-2-0 in their last 5 games, with both losses coming against the Chicago Blackhawks. The dual losses mean that Chicago has swept Dallas in the regular season - should the teams meet in the Quarterfinals (and boy is that a distinct possibility), expect a lopsided result.
In their last 10 games, Dallas is 6-4-0. For comparison, the Sharks are 4-2-4.
The Sharks enter the American Airlines Center on Monday night, where the Stars have gone 13-3-1 in their last 17 games. Of course, San Jose has won all three of the games between the two rivals this season, and has the potential to go 5-0-0 against the Stars within the next 9 days (the teams meet in San Jose on March 3rd). Evgeni Nabokov is 12-16-3-2 in his career against Dallas. Brian Boucher is 5-4-3 (ties, no OTLs), for the record.
TRADE RUMORS (courtesy of
that bastard Eklund) = Jere Lehtinen is rumored to be headed to either New Jersey (uh oh...) or Ottawa. On the receiving end of things, Michal Rozsival is strongly rumored to be heading to Dallas from the New York Rangers. Buffalo's Tim Connolly might be headed to Dallas, although he is more likely to head to Vancouver or Calgary.
1st line = Steve Ott-Mike Ribeiro-Jere Lehtinen
2nd line = James Neal, Mike Modano, Fabian Brunnstrom
3rd line = Joel Lundqvist, Toby Petersen, Loui Eriksson
4th line = Krys Barch, Brian Sutherby, Ray Sawada
Defensemen = Nicklas Grossman, Stephane Robidas, Trevor Daley, Matt Niskanen, Andrew Hutchinson, Darryl Sydor
Goalies = Marty Tuco, Tobias Stephan
Expect right wing Landon Wilson to return to the lineup soon, maybe even for Monday's game - he was on injured reserve with a upper-body injury, but skated Thursday.
NEXT FIVE GAMES = vs. San Jose, vs. St. Louis, vs. Anaheim, vs. Pittsburgh, @ San Jose
Oh how the Mighty have fallen - the Anaheim Ducks currently have just a 28.4% chance of making the playoffs... though that's up from 26.3% a few days ago thanks to their 5-2 victory in Columbus last night.
Jean-Sebastien Giguere's save percentage still hovers slightly above 90% (90.2%), though his goals against average is 3.12. For comparison (not mentioned above), Marty Turco's stats are 89.8% and 2.80, and Nabby is at 90.8% and 2.50.
TRADE RUMORS = Brendan Morrison could potentially be dealt to New Jersey or Buffalo. And then there's the Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer rumors - contending Eastern Conference teams (specifically Boston, New Jersey, and Washington) have been mentioned as a possible destination for both.
1st line = Chris Kunitz-Ryan Getzlaf-Corey Perry
2nd line = Bobby Ryan-Andrew Ebbett-Teemu Selanne
3rd line = Rob Niedermayer-Todd Marchant-George Parros
4th line = Travis Moen-Brendan Morrison-Mike Brown
Defensemen = Scott Niedermayer, Chris Pronger, Steve Montador, Sheldon Brookbank, Brendan Mikkelson, Brian Salcido
Goalies = Giggy, Jonas Hiller
Defenseman Bret Hedican has been sidelined the past two games, explaining the new names on defense.
Samuel Pahlsson is still out with mono.
Francois Beauchemin, who has been out since November 14 after sports-hernia surgery, might return in a few weeks.
NEXT FIVE GAMES = @ Buffalo, @ Boston, @ Dallas, @ Chicago, vs. Dallas
The Sharks head to the Pond on Sunday, March 15.
The L.A. Kings currently have a 10.0% chance of making the playoffs. They are 5-3-2 in their last 10 games, and 1-2-2 in their last 5 (the lone win coming against freeway rival Anaheim).
TRADE RUMORS = The Penguins' Ryan Whitney might head to Los Angeles, although Edmonton, Colorado and Toronto are all in the running, too.
1st line = Alexander Frolov-Anze Kopitar-Wayne Simmonds
2nd line = Kyle Calder-Jarret Stoll-Dustin Brown
3rd line = Patrick O'Sullivan-Michal Handzus-John Zeiler
4th line = Raitis Ivanans-Derek Armstrong-John Zeiler
Defensemen = Sean O'Donnell, Drew Doughty, Jack Johnson, Matt Greene, Kyle Quincey, Peter Harrold
Goalies = Erik Ersberg, Jonathan Quick
Douchebag Defenseman Denis Gauthier was suspended two games for his dirty hit on Patrick Marleau, and Peter Harrold (who pulled an Alexei Semenov, playing wing) returned to defense, while John Zeiler returned to the Kings lineup (playing on two different lines).
