The Florida Panthers picked up three points this week playing four games. The highlight of the week came Tuesday where the Panthers beat the Penguins 6-4. Things went down hill from there. A 4-3 shootout loss Thursday to the Sabres was followed by two losses to the Hurricanes. In Saturday’s 6-2 loss against Carolina, Jose Theodore tore his groin and could be out for the season. There was some positive news this week as Jonathan Huberdeau was named the Rookie of the Month for the month of February. He also recorded his ninth and tenth goals in last night’s 3-2 loss to the Canes. Here is a look at how the rest of the Southeast division fared:
Carolina Hurricanes: (25 pts)
1st Southeast, 3rd Eastern Conference
This week: 3-1-0 (6 pts)
Tues 2/26 at WSH: L 3-0
Thurs 2/28 vs PIT: W 4-1
Sat 3/2 vs FLA: W 6-2
Sun 3/3 at FLA: W 3-2
The Hurricanes benefited from the return of Jeff Skinner after he missed five games with a concussion. They also benefited from playing the Panthers on back to back nights, games in which they picked up a cool 4 points. The big story for the Hurricanes however was the injury to Cam Ward in Sunday’s victory over Florida. Based on how the injury looked, I speculated last night that Ward had injured his groin. It has come out now that Ward injured his left knee and while the extent of the injury is still unknown, he will undergo an MRI today. Backup Dan Ellis filled in admirably last night and would receive most of the playing time if Ward is out for an extended amount of time.
This week, Carolina will face Buffalo, Montreal and New Jersey, all at home.
Winnipeg Jets: (21 pts)
2nd Southeast, 10th Eastern Conference
This week: 2-1-0 (4 pts)
Tues 2/26 at NYR: W 4-3
Thurs 2/28 vs NJD: W 3-1
Sat 3/2 vs WSH: L 3-0
The Jets finished an impressive five game road trip with a 4-3 win over the New York Rangers. The victory game them a 4-1-0 record on the trip facilitating the Jets rise through the SE division standings. They continued their winning ways at home with their 3-1 win over the Devils but were unable to solve Braden Holtby Sunday against Washington. The Jets outshot the Caps 35-21 but Hotlby stopped them all and stole a win for the Capitals.
Winnipeg sits two points behind the 8th place Philadelphia Flyers, with two games in hand. The Jets have been playing like a playoff team of late and if they can continue their hot play, it will not be a surprise to see them move into the East’s top 8 and challenge for the Southeast division title. The Jets have an opportunity to make some noise in the Southeast this week. The Jets travel to Florida Tuesday then play in Tampa Thursday followed by another game in Florida Friday. They finish their week off Sunday with a road game against New Jersey.
Tampa Bay Lightning: (19 points)
3rd Southeast, 13th Eastern Conference
This week: 0-3-0 (0 pts)
Tues 2/26 vs BUF: L 2-1
Thurs 2/28 at NYR: L 4-1
Sat 3/2 at BOS: L 3-2
The Lightning have continued to struggle after their hot start to the season. Having fallen from atop the Southeast division in previous weeks, Tampa did nothing this week to improve their fledgeling situation. In their three losses this week Tampa’s high powered offense only managed four goals. Steven Stamkos had been the only player unaffected by the Lightnings’ swoon as he was involved on three of the four lightning goals this week scoring two and assisting on another. Stamkos was named the NHL’s first star for the month of February and his 32 points (15 goals 17 assists) are second in the league trailing only Sidney Crosby (34 points).
The big problem for the Lightning has been goaltending as Anders Lindback has not flourished in a starting role. The Lightning were taking a gamble when they traded for Lindback, who was stuck as the backup to Pekka Rinne in Nashville, and so far Lindback has struggled. 35 year old Mathieu Garon started all three games for the Lightning this week.
The Lightning start a back-to-back tonight in Pittsburgh before traveling to NJ for the second game Tuesday. They return home Thursday to face the Jets and then play the Canadiens at home on Saturday.
Washington Capitals: (17 pts)
T-4th Southeast, T-14th Eastern Conference
This week: 2-1-0 (4 pts)
Tues 2/26 vs CAR: W 3-0
Wed 2/27 at PHI: L 4-1
Sat 3/2 at WPG: W 3-0
Braden Holtby was feast or famine this week for the Caps. He had a 33 save shutout Tuesday and a 35 save shutout Saturday and sandwiched in between he had a game against the Flyers in which he was pulled after allowing four goals on 18 shots. The shutouts were his second and third of the year and he is tied with Pekka Rinne and Mike Smith for the most shutouts in the NHL.
While the Caps 17 points are tied with the Panthers for fewest in the Eastern Conference, Washington has played two fewer games this year than the Panthers. Washington has four games this week so they will have ample opportunities to gain ground in the Southeast.