Updated: January 10, 2014, 11:14 PM ET

Just A Thought


Scott Burnside@ESPN_Burnside: It's been a bit of a wacky time for the Chicago Blackhawks. If anything illustrates this period of weirdness for the defending Stanley Cup champs, it's Patrick Kane somehow scoring on his own net during a delayed penalty call against the Edmonton Oilers on Sunday night in Chicago. With netminder Antti Raanta on the bench for an extra attacker, Kane banked the puck from the Edmonton zone to the point. Unfortunately for Kane and the Hawks, there wasn't a teammate at the blue line and the puck slid the length of the ice and into the vacant goal to tie the game 2-2. Even Kane's body language, leaning to the left in the hope of guiding the puck away from disaster, did little good. Fortunately for Chicago (and Kane), an immediate response with a power-play goal on the ensuing 5-on-3 advantage propelled the Blackhawks to a 5-3 win over the hapless Oilers. The victory ended a three-game winless streak for Chicago, but that "slide" is a bit deceiving because over their last 13 games the Blackhawks have only one regulation loss (7-1-5) and have kept the red-hot St. Louis Blues at bay in the Central Division. Interesting times should continue this week with the Hawks entertaining the surprising Colorado Avalanche, who aren't out of the picture in the Central, on Tuesday and the NHL's hottest team, the Anaheim Ducks, on Friday.

Craig Custance@CraigCustance: The beauty of the Eastern Conference and its depths of mediocrity is that teams are never really out of it. The Philadelphia Flyers have already proved that, bouncing back from a rough start to propel themselves into the thick of the playoff race under the guidance of coach Craig Berube. The New York Islanders are now trying to pull off the same stunt. The Isles won again Sunday, rallying from a two-goal deficit to earn their fourth consecutive win. General manager Garth Snow resisted calls for a dramatic change behind the bench and elsewhere when his team couldn't buy a win. Snow's patience has been rewarded. Young defenseman Calvin de Haan, the other first-rounder in the John Tavares draft, has six points in his last four games. Kyle Okposo has four goals in the five games since he was officially left off the Team USA roster. Kevin Poulin is 4-0 with a .922 save percentage in 2014. There's still a large gap to close before the Islanders catch the Flyers and others, but they're back in the conversation.

Pierre LeBrun@Real_ESPNLeBrun: I know we've mentioned the Ducks at least once a week in Pucks Central, but honestly, folks, how crazy is their run atop the NHL's overall standings? Sunday's 1-0 win over the Detroit Red Wings without the services of Hart Trophy candidate Ryan Getzlaf (day-to-day with a lower-body injury) was Anaheim's 17th victory in its last 18 games. According to a note from Ducks PR, Anaheim became just the fifth team in NHL history to win 17 or more games in an 18-game span. It's also Anaheim's third win streak of at least seven games this season. Oh, and goalie Jonas Hiller extended his club-record winning streak to 14 games, the second longest in NHL history in a single season. With former world junior star John Gibson the goalie of the future for the Ducks, not to mention the work of Viktor Fasth and Frederik Andersen this season, Anaheim is loaded in goal. Hiller is slated to become an unrestricted free agent after the season, he was shopped last summer, and the Ducks had talks with Nashville in November that didn't go anywhere. Would they now consider re-signing Hiller, which would block Gibson from the lineup? Tough call.

Katie Strang@KatieStrangESPN: You have to believe Detroit GM Ken Holland isn't the only one eager to see the shootout eradicated. Take a look at how the New Jersey Devils have fared in those situations and you'll see why. Not one single Devil scored against Jonathan Bernier in the skills competition during Sunday night's 3-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs, which is fitting given that New Jersey fell to 0-7 in shootouts on the season. What's even more demoralizing is that the Devils have only one measly goal in 23 shootout attempts this season. Though New Jersey remains one of the best possession teams in the NHL -- registering a 64.3 percent Corsi rating Sunday night -- its inability to score goals extends beyond regulation and overtime. New Jersey ranks 27th in the league with a paltry 2.30 goals per game, though its stingy defensive structure (fifth in the league with 2.34 goals against per game) keeps them in games every night. Except when the shootout arrives, of course. Oy.

Picture This

 Luke SchennAP Photo/Seth WenigLuke Schenn got the best of Daniel Carcillo, but the Flyers still fell to the Rangers.


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