The Southeast this week

Well, it's been a thoroughly dismal week for the Tampa Bay Lightning. After finishing off a three-game, three-win home stand on Saturday, the Bolts took to the road and showed us that the away game woes that have plagued the team most of the season are not only still there, but are perhaps even worse.

Losses to the Toronto Maple Leafs at Ottawa Senators by a combined score of 11-4. And the Leafs and Sens aren't exactly world beaters.

I'm as frustrated as the next fan, but my frustrations aren't so much with the lack of defense and goaltending, or the lack of secondary scoring, or even the pitiful play away from Tampa. I'm frustrated because I just don't sense any urgency from the team. And I'm not referring to Steve Yzerman's approach to team building. There's no point in going overboard on transactions right now, there are too many teams between the Bolts and 8th place to realistically make the playoffs now, so I'm full onboard with him in waiting until "prices" go down in the trade market. But I just plain don't see urgency from the Lightning to turn in a respectable effort every game. I've followed this team since day one, and I'm still following them, so it's not like I expect the playoffs every season, and I certainly don't turn them off when they are losing. But I do expect them to take some pride in themselves, and I'm just not terribly convinced they're doing that right now.

After the jump: Uneasy Canes; Questionable official involvement; Alzner loses a bet; and an awful week for the Jets, the week that was in the Southeast.

Carolina Hurricanes: Not much going on so far this week for the Canes, as the only game they've played so far, they lost 4-3 to the New York Islanders.

But, in good news, young stud Jeff Skinner is back in practice. No definitive time table for his return just yet though.

As with any struggling team, this time of year brings a lot of trade rumors. And the veterans of the Canes are not down with that. That does have to be an anxious feeling.

Speaking of this time of year, here's a look at 10 things the Canes need to focus on for 2012.

Carolina currently sits in last place in the Eastern Conference.

Florida Panthers: It's been a pretty light week for the Panthers as well. The only game so far was last night's 3-2 loss to the New York Rangers. The Cats did get the game to overtime, so they did pick up a point. And that's never a bad thing.

Unfortunately though, the week was marred by an unfortunate comment from Krys Barch. There's no doubt in my mind that what was said probably shouldn't have been, but I'm really weary about where the refs play into things here. You can't tell me that there aren't bombs dropped in other languages that the refs don't understand without penalty, and there immediately lies inconsistency. And the real issue is there is no easy solution. Exchanging words is as much a part of hockey as taking a faceoff is. Does the NHL really want linesmen getting involved in every discussion players have? Do we - the fans - want that? It's a tough, tough situation.

The Cats signed longtime New Jersey Devil John Madden on Wednesday. Great locker room presence gained there with that guy.

Also that day, and with Jose Theodore being injured, they recalled Jacob Markstrom.

And apparently, former President Bill Clinton is into hockey.

The Panthers still sit in first in the Southeast, though the gap is closing somewhat as they sit just four points ahead of the Caps.

Washington Capitals: Don't look now, but the Capitals have rattled off four wins in a row. And in those four wins have only given up five goals. That's quite a turnaround.

Speaking of turnarounds, Roman Hamrlik has found his game since Dale Hunter took over.

In more good news, Nicklas Backstrom is back in practice after taking a scary elbow.

Seems like the winning has lifted the spirits of the team, as Alex Ovechkin and Karl Alzner had some fun with each this week. I love stuff like that.

Speaking of, Ovechkin is still learning as a captain.

As mentioned, the Caps are making up ground on the Panthers, and are now sitting in the final playoff seed.

Winnipeg Jets: Somehow, the Jets have managed to have a worse week than the Lightning, losing to the Montreal Canadiens and Lefs by a combined score of 11-3. That's not good.

Speaking of not good, here's a terrible idea: trading Dustin Byfuglien.

And furthermore, it's a terrible time for the Airplanes to take games off.

And for good measure, here's one more not good story involving the Jets: They broke a law at their first home game of the season, it turns out.

In good news though, the Jets have displayed some pretty impressive resiliency this season despite having a lot of key players injured. Often.

Despite their stinker of a week so far, the Jets sit just one point behind the Capitals for the final playoff spot, and just five points behind the Panthers.

Important Matchups this weekend: Panthers at Devils (tonight), Capitals at San Jose Sharks (Saturday).

Did I miss your favorite story from the Southeast Division this week? Feel free to shoot me links on Twitter to @MattAmos31 or @DontTradeVinny. Want to laugh at the Lightning and the NHL? Check out my "normal" work over at Don't Trade Vinny.

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