The Tampa Bay Lightning are in a tough spot. They've earned a whole bunch of points on a nice little streak lately and thrown themselves marginally back into the mix. They still have a pretty overwhelming deficit in terms of points in order to get into the playoffs, and that hasn't really changed.
So, why are they in a tough spot then, you might ask. Well, that's because this team is showing that they can play at the level everyone expected of them out of the gate. They are playing full games, being more responsible with the puck, and even the goalies have decided to actually participate.
Obviously, the goaltending will be handled regardless, and a move will be made. We all know that. But, where things become increasingly difficult is that with this latest run of good play, more and more of the team's assets are becoming attractive. Steve Yzerman's phone has probably already started lighting up more and more, and the most difficult question to ask is to pull the plug on this admittedly long-shot chance at a run in order to build for next year, or ride it out and see what happens in the offseason?
I know the playoffs are not going to happen, but as a fan, I am enjoying the quality hockey. But, at the end of the day, I say bring on next season.
After the jump: Canes sweep; Panthers get a loan; Caps are still on break; and good vibes for the Jets. The week that was in the Southeast Division.
Carolina Hurricanes: Let us all take a moment to applaud the Canes on their season sweep of the Boston Bruins. I think we can all get excited about that. But, Carolina sits in the Eastern Conference basement having played more games (53) than everyone else in the conference, except for the Ottawa Senators. Yep, they'll be sellers.
Speaking of, Tuomo Ruutu says there's nothing he can do about the trade rumors engulfing him. I've said it before, but that can't be any sorts of fun.
One guy who doesn't have to worry about that though, is Tim Gleason as he signed a four-year contract extension on Monday. That tells quite the story.
Also on Monday, the Canes recalled Riley Nash. It's his second recall this season.
The popular Carolina Ale House Paper Hearts and Magnets Campaign is returning. Always good to hear about long-standing campaigns that benefit kids.
Look for the Hurricanes to make a bunch of moves starting pretty soon.
Florida Panthers: Pretty big week for the Cats, as they've taken five of a possible six points so far, and won the Southeast Showdown against the Capitals on Wednesday. Not bad. With their seeming endless cap space, you know the Panthers will be buyers.
You can thank Scott Clemmensen for the Panthers recent stretch. He has been excellent with Jose Theodore out.
You can also thank Mikael Samuelsson.
Here's some good news, that whole messy situation between the Cats and Broward County seems to have found some sort of resolution, as the Panthers did receive a hefty loan from the County. Hopefully that mess is over.
Even more good news: Scottie Upshall's abdominal surgery was a success. Hopefully he's back soon.
The Panthers sit in first in the Division, but just a point ahead of the Capitals, and just three ahead of the Jets. Look for them to add an important piece pretty soon.
Washington Capitals: You have to think the Caps wish it was still the All-Star Break. They followed up a tough overtime loss to the Bolts with the aforementioned loss in the Battle of the Southeast. On the bright side though, Alex Ovechkin's suspension is over, and they're only two points out of a playoff spot. I imagine they'll look to buy a bit here before dynamiting the team in the offseason.
More promising news: Mike Green's recovery seems to finally be on the right track. It'll still be a while before he's back, but at least things are looking up for the guy.
Speaking of the Capitals blue line, they got a bit deeper this week, as the Caps acquired Kevin Marshall from the Philadelphia Flyers. Mostly an AHL move, but every bit helps.
Here's Japers Rink's look at how the Caps individuals fared in the week leading up to the break.
The Capitals need to get a move on, as they are in quite the battle from all directions. A point behind Florida for the division, two points behind the Toronto Maple Leafs for the eighth playoff spot, and just two points ahead of the Jets. I'd look for an impact move.
Winnipeg Jets: Things are looking pretty good for the Airplanes this week. Two games, two wins, two goals allowed. That's pretty dang stingy. The Jets, like the Lightning, are in a weird place with personnel as well. Tough to call them buyers or sellers. Other than that question, there are a bunch more the Jets need to answer. All in all though, things are looking pretty good.
What isn't looking good for them though, is the status of Dustin Byfuglien's impaired boating case. It appears trial is unavoidable at this point.
He certainly looked alright though, after missing 16 games with an injury.
To the surprise of no one, in their first year back, the Jets sport an incredible attendance rate. Shocking. The real test will be a few years from now, if the team is still a middling, directionless conundrum.
Finally, if you've heard any bad stories about members of the Jets franchise, think again. Great stuff.
Winnipeg is certainly in the thick of things, but need to keep up the level of play of this week to really make some noise. They sit four points out of a playoff spot, but just three behind division-leading Florida.
Important matchups this weekend: With the impending log jam in the division, as well as the last couple of playoff seeds, it's going to be a race to the finish.