Hot right now = Kopitar and Brown each have 7 points in their last 4 and 5 games, respectively.
Defenseman (and former Shark) Tom Preissing has missed 10 games on account of dizziness, but may return to action soon.
Ersberg's save percentage is 89.9%, while his GAA is 2.56. Quick's is 91.0% and 2.58.
NEXT FIVE GAMES = @ Minnesota, @ Philadelphia, @ Detroit, @ Chicago, @ Columbus
NOTE = The Kings have just SEVEN home games left on their schedule, and are 1-5-2 in their last eight homestands. OUCH.
The Kings return to the Shark Tank on Saturday, March 14.
The Phoenix Coyotes, once as high as the 5th seed, now dwell at the bottom of the Western Conference, with only a 3.8% chance of making the playoffs. They are 3-7-0 in their last 10 games. How bad is bad? The second-worst-in-the-NHL Atlanta Thrashers took the Yotes to the shootout on Thursday (though Phoenix won)... incidentally, that was the Coyotes' first win at home since January 20th, when a much higher-seeded team beat the Red Wings 6-3.
On the other hand, the Coyotes are just 4 points out of a playoff spot - but given the teams they'd need to climb over, don't count on it.
TRADE RUMORS = Olli Jokinen is rumored to be headed to either Calgary, Buffalo, or New Jersey. Also in the running are Montreal, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Derek Morris is likely headed to Buffalo, Philadelphia, or Washington.
ADDITIONAL RUMOR (from, uh, me) = The Great One's days behind the bench are numbered - mark my words.
1st line = Joakim Lindstrom-Steve Reinprecht-Shane Doan
2nd line = Peter Mueller-Olli Jokinen-Daniel Carcillo
3rd line = Viktor Tikhanov-Martin Hanzal-Mikkel Boedker
4th line = Todd Fedoruk-Daniel Winnik-Enver Lisin
Defensemen = Ed Jovanovski, Derek Morris, David Hale, Zbynek Michalek, Ken Klee, Kurt Sauer
Goalies = Ilya Bryzgalov, Mikael Tellqvist
Bryzgalov's save percentage is 90.8% and his GAA is 2.95. Tellqvist's save percentage is 90.7% and his GAA is 2.86.
NEXT FIVE GAMES = @ St. Louis, @ Nashville, vs. St. Louis, @ Boston, @ Buffalo
The Sharks head to Jobing.com Arena on Tuesday, March 17.
* * * * * * * * * *
Detroit roughly has a 100% chance of making the playoffs, surprise surprise. They are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games.
Subplot of the week - Claude Lemieux hitting the ice at the Joe Louis Arena this week. Perfect time for his first goal in 5+ years...
TRADE RUMORS = None on the horizon, according to Eklund's latest updates.
1st line = Pavel Datsyuk-Henrik Zetterberg-Dan Cleary
2nd line = Johan Franzen-Valtteri Filppula-Marian Hossa
3rd line = Juri Hudler-Darren Helm-Mikael Samuelsson
4th line = Ville Leino-Tomas Kopecky-Kirk Maltby
Defensemen = Nicklas Lidstrom, Brian Rafalski, Niklas Kronwall, Andreas Lilja, Chris Chelios, Derek Meech
Goalies = Jimmy Howard, Ty Conklin (Chris Osgood was benched)
Defensemen Brett Lebda and Brad Stuart are out with injuries, but should be back next week.
Right wing Tomas Holmstrom will be out through most of March after surgery for a sports-hernia.
NEXT FIVE GAMES = vs. San Jose, vs. Los Angeles, @ Nashville, @ St. Louis, @ Colorado
Boston has roughly a 100% chance of making the playoffs... despite losing today to the Tampa Bay Lightning (!!!). Boston is surprisingly 4-4-2 in their last 10 games, and 1-3-1 in their last five.
TRADE RUMORS = According to Eklund, Boston is in the running to get Edmonton's Erik Cole.
1st line = Milan Lucic-Marc Savard-Blake Wheeler
2nd line = Vladimir Sobotka-David Krejci-Phil Kessel
3rd line = P.J. Axelsson-Patrice Bergeron-Chuck Kobasew
4th line = Shawn Thornton-Stephane Yelle-Byron Bitz
Defensemen = Zdeno Chara, Dennis Wideman, Aaron Ward, Andrew Ference, Mark Stuart, Shane Hnidy
Goalies = Tim Thomas, Manny Fernandez
Marco Sturm is out for the year after knee surgery.
Petteri Nokelainen has missed 5 games after his eye was cut by Dan Boyle's stick.
NEXT FIVE GAMES = vs. Florida, vs. Anaheim, vs. Washington, vs. Philadelphia, vs. Phoenix