The Southeast this week: Saturday Night Special

So far, so good this week for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

It's no secret that the chances of the Bolts making the playoffs are virtually nil. But, it is nice to see the boys turn in respectable performances starting at the first drop of the puck. Instead of the first drop of the puck in the third period.

Unfortunately though, we're seeing what we pretty much knew all along about this version of the Tampa Bay Lightning: they could be really damn good, if they just went for it.

It's going to be a strange second half for the Bolts. There are just too many teams in front of them to make a realistic push for the playoffs, but, the team is finally starting to figure out how to play, and how to play well. So what happens at the deadline? It's been firmly documented that Steve Yzerman wants to plan for the future, so it's fair to say that his transactions at the deadline may seem like head-scratchers at first.

If there's one caveat to the Lightning being in this position though, it's that as fans, we can just sit back and watch things unfold. Because despite the rough season so far, we're in good hands.

After the jump: Adios Poni; Panthers ready for the break; and the Caps take over. The week that was in the Southeast.

Carolina Hurricanes: The Canes certainly didn't shy away from a tough week, taking three of a possible four points from the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Washington capitals. In doing that, Cam Ward only gave up one goal in regulation. I guess he's back to normal.

Who won't be back however, is Alexei Ponikarovsky. He's been traded to the New Jersey Devils. Good move for the Devils.

In other trade news, the Canes took Evgenii Dadonov and A.J. Jenks off the Florida Panthers' hands.

Could Tim Gleason for the Philadelphia Flyers' Jakub Voracek be next?

Chad LaRose is back in practice for the Canes, but only in a non-contact capacity. Still, good news for everyone involved. He was quietly having a pretty solid season before the injury.

Despite the impressive showing, the Lightning's surge has put the Canes back in the Conference basement. For now.

Florida Panthers: I think it's safe to say that the Cats are ready for next week's All-Star break. They've lost every game this week, giving up 10 goals along the way. To make matters worse, Ed Jovanovski broke his hand fighting and could be out two months. Cue the "get fighting out of the game" chants right about... now.

Brian Campbell made his return to Chicago last night. I wonder which team that worked out better for.

He wasn't the only one having a homecoming.

Here's something you never want to see - local politics and money issues involving a team. That's just all sorts of not good.

Michal Repik has been placed on waivers. He was starting to play well, he'll be back soon.

The Panthers need to get their act together as the safest bet for anyone in the division to make the playoffs is to win the division. They currently sit in the final playoff spot, just one point ahead of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Washington Capitals: It's been an all or nothing week for the Caps. Literally. A pair of 3-0 losses and a 3-0 win. Despite generally trending in the right direction, this team is still painfully inconsistent. Anyone still think it was Bruce Boudreau's fault?

Finally some good news involving Mike Green: his surgery was successful.

Rightfully so, the Capitals are being extra careful with Nicklas Backstrom's concussion. The Caps have had their share of injuries, but who hasn't?

Here's something to get excited about: The Capitals will be wearing their throwbacks a lot the rest of the season. Best thirds in the Conference if you ask me. Maybe in the league.

Despite their firepower, the Caps have only averaged 25.1 shots a game under Dale Hunter. Odd.

Washington has finally gotten to the top of the division - a place everyone has basically conceded to them in August - but is only percentage points ahead of the Panthers.

Winnipeg Jets: The Airplanes are generally heading in the right direction this week, winning two of three, in regulation, to teams ahead of them in the standings. Despite the setback in losing to the New Jersey Devils, Jets fans have to be generally pleased.

The league is not pleased, however, with Nik Antropov. He's been fined for boarding T.J. Brennan of the Buffalo Sabres.

The concussion bug strikes again, this time to Evander Kane. That really sucks. Zach Bogosian is back though, and that's good news for everyone involved.

It's going to be a race to the All-Star break for the Jets, as they face another full set of important opponents this coming week.

Winnipeg sits three points out of a playoff spot right now, and coincidently, three points out of the division lead